No matter how low the temperature drops, Tyler Cook knows how to heat up used-vehicle sales.
The 35-year-old owner of Aurora Motors (Pontiac-Buick-GMC-Kia) keeps his used-vehicle inventory - about 300 units - indoors.
That's because Cook's dealership and his used-vehicle store, Cook's AutoMall, are in Fairbanks, Alaska, where winter temperatures regularly plunge to -50 degrees Fahrenheit and in December there are only a few hours of daylight.
Inside Cook's 2-year-old, 50,000-square-foot, two-story used-vehicle showroom, it's bright and a comfortable 65 degrees.
Cook, who has been a franchised dealer since 1993, retails 1,200 to 1,400 used vehicles annually. He said the indoor used-car showroom makes it easier for his customers to browse and also protects his inventory from wind, snow, mud and temperatures low enough to kill even the hardiest battery.
'The worst part is the duration of the cold; 50 below zero is some serious weather,' said Cook, speaking on a January day on which the temperature in Fairbanks was a balmy -5 degrees.
WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
Cook said his Fairbanks customers want the same variety and quality of used vehicles as customers anywhere else. He stocks mostly late-model Pontiac Grand Ams and Bonnevilles, Buick Centurys and Park Avenues, GMC Jimmys and plenty of pickups.
'I have 80 different trucks, indoors and front-line ready,' he said.
Cook said he keeps his used-vehicle inventory fresh by making twice a month, two- or three-day visits to auctions in Utah, Washington and Oregon. He said there is one auction in Alaska, but it has only a handful of vehicles. He said he could buy vehicles from auctions in Canada but does not because it would require modifying vehicles' odometers and having the vehicles certified by customs, and that would eat into profits.
Cook said he buys 20 to 60 vehicles during each auction trip. He usually buys vehicles that are no more than 2 years old.
It costs about $1,150 per car and about $1,400 per truck to move vehicles from auction to his dealership, Cook said.
Cook estimated the vehicles he buys from auctions travel about 2,300 miles. It takes about two to three weeks for them to reach his dealership.
The vehicles are trucked from the auctions to Tacoma, Wash., where they are loaded on a barge for the 1,650-mile trip to Anchorage, Alaska. In Anchorage they are loaded on another truck for the final 360-mile leg of the trip.
Cook said he never sends vehicles to auctions. 'It's cost-prohibitive; we retail everything.'
Cook's dealership is 65,000 square feet and includes an 18,000-square-foot new-car showroom. He said he keeps about 25 vehicles in the showroom - about one make and model of everything he retails. Cook sells about 800 new vehicles annually.
'This way we always have something warm to show,' he said. 'With new cars, there's not that much difference from one car to the next. Used cars with miles on them are more susceptible to damage in a cold start.'