There's no crystal ball at Bill Stasek Chevrolet. Instead, the staff at this Wheeling, Ill., dealership calculate which new vehicles to order using past sales numbers, manufacturer input, communications and management software and professional experience.
Management aids such as software are helpful but don't provide easy answers. "Like any tool, it's helpful as long as you can look at it within your own situation, dealer Bill Stasek says. "We stock what people like," he says. "The vast majority of our sales are out-of-stock sales."
His philosophy of "taking the long view" includes encouraging the sales staff to work diligently with customers to find a vehicle already in stock.
"The sales staff have the experience to guide people in their decisions," he says. "Maybe the customer wants a vehicle with light-colored carpeting. Our salesperson may know that others have tried it and found it impractical. So the salesperson shows the customer products on the lot. That's not the same as talking the buyer into something he or she doesn't want."
Stasek has turned over much of the ordering responsibility and inventory management to Scott Wiscomb, his fleet and commercial manager.
Wiscomb says reports from General Motors outlining local buying trends - vehicle colors, body styles and engine sizes - influence his orders.
Handling new vehicles, such as the Chevrolet SSR sport truck introduced a couple of years ago, can be tricky, he says. Generally speaking, ordering one is enough for a start, he says. But the new HHR is doing so well that the dealership has trouble keeping them in stock.
Loading up on the previous model year's cars and trucks doesn't always translate into sales. And if the new models carry incentives, the dealer must find ways to make the older ones move. "We run our own reports to determine the ages of cars in stock," Stasek says.
Stasek says special orders bring a different kind of uncertainty: "You always have the fear that special orders won't be built in a timely fashion."