It takes something special to get Hayden Elder's attention now that he has run a Chrysler dealership in Texas for decades.
But software installed at Elder Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in the past month has turned his head.
The dealership sold 14 new vehicles in April to previous customers identified by the software as good prospects because they had equity in their vehicles, Elder said.
With equity in their trade-ins for at least a down payment and a familiarity with the dealership, they were waiting to be pitched, he said.
The 14 sales accounted for more than a quarter of the 50 new vehicles that he sold in April, Elder said. And he spent just $700 to find the buyers with a letter to 1,975 people. That contrasts with Elder's usual scattergun approach of sending out a general mailer to 25,000 residents near the Athens, Texas, store at a cost of $20,000.
"I'm an old dog who understands you need cutting-edge technology in your store," said Elder, 58, a member of the Chrysler National Dealer Council who was chairman of the council during Chrysler's bankruptcy in 2009.
Elder said he was persuaded to give the software a try by old friend Todd Stewart, 46, a longtime Chrysler executive who left the automaker in February to become a partner in Dealer Wizard, the company that created the product, which is called equity-mining software.
Elder said he is expecting more of the same results in May from the $1,200 he is paying the vendor to identify his in-equity customers.
Elder is deep in the heart of Texas truck country about 75 miles southeast of Dallas. About two of every three vehicles he sells is a Ram pickup.
Vendors that sell equity-mining software say only about 20 percent of dealers use the product to any significant degree. Vendors include Dominion Dealer Solutions, Driving Loyalty, AutoAlert, DealerSocket, Xtream Service and the equity calculators of Reynolds and Reynolds, ADP Dealer Services and Dealertrack Technologies.