Often, customers who start out in the service department move to the front of the store. The arrival of snowbirds boosts his new-car business by 18 to 20 percent, York said. "I have to increase my inventory this time of the year to take care of them."
Case, CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group, and J.J. Jackintelle, its president, agree that sales perk up, rather than decline, when the snow flies. So they maintain high inventories year round. "In our other markets we're not able to do that. Even in Atlanta, there is a falloff," Jackintelle said.
Case gives the snowbirds a lot of reasons to think warm thoughts about his eight Fort Lauderdale-area new-car dealerships.
The group gives customers free reward cards that entitle them to discounted gasoline and unlimited free car washes. They can earn points toward discounts on future dealership purchases, including new and used vehicles.
Case also doubles the factory powertrain warranty on all new vehicles he sells -- except for the Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands -- to 20 years/200,000 miles.
Case has no data identifying the temporary residents among his customers because many have Florida addresses, but he is convinced that these benefits keep snowbirds flocking to his dealerships.
"It motivates them to buy a new or used car or get their service here in South Florida because they're getting a better deal than they would get at their home, whether it's in Boston, Pittsburgh or wherever," said Case, 73. He has been a dealer for 54 years, having gotten his used-car dealership license while a teenager.
Rick Case Automotive Group, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 26 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 23,016 new vehicles in 2014. In addition to the Florida stores, the group has dealerships in the Cleveland and Atlanta areas.
Business is brisk at Case's six-story, 600,000-square-foot Honda dealership in Davie. The dealership houses 1,500 vehicles, a barber shop, an eight-pump gasoline station and is within five minutes of all but two of his Florida dealerships. Each of his dealerships has its own drive-through car wash.
Customers that sign up for the Rick Case Reward Club card, launched in 2002, earn points when they purchase vehicles, parts, accessories or services.
For example, a new or used-vehicle purchase earns 100,000 points. A customer-referral vehicle purchase adds 50,000 points. Every 1,000 points is redeemable for a $1 discount, up to 10 percent on the purchase of service, parts and accessories and 5 percent on the purchase of a new and used vehicle.
Case sells gasoline to his customers at a 2 percent margin over cost to cover credit card costs.
He also uses his gas station and car washes as a place to display new vehicle models and promote sales events. Both amenities keep customers coming back to his dealerships on a regular basis, he added.
"They've been visiting us once or twice a week whether they want gas or car washes," he said. "When they think about service or need a new car, where are they going to go? It's a great retention program." c----