Although other automakers have been squeezed hard by inventory shortages, especially in recent months, Subaru of America was the reigning champion of working with lean stocks for most of the past decade.
Sustained strong retail demand for its products allowed dealers to turn their inventories quickly each month, and it taught them valuable lessons in how best to retail vehicles when many weren't anywhere on their lots.
The big secret, Sommer says, is communication with the customer.
"The sales management and the whole sales team, they're going to have to be talking about incoming units as soon as they meet the customers," explained Sommer, whose Subaru store, part of Sommer's Automotive, retailed about 2,300 new vehicles per year before the pandemic.
"The conversation is going to quickly move to, 'We've got this coming in for you.' But everything has to be set up right from the start to build flexibility into their thinking."
Nationwide, General Motors' pickup and SUV inventory levels are now about a third or less of where they have been historically, according to estimates by Cox Automotive.
As stocks at Sommer's Buick-GMC dwindled last fall, it started retailing more like the Subaru store does. Order books were opened for customers to see, and the sales process was altered to better share production and delivery expectations.
"We had to change some of our practices in the sales management of the Buick-GMC store to really focus on selling up into the pipeline, having the information available for our sales staff — not just on the vehicles that customers can see are in transit, but the next step deeper into the ordering process," Sommer explained.