Despite years of near-record sales of new cars and trucks in the U.S., dealers are increasingly being forced to diversify into new business enterprises to stay profitable. The culprit: new-car margins that don't pay the bills anymore amid intense competition.
Automakers have stepped up their certified pre-owned programs. Service departments are looking at tire sales and body shops.
Some retailers say they preload vehicles with F&I products or accessories to add some margin to each sale.
Some retailers have even experimented with creative, nonautomotive ideas: One Montana store sells firearms ammunition and hunting bows.
But they need to dig deeper, according to dealership consultants, who are urging retailers to look at every aspect of their business for more cash. They need to get involved in store operations such as marketing, warranties and insurance rather than relying only on vendors — and some stores are doing just that.