Are Certified Pre-owned Sales Worth the Investment for Dealerships?

by Automobile Technologies, Inc.

December 2, 1927 might not jump out to most auto dealership managers as having any significance, but that was the date the first Model A went on sale, replacing a model that had gone virtually unchanged since 1908- the model T. One might argue, then, that December 2, 1927 is also the date that gave people their first reason to trade in their old car 1910 Ford T on a new one  1931 Model A,

and giving birth to a new institution: the used car lot.

In 1927 there was no such thing as a certified pre-owned car. In fact, that concept didn’t arrive until sometime in the 1990’s. During that time, dealerships had the same obstacles to completing a used car deal as the local mom and pop car lot: establishing trust.

Today, the CPO market is a robust component of many dealerships’ used car programs. It adds a layer of credibility to any car deal, one that the local used car lots cannot offer, but this competitive advantage does come at a cost.

 

Higher implied costs before the front line

A factory CPO certification tacks on additional costs to a qualified vehicle raising the vehicle invoice price, and reconditioning costs, all of which can quickly put the squeeze on the final vehicle gross profit.

Used car management must determine in every instance whether the Cost-to-Market and Price-to-Market ratios leave enough room in the final deal for CPO units to achieve their desired profit and ROI objectives.

 

Higher yields at the lot as a whole

Market research firms indicate that CPO sales can drive a 6.1 percent increase in the value of used vehicles retailed by franchised dealers. So simply having CPO cars as part of the mix can help drive sales of non-CPO cars on the same lot.

Manheim Chief economist, Thomas Webb, reports that CPO sales were up 12.3 percent in 2017, and used vehicle profits are on the rise, as well as higher sales per store with stabilizations in used car margins.

 

Improving margins begins at purchase

Dealers must keep a watchful eye on cycle time for every CPO vehicle.  The minute the vehicle is acquired, the clock starts ticking. Every day the vehicle spends in reconditioning cuts into vehicle turn time to sale.

Most dealers set their goal at a 45 day average sales window, but the real shock to some dealers comes when they realize that the 45 days begins at vehicle acquisition. Vehicle inspection, reconditioning, and certification can easily eat up inventory holding time, long before the unit hits the front line, which makes prioritizing these areas even more important.

 

Remove bottlenecks – raise profit

NADA statistics show average vehicle holding cost can be as much as $50/day. Time lost prior to frontline has a huge impact on vehicle gross profit. Dealerships need to look for operational changes to speed up or even automate the remarketing process.

For the savvy dealership looking to shave a few remarketing days off of each vehicle, we offer the following suggestions:

  • Revisit the delivery process from acquisition through frontline. Are there any bottlenecks that can slow the process?
  • Review your paperwork procedure. Eliminate paperwork wherever possible. This will lead to increased efficiencies. A thorough review of your paperwork processing will be time well spent.
  • Modernize your inventory management process. It is surprising in this age of handheld technology, that dealerships still rely on whiteboards and paper documents to keep track of units from auction to front line. Whiteboards take time and resources to maintain. Whiteboards cannot alert you about bottlenecks and missed deadlines unless you are standing right in front of them. Software solutions like ReconMonitor will alert your team, leading to lower reconditioning cycle time and control the end-to-end process.

 

Conclusion

Certified Pre-owned vehicles can offer the used car dealership a boost in sales, a boost in margins, and a boost in used car purchase trust, but the process must be tightly controlled, constantly scrutinized and continually refined.

Auto Remarketers: Stop Building Your Own Software!

by Automobile Technologies, Inc.

Do I buy or build software in-house or use SaaS?

Large remarketing firms, car rental companies, fleets, or auctions, profit and grow with deeply rooted sales and operational efficiencies. Simple right? Sell more, and trim the fat from the operation.

As growth happens and processes get put into place (often on the fly), the processes do not always grow with the organization. Over time, they can even become bottlenecks. This is the point when a lot of companies turn to software to streamline many of these inefficiencies and to trim the fat from the organization.

Software tools such as vehicle trackers, inspection software, and vehicle reconditioning management, are all available in various forms. The question then is which software is the right fit for your needs?

 

Sure you can. But why?

Many organizations find it tempting to turn to their own IT department to investigate the feasibility of just building their own software. The eager to please IT department always responds with a resounding “sure, we can do that”. The question often left unasked is, should you?

 

There are three types of software that remarketers use:

  1. A custom scratch-built application developed by the company’s own IT team.
  2. Software code that is purchased and then modified to suit the company’s needs.
  3. SaaS- cloud-based software that is sold on a subscription basis.

The lure of not having to pay subscription fees can be tempting to companies looking to trim overhead costs, and with code snippets available for purchase by eager IT guys, the investment never pays for itself and here is why.

 

Consider the time spent to define it.

When you buy a SaaS product it is available immediately. The only time spent is the time it takes to implement the software and train your staff. This is time you would have to spend anyway even if you built your own program.

Whiteboard Planning Meeting

Consider how many meetings it will take to lay out the features, the functionality, and the workflow, before you even begin to build the tool. This can take an organization six months or more just to determine what needs to be built and what it should do.

Calendar

Consider the time spent to build it.

Now that you know what your software should do, and even how it should function, you can finally start to build it. But how long will that take? A couple of months perhaps even with a dedicated IT team who is not busy fixing other hardware and software issues within the business already.

 

Consider the time spent to refine and debug it.

Here we are nine months later and you finally have something that resembles a software. The only problem is when you click this button here, it crashes, or when you enter text there, it doesn’t show up on the report. Add a few more months to test and refine the software and you are now twelve months in before you have something functional.

 

Consider the fact that you will need to continually update it.

Let’s fast forward six months to a year and your organization has been utilizing your new software. But accounting has learned that its missing two crucial steps. Your buyer wants to be able to scan VIN’s and pull carfax reports, and marketing wishes that there were fewer steps to upload images to your website.

Also, because your software has been somewhat effective at cleaning up some processes, you were able to drastically streamline how you handle paperwork, but the software wasn’t built to handle the new process.

It’s time for some updates, and this will take some time and more capital investment.

 

Consider the savings you could have realized this whole time.

At eighteen months of development, refinement and field implementation, your software is working, but still needs work, and you will forever be chasing these updates. That is 18 months of organizational spend that you could have eliminated immediately had you simply purchased a subscription-based software.

 

The benefit of SaaS

Let’s look at this same eighteen months through the lens of a SaaS development company. Before even going to market, the needs have been identified, the business case made, the process mapped out, the testing had been done, and the software has begun to get purchased and implemented in early adopting dealerships. Now the feedback loop begins as customers start to identify bugs and new feature requests. The updates are immediately addressed, and the features are built quickly and brought to market to stay competitive.

 

But what about customization?

The last big lure for a dealership to develop their own software is the argument that it is 100% custom built for their organization. And while it is true that a SaaS product has been built for mass consumption and mass appeal, most high-end SaaS companies will offer customization to suit your needs.

You also get customer support and constant updates, refinements and new features at no additional cost.

 

Why reinvent the wheel?

That is an old saying but it holds true nearly every single time. At the end of the day, if you could build your own Quickbooks, why would you?

Companies, learn from those who have tried this before and have come to the same conclusion: Building your own software slows company progress when SaaS alternatives keep you out in front of the competition.

Budgeting for a Successful Mobile Repair Business in 2018

Budgeting is one of those cringe worthy words that we all like to avoid. I think it’s because we associate restrictions with budgeting and who wants restrictions in our lives?

But a budget is without a doubt the most vital tool for small businesses. Consider it a guideline, a scorecard or a report card for how you are doing financially as a business every month. It will help you make business decisions, and can make you a better business owner when you spend time watching the dollars regularly.

Building out your budget doesn’t have to be hard or even time consuming. Many of you are already using some form of accounting program and we have created an excel spreadsheet that you can use or modify simply by clicking HERE.

 

But if you choose to create your own, here is what it should cover:

Why you need a Budget for 2018:

  1. Determine your milestones so that you recognize when you pass them. We know from working with so many mobile repair shops and paintless dent repair companies that very few of you guys have any type of formal plan for your business. While it is certainly possible to just keep showing up every day, do good work and you will see growth, how do you know where you are headed and without knowing the milestones as you pass them?
  2. You will need to borrow money, your bank will want a plan. Unfortunately with growth also comes more pains such as hiring, obtaining a line of credit at the bank, equipment leasing, tax planning and so on. Every aspect of these new processes will require some form of a business plan. Having written a few of these, I can tell you it takes a very long time.

Business plans require financial projections, tax schedules, depreciation schedules, staffing plans and so on. All of this will be spread out over multiple pages and you will need to keep going back and forth between pages.  I have found that the best way to start a business plan is to create a single page cheat sheet that has all the numbers in one spot. As you begin to fill in numbers in a business plan, it is helpful to have a single sheet that has all the numbers in one spot.

  1. A budget can help you make hard decisions quicker and easier. It is logical that purchasing equipment proven to save time will also save you money. But how do you know when you can afford to invest in new equipment or software without being able to look at your own numbers? A budget will help with that.

 

How to Make a Budget for Your Mobile Repair Business

The easiest thing is to create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. You can create your own or you can download our template below. On your spreadsheet, include the next twelve months going from left to right in the top columns. Leave room in the first column to list out each expense.

Next, in the first column start labeling all of your expenses. It helps to have a couple of recent bank statements handy; you will be surprised at how many little expenses that you forget.

 

Start with your own personal expenses.

The way I like to do mine is start with the bills you personally have to pay each month, stuff like mortgage or rent, food, etc. Put every personal and non-business expense you have in there. This will give you a good idea of what you need at a minimum to pay yourself. Now add a row for each of those columns to tally up.

Below that line I like to add a “differential”. This is an extra amount that you would like to pay yourself on any given month and you can play around with this number quickly. For example when the holidays arrive and you might need a little more cash, you can throw some numbers around and see if you break even.

 

Next it’s time to start entering the business expenses.

Begin entering values and lines for all of your office and business expenses such as gas, internet, phone, truck payments if you own vehicles, credit cards used by the business, equipment payments. Again review those bank statements and try to come up with a number for each type of expense that you have. Add a line to tally up each business expense by month.

 

Employees or contractors are next

If you have employees or plan on hiring in the future, create a section for them. Each employee will get his or her own line and what you want to do is put in the monthly gross paycheck amount for each month. If it varies, you can either try to guess based on past years performance, or pick a number that you think best reflects the volume your employee will produce. Again this document will be fluid so you can play with these numbers when you are done. Now add a line that tallies these employee salaries by month.

Next create a line to add up your personal expense total, your office expense total and your employee salary total. This is the amount you have to make before taxes.

 

Customers

Most mobile repair shops have regular customers such as body shops and dealerships. Start with those first and for each month include the revenue you think you will have from each customer. If you have been in business for at least a year, you can start by entering your revenue from last year. If you have individual non-repeat customers, include lines for them as well and if you want you can come up with an average customer value.

 

Formulas

Next you will need to create a few formulas. First you want to create a line that totals your office overhead along with any salaries, including your salary differential.

Subtract this number from the total sales-in per month, and you have a fairly accurate idea of what revenue is left for taxes.

Next take this number and apply the following formula: =B60*(1-29%)  In is case B60 is the cell with your remaining net cash after salaries and office expenses.  This formula takes your net cash and subtracts 29%, which is a pretty good approximation for a small business tax burden and includes state taxes. We recommend that you speak with your tax professional to figure out what the percentage ito use for your specific situation. Whatever tax rate they suggest simply replace the 29 in that formula with the new number.

In the line below this, add the formula =SUM(B60)-(B61). This gives you the monthly tax payment that you will owe (even though you will pay quarterly). In this instance B82 is the net income and B83 is the tax payment.

Keep in mind this spreadsheet is designed to give you a quick and pretty accurate picture of your cash flow month by month but it does not factor in things such as depreciations, etc.

 

We hope you found this to be helpful and we look forward to helping you achieve a prosperous 2018.

ReconPro mobile app 2.14.6 for iOS devices

Add labor services to inspections and work orders to get actual labor time automatically calculated for particular panel and part based on vehicle make, model, and year.

New Feature

  • Auto-adjustment of service labor time based on vehicle make, model, and year

See the details of the new feature here.

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ReconPro Back Office Update (Jan. 23, 2018)

Export inspections to CSV files based on selected mapping, hide discounts and surcharges from invoice printouts, show customer signature in the footer of inspection printouts.

New Features

  • Create CSV mappings and export inspections to CSV files

Improvements

  • Improvements in invoice print template configurations
  • Improvements in inspection print template configurations
  • Application performance has been improved to ensure successful search of invoices.

See the details of each new feature and improvement here.

Fixed Issues

  • In some cases technicians assigned to repair order phases could not be updated.
  • There was an issue with auto calculating and editing HST tax in Invoice Editor.
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ReconPro mobile app 2.14.5 for iOS devices

Select the appropriate print template before printing inspections, work orders, and invoices to make sure that your print documents look the way you want.

New Features

  • Select print configuration before printing inspections, work orders, and invoices

Improvements

  • Showing price matrix name on the vehicle view
  • Resending images to Back Office
  • The main database and the VIN database are now updated automatically after your ReconPro mobile app has been updated to a new version.

See the details of each new feature and improvement here.

Fixed Issues

  • The search function didn’t work properly for a long list of team invoices.
  • Repair location was not set correctly after creating a monitored work order from an inspection.
  • An intermittent application crash occurred after tapping Map on the service request actions screen.
  • An intermittent application crash occurred after tapping Back on the inspection types screen while creating a new inspection for a customer from the full list.
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2018: The Year of Growth for You

Happy New Year everybody! We hope you all had a restful time and were able to spend some quality time with loved ones.

Now it’s time to get serious about your business goals for 2018 and time to lay out your plan for getting there. For 2018, we at AMT are proclaiming that 2018 is the year of growth for our customers.

To support this mantra we are going to publish new posts with worksheets, calculators and tools to help you set and hopefully exceed all your revenue and business goals for 2018. These posts and materials will cover all aspects of running and growing a small business from sales, to marketing, getting funding, hiring, leasing, tax prep, you name it. We want to help you grow by helping you quickly handle the time consuming but necessary aspects of growing a business, much like our software helps you manage your customers.

Why listen to us?

Why should you listen to a software company for business building advice? First of all we are a business ourselves and we face the same challenges you face every day running yours. We also work with customers all over the US and we have the unique ability to be able to discuss the business needs and challenges, and hear amazing solutions from our customers. We also work in many varied industries such as dealerships, one-man repair shops and multi location franchises. What works in one industry is often adaptable to another and that is our plan for this year. We want to let you in on the tools and techniques that are working elsewhere in the business but adapt them to your needs.

Will this be difficult or time consuming?

With any business task, it will take some investment of time. But in this case there is a return on that investment in time. The spreadsheets and worksheets will most certainly save you time from having to create them.

These tools are also designed to be easy to use, and each tool will come with an instruction blog post explaining the rationale behind it, tips for completing the task, and considerations if you wish to create your own tools.

Will this cost me anything?

No. These are intentionally designed to be free resources to you. All you will need is to enter an email address to download a specific guide or resource and the access will be within each blog post. We employ a marketing automation system that houses all these materials and an email address is needed to have the worksheet or template sent to you.

Why are we doing this?

As a business we need successful customers in order to continue our own growth. And we realize that success comes from mastering many aspects of business not just the ones that our software tools solve. When you are successful, we are successful. We also realize that we have a much larger team with many years of experience in different areas of the business. We decided that if we could put that knowledge to use helping our customers and prospects grow their business then why not?

Let’s get started!

So stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to our blog using the button below so that you do not miss out on a single AMT growth hacking tool! Also if you have any business growth needs that you would like us to tackle for you here, feel free to email suggestions to us at info@automobiletechnologies.com.


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ReconPro Back Office Update (Jan. 10, 2018)

Add stock number to repair orders in the Back Office application and edit stock number entered by technicians in mobile app on device

Improvements

  • Add and edit stock number in repair orders
  • Enhancements in inspection print template configurations

See the details of each improvement here.

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