New and Pre-owned Sales

Dealers Calling for Inventory

Early signs of a resurgence in used car buying are waking up the industry from its pandemic-induced doldrums. We’ve heard from two large clients in the past few days that auction prices are higher than anticipated as dealers across the country seek to increase their inventories. This flies in the face of earlier reports of a glut of used cars and an avalanche of off-lease vehicles coming down the pipe.

It seems counterintuitive. The Hertz bankruptcy will result in much of their fleet offered for resale. Several municipalities are reducing their budgets by cancelling orders for new fleet vehicles and shifting to more vehicle-sharing models in order to reduce the size of their fleets. The combination of fleet liquidations and lease returns should mean ample inventory for the used car market. We shouldn’t have a shortage of used cars available to dealerships.

What we may have is a supply chain issue. With social distancing restrictions still in place, many auction lots remain closed or diminished for live auctions. Online auctions are available, but may be inadequate to the task of moving the volumes required. Also, automakers and their finance arms are reportedly trying to slow the off-lease vehicle transactions to avoid flooding the market. KAR Global is buying land to hold vehicles for their better customers. These factors may be keeping wholesale prices high and putting a squeeze on dealerships trying to make up for 3 months of scant business. 

While the recent uptick in used car sales is a hopeful and promising sign, it’s too soon to call recovery. The economic impact of millions of Americans unemployed is yet to be fully understood. Previous down economies have increased used car sales at the expense of new, and franchise dealers are trying to expand their used inventories, partly because of manufacturing delays, and partly in anticipation of reduced interest in new cars.

This appears to be just another peak in what promises to continue to be a bumpy road to recovery.

Hertz, Thrifty and Dollar rental car logos

The Hertz Effect on Vehicle Sales

With the bankruptcy of Hertz Global Holdings, Inc., there will soon be an extraordinary volume of vehicles on offer, creating a bulge in a pipeline already constricted by the global pandemic. Hertz, down to their last billion dollars, will need to accelerate the rotation of their inventory as a cash resource to replace missing revenue from their operations.  Reported volume estimates predict vehicle counts in the hundreds of thousands.

In order to expedite this process, Hertz will be unable to move this volume through its branded sales operations, and will need to dispose of most of their vehicles through other means. Auctions would be the traditional mechanism, but ADESA and Manheim and many smaller auction houses are still at reduced capacity due to health and safety restrictions in many geographies. Hertz, or the court, will need to orchestrate direct sales to dealerships in order to liquidate as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This is an opportunity to acquire late-model vehicles with low reconditioning needs. Assets that you can prep for sale at low cost and in little time. In his recent article giving good advice on how to approach this as a dealership, Jason Unrau cautions:

“Dealers should be prepared to move quickly on rental vehicles that come to market. Snatching up batches of a particular make and model, or vehicle style, could be a great way to position a dealership in their locale. Cars bought from rental agencies tend to have extremely low reconditioning costs and offer an easy way to sell used cars at a higher volume.” 

I see this as another opportunity for our industry to “do well by doing good”. Hertz is an iconic brand family that has been set on its heels by unexpected forces. They are far from the only pandemic casualty we will see, particularly in the travel and hospitality sector, but they are the largest so far. The automotive industry has an opportunity to help them recover by purchasing these assets and infusing Hertz with the capital they’ll need to continue operations while they figure out what a post-covid Hertz looks like.  

While the reconditioning of these and other rental cars is normally less complex, they still must follow your process and be fully prepped for resale. If you aren’t using software to manage the work in your fixed ops or reconditioning department, the money you save in lower repair requirements may be lost on inefficiency in doing the work that is done. ReconMonitor™ is a software solution that keeps you in command and control of your recon operation. From acquisition through the entire process to frontline-ready, the software keeps technicians and teams on task and removes the bottlenecks that cost you valuable time and money. If you are ready to reduce your operation’s vehicle turn times and maximize your profits, you should contact us.

Credentials

What is Your Strongest Credential?

The dictionary defines a credential as, “anything that provides the basis for confidence, belief, credit, etc.”  In business, we use credentials as a shortcut in persuading customers or partners to trust us enough to do business with us. The credentials, “MD”, “PhD”, and “JD” convey that the holders have mastered the knowledge required to obtain them, and that alone can give a client confidence in their abilities. Technical certifications, diplomas, testimonials, accolades, licenses and franchises are also in this broad category of credentials.

Whether you have letters following your name or not, everyone has credentials. What are the ones you choose to share in your business? In other words, what qualification, achievement, personal quality, or aspect of your background do you use to indicate that you are suitable for business?

A credential, plain and simple, promotes trust and confidence. It can be anything. For detailers or cosmetic repair technicians, their best credential could be before and after photos of their work, a mechanic may have ASE certification or OEM endorsements. Dealers have their own designations, like 20-group or association membership. Your years in business alone is as valid a credential as any to elicit confidence and overcome doubt. 

Think about your other credentials, too. When I was shopping for a car, I noticed the salesman had pictures of his wife and 3 children on his desk. He didn’t remark about the photo, and neither did I, but when he described the safety features of the car I was considering, knowing that he had children made him more credible to me when discussing safety. For all I know, it might have been a stock photo that came with the frame, but in that moment, it was his credential – the connection point that told me he was believable.

We all have a drawer full of credentials that we might share. Climbed a mountain? You have fortitude and determination, Single parent? You’ve got organizational and time management skills. Backstage pass? You know somebody. Fly fisher? You have patience and value detail. Played sports in school? You understand the value of teamwork and shared goals. The list is as endless as our life experiences.

So when you are trying to persuade a customer or partner, reach deep into your drawer and find the right credentials for the occasion. Find the thing of yours that connects you to the other’s needs, and gives them the confidence to say yes. 


Want to learn more about AMT’s credentials? Click here.

Used cars parked

Reconditioning Your Way to Profit if Used Car Values Tank

When your cars have no buyers, how do you prepare for the future? The transfer of new-to-used, used-to-auction, and rental-to-auction has been at a two-month standstill, and the cars are piling up. Just six to eight weeks ago, demand was outpacing supply, and now we have the opposite.

Dale Pollak, an executive vice president of Cox Automotive, which owns North America’s largest auto auction company, wrote in an open letter to auto dealers last week:

“Six months from now, there will be huge, if not unprecedented, levels of wholesale supply in the market, cars are coming in, but they aren’t selling. Today’s huge supply of wholesale inventory suggests supplies will be even larger in the months ahead.”

Manheim auctions are already struggling to find places to park the cars heading to auction.

Nobody, not even the best in the industry, knows which way the wind will blow when the economy reopens. We know not when, nor how the economy may reopen. Another wild card will be how fast the unemployment rate reverses and what the current experience will mean for consumer confidence. Unlike other economic downturns, this one was a giant pause button, so it may be safe to assume that many of the recently unemployed will get rehired.

Dealers are holding onto that hope, and here is the proof: used-vehicle prices at retail as of mid-April are off by just 1 percent, while wholesale values are estimated to be down 10 to 12 percent according to Pollak. It’s an odd gap.

“Generally speaking, there’s a correlation between the movement of wholesale and retail pricing,” said Pollak, Cox executive vice president and co-founder of vAuto software. “But we’re at a strange moment in time where we’re not seeing that correlation.”

One reason could be dealers remain optimistic the economy will reopen soon and so have mostly held steady on retail prices. Some may be leery of marking down vehicles acquired at pre-pandemic prices.

Pollak sees this as an opportunity for dealers willing to mark pre-epidemic purchased vehicles down to liquidate stock while stockpiling cash to be used to purchase fresh inventory at discounted prices.

Conversely, a nightmare scenario for any dealer would be to think vehicles are still worth pre-outbreak values and then take in too many trades they can neither retail nor wholesale for a profit.

With such minute transactional data available, trend-spotting is impossible, and that is the point of frustration for many dealers.

Lease Extensions Could Help Stave Off The Glut Of Used Cars

Despite total factory shutdowns, automakers are doing what they can to limit the damage to the market. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.’s finance units are already offering customers one-month lease extensions. This should help relieve the pressure on both the supply and on the consumers who are reluctant to visit showrooms during a pandemic.

Plug The leaky Holes In The Reconditioning Process

“It’s critical for dealers to recognize what may be an unpleasant truth; it might take all the cash you can gather to sustain your business today and put it in a position to be viable when the market comes back,” said Pollak.

When we all get back to work, be that May or even June, one thing appears certain: used cars will be cheap to buy but possibly harder to sell. In order to get aggressive in your pricing and out-sell the dealer down the street, you need to sharpen the pencil on your reconditioning costs.

Certainly, there will be more clean used cars to purchase, but the margin gains may really come from the ones you can buy for pennies on the dollar. These may have a few more cosmetic blemishes than you are used to buying. Good reconditioning will always add value, so it is a critical element in getting the best return. That said, every cent saved in reconditioning costs is profit on the back end.

Restarting the economy will be a collective effort. Now is the time to work with your reconditioning vendors and employees to plug the holes that leak profit from your reconditioning process. If you are still using a post-it note and whiteboard system, it’s time to get out of the stone age. Though some people may be initially reluctant to learn and use it, software exists to streamline operations and can permanently fix the profit leaks in any system.

When shopping for reconditioning software, consider AMT’s ReconMonitor, a reconditioning management platform built to serve dealers, auctions, and professional reconditioning operations.

Street sign displaying "Time to say Goodbye"

How to Help Your Laid-Off Automotive Employees Manage Unemployment

Social distancing is the end of in-person auto auctions, at least for a while. If you are like most auction companies, you have switched to simulcast. An online-only situation and a potentially declining demand for sales (although the numbers aren’t out yet) may have forced a layoff for some of your employees. The same is true for many related specialties, like dealerships, body shops, and large recon MSO’s. Here are some tips to help them through this process.

If you lay off or furlough your employees, they are eligible for unemployment. Some states like Mississippi have ridiculously low caps, barely enough even to buy groceries each week. As an employer, you have no control over what they can receive when they apply for unemployment benefits.

But here’s what you can do:

Don’t block unemployment.

When the state sends out unemployment eligibility documentation, don’t mark the employee as fired for cause, which would keep your unemployment insurance rating low, but would lock the former employee out of a check. It could also save you a wrongful termination suit down the road.

Severance pay if you can afford it. 

In Maryland, you can file immediately for benefits and begin receiving a check, but other states have red tape and waiting periods. Your employees will need money now, not later, and severance will help get money in their bank while they get their ducks in a row.

Extend health benefits. 

The humanitarian thing to do during this health crisis is to continue paying benefits. You will save the bottom line in reduced salaries and payroll taxes, but be kind and keep the health insurance going at least until the nation is in the clear. Hopefully, it will only be a month or two at most.

Rehire as soon as possible. 

When life returns to normal, so too will the business demands. Your former employees are the best suited, best-trained employees for your business because they used to work there. If these employees are still available, not only will they be grateful that you wanted them back, they will probably be even more productive than they were before they were laid off.

Keep an Eye on the Federal Stimulus Package. 

As of this writing, the federal stimulus package is still not passed. But if it does, there will be some financial relief for small businesses and some options for you as an employer. It’s too soon to advise on that in a blog other than to suggest that there may be solutions for you forthcoming, and they should be taken into consideration for you and any employees you have to cut from the team.

Offer outplacement or other unique support options. 

This will definitely depend on your company’s budget, but there are outsource outplacement companies that you can hire that specialize in the outplacement of displaced employees. These experts help employees polish resumes and work their networks to find employment. This is especially useful if you have no intention of rehiring any of this staff.

Layoffs are simply one of those business decisions that you have to make to ensure the survival of the company. It can be uncharted territory for many business owners, especially in the wake of a new-to-all-of-us global pandemic. Hopefully, these tips will help you handle this rather unpleasant situation.

Natural disasters

Is Your Auto Auction Operation Prepared For Disaster?

Tornadoes hit Manheim Nashville, and the Coronavirus hits the US. That sums up this week’s gloomy headlines, and both events, if they happen to you, could take your business offline for a sustained period of time. If this doesn’t have you asking what your business would do in the event of a catastrophe, you need to start making plans.

Matt Trapp, Manheim’s regional vice president for the East, confirmed in a statement that Manheim Nashville, located in Mount Juliet, was “severely affected by powerful storm conditions” that came through the area Tuesday. The auction remained closed as of Tuesday afternoon.

“While no one was injured at the site, our human resources team is now working diligently to account for the safety of every team member in the area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives in the storm,” Trapp said.

“Currently, Manheim Nashville remains closed, as we assess the damage. As access to our property is restricted due to safety reasons, we encourage clients to refrain from visiting our site at this time. We will provide more updates as they become available at Manheim.com,” he said. “Manheim is committed to protecting the safety of our team members, clients, and guests.”

Nearby Music City Auto Auction of Nashville was unaffected and will continue operations, including its sale this week. With Manheim offline for a while, it will likely be a boon for smaller auction companies in the area.

When the Coronavirus first hit the world, it mainly affected China and swept through Asia and into Italy. It has taken a while, but it has now hit the US, albeit slowly. Companies are beginning to prepare for the possibility that the Coronavirus outbreak may become more widespread, and several big tech companies have started to tell employees they should work from home. Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have all given their employees instructions to work remotely for the time being if they can do so.

Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle is an area that has seen several deaths from the virus, and a worker there tested positive for the Coronavirus. Amazon is currently notifying others who may have had contact with that employee and has asked its Seattle employees to work from home.

Most small businesses don’t have a plan in place to deal with a public health crisis but now is the time to start building a roadmap to how your company might respond should a more widespread outbreak or a natural disaster should occur.

Financially, your Auction company should cover any loss to the building, the inventory, and maybe even loss of use. But does your insurance policy cover loss of revenue caused by a widespread health crisis? Probably not. It’s time to do a review of your insurance policies and contingency for cash flow.

Can your auto auction operate with employees working remotely? Perhaps it’s worth talking to a company that can stream your auction online. You may even consider doing a test at one of your upcoming auctions.

How is your data storage handled? How can employees access it? What channels will you use to communicate with your employees? Who is in charge of your media action plan, or do you even have one? Who will the media contact if disaster strikes your business in a high-profile way? The key is to make a plan now so that you’re ready when you need it.

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