If success in the real estate market hinges on location, Brad Zude knows that in automotive retail selection also plays a critical role. As the sales manager for Kimberly Car City in Davenport, Iowa, he prides himself on stocking the cars his customers want and keeping his virtual lot fresh so that it drives traffic.


“The idea would be to always anticipate the market and try to be prepared for your spring market at the end of your winter season,” he says. “Right now we’re actively stocking the inventory that it’s going to take to sell cars in the next two to three months.”


As you prepare for the spring selling months that begin later this week, Zude shared his top seasonal tips:


Merchandising Matters


·         Photos. Connecting with in-market shoppers begins with merchandising every vehicle with compelling pictures, descriptive sell copy and a competitive price. Zude says he is currently reviewing his listings to ensure new pictures are taken for any vehicle with snow in the frame.


“The most important thing you can do is put pictures up that are weather appropriate,” he says. “A great internet department should be going through the photos every day and constantly updating and changing them even it’s not an in-the-season change.” 

·         Sell copy. Zude and his staff also are rewriting the sell copy in the ads to give the cars what he calls “personality” and more internet browser appeal. Rather than repeating the features listed in the VIN decoder, he focuses on selling attributes that appeal to car buyers: one-owner, local trade and nonsmoker.


Initial results, he says, indicate the effort has been worthwhile. “We get more people interested in more of our vehicles because it makes them stand out.”


Zude also stresses the importance of fully merchandising factory-certified listings, noting they typically yield $400 to $500 more in gross. “You have to take every advantage and say everything there is to say about the car because it’s so competitive,” he says. “You have to sell every little piece of that car that you can.” 

·         Competitive pricing. Finally, Zude is double-checking his prices, especially with aged units, to ensure he’s in line with the market. While he concedes it’s tough to part with a four-wheel drive vehicle for less than it would have fetched a few weeks ago, Zude believes this economy requires that he be realistic.


“Pricing is always a concern, and that’s one of the biggest things we try to do as far as marketing our vehicles online,” he says. “You just need to price the cars on the money, make what you can and get out of those vehicles as soon as possible.”


Stock for the Sale


To ensure he carries the right inventory, Zude relies on market-based tools such as the CarsStars report that track local supply and demand for specific make/model combinations. He then uses this information to decide what to acquire from customer trades and other sources.


“Nothing beats a local, one-owner vehicle that you know the whole history on,” Zude says. “But sometimes it does take going online and going to auctions to get these cars that you’re going to need for your spring market.”


That’s advice Jerry Pelphrey, GM for two Brown’s Ford stores in eastern Kentucky, takes to heart. With Car-Sell Reports as his guide for the cars, sport-utility vehicles and trucks that are popular in his market, he attends several online auctions each month to buy for his dealerships.


“We buy the top 10 of everything and try to keep them in inventory at all times,” Pelphrey says.


For Pelphrey, that strategy also helps to maintain gross by accelerating days to turn and control costs by minimizing aged inventory. “I’ve got in-house what’s selling, and I’m not carrying a bunch of excess.”


Additional Resources


Looking for additional tips you can implement in your store today to drive more traffic with your online advertising and desk more deals with your internet sales processes? Check out Cars.com’s DealerCenter. Here, you can read previous editions of our DealerADvantage newsletter or listen to archived recordings of our DealerADvantage LIVE webinar series.

In a recent session, we discussed how online auctions ensure you always have access to the cars your store needs.