The inaugural meeting of the Automotive Dealer Council was held at Net Driven's new headquarters in Scranton, Pa., on July 17, 2014.
Formed by Net Driven, the council is made up of "dealers on the front line," according to the company. They will meet periodically "to examine challenges in the automotive industry... and develop new solutions."
The first council meeting focused on the tire industry, with more than 100 dealers from across the United States and Canada participating in a program moderated by the Tire Industry Association (TIA).
Here are some of the issues, some in the form of questions, addressed at the meeting, with answers and observations from the participants.
Issue: online pricing pros and cons
* Tire Rack created online pricing.
* Chinese companies are not pricing tires online.
* Barry Steinberg, CEO of Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown, Mass., says he will begin posting tire prices online Aug. 1.
Issue: How has technology changed the way your employees learn?
* Manufacturers offer webinars.
* Tire salespeople have to educate consumers about tire technology.
Issue: Where do you find industry trends?
* 20 Groups.
* Michelin classes.
* SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show.
* Trade magazines.
* Tire e-news.
* Non-competing businesses (i.e., department store, Apple store) in order to understand what other successful businesses do.
* News feeds/video.
* Fixed Ops magazine.
Issue: What have you done to ensure your continued success through positive and negative economic fluctations?
* Formulated a strategic plan.
* "Figure out where you are and where you need to be and how to get there. Prioritize customer service, and service customers beyond their expectations."
* "We make sure our salespeople are well-trained."
* Consistancy: every day, every car, every time, even when the economy is bad.
* Join a 20 Group -- "I should've joined 20 years ago."
* Go over goals daily.
* "Step back and look at your operation, be honest with yourself. Trim fat but keep marketing and advertising.
* Work harder and smarter.
* Keep employees healthy (improve health benefits). Build on trust. Brand your business through social media. Give a customer the "celebrity experience."
Issue: What added value services are you providing to help maintain profitability and increase value for the customer?
* Offer a free oil change with "each tire" purchased. So buy four tires, get four free oil changes -- or free alignment -- or free road hazard warranty.
* Drive-thru express oil change. Snow tire storage. Loaner cars. Low price oil change gives you opportunities for upselling preventative maintenance ("educate how this will help the consumer in the long run"). Low price guarantee for in-store and online purchases.
* Pandora radio advertising.
Net Driven, the business name of Local Focal Inc., is a leading provider of website and Internet marketing solutions for tire dealers and new and used car retailers in the United States and Canada. To learn more about Net Driven and its complete portfolio of service offerings, visit www.netdriven.com.
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.