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Dude, Where’s My Car?

In the 2000 movie “Dude, Where’s My Car?” it was pretty amusing to watch Ashton Kutcher stumble around looking for his lost car. But if you’re a dealer and that’s your salesperson stumbling around on a lot while a customer is impatiently waiting, the inability to find a car is not so funny.

 

In this series of blogs I am addressing common processes within a dealership that present challenges that are not easily solved. Last month I talked about how important it is to track how long it takes to get trade-ins out to the front line.

 

In this blog I’d like to address the issue of finding cars. For many large dealerships, one of the hardest things to do is to find a car. How many times are your customers left standing while a salesperson goes off searching for a vehicle? This is not a great way to get the customer into a buying mood, let alone the fact that it’s a very unproductive way for your salespeople to be spending their time.

 

One dealer I know has locator beacons on every car. Another dealer bar-coded every car and every parking space. One of the largest Chrysler dealers in the country uses Radio Frequency Identifcation (RFID) tags on every car, then has employees drive around in golf carts reading the tags with a wireless device, which then updates the database with the location of the vehicle.

 

These are examples of some high-tech solutions available, but unfortunately they are also very expensive solutions. What if you don’t want to–or aren’t able to spend that kind of money? Can you think of any low-tech, or analog solutions?

 

When I was a general manager at a large, multi-line dealership, we had four lots for about 600 cars. Once a salesperson got into the right lot, usually they could find the vehicle pretty quickly. But knowing which lot a car was parked in was always a problem. It could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to find a car.

 

Our solution was to color code the lots and then buy little round stickers of each color: red, blue, orange, yellow. Then, whenever somebody parked a car, they would take note of the lot color and put the appropriate colored sticker on the key box in the key machine. Knowing which lot the car was parked in dramatically cut down the time necessary to find the vehicles, in a very low-cost manner.

 

Before you decide on an expensive technology solution, have you considered if there’s a low-cost, analog solution? I always suggest getting several employees together on a cross-functional team to brainstorm ways to solve a problem. Cutting down the time involved with finding a car is critical if you’re trying to increase efficiencies in the sales process and keep your customers happy.

 

What about your dealership? Do you have a process in place that enables salespeople to find cars easily? What has worked and what hasn’t?

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