Be Creative and Improvise

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Cash for Clunkers is now over after generating nearly 707,000 direct sales, along with countless other sales for customers not eligible for the program.

Now what? Most analysts are afraid September sales will experience a downturn without the popular government financing.

Many of you have stories of crowded showrooms and of customers racing to the dealership in the hours before Cash for Clunkers ended in order to buy a car. The industry hasn’t seen that sort of excitement in years.

Wouldn’t it be nice to continue that momentum the next several months?

I recently saw the fictional movie The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard (you know, research for work) which details how a traveling sales team puts on a four day event to save a dealership from closing in Temecula, CA. (If you plan to see it, leave the kids at home). There’s one scene that struck me. The last day of the event, a hyped up concert at the dealership fails miserably and results in a riot.

TV news cameras captured the chaos. Unmitigated disaster, right?

Far from it. The scene’s star, Jeremy Piven (playing Don Ready, the movie's hero) grabs a microphone, jumps in front of the news cameras and invites all of Temecula’s police department and anybody wearing anything resembling police gear to the dealership and promises a hefty incentive (I’m little shaky on the details – left my reporters’ notebook at the office) if they made it to the store by closing time.

Sure enough, it’s a Hollywood ending. The dealership is saved and Piven gets the girl.

In the midst of a wildy ridiculous story, I think there is a lesson to see. I couldn’t help but think Piven was capturing what being a dealer was all about with that stunt.

Instead of complaining how bad things were, he improvised and turned a bad situation into a winner.

Many of you did just that with Cash for clunkers. All sorts of problems and issues, yet you sold 707,000 vehicles.

Some of you want to keep that going. There is a group of 73 dealers who created their own stimulus plan (you can see the details at www.automotivestimulusplan.com) to compensate for some of the drawbacks of the government’s plan. Dealers participating in the program have raved about its success.

How about other areas?

A recent email from dealer marketing firm OneCommand, detailed the story of a California dealer who last year held a Labor Day picnic, bringing in more that 13,000 people. It was a weeklong celebration that generated more than $400,000 in service department work and more than 1,600 repair orders, and who knows how many customer contacts?

The point is, be creative, improvise and take control. If traffic slows, figure out a way to get them back.

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