What is in this article?:
- Sonic Automotive Developing New Way to Sell Used Cars
- Sights Set on CarMax
Sonic targets CarMax as megadealers’ interest in stand-alone pre-owned vehicle operations heighten.
Used-car shopping shouldn’t stress customers, Sonic says.
LOS ANGELES – Megadealerisn’t ready to reveal the name of its impending stand-alone used-car network that’s scheduled to kick off in Denver later this year.
But a Sonic executive says the coming stores will break the mold of how used-car dealerships look and operate.
Architecturally, “the size and scope will be different,” says Marti Eulberg, director-brand management at Sonic, No.5 on the WardsAuto Megadealer 100. “You won’t see a bunch of inventory in front. They will be interactive places where people can do research and hang out.”
Sonic vows to gin up customer friendliness at the separate used-car outlets, she says at the 2014 Automotive Customer Centricity Summit here.
“We’re hiring people who love people,” she says. “Our mission is that every car has a happy owner. Customers will deal with one person, not multitudes. There will be no hand-offs.”
Salespeople will sit next to customers, not across from them. Shoppers will have access to store iPads, using them in the company of a salesperson or alone if they prefer.
“We’ll let people do it on their own terms,” Eulberg says, adding that today’s consumers want respect and transparency yet often find used-car buying intimidating.
In doing field research for the establishment of Sonic’s upcoming used-car network (which won’t carry the Sonic name), she visited large and small pre-owned dealerships nationwide.
“We wanted to understand it from a customer perspective, and I spent an entire summer being a customer,” says Eulberg whose past automotive posts include serving as Maserati North America CEO from 2008 to 2009.
Her mystery-shopping research indicates some lingering used-car industry stereotypes aren’t necessarily groundless.
“Believe it or not, 90% of the time, the last thing said to me was: ‘What will it take to get you in this vehicle?’” she says. “Used-car sales essentially are as they were 30 or 40 years ago.”
Franchised dealers, independent dealers and private parties sell about 42 million used cars a year, almost three times the number of new cars.
“What an opportunity,” Eulberg says. “We said, ‘How do we go after that market?’” Her answer: By changing the retail environment, making it welcoming and putting customers at ease.