Many auto dealers say trying to pare the car-buying process down to an hour is impossible, or at least inadvisable.

Then there’s Robert Carmendy, general manager and a partner at Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, known more briefly as RSM Honda, in Orange County, CA.

He’s shooting for the 30-minute deal. “I’m not saying the industry should go that way, but we are,” he says at an Automotive Resource Network conference. “It’s drastic but achievable.”

The half-hour countdown would start after a customer takes a test drive and settles on a vehicle to buy.

The ensuing business – largely revolving around paperwork – shouldn’t take hours beyond that, Carmendy says. Right now, it often does. “We’re No.1 in customer satisfaction and even our customers ask, ‘How come it takes so long?’”

His beat-the-clock goal is predicated on certain things. One of them is that customers have done a certain amount of homework and decision-making online before visiting the dealership.

Another predication is that a deal doesn’t get bogged down by financing issues or other such variables.

There’s more.

“To do 30 minutes, you have to be a 1-price store, which we are,” Carmendy says. In reality, he adds, “California pretty much is a 1-price market because of the competition.”

Another requirement for a quick close is that salespeople handle the necessary documentation. That’s typically done by an F&I manager.  

For salespeople to assume those duties would require them to do it digitally using e-contracting software that eliminates human error, Carmendy says. “Right now, I wouldn’t let a salesperson handle the document signing. We’re waiting for software with no variations.”

Once that’s up and running, he expects things to really pick up. “Sometimes customers wait two hours because the finance office is busy, but if you have 20 salespeople using the right digital equipment, they can be handling 20 different closings.”

It’s hard to predict whether many other dealers will feel such a need for speed, Carmendy says. “But I’m in a competitive market, and I’m going to use it as a selling point.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com