Forty-five years ago, a young Jerry Chapman left a dealership in Mississippi and took over a Chevrolet store in Chandler, AZ, a Phoenix suburb.
In 1972, he constructed a new building for the ‚Äúbowtie‚ÄĚ brand. That dealership is going strong as a flagship for the Chapman Automotive Group.
In the early days, he never dreamed he would preside over an 18-store, 21-brand group using a once unheard-of marvel called the Internet to rack up vehicle sales in 2010.
The work of the dealership group‚Äôs central Internet unit puts Chapman on the top of the Ward‚Äôs e-Dealer 100.
‚ÄúJerry still can‚Äôt get over it,‚ÄĚ says Internet DirectorMcFall. ‚ÄúFrom a single Chevy store out in the desert, he has built a group which used the Internet to sell a record 8,946 new and used vehicles.‚ÄĚ
That record jump is nearly 2,000 units more than in 2009, a 23% increase. It topped all company goals.
Chapman‚Äôs Internet unit draws from the group‚Äôs ‚Äúbest salespersons‚ÄĚ who recognize the region‚Äôs consumers are ‚Äútuned into the Internet for vehicle facts and prices,‚ÄĚ McFall says.
‚ÄúChapman Choice is our theme, which leaves decisions up to customers in their online exchanges with us,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúOur closing ratios have been stronger as the Internet has acquired a major role in the selling process, particularly among the luxury brands.‚ÄĚ
In 2010, Internet closing ratios averaged 18% for the group‚Äôsand Mercedes-Benz stores, 16% for and . The Mercedes store in Tucson was a top performer with a 20% closings of e-leads.
Chapman allows individual stores to followup on Internet leads as they see fit. Most stores have a process in which prospects are contacted on a regular basis.
The group also uses the Internet to send monthly e-blasts for lease and financing specials.
While luxury-brand sales do particularly well online, McFall finds that frequently changing vehicle images and descriptive text on the group‚Äôs website boosts overall customer loyalty and interest.
In the lower-priced brands, ‚Äúhot draws areand ,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIn addition, the Internet‚Äôs pulling power helps sell the value of certified pre-owned vehicles that sell like hotcakes.‚ÄĚ
Chapman is shooting for the Internet department to account for 45% of total sales this year. ‚ÄúWe're looking at a 20% closing ratio in the near future.‚ÄĚ
Expected to aid that cause are a newdealership and newly acquired Chapman in Scottsdale, AZ.
Also helping out are Arizona-Nevada demographics favoring Internet-savvy young consumers, McFall says.