The dictionary says hysteria is behavior exhibiting overwhelming fear or emotional excess.

Granted we are in challenging times. But the media hype takes it to the next level, fixating on the high unemployment level, the high costs of fuel, record losses in many financial institutions and the continuing saga surrounding subprime loans. And let's not forget consumer confidence is at a 16-year low.

Add the attention to and uncertainties surrounding our upcoming presidential election and you have more hysteria.

This isn't the first time our country has been through this. There are still a few of us who lived with double-digit interest rates during the seven year period beginning in 1978 and not ending until 1985.

During those years, a 5.5% unemployment rate would have been a real positive indicator.

Hopefully, you do realize today that “this too shall pass” and, as we experienced during the 1980s, we will be stronger and better business operators as a result of having lived through it.

During this period of uncertainty, there are measures you can employ.

One example is in the dealership service department:

  • What maintenance-type services can you offer customers to help them increase their fuel economy?
  • What is the potential mile per gallon increase for a properly tuned vehicle or a properly aligned vehicle with the correct air pressure?

These are just two items that come to mind, but I'm confident there are other items you can offer your customers to help them address their mpg concerns in the face of high fuel costs.

One reference you might view for ideas is entitled 20 Tips for Increasing Fuel Economy. It is provided by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic growth. Go to http://www.michigan.gov/dleg and access the article under the category “items of interest.”

There are operational issues you can address. Review each expense by item to identify possible savings.

  • Is there the possibility of receiving discounts if your payables are paid by the 10th of the month?
  • Have you negotiated your best possible price on items such as office supplies?
  • Do you have a policy that requires a purchase order for any purchase and are there any exceptions?
  • Have you had an audit of your telephone lines recently to see if you are paying for lines not in use?
  • Have you done an energy audit?
  • Have you reviewed the monthly statement from your dealership-management system provider to see if there are savings on items such as maintenance agreements on monitors?
  • Have you considered offering your administrative staff a 4-day work week option during certain weeks?
  • Have you set firm overtime policies and are you monitoring them to ensure compliance?

These are just a few ideas to start.

Now might be a great time for you, the dealer or operator, to contact all of your customers by e-mail offering them tips on increasing their fuel economy and offering them preferred-customer savings.

In the same message, highlight any new-vehicle incentives and mention your great selection of used vehicles.

Our company creed and mine personally is: “Helping good dealers become better.”

By looking in every nook and cranny for efficiencies while at the same time smartly attacking the marketplace, you will not only start to see improvement for the short term, you will install a culture that will serve you for many years to come.

That will prove you are a good dealer that's becoming better.

Good selling!

Due to a typesetting error, incorrect numbers ran on a line of a benchmarking chart accompanying last month's column. The correct numbers for days' supply used car (cost) should be: $44 for highline dealerships, $45 for import dealerships and $50 for domestic stores.

Tony Noland is the president and CEO of NCM Associates Inc. He is at tnoland@ncm20.com.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at Dealers@wardsauto.com.