2 things every car dealership should consider doing.

Recently on my wife and I enjoyed a great (short) trip away for our anniversary.  We skipped over the border to Niagara Falls.  It was diving home that I noticed something.  A car I passed caught my eye.  The car in question was a 2001-2003 Volvo S60.  Certainly the car wasn’t what caught my eye.  The S60, while extremely safe, durable and reliable, isn’t exactly something pleasant to look at.  What caught my eye was the decals.  The selling dealership had labels with their name and website on the rear, side panels and along the top of the windshield.  The decals were crude, but it stuck.

Now I assumed this was a car they used as a courtesy shuttle, but it’s not.  Nor did it have dealer plates suggesting it was a loaner of some kind.  Add to that the fact that this car was not late model as most dealership or loaner cars would be.  It got me thinking.  Said thinking is what leads to the first of two things every, or at least the larger ones, car dealership should consider.

1. Wrapped “demo” cars select people get to drive in everyday life; cheap or free.

Not sure if the above Volvo was this, but it certainly could be a great idea.  It would allow a car dealership plenty of exposure in their sales area (free!) as well as word of mouth (free!) with the potential for social media exposure (expensive.  No wait, free!).  It’s also a great way to get a new car model out into your sales area with your dealership’s name all over it!  (Hey, there’s one of those new “X”, really like it!  Looks like I can buy it at “Y”).  Here’s how it would work:

  • An “Owner” is selected from applicants who has a shorter (preferably local) commute.  This person also lives and does life in the general sales area of the dealership.  Being involved with social media for further exposure should be a consideration as well.  (Check, check and check.  Sign me up!)
  • “Owner” signs an agreement with the dealership similar to a lease in terms (6 months, 1 year, 2 year etc).  Standard “don’t hurt the vehicle it’s not yours” clauses and conditions apply.
  • The vehicle is made available to the “owner” free of purchase cost or at a significantly reduced rate.  The vehicle is wrapped, in pleasant and eye catching design, with the dealership’s information.  This is where you, mr. (or mrs.) salesmen, really need to get artsy.
  • The vehicle is returned to the dealership to be sold at the end of the term (hey, this sounds like a lease, doesn’t it!).
  • There is a limit to the number of mileage an owner can put on the car – similar to a lease.  The penalty for mileage over would be steeper than with a lease to discourage over-wear of the vehicle.
  • Conversely there is also a penalty for not enough mileage.  Since exposure to the sales area is key a certain amount of mileage would be needed although the penalty would be much less than the overage penalty.  How would this be monitored?
  • Maintenance is covered by the “owner”.  All maintenance must be performed at the dealership and kept very closely to the manufacturers recommendations.
  • All fuel costs are the responsibility of the “owner”.
  • All insurance costs are the responsibility of the “owner”, with the dealership the payee in the event of a write off.  Any accident damage and deductibles incurred are the responsibility of the “owner”.  Insert the required legalese here.

Fairly simple.  It could help people who can’t otherwise afford the monthly cost of a new vehicle get to enjoy one for a period of time.  I would be there with bells on.  The second isn’t nearly as involved but would certainly cater to the lazy or techie car shopper.

2.  Virtual video test drives.

This premise is simple.  A “video friendly” (bubbly, passionate, knowledgeable, funny blah blah…) person would take the current “popular” model – a car being heavily promoted by the manufacturer – and test drive it!  Their journey is filmed by one or several small permanently mounted cameras in the car (think GoPro).  The person takes the car through the standard test drive things; drive around town, take the highway and so on.  They talk about the feel, the stereo, the comfort, visibility, comfort of the dashboard – things people want to know about the vehicle.  Then have some fun.  Take a group out for lunch, get a week’s worth of groceries, take the dog to the vet.  Show the car doing something fun and real life – and talk about how well (or, err, not so well) the car does it.  This gives people who may not have time or the convenience to do a good test drive see how the vehicle they may be considering does.

Well, that’s the lot of it.  Thanks for reading and taking these thoughts into consideration.

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