One of the largest hangovers facing dealerships since the easing of lockdown remains the significant fall in financial penetration, says Fraser Brown of MotorVise Automotive.

Discussions with the directors of several dealer groups reveal that the motor trade continues to operate in a bubble created by a limited supply of new and used cars – resulting in good chassis profits, but much reduced finance income.

Once the supply of new cars begins to flow more freely, triggering more part exchanges being brought into the market, it is unlikely those chassis profits will be maintained. Dealerships will have to increase those profit margins through add-ons, one of the most important being vehicle finance.

However, dealership sales teams themselves may be the largest obstacle to achieving this much-needed profit boost, simply through lack of confidence in the products they offer.

Fraser said: “Delivering great customer experience by providing the best possible advice and service remains the only genuine option for those dealers intent on a successful future selling finance and insurance.

“MotorVise Automotive has conducted several single day workshops within dealer group sales departments examining sales management and their approach to vehicle finance.

“Sales teams must understand how the customer wishes to fund their purchase and have the necessary confidence in their own financial products.

“There is the perception that salespeople are viewed as being untrustworthy, underlined by a belief that the APR offered by dealerships is uncompetitive.

“In effect a dealership’s fixed APR is unnecessarily undermining confidence within sales teams, and as a result, they don’t see the benefit in promoting dealership finance.”

Part of the workshop provided by MotorVise Automotive, which is headquartered near Richmond, North Yorkshire, immerses salespeople into a full mystery shop of direct lenders, which transforms their appreciation of how good dealer finance packages are.

He added: “Salespeople confronted with direct lender quotes will quickly see how few people can access a ‘typical’ APR, the difficulties involved in borrowing exact amounts, or the requirement to be an existing customer or hold a loyalty card.

“In comparison many dealer groups provide a fantastic value fixed rate proposition that requires just five pieces of information on the top of the vehicle order form. There are no online forms, call centre queues, or mailing documents through the post. Overall a much better customer experience.

“This workshop exercise increases a sales team’s confidence in discussing customer finance, and ultimately results in satisfied customers, improved dealer finance penetration, additional product sales and huge increases in profit per unit.

“Financing a car through a dealership is a sensible option for most, and it’s time frontline showroom teams understand just how good their own products are. Once they do so, they can watch finance penetration rocket!

“In the old days, dealerships deployed a sales process akin to a factory production line, from ‘meet and greet’ through to the terrifying ‘closing room’. Little wonder customers didn’t want to talk finance.

“Those days are now long gone but providing a service that ensures exceptional customer experience and high-quality high value sales is crucial and this can be achieved through a customer experience framework.

“That means ensuring rapid replies to online enquiries, welcoming arriving customers, and spending the necessary time to understand their needs – so that sales teams can offer the best and most comprehensive solutions, first time.

“At the end of the day, a customer visiting a dealership may not remember exactly what was said to them, but they will remember how they were made to feel.”