Like many car dealers struggling with a record-low new and user inventory over the past two years, Dave White Chevrolet in Sylvania, OH knew a change in approach was necessary. The key to that change has been its local radio advertising, which the dealership has used regularly for nearly all of its 70-plus years in business.
What's made the difference and turned around the family-owned business is a local radio ad campaign inviting listeners to come to the dealership to sell their vehicles as opposed to trading them in. As a result of the $7,500-per-month campaign which began late last summer, the dealer's purchase of an average 40 used vehicles per month from private sellers has resulted in an average profit of $5,000 per vehicle and at least $1.1 million in additional profits, not to mention an increase in on-the-lot inventory from 65 to 135 vehicles. In the process, the dealership has gone from buying 5-10% of its used-vehicle inventory off the street two years ago to regularly buying 25-30% each month from private owners and has averaged between 75 and 100 pre-owned car sales per month.
"We had to do something, and it made no sense for us to advertise cars we didn't have,” Joe Mehling, Executive General Manager of Dave White Chevrolet since 2006, told Automotive News. “We were still doing all of the digital advertising, all of the Internet advertising, but we came up with the plan to put out a radio ad campaign that would let people know that we will actively buy your car from you. Bring it in, we'll appraise it. It's no hassle. If you have a balance, we'll pay the bank off, and we'll give you a check for the difference. There's no doubt about it – it's saved our ass."
According to Mehling, buying from consumers has also generated revenue for its service and detailing departments as the vehicles are reconditioned for sale, while the improved inventory has also reduced the number of vehicles the dealership wholesales. "Because of this, we're now at a [pre-owned] inventory level that we haven't seen in 18 months," says buyer and inventory manager Joe Matthews.
According to Automotive News, other dealers have reported similar success by changing the focus of their local ads from selling to buying vehicles, including one in Texas which began running such ads a year ago and now purchases nearly 100 used vehicles per month from private sellers.
"We still have to compete with the Vrooms and the Carvanas of the world, [but] I can count maybe three or four times over this whole period where we haven't been able to, and lost a deal because of it," Mehling says. "But the nice thing is, the customer gets our check on the spot. It's that instant gratification."