One day as he drove to work, Chris Johnson noticed there were so many dealerships along the road that it looked like one huge car lot.
“You could not tell where one began and the other finished,” said Johnson, owner of 6th Gear Auto Sales in Fort Worth, Texas.
Johnson, who had established his independent dealership in 2011, knew he had a better operation than most. He had grown up in the business and had been taught by his father, a successful dealer.
The problem was how to distinguish his operation as special among the two hundred used car operations within a five-mile radius of his store.
The more he thought about the competition the more he thought the best way to increase his business would be to broaden his base from the used car row of Fort Worth to the national market by way of the Internet.
The problem was, he found the same clutter on the web that he’d seen on the street around his physical lot.
The same problem of how to stand out among all the car lots trying to be heard also exists on eBay, Carfax or any other of the many automotive listing services.
As Johnson studied the problem it became clear that if he wanted to stand out, whether on the street or on the Internet, he was going to need a certified pre-owned product.
Johnson had built 6th Gear Auto Sales from the ground up. He wanted to see the business thrive and provide income for his family and his employees for a long time to come.
“I realized that without being able to advertise certified pre-owned, I would lose the 60 percent of the market that is currently looking for the comfort of a certification program,” he said. “Sixty percent is a large segment. Not all of them know exactly what certified is and what it means, but they know it is something special and they want it – or at least the option of having it.”
Johnson knew to take 6th Gear where he wanted it to go, he would have to find a certified pre-owned program his customers could afford. He also knew his options were limited as an independent dealer.
“There are not many national programs to choose from,” he said. “The factories have their programs but they are exclusive to franchises – and they’re way too expensive.”
Eventually, Johnson came across a program that was tailor-made for his operation – the NIADA Certified program.
“First off, it was a National Independent Automobile Dealers Association program,” he said. “Since I was already a member of the association, that made me feel confident.
“When I found out it was backed by Warrantech, the same people who handle General Motors CPO and Mazda’s and Bentley’s programs, I knew this would be the program for us.”
Johnson’s employees love the changes that have come out of becoming an NIADA CPO dealership.
“It has been a culture change for us,” finance manager John Frymire said. “People see the certified cars on the Internet and because there is a warranty protecting them, they don’t mind coming from a long way away to buy our cars.”
There has been a big change in the inventory because the cars are selling faster. Johnson said he had 90- to 120-day turn of inventory before the CPO program – now he is at 47 days and is working toward turning his 70-car inventory in as little as 30 days as his operation becomes more known for having certified pre-owned inventory.
“The news is spreading like wildfire on both the Internet and in the community,” 6th Gear salesman Elvys Agreda said, “and that is good for business.”
Want to stand out from the background noise in the used car market? Just ask Chris Johnson how adding NIADA Certified Pre-Owned vehicles changed his business.