Inventory: Half Full or Half Empty?

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Perhaps it only requires just a bit more of what's already in it.   I will admit, in the past I was a bit of an optimist when it comes to inventory challenges. In other words, I would buy from my gut based on what inventory was in front of me.  Recently, I was talking with a few dealer friends of mine. When our conversation moved toward utilizing inventory management technology in their businesses, I quickly sensed they found the technology frustrating. In addition, it seemed that technology in this part of the business was currently being used more as an afterthought. That said, my friends are all smart and successful dealers.

We all agree that technology is a tool that is only as good as the information put into it. And with all the historical data stored over years of being in the business, my friends have valuable unused information on their hands.

Looking back at my past purchases, before I used an inventory management system, my gut instincts alone didn’t serve me very well. I have come to rely on data over the years like market scarcity, retail price index, strategic market view and sale-ability. 

I understand we all have different business strategies and plans. But your half-full glass of inventory may be easier to fill than you think.

As I write this, I am halfway through AuSM's Used Car Week in Las Vegas. And if there is one consistent voice I’m hearing, it is that we are all in the same or a very similar inventory situation. 

For the dealer reading this, if you don’t have time to finish the article, here is an inventory solution you may have forgotten about: Work — really work — your service drive for vehicles to purchase or to make offers on as trade-ins. You will win by scoring hard to find, high-demand vehicles, as well as selling your service customers new or late model pre-owned vehicles. 

Granted this is an old idea, and for me, a dealer operator for many years, it is one that unfortunately had gotten shelved. If we have forgotten to work this area of inventory supply during the years of plenty, then perhaps there are other areas of inventory acquisition we have also neglected. 

In speaking to others at the conference, it seems online auctions might be underutilized. I have recently experienced the auction floor and seen a lack of online bidding versus floor bidding. This is another opportunity to acquire inventory with benefits. As someone who has lived online for the past five years, online bidding offers more value in the sense of a raw, non-emotional, purchase experience than any other method of purchasing. Do you believe that? Log on and see who is successfully bidding and acquiring vehicles, and you may be surprised. 

Second, online auctions can save you money on reconditioning. Recently, auctions have been offering on-site reconditioning for vehicles, whether the units were purchased there or not. And this is usually offered at significantly lower costs than most dealers are paying. But equally as important, it can potentially cut two to three days off your complete reconditioning time. Time is money!

Finally, back to what I was saying earlier, if you don't have an inventory management system, consider one. Just one mistake could cost you more than the system itself. I promise you won’t regret the investment. If you have a system, use it faithfully for 12 months, and you’ll see big results.

So there it is:  a summary of the collective wisdom being shared by every successful dealer in attendance here at Las Vegas. Most are definitely viewing the glass as half full, with a potential for so much more based on tools and strategies available to us all. 

One final thought on viewing the glass as half full: What is learned in Vegas, doesn’t have to stay in Vegas! Till next month, see you in the lens of the lanes.

Quisenberry began his car industry career in 1980 and has worked with Chevrolet, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Subaru franchises in the Northwest. He has been a dealer partner and general manager for the past 16 years. In 1989, he graduated from the NADA Dealer Academy with expertise in dealership management, used-car buying and marketing. A creative and relevant thinker, he developed an internal web hosting and design company, hosting 32 business sites. In 1993, he was one of the first auto dealers to launch his dealerships into cyberspace. As a used-car buyer, Quisenberry began to slow his travel to live auctions in exchange for online auctions nine years ago. He is now buying 95 percent of his used inventory online. He and his wife Staci, live in Gig Harbor, Wash., with his bass guitars, a dog named Maggie, a cat named Skeeter and two of his five daughters. Your can reach him at (360)710-8860, or email [email protected].

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