This is an initiative I'm starting right now, and with a little help, I think we can get some momentum on this. Let's make the month of July "Be Nice to Your Dealer Month."
Chrysler is in the process of eliminating 789 dealers, while GM sent some 1,100 dealers got their Dear John letter recently. The attrition at Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Honda on down to the Weed Eater lawnmower dealer may not be as severe, but the way car sales are right now, they all need some love.
Let's celebrate the relationship with the dealer. Imagine the possibilities: Hallmark cards, balloons, FTD bouquets and even spa day certificates. Someday you'll even get that "you forgot" glare when you swing by the dealership empty-handed. Let's face it; this relationship is high on the "taken for granted" list.
These men and women who run dealerships-specifically fleet-centric dealerships-are essential to moving your business forward, literally. They're grateful for your business, more so today. Are you grateful to them, Mr. and Mrs. Fleet Customer? And you probably have no idea of the lengths they go to put up with you.
Remember when you needed that 6500 crew cab with the utility body and 11-foot hydraulic crane "yesterday," and you wanted it in powder blue? Did you know your dealer flew someone to Pocatello to pick it up out of a body company pool and drive it back?
Or what about all those orders you put in on December 10 (just before the winter factory shutdown) because your accountant said you needed to offset revenues that year? Do you know the scramble your dealer went through to find the units, then tax, title and license them and get them all delivered by New Year's? And you think you're the only one who did that?
About this price shopping thing-if you've gotten quotes from different dealerships for the last three months on that new truck and suddenly your old one breaks down, don't complain that the price you hemmed and hawed over is now out the window because you're buying out of dealer stock. Your dealer still isn't making any more money on the deal.
(It's now more important than ever to plan your fleet purchases and factory order. Tight floorplan financing and lower sales have forced dealers to trim stock; one dealer said he had to reduce from 1,000 units on hand to 200.)
When you were quoted a price for 15 sedans and you had to reduce the order by two, did you understand that you were no longer eligible for the stair-step incentive at 15 units? I know you think volume means buying power, but who do you think you are, FedEx or something?
And you weren't the one who told your dealer that the price of your new truck with the aluminum stake body should be lowered because the price of aluminum had gone down? (True story.) That was another customer, right?
Dealers say that going "above and beyond" for the customer is an everyday occurrence. It's because fleet deals are based on long-term relationships and service, not price shopping. If your dealer isn't operating as such, he doesn't deserve your business.
So it's time to choose between the "funny" or "serious" greeting card. I'd default to funny; it's serious enough out there. In it, say thanks to your "fleet consultant." He'll like that. And it will give you the very real benefit of solidifying the relationship with a partner in your strategic fleet planning.
I hope your dealer made the cut and will be around next year. If he's gone, you'll begin to understand how important your relationship with the guy you've been doing business with for the past 22 years really was.