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Recession buster

Comment by JOHN MELLOR

It's time for dealers to re-focus on best practices as economy emerges from the wars

General News logo28 Jul 2009


ONE of the great phenomena of the downturn in vehicle sales in the past nine months has been the dealer desk magnet.

When year-on-year sales suddenly fell by around 20 per cent, this attraction drew dealers back to their desks to take control of their businesses to fend off adversity.

A senior industry player told GoAuto that he had never known a period when he could catch so many dealers at their desks as they went hands-on and did what was necessary to adjust their stock and staffing levels and, for many, find a new financier.

And it worked. According to data from Deloitte Motor Industry Services, dealer profitability fell to 0.5 per cent of sales in the December half last year. But by the end of the June half this year, it had recovered to 1.8 per cent of sales.

However, as a certain prime minister keeps repeating: “We are not out of the woods yet.” Which means now is the time to take advantage of the knowledge that has been placed on tap for all Australian dealers at the forthcoming AADA National Dealer Convention at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne from August 6-9.

 center image This convention, put on by the dealers’ association for its members, is a must-attend for all car retailers who need to flag the importance of the retail sector as the key element in the workings of the car industry.

Dealers have been at the government’s doorstep seeking, and getting, guarantees for floor-plan finance. Dealers are also part of the focus of the media when it comes to multi-billion-dollar government assistance to car companies.

Having been the beneficiaries of the public purse it is incumbent on AADA members to improve their business practices to improve the strength of the auto retail sector, and they can do this by supporting their annual convention and absorbing the business value contained in the knowledge available.

There is no time like hard times to refocus and resurrect all the knowledge that dealers have acquired over the years and have those business rules and management techniques re-presented to them in the context of the latest thinking from here and overseas.

So having got their arms around the key cost issues in the dealership, now is the time for dealers to get out from behind their desks for a few days for a refresher course in the finer points of their businesses from speakers laid on for them by their association.

The convention is ranked as one of the top three dealer conventions in the world. It is put together on two levels – the first-day seminar package for middle management, pitched at an operational level, and the full three-day package for dealer principals and general managers, aimed at the person who has to run the entire dealership.

The convention is to be opened by Ford Australia president and CEO Marin Burela, a magician who is fresh from turning a Ford Focus into a four-cylinder Falcon. He will be looking at the current and future state of play in the car manufacturing industry.

The business end gets started first thing Friday with Fordham Motor Dealer Services putting the critical areas of cash flows, business funding and expense management under the microscope. Saturday’s sessions get under way with a team from Deloitte Motor Industry Services revealing the 20 best ideas a dealer can take back to the dealership and implement immediately.

The business line-up includes international fixed operations guru Lloyd Schiller, “real world” international sales trainer Simon Bowkett, used car sales team trainers Tom Stuker and Mark Gilbert, Web 2.0 marketing expert Rob Hartnett, inventory management with Peter Cox, PMA marketing with Meredith Bushell, recruiting for the long term with Dave Staughton and a session on advertising law from Anisimoff Legal.

Speakers include Beaconsfield mine rescuer Darren Flanagan, media personality Tracy Bartram and AFL legend Kevin Sheedy For a bit of entertainment there is the Kylie Minogue tribute performers 100% Kylie Show, Amada Gore, Libbi Gorr, dance group Soul Mistique and musicians Bob Valentine and Melissa Langton.

The convention attracts delegates from markets as varied as South Africa and Argentina.

For full details: Jess O’Callaghan (03) 9576 9944 www.aadaconvention.com.au

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