Looking Back on 2020
2020 is finally behind us, and January brings a fresh start for us all. Usually, in January, I like to take some time and reflect on the previous year: the good, the bad, what did I learn, what did I accomplish, what changes can I implement for the coming year, and so on. It’s the time to sit and do a self-reflection. Personally, it wasn’t such a great year for me (still trying to win the mega millions!), so I’m determined to make 2021 a better one. But to move forward, it’s always a good idea to see what the past has taught us and what we can do to improve. Perhaps you can change for the better, or maybe you learned something new and helpful.
So what did 2020 teach us in the auto industry, and how can we utilize that to move forward? If there is one thing to be said about our industry and the people in it, we are resilient, and we adapt. Last year was proof of that. Nearly a year ago, the country was pretty much locked down with stay-at-home orders. Dealerships were closed. People could not come in, even if they wanted to. How did we adapt? We went digital—online shopping at its finest. You could buy a vehicle via email, phone, text, and by using video communication. Lenders and DMS systems quickly rolled out programs to allow for remote signing. Finance Managers utilized digital tools to present products and sign-up customers. They also had to sharpen their skills, perhaps dabbling on unfamiliar grounds, to sell to a customer not sitting directly in front of them. Moving forward, dealers are now better equipped to serve customers who wish to purchase a car remotely. We also know that your standard brick and mortar stores will not go away any time soon, as we saw when restrictions were lifted. Consumers still wanted the option to be in the dealership and physically go through the process of purchasing a car. Some dealers will see a mix of both – consumers who wish to start the process digitally and finish in person. Either way, it opens the doors for various business avenues to those dealers who didn’t have that ability before this pandemic.
Profit is not a dirty word. Many of us have relearned that lesson in 2020. The pandemic was “beneficial” to the automotive industry because people wanted their own cars resulting in a new channel of buyers. Usage of public transportation decreased as consumers wanted the luxury to get around and stay away from others. Simultaneously, factories all over the country and parts of the world were shut down, leaving a shortage of vehicles. Basic economics, right? High demand + low supply = increase in price. With fewer cars on the ground, dealers were able to profit more per vehicle. At the same time, customers wanted to keep their cars longer, protected, and clean, increasing ancillary products sold, including an influx of sanitizing tools.
Training also became digital. Normally, many finance companies offered multi-day classes in person. They also had shifted to digital training and webinars. Product Prep is a fantastic example of an online training platform, offering many courses, including weekly live webinars – available for all departments. This was hugely beneficial at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone worked from home and wanted to maintain or sharpen their skills. The online platform also allows for continuous learning with a huge flexibility to log in whenever you have time.
So although there were many hardships in 2020, some good things came out of it – and these are just a few - that can be utilized for months and years to come. We can take the tools we gained in 2020 to make 2021 a more successful year.