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Two years ago I spent 3 days in New Orleans at an NADA show that was more frustrating than anything that I could imagine.
Not only did I have to contend with slashed ad budgets, but it seemed like half of the folks that I spoke with were convinced that special finance was dead and would not experience a Lazarus-like return. Most of the people seemed to pity me, seeing our auto finance marketing products as a once-great idea whose time had come and gone.
I was basically trying to sell encyclopedias at a Google convention.
While most people gave me a polite brush off, one General Manager decided that he would take a half-hour to explain to me why subprime could never come back. Armed with some CNN sound bites and some out-of-context data from Automotive News, he gave quite an impressive soliloquy on the brave new world of auto finance. I, of course, tried to explain my belief that our industry would not tolerate a vacuum for long, and with credit scores dipping some banks would figure out a way to structure their programs to fill the void.
His final words as he walked away from our booth were “I like that you can come up with reasonable arguments to support a fundamentally flawed position, once you guys go out of business give me a call and I may have a spot for you”. He laughed and walked on to his next session, while I shook his comments off and looked for the next person who would give me a few minutes to chat.
I was reminded of this story earlier this week when I got a call from the same GM.
He’s now the Finance Director for another store, and obviously didn’t remember me, but I sure remember him. He spent about 5 minutes telling me about his research that showed special finance was going to come back soon, and he was thinking about buying some leads. I shared with him that subprime had already come back, and that the banks had created programs that helped get people into cars without setting us up for another mess in a few years.
I’d be lying if told you I didn’t get some pleasure out of telling him that he’d missed out on the opportunity to get in early, and that I was sold out of leads in his market.
Bob Harwood is the National Sales Manager for Carloan.com. Prior to joining Carloan.com six and half years ago, he worked on both sides of the financing process -- first at Capital One and then at a dealership here in Richmond. You can reach Bob at 804-521-8581 or via email at bharwoodATcarloan.com.