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When I was on the retail side of things this was by far the worst month of the year, with the possible exception of that magical “13th month” between Santa and Baby New Year. Well, same goes for the auto finance lead side of things, December is the time when people are more concerned about finding the right Cabbage Patch Doll or GI Joe than they are with buying a car.
There is always an upside though, because the car loan leads that we do generate in December are need buyers and are online because they have to do something right now. This is my 7th Christmas on this side of the business, and it’s always been the same, leads are lighter than normal and car sales are down. That is why the way things are playing out this year has caught me off guard a little.
For the first time we have more consumer traffic in December than we did last month, and dealers are telling me that they are seeing sales numbers that look more like October than December. For the last two years I’ve sat with you at trade shows and conventions, all of us agreeing that when this thing turns it’s gonna happen fast, and we’re there. People have run out of duct tape to keep their old cars held together, and they're ready for a new ride.
These aren’t folks who are out kicking tires and trying to decide if they can work you down another $100 by shopping 4 other stores, these are mostly people who weren’t really thinking about buying a car but suddenly find themselves in a position where they have to.
We’ve all seen this movie a few years ago, and we know that there will be a point where instead of grabbing easy market share, dealers will be playing catch up. Today’s decisions will determine who is knocking them dead in first quarter and who is wishing that they’d done more to attract used car buyers. I’m not saying that you have to buy my leads (although I’d love it if that was your first choice), but I am telling you that you have to do something. Find an advertising source that gives you a guaranteed number of folks to talk to every month and run with it.
If you sit and wait I promise that you’ll get tired of hearing from your friends in your market who didn’t.
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.