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‘As Is’ – two words that can cover a multitude of vehicle sins and serve to instantly put the buyer on the alert. The time has come to send ‘As Is’ to the scrap heap and switch the tone at the used car dealership from ‘Buyer Beware’ to ‘Buyer Be Sure’ so that dealers can sell with more confidence, move vehicles faster – and at greater value – and so that consumers can buy with peace of mind.
Not so long ago, ‘As Is’ was just the way it was for the used car dealer and the used car buyer because there was no alternative. Today, two decade’s worth of OEM CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) programs, not to mention 15 years of information empowerment courtesy of the Internet, have made consumers more demanding and less willing to accept anything ‘As Is’. CPO is what consumers expect and demand — and CPO makes it much easier for dealers to sell and get value for the vehicles on their lots. Plus, the benefits to dealerships of not having to sell ‘As Is’ are myriad, including the security and confidence that the sale is a ‘sure’ sale, faster inventory turns, higher gross profits, and happier customers.
So, why hasn’t ‘As Is’ gone the way of the Edsel?
Because, until recently, robust used vehicle certification programs, have been mostly out of reach for both off-brand vehicles at franchised dealerships and for practically all vehicles on the independent dealership lot. The numbers tell the story: of the 30-plus million used vehicles sold last year, fewer than 2 million were eligible for existing OEM-sponsored programs… a huge certification gap that today’s consumer is demanding be filled.
The fact is that as a tough economy has driven more and car buyers to look for affordable pre-owned vehicles online, and on the lot, the demand for broader certification has increased and the tolerance for anything ‘As Is’ has decreased.
And today, consumers are less concerned about vehicle age as evidenced by the fact that the average age of a vehicle on the road today is 10.8 years*, meaning that CPO programs that only cover vehicles under five or six years of age leave a broad swath of consumers who are willing to drive an older vehicle – but not willing to settle for As Is – out in the cold when it comes to certification.
Data shows that consumers are far more likely to buy a vehicle if it is certified – and to pay more as well – meaning that a certification program that covers the vehicles that the majority of used car shoppers are looking to buy (meaning vehicles well outside the limited parameters of OEM programs) is poised to be a key metal mover in the year ahead. And, add to that the potential to increase revenue because certified vehicles are valued higher, as well as increased turn because consumer confidence is greater, and the need for a program that brings more vehicles into certification is of critical importance to today’s used car dealers, both franchised and independent.
So what is the solution? At SureSale we are focused on creating a new industry category for this new ‘As Is is No More’ market – an independent CPO brand and marketing program that offers participating dealers benefits far beyond a back room F&I insurance program that just sells a limited warranty or service contract. We think the time has come to fundamentally change the parameters and orientation of CPO programs by broadening the certification range to reflect the realities of today’s consumer and market (including the fact that ‘built to last’ is no longer just a slogan: today’s vehicles are indeed built to last…into decades). We think 150K and 15 years is completely within reason.
But, in this ‘As Is is No More’ world, we also believe that a CPO program must be more than that, it should be an integrated marketing program that helps dealers turn inventory faster, achieve greater gross profit and differentiate their dealership. In a market where many dealers face brand challenges from the marketing and brand building opportunities widely available to bigger retail stores – and who have limited access to scalable inspection solutions and back-end product sales – a CPO program must include online marketing and syndication, extended service contracts, independent inspections and a turnkey web-based platform to help them compete effectively and cost efficiently for used car buyers
In an ‘As Is is No More’ world, dealers don’t need just another insurance product, nor an ‘As Is’ CPO program, but a robust CPO solution that gets them firmly and easily into the CPO marketing game.
Follow me on Twitter @jeffreysuresale