With potentially challenging headwinds in sight, car dealers need to be on the ball in 2023 to keep sales and revenue moving.
That’s the view of Autofinity CEO Andy Whitehair. Speaking on Car Dealer Live, the industry veteran said that despite the temptation to carry on trading in similar ways to recent Covid-blighted years, 2023 presents a unique set of circumstances and there’s a real need to take an audit and focus on driving sales and profitability.
‘Normally over Christmas and into the new year, there’s a lull and things settle down a little bit, but it hasn’t been that way this year,’ said Whitehair, in the video posted at the top of this story.
‘Everybody seems to have crashed through the Christmas break and straight into January – there’s a lot of activity happening.
‘That said, there are headwinds. I think everybody’s been blown with the tailwinds through 2022, which was a pretty great year for most businesses, but the last quarter of the year started to see some change.
‘And now, as you look forward to the next 12 months, unpredictability has come into play. So it’s about ‘how do you keep things going, when you’ve got conditions changing around you?”
Whitehair went on to explain that one of the things he frequently repeats is the need for dealers to be on top of their game.
‘Dealers have to make sure the basics are really tight. When conditions are favourable it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and not focus on the essentials.
‘But when headwinds come along, suddenly those costs that have been acceptable during the good times become weights against the business and the revenues aren’t easy to generate.’
Whitehair, who’s been in the industry for 30 years and has had spells at Auto Trader and eBay, has seen plenty of economic downturns and changes in consumer behaviour.
‘It’s all about adapting to change,’ he said. ‘In economic downturns, people are obviously more nervous about making big expenditure like a new car. So they turn to used cars, but then discover used cars are perhaps more expensive than perhaps they imagined.
‘We live inside the industry so it’s easy for us, but for that consumer they might be a bit shocked so they will end up scaling down their purchase to something more affordable.
‘There’s still opportunities to sell out there. The used car market is always very robust through thick and thin, but I do believe [2023 and beyond] will be about processing every lead as a serious lead and making sure your internal processes are really integrated and tight.’
Whitehair has been CEO of Autofinity for the last five years, and the business specialises in working with dealers to create innovative solutions for optimising the sale of new and used cars, parts and accessories.
Autofinity also has a consulting arm that helps dealers understand the technology already in their businesses and works out ways of better using it.
In the video, Whitehair explains the areas dealers should be focusing on in 2023 and beyond.
‘Job number one is, in conjunction with a business like us, an audit of what systems you’ve got, where you’re trying to get to with the systems you’ve already got, and the problems that are often hidden in the business.
‘I talk to a lot of CEOs out there and I think sometimes they’re nicely oblivious to the some of the operational problems that people in the organisation are covering up. So, you need to expose that and really focus on getting high quality data integrated across your systems.’
He added that discovering and harnessing the control dealers can have over their businesses, their systems and their operations is really important, and not handing over that control to ‘behemoth organisations’ that maybe perform a good service but take control of the end customer.
Also discussed in the Car Dealer Live was online car sales, dealers pivoting towards an agency model, and identifying new revenue streams. Click the video at the top of this story for the full interview.
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