Your Nobody Called Today

January 2005, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Maxwell D. Skynard - Also by this author

Yesterday’s sub-prime “Nobodies” are serious business today.

With sub-prime deals generating an estimated $30-$70 billion dollars a year and only a page to spill my thoughts, I am going skip my usual sarcasm and wit and get directly to the point.

Experts estimate that approximately two out of three Americans have credit blemishes that prevent them from qualifying for A or B credit ratings. Combine this with the over 2 million bankruptcies filed each year* and you begin to understand why so many dealerships are barking about special finance opportunities (*Administrative Office of the Courts – June 2005).

Like it or not, sub-prime customers are no longer “nobodies”. In fact, these so called “nobodies” are usually about 38 years old, earn an average of $32,937 a year and accounted for 15-20 percent of all pre-owned vehicle sales in 2005.

So, with that in mind, here are a few ideas to help you build relationships with your new best friends.

Idea #1:

According to one source - most new homeowners purchase a vehicle within 6 months of moving into their new residence (this includes HUD loans). Go to and target desired zip codes. Check with your realtor to find out what the sales cycle is in your area, put a reminder in your Outlook calendar and then send a “Congratulations on Your New Home” flyer to those addresses.

Idea #2:

There is always advertising space available at mass transit locations – especially in low income areas (where special finance services are most needed). Bus benches can be as cheap as 3 dollars a day and can be perfect for “Need a Car?” ads - targeting those with bad credit (especially if your department speaks multiple languages). Put your URL and toll free number (I suggest using a call tracking service) as big as you can get it.

Idea #3:

Make a flyer (and e-mail template) that includes helpful numbers and hints on how to get approved (for example: how to get a qualified co-signer or how to subscribe to a service to prove residence). Put a picture of yourself on it to make it personal, include a “We Can Help” message and make the URL and 800 number HUGE.

Note: If you have a little extra money in the budget, then print one side of the flyer in Spanish.

Put these flyers in your showroom and include this e-mail as part of your “no response” follow-up program. Create a referral program and make sure customers know about it.

Idea #4:

Tie it all together. Like it or not, sub-prime is a relationship business, and so I encourage you to build a separate website designed to make your potential customers feel like more than just a credit score. Show them testimonials, give them “need-to-know” info and put encouraging messages at the top of every page.

Remember, putting a deal together may require your customers to reveal very personal information. The more comfortable they are with what they see, the more likely they will be to call.

And there you have it, at least four things that you can do to kick your sub-prime efforts into higher gear.

For those willing to use a little creativity, yesterday’s nobodies can become very important somebodies to your dealership today.


Mitchell C. Kahn, CEO and president of Chicago-based First Merchants Acceptance: “selling to sub-prime customers constitutes a $30 to $70 billion a year opportunity.”

“Mel Ostrander, president of G.E. Capital Customized Auto Credit Services: “as many as two-thirds of adult Americans have suffered some sort of credit blemish and have fallen from an A or B credit rating down to the C or even D tier.”

Robert Zankl - First Financial Acceptance of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a sub-prime finance company formed and operated by a group of 20 megadealers: “sub-prime credit customers now constitute 15 to 20 percent of used car buyers, and that the number will grow as the credit ratings of many Americans continue to slide.”

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