Article

The Cinderella Of Dealerships

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Bud Abraham - Also by this author

Every dealership has a Cinderella, just look around!

Everyone knows the sad story of Cinderella: the little girl with the mean step-mother and ugly step-sisters. Fortunately for Cinderella, her story had a happy ending. But for most auto dealers Cinderella stories are alive and kicking.

The Cinderella I am speaking about is their detailing or reconditioning department. Be honest Mr. Dealer, isn't that department about the messiest, disorganized eye-sore in the dealership? Isn't it staffed by modern-day "Cinderellas?" Wouldn't you like to get rid of this problem child? But you can't, it is too important.

Well, face it! You are the mean step-mother! You run the dealership; make the ultimate management decisions. You have to take ultimate responsibility for how the dealership functions, and, yes, you are to blame if the detail department is a messy, disorganized eye-sore. Who else is there to blame? The detailers? Come on, who hires them? Who manages them? (Actually, probably nobody!)
By now, you are probably thinking, "Who is this guy? What right does he have to say these things? He might be correct, but what can I do about it?"

I'd agree with you, at least in terms of what you can do about it. Frankly, the companies driving the detailing/reconditioning industry have been chemical companies and their only goal is to sell chemicals, and as much as possible. They provide nothing in the way of equipment, technology or real training. Yes, they offer training, but only in how to use their chemicals. Even that training is jaundiced because they don't want the detailer to know too much. He might get too smart and realize that chemicals are chemicals and purchase from other companies.

So, if companies like this are driving the industry, and in some way responsible for where the dealership detail department is, what is the dealer to do?

First and foremost, the dealer must honestly look at his paradigm of the detailing department. Honestly, do you really care how it functions? Do you know what the labor costs are? Do you know the chemical and supply costs? Are they in line with the work being produced?

One dealership, I personally evaluated had 5 full-time and 2 part-time detailers. After getting a list of every monthly service performed and the time it took to do the job, we calculated a need for 2.9 persons. In addition, they sent out 55 used cars per month to a detail shop paying $75.00 per car. The dealer principals had absolutely, no idea this was going on. To make matters worse they did not take our recommendations and still operated this way today. They are paying for any improvements in excessive labor costs and outside changes for used car details.

So What Can Be Done?

You must decide you want things to change and be willing to take the management time to find out what's going on in the department. What's right, and what's wrong?

If you don't know how to determine what is right and wrong, let me give you a few elements you can use to evaluate your detail/reconditioning department.

These have been called by some consultants to the automotive service industry "Principals of Production." While each and every one is critically important, they are listed with the least important first and the most important last. Contradictory? Not at all, they are based on the principle of a pyramid with what's on the bottom forming the foundation, and of course, the most important. That said, the principles are:

1. Facilities -What kind of space facilities have you provided for the department?

2. Equipment- What equipment is being used? Is it the most modern, and is there sufficient equipment available to do the work efficiently?

3. Chemicals & Supplies -For the most part, chemicals are about all the same. The key is price and how much is used?

4. Personnel -What are they like? Would you hire them anywhere else in the dealership? What are their qualifications? Have you provided any on-going training?

5. Management -Who manages the department? A manager or a detailer? There is a difference you know? What performance standards are set, if any? Who follows-up?

If you can evaluate your department in relationship to these 5 principles, you are on your way to eliminating the Cinderella of the dealership. If the principles seem interesting and make sense to you but you don't have all the answers don't hesitate to contact me personally.

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