Article

2004 BHPH Dealer of the Year Maximizes Training and Tools

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Harlene Doane - Also by this author

Where can you find the Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) Dealer of the year? Try Texas for this year’s recipient, Ft. Worth and Burleson to be exact. Mike Carlson started his dealership 36 years ago with three vehicles. Today Mike Carlson Motor Company is operated by the same family, two brothers, Michael and Roy, and a brother-in-law, Michael Thomasson in six locations. A seventh one will be opening later this year.
Today the Carlson operation is a thriving business which sells an average of 350 units per month which keeps 95 people employed in the Ft. Worth/Burleson Texas area.
 
Mark Jones, general manager, attributed their success to the great people that work for them.
 
“We have a seasoned team of 24 commissioned sales people. Our entire staff works hard to assist us in reaching our goals,” Jones said.
 
Training is a big part of the success for the Carlson operation. Imagine closing down your operation for three days to send all employees to a team building function with Jim Jackson. Many dealers would cringe at the thought of missing just one deal during that time frame, instead the Carlson operation focuses on the bigger picture, better trained employees. Better trained employees can serve their customers better.
According to Jones, another key to their success is spending seven years in a 20 group. They are part of the First 20 group moderated by Leedom & Associates. “The ideas from our 20 group meetings have caused us to become much more effective.”
 
Jones is being rather modest since they have won the idea session in their meeting at least six times. One of those great ideas was an Evidence Manual that each salesperson is required to have. What is the first thing you think of when you hear Evidence Manual? It wasn’t what I thought. Each salesperson is to have a binder (manual) available on their desk for customers to look at during the time when he can’t be with them. The manual is just left on the desk for the customer to view at will. What is important is what is in the binder. Photos of the salesman’s family, news clippings regarding their family, thank you notes from previous customers. This manual allows the customer to see a different side of the individual selling them a vehicle; they become something other than just another salesman.
 
Another winning idea was sending each and every customer who visits the lot home with a brochure about the dealership. “Anyone can send a business card home,” Jones said. “Our brochure has a card in it as well as a place for the customer to take notes and the customers appreciate that.”
 
Carlson’s operation must be doing something right since 30 percent of their business is now repeat and another 30 percent is generated from referrals.
 
Michael Thomasson, vice president, said what sets them apart in their competitive market is that they will sell with “zero dollars down on repeat business because we have a system that works.”
 
“Our niche is selling retail units to customers just under the sub prime market and just into the traditional sub prime market.”
 
Thomasson oversees the underwriting and collection of the operations. The Carlson operation utilizes AutoZoom as their scoring tool to assist with the underwriting process. “It is not our ultimate decision maker but we do use it to provide us with consistency in our buying process.”
 
Scott Carlson (yes, he is another brother) developed AutoZoom after an extensive evaluation of data accumulated from an indirect lending company. The indirect lending company, Auto Credit, was founded by Carlson and held more than 50,000 loans. The ability to evaluate this amount of data led him to find the 18 predictive factors of BHPH customers. By inputting simple customer information and answering 18 questions, AutoZoom can score a potential customer. A perfect score is 1,000, the ideal BHPH customer will score 600, and the safe operating range is normally 500.
 
This program allows a dealer to manage the underwriting process and track their portfolio and make adjustments in underwriting as needed. This program allows the individual dealer to incorporate the same numeric evaluation process that other lenders do at an affordable price. This process ultimately allows a dealer to change the focus from the size of the down payment to the ability to pay.
 
Vol 1, Issue 6

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