Article

Sport Mitsubishi Makes Financing Special

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Terran Lamp - Also by this author

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Sport Mitsubishi is one of the elite members of Don Mealey Automotive Group. Today, Don Mealey owns and operates stores that include Mitsubishi, Nissan, Infiniti, Porsche, Jaguar and Mazda. Started in 1983, Sport Mitsubishi was the first Mitsubishi dealer in the Central Florida area. As the largest exclusive Mitsubishi dealership in Central Florida, the facility sets on more than five acres devoted solely to the Mitsubishi franchise and used retail business.

Sport Mitsubishi has not only built a name for itself in the automobile market, but also in the Special Finance market. Its’ mission is to provide customers with the opportunity to purchase new Mitsubishi’s and quality pre-owned vehicles at wholesale prices. When necessary, the dealership will use an extensive dealer/buyer network to help customers locate the car of their dreams. Sport Mitsubishi has created a niche for themselves that makes financing easy, convenient and hassle free.

Switching from one business model to another can sometimes pay big dividends. Jay Mealey, General Manager of Sport Mitsubishi explains how big, “When we changed our business model, we went from making close to $0 net to over $70,000 per month.” The business model responsible for that is none other than Special Finance. Approximately 70 percent of the total sales of the dealership are through Special Finance deals. “Switching from a business model of attempting to sell new Mitusbishis to existing and new customers with acceptable credit to a model that sells to everyone, especially focusing on the 40 percent to 60 percent of the market that is Special Finance made all the difference in our profits,” states Mealey.

So what is behind the success of the Special Finance Department at Sport Mitsubishi? “We basically figured out that, with the right people, the right attitudes and the right inventory, we could make a lot of money selling vehicles to people with less that perfect credit,” says Mealey. Because Sport Mitsubishi is not a large dealership, a blended sales force works well. Each person has the willingness and the ability to handle Special Finance deals. Although Mealey believes that for some stores structure and rigidity are important in creating a Special Finance Department, Sport Mitsubishi decided to take a more relaxed approach to ensure camaraderie amongst his smaller sales team.

Here are some tips to building a successful Special Finance Department:

    1. Get finance relationships in place. Possibly hire an experienced Special Finance Mgr/Director. Without lenders and someone who understands Special Finance you can’t possibly have a strong Special Finance Department.
    2. Plan your used car inventory to meet the department needs. “A major part of our growth,” says Mealey, “came when I started buying inventory to better meet the needs of the department.” Be sure to pick fairly generic vehicles as well as larger vehicles such as SUV’s that match your lending parameters and the most likely budgets for your area.
    3. Motivate your Sales people as a GROUP effort. Everyone has to be on board otherwise the department and the store will fail. Special Financing is a delicate process that requires the sales force to do different things before, during and after the sales.
    4. As your volume increases to greater than 40 units, it is very important that you have an employee dedicated to handling the finance funding and contract issues after the sales.
    5. MOST IMPORTANTLY GET YOUR CONTRACTS FUNDED!!!

The better the process that is in place, the more effective and efficient you will be and the better chance you will able to market, sell and deliver!

The Special Finance Department at Sport Mitsubishi has grown tremendously since its beginnings. The dealership has aggressively gone after the “Bad Credit” opportunities on the Internet through the use of third party lead generators. Sport Mitsubishi has also created a way for customers to start the buying process via the Internet. MealeyAutosdirect.com and CentralFloridaAutoCredit.com have generated a large portion of the dealerships Special Finance leads. Approximately 70 percent of their customers have shopped on the Internet before visiting the store so it is vital that leads are turned into visits to the showroom floor. Today 30 percent of Sport Mitsubishi customers complete their credit application over the Internet before coming into the showroom and this number is expected to rise as AutoDirect and CentralFloridaAutoCredit receive more exposure.

In addition, the dealership has also established itself through repeat and referral business. “I believe we can generate much more repeat and referral business if we live up to our promise of providing Premier service to our Special Finance customer,” says Mealey. Sport Mitsubishi will make a monthly car payment for each customer that refers a friend who ends up purchasing a vehicle.

What can the customer expect from Sport Mitsubishi? First, before the customer arrives at the dealership, a file has been set up explaining their primary needs. When they arrive, they are promptly greeted by a Loan Advisor. The dedicated Loan Advisor will then interview the customer to learn as much as possible as well as give them the opportunity to learn more about Sport Mitsubishi. After that a decision will likely be made as to the credit worthiness of the customer on their own credit or if they will require a co-signer to make their purchase. At this point in time the Loan Advisor will turn the customer over to the sales associate, who is directed as to which vehicles the customer qualifies for. Once the customer has selected a vehicle and the financing is approved (90 percent of the time it is) the car is on the road with its new owner.

While some Mitsubishi dealerships are losing money, Sport Mitsubishi continues to grow because of its’ commitment to Special Finance. Mealey puts 70 percent of his money and energy behind this part of the business because he believes that it offers the most return. Sport Mitsubishi aims to provide a unique service to the Central Florida area that is focused on the customer with a challenged credit history. For the future, one of the biggest challenges will be to build the core business around Special Finance, which will continue to grow, while keeping the standards high for the new car customer with good credit. Mealey and his team take great pride in the philosophy that every person that visits their showroom deserves their total attention and maximum effort to ensure the customer drives away in a new vehicle today.

Vol 2, Issue 12

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