“Johnny’s Truck and Auto started in 1995 as an independent car lot with ten cars and a mobile home,” says Johnny Dangerfield, Owner and President of Johnny’s Truck and Auto. This may not be what you would expect from a dealership that today is credited for changing the face of the Charleston, SC automotive market. In 1995 Johnny’s Truck and Auto tallied approximately $350,000 in sales and in 2005, ten years and thousands of customers later it is on track to reach $75M!!
Formed in 2004, Johnny’s Suzuki in Moncks Corner and Johnny’s Suzuki of Summerville have changed the entire Suzuki Market. Charleston has been named the fastest growing market for American Suzuki since Dangerfield’s dealerships have put South Carolina on the map. With the addition of these two dealerships new Suzuki vehicle registrations in the Charleston market have risen 1,558 percent.
One of the highlights of Johnny’s Truck and Auto and Johnny’s Suzuki is the tremendous job Dangerfield has done in the area of Special Finance. “We have a completely different system in our showroom,” explains Dangerfield. The system involves a team approach to selling. In each store there are two dedicated Finance Managers and two Team Leaders.
The Team Leaders are responsible for seven or eight salespeople. The Team Leader’s duty is to greet the customer when he/she gets out of the car with the sales person. The Team Leader is the person who negotiates the figures and the deal. When credit issues arise with the customer the Team Leader works with the Special Finance Department to customize a deal that will meet the buyer’s car needs and budget.
If credit proves to be an issue Johnny’s Truck and Auto has a one-of-kind approach to getting customers financed. “We do a very extensive written interview with the customer,” says Dangerfield. “After our extensive interview and application have been completed, a preliminary borrowing decision is made. This decision is a joint decision between the finance office, the sales manager and the team leader.”
Many dealers claim that they do an interview when they fill out a credit application,” says Dangerfield. “We go beyond that, we ask the customer in-depth questions and try to find things that are not on the credit report that we can utilize when attempting to get bank approval.” After finding things that the customer may have financed that do not show up on a normal credit report Johnny and his staff will call the creditor and get what is called a “direct reference.” After receiving the direct reference, the customer’s paperwork is sent to a bank for approval.
Once the bank is confident of the interview process and customer’s history, they are more inclined to approve the loan, allowing the customer to purchase their new vehicle. “The plan is to have the lender look for a way to buy the deal instead of a way not to buy the deal,” explains Dangerfield.
In addition to the Special Finance process, Dangerfield also owns a finance company that he founded a year ago. Carolina Car Credit Finance Company is a “Buy Here Pay Here” facility for customers who can’t get approved through the bank. “This facility helps customers reestablish a credit history,” says Dangerfield. Of the 300 cars sold in July, 40 were BHPH customers. One of the key aspects of the Finance Department with Johnny’s Truck and Auto is that the Finance Managers must know how to handle both prime and sub prime finance.
There are other key features of his business that Johnny Dangerfield believes have helped make him successful:
The Business Development Center, (BDC)
This is where sales come to life! This center has 10 employees and one manager whose job is to turn phone and Internet leads into appointments and future sales! Every Internet lead and phone call that comes to Johnny’s is directed to the Business Development Center. Each lead is handled within minutes of arrival to provide a prompt and helpful response to every customer.
“We have scripts and e-mail responses that focus on different situations,” says Dangerfield. “There is one for people who want to purchase a car, one for trade-ins and one for people with bad credit.” Dangerfield and his staff have attained a 75 percent appointment rate, a 60 percent show rate and a 34 percent delivery rate. Of the 300 cars sold in the month of July, 155 deals were due to the perseverance of the BDC. Internet leads are a huge part of the business. “We are the largest Internet car dealer in South Carolina,” says Dangerfield.
Dedication to the Customer
In March of 2005, Johnny’s Truck and Auto celebrated its Ten Year Anniversary. Since the beginning, Johnny has offered a Three Day 100 percent Money Back Guarantee. New or Pre-Owned, it doesn’t matter, if for any reason the customer is not happy, the customer gets their money back. “We tell our customers they can shop our rate, our payment and our car and if for any reason they are not satisfied, we will return 100 percent of their money,” says Dangerfield. On new cars customers receive free gas for a year and free tires for life! Customers receive the best service from highly trained salespeople. Each sales person has been individually selected and sent through an extensive week of training and testing. Those that complete the intensive training and pass all required tests are hired and are constantly improving their skills by attending weekly training sessions. The dealership employs a standard up system for all sales staff on the floor, because of this each person is trained on all areas of the sales system. Every sales person can handle the sale regardless of the credit situation of the customer or the type of vehicle they are interested in.
Johnny and his staff do a great job of not only retaining customers, but also, growing the business. The dealership airs a 30-minute informational program on network television. In any given week, the dealership infomercial will air 25-30 times. The 30 minute show informs customers of the deals and options Johnny’s Truck and Auto provides. “This source of advertising drives the Special Finance Department,” says Dangerfield. Another great thing to note - since Johnny’s Suzuki has done such a wonderful job in the Charleston area, American Suzuki has committed to providing increased advertising, promotional and dealer support.
From selling his first car at 17 years of age to becoming a General Manager at 26 years old, Johnny Dangerfield has taken the bull by the horns and created an enterprise that has flourished from day one. The goal is to get referral business from their present rate of 38 percent to 70 percent.
“If we just keep doing what we are doing and taking care of the customers, then I think we are going to be doing 400-500 cars/month pretty quickly,” says Dangerfield.
Vol 2, Issue 10