To stay in the fold, dealers in both groups have a set of standards to maintain. The appearance of the lot has to retain a franchise look with specs on signage. Payless requires a paved lot, no dirt or gravel. Groves added that the corporate group also expects dealers to maintain a high ratio of late model vehicles with a minimum of 45 cars on the lot.
“They don’t want people to see us with only 20 cars,” said Groves, “and think we’re a small mom and pop. If we keep 45 cars at any one time, it looks better to lenders and floor plan companies. A lot of what they sold to the lenders is that we are a larger, mid-sized dealership.”
By having business standards that everyone can agree to, said Yul Armani, who runs two Payless franchises in Florida, each franchisee helps to maintain the reputation of everyone operating under the Payless name.
“The bad thing in a chain,” said Armani, “is that if you have one bad person, they can screw up your business. I want to make sure everyone will do the proper job and do business the right way.”
Brad Call operates two independent lots in Idaho that specialize in older, higher mileage vehicles. But his two Thrifty franchises deliver the kind of prospects he needs to sell late model, low mileage vehicles at a higher price.
“A lot of new car buyers will roll in to a franchise where he wouldn’t go to an independent,” said Call. “This is a new car alternative.”
Thrifty’s corporate office will provide creative support for advertisements and direct mail campaigns, said Call, which he’s excited about, but it’s Thrifty’s new call center that creates the real buzz.
“It’s really a great tool,” said Call.
Every customer who comes in is entered into the system, along with the kind of vehicle each customer test drove. “The call center will make follow-up calls; ‘Did you find and purchase the right car?’ Or, they will follow-up on a purchase, ask for referrals,” said Call. “We get a ton of feedback on the sales process. A customer will tell corporate something that they wouldn’t tell the sales person. They’re giving them the straight truth.”
“It sounds crazy, but at the dealership it gets so busy, you can’t give customers all the time they need,” said Tom Celona, who owns three Thrifty franchises in Rhode Island. The call center can, leaving the dealership’s sales team focused on making sales rather than appointments.
“They have established some terrific programs on warranties and financing, all the typical after-sales products,” added Celona. Thrifty has also struck national deals to support dealers’ direct mail campaigns and other promotional campaigns.
In this business, though, no one is resting on any laurels. “Payless is an innovative company,” said Groves. “I feel that they are open to new ideas, and I feel that they are a company that is continuing to bring more and more to the table in way of benefiting dealers.”
Both Thrifty and Payless dealers can buy rental cars at an advantageous price, often gaining an early look at the rental inventory. Some of the Payless dealers are also creating their own twenty groups, so they can brainstorm new ideas and track their financial performance in comparison with proven leaders in the field.
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