David Gesualdo

David Gesualdo

Welcome to an action-packed edition of Auto Dealer Today. This month, we run the gamut from tax reform and store security to machine learning and chatbots. Every topic and writer was carefully selected in support of our single, unifying vision for this magazine: to give you, the reader, a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving auto retail industry.

Having a vision is a key component of success in any field, and it’s central to the theme of “How to Become a Visionary Leader,” in which Auto/Mate’s Mike Esposito lays out a five-step plan for business owners and managers. He encourages you not only to create a vision but to find ways to get other people to share it and be willing to take risks along the way.

Over the past 15 years, your vision of a business built on profits from new-car sales has been irrevocably altered. Your profit centers are used cars, F&I, special finance and fixed ops. TV, radio and newspaper ads are now supplemented (if not replaced) by digital and social marketing campaigns. You are likely, at this moment, to be considering any number of new service providers, online retail partnerships, and finance channels. Your vision is changing with the times.

The same is true in the publishing world, and I’m not just talking about the digitization of the printed word. When we launched ADT’s sister publication, F&I and Showroom, our vision was a magazine supported by advertisers in the “F” segment; in particular, captive finance companies. We quickly learned the “I” in “F&I” offered a broader, deeper network.

In September, we will converge in Dallas for Industry Summit, a four-day training event that was originally known as the F&I Conference. Understand that the magazine and the event were born in a time when the finance office was, in most dealerships, a silo — a separate and often undervalued pursuit, kept out of the way of the sales department.

So too for the Vehicle Service Contract Administrators Conference (VSCAC), replaced five years ago by P&A Leadership Summit (PALS). VSCs remain a rich and rewarding topic of conversation, but speakers and attendees working in that segment want to share insights and learn more about every F&I product in your lineup.

Today, Industry Summit includes sessions dedicated to building effective, compliant processes throughout the front end. The Best Training Day Ever, F&I Think Tank, Special Finance Conference, Compliance Summit and PALS are all under the same roof. Our event has quite necessarily evolved along with the industry in which we all work.

I hope you enjoy Mike’s article as much as I did. It is a useful and practical guide for dealers and managers and a strong message for an industry in which leadership can too often be lacking. But I must also urge you to be willing to rethink your own vision whenever circumstances permit. It is a worthwhile mental exercise for any business owner. In the auto retail arena, which is frequently altered by rapidly changing habits and disruptive new technology, it is absolutely essential.