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More Success Secrets of Used Car Marketing

Updated: Mar 22

After writing advertising/marketing articles for almost 25 years for DEALER, I can always tell when an article really strikes a nerve based on reader feedback, and boy did I get great feedback on my October 2018 article Advertise Used…Sell New.

Thank you for emailing me and thank you for the comments on your own success tactics.  Quite a bit of the feedback requested a previous article I had written in 2017 Success Secrets of Used Car Marketing.  So I thought I’d wrap up this great year of 2018 with more thoughts on the subject as well as make an offer to receive both of those previous articles mentioned to those who email me.  When emailing me, please mention the offer from this December issue of Dealer.

Stating the obvious, most good dealers realize how important used vehicles have become to the bottom line.  In one of the emails regarding this subject, a dealer from Texas tells me he is down over $150,000 in new car gross on the same number of vehicles sold, but up over $230,000 in used vehicle gross for 2018 because of the dealership’s focus on used sales.  Contrary to the concept of my article titled ‘Advertise Used…Sell New’, this dealer tells me he is still advertising NEW, but has changed sales tactics to offer ‘alternative options’ to many of the customers coming in on advertised NEW vehicles.  This dealer has increased sales of CPO units by 50% in 2018.

Here are a few more marketing ‘secrets’ highly profitable dealers are employing…

Stocking the right vehicles.

Buying CPO vehicles and similar segment vehicles of other makes comparable to the dealerships hottest new sellers gives salespeople more ‘switch options’ to match customer color/options preferences and budget.

‘Sale’ by Segment.

A dealer in Michigan holds special sales each month by segment.  For instance, a 3-day ‘performance sale’ in the Spring offering Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers, Challengers.  The media buy is focused on that segment and the dealership emails a list of over 5000 performance vehicle owners, with special trade incentives.  The dealership holds other segment sales throughout the year for Trucks, Luxury, Family and compact, each with specific media planning for each event.

Display Tactics.

Used cars that look like New!  In one of my previous articles, I shared how one dealership in New England stocks a huge 30 car showroom with only USED vehicles…detailed to perfection.  But even if you don’t have a huge showroom, you can creatively integrate display of top-shelf used vehicles with new.  One Ford dealership I visited alternates new and used of the same model on the front line.  The used models have prices on the window.

Finance Used Option Presentation.

Rather than a second pencil on a new vehicle, one dealer told me he has had a lot of success coming back to the customer with an option of a payment on a CPO vehicle when that vehicle is available, comparing features and warranty.


This is one of the greatest marketing opportunities out there.  While many dealers have wanted to consider this idea, they’ve shied away, fearing legal complexity and liability issues.  The time has come.  Check out , a company based in Richmond, VA who recently acquired $30 million in equity investment to expand and develop the concept.  Just think about the opportunities!  Especially for franchised new vehicle dealerships who consistently have a higher level of trust than independent used car operations.  For starters, INVENTORY..with no floor plan!  Revenue from display.  Service and recon revenue.  The first shot at converting a consignee to another vehicle.

The first shot at obtaining attractive inventory at a fair price.  One of the greatest obstacles in making a deal on a new vehicle today is trade value.  Consignment options give the dealership the chance to be on the same side as the customer, creating a stronger posture of trust and transparency.

Used Car Testimonials.

One of the best advertising concepts I’ve come across is a Michigan dealers campaign using business customers who have bought used vehicles.  In the 30 second TV and 60-second radio commercials, the customers, well known in the community, talk about their success in buying used vehicles from the dealership.  They talk about the value, the savings, the certified warranty and the great service that makes them feel like a new vehicle customer at a used car price.

Every new vehicle dealer sells the same makes and models as franchised competitors, but today, the new vehicle dealer not only competes against his direct make competitor but internet competitors selling across state lines and the programmatic digital ads flooding the customer’s space from third-party middlemen.  The good news is, while research shows ‘make’ loyalty has dropped, dealership loyalty has held and even increased in many situations.  While used vehicle sales have increased, franchised dealerships still hold a higher level of trust than any other selling entity.  And the best news of all is that every single used vehicle is unique.  Although there are suggested market price recommendations from numerous guides, every vehicle holds a unique value dependent on multiple factors. Research also tells us that a large percentage of used buyers will be comfortable with the higher end of the suggested market price based on their perception of trust and value.


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