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AM PROMOTION Dealer insightBy Tim Smith, commercial director of GForces, web manage­ment and marketing specialistsT he New Year is typically a tough time for car dealers. The post-Christmas period starts with a financial hangover as consumers shy-away from big purchases, and dismal forecasts of an economic meltdown will only depress confidence further still at the start of 2012.There are measures that dealers can take to ensure that they make the most of the available sales opportunities. Start the year with a clear head and a clear plan - think of them as digital New Year resolutions - and find yourself cashing in. 1 Plan to succeedMore people see and interact with your business via your website than in your showroom, so make sure you have the right web platform. Your website must be user friendly, adaptable and able to evolve with ever changing consumer demands. 2 Be relevantEnsure your marketing strategy is targeting the right people with the right product. Collect and collate data on your customers' prefer­ences and buying habits to make sure your offers are relevant. Don't promote a product to someone who won't gain anything from it.3 Think naturalNatural searches can drive a lot of traffic to your dealership's website. Without search engine optimisation you will be losing out on visitors, leads and ultimately sales. Being high on natural search listings is the single most cost-effective form of generating leads into your business. 4 Be seenTopping the natural search results isn't a certainty and it takes time to achieve. Investing some money in an effective pay-per-click campaign guarantees that your name is on top for popular search terms immediately.5 Keep customers in the loopThe average car buyer may only change their vehicle every three years, but dealers still have an opportunity to email them with relevant offers and updates. For example, if their service is coming up and there is an offer taking place, let them know. If you don't, they will be more inclined to shop around.6 Make new friendsCar buyers are increasingly using social media for research. Around Start the New Year with some online resolutions43% of car buyers use social networking, and a quarter of those are likely to ask their Facebook friends for car-buying advice (Motors.co.uk). Twitter is also a useful resource. Promote, interact and make customers feel involved. 7 Think mobileMore than 18% of people are accessing the web via a mobile device rather than a PC, while 63% of mobile owners use their device when buying online (The Wall Blog, 2011). A dealership with a website optimised for mobile devices will experience greater conversion among this growing audience. 8 Think videoVideo is one of the internet's killer apps. In-built videos on your website lets you show off your latest model, car care tips or even a staff event. A quarter of 18-24 year-olds will use YouTube for car-buying research (NMA, 2011). If videos are on your website, they don't need to go elsewhere. 9 Operate 24/7Over half of visits to dealer websites occur out of hours. The ability to talk to people, real-time, helps ensure that you don't miss a lead. Customers prefer to interact online with live chat while browsing instead of picking up the phone, so give them the ability to do so. 10 Makes sure aftersales isn't an afterthoughtDealerships make up to 80% of their profits in aftersales, thus effective strategies for customer retention are critically important. Enabling staged servicing payments keeps your cash-flow healthy and your customers coming back. 11 Invest in some new boots The UK tyre market is worth £1.29bn yet dealerships are consistently losing out to fast-fits. The majority of people research tyres online before purchasing them, so give them the functionality to do so on your website. Not only that, allow them to order, book and pay online too.12 Join up the dotsAccording to Google, new car buyers visit just 1.3 dealerships on average. This declining footfall is due to 94% of car buyers undertaking research online. When they do visit, give them a means to continue browsing - like touch screen interfaces, and market your goods and services with show­room displays. Consumers don't like high-pressure sales tactics, so empower them to drive the deal themselves by making the car buying experience as seamless as possible. Stick to these resolutions and you will be well-set for a success- ful 2012. In association withTim Smith is the commercial director for GForces Web Management, a leading provider of web software and services for automotive main dealers. He has an extensive knowledge of IT and its applications to business having worked in the industry for 20 years. Over the past five years he has helped shape GForces become the leading motor retail web agency in the UK. GForces builds, manages and markets dealer websites and provides the ultimate selection of tools to ensure main dealers and specialist automotive retailers compete effectively online.ABOUT THE AUTHORBegin 2012 with a clear head and a clear plan and you could find yourself cashing in

New car marketNewsNewsdigestShowroomAM AwardsNew carnewsAMIndexRecruitmentAM Digest News round-upthere will be a small number of compulsory redundancies at the dealership, but many members of the 13-strong staff have been offered alternative jobs in Nidd Vale's other businesses. It also represents Vauxhall, Mazda, Seat and Saab in Harrogate and Vauxhall in Wetherby.Source AM December 13Read more....Expansion plannedBugle Inn Motor Company has revealed plans to expand its Chorley Nissan dealership in Wigan. It wants to buy land at the back of its current site to add a used car supermarket, commercial vehicle showroom, electric vehicle centre and extend its current service facilities. The project would double its current workforce to 60 in Wigan, reports the Wigan Today website.Source AM December 13Read more....Manufacturer newsMore aggression from VolvoVolvo is planning to be "more direct, aggressive and competitive" in its marketing strategy, after admitting that the brand had been neglected for a number of years. The Swedish car marque, bought by Geely Holding Group from Ford last year, hopes to strengthen its perception as a luxury brand and has set out an ambitious growth strategy to increase global sales to 800,000 units by 2020, up from the current 450,000 vehicles.Source Marketing Week December 16Read more....MG deal for financeGMAC UK, once part of General Motors' finance division, has signed a contract with MG Motor as the launch phase in a bid to broaden its manufacturer client base. MG is GMAC UK's fourth car brand. It is also the preferred finance supplier to Saab and GM's Vauxhall and Chevrolet.Source AM December 19Read more...China puts levy on US carsChina will levy duties on some cars made in the US in the latest escalation of trade disputes between the two countries. China's commerce ministry said that vehicles were being dumped on the Chinese market, causing damage to the domestic industry. The taxes will affect models from General Motors, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz and BMW that have been made in the US. China is now the world's largest vehicle market.Source BBC December 15Read more...Vauxhall tops recalled car listVauxhall recalled more cars than any other manufacturer in 2011, according to data from VOSA. 2011 saw 179 vehicle recalls, with more than 900,000 owners receiving a letter from their car maker's service department. In total, more than 435,000 Vauxhalls were recalled. Top marks went to Bentley, Caterham, Daihatsu, Ferrari, Hyundai, Lamborghini, Lotus, Perodua, Proton, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen with not a single recall in 2011.Source Auto Express December 29Read more... Continues