What Dealers Will Do in 2010
Apr 01, 2010, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
There's much talk in the auto industry of the new normal, a term that has a double meaning for me, one personal, one business. Personally, since leaving NCM in July, I have tried, and continue to try, to adjust to a new life of self-employed-normal, and all that means to me and my family. To some extent, I can relate to those dealers who have been given a new opportunity. I can't recall who first

Nothing Lost in Translation
Feb 01, 2010, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I've been asked to speak to a Brazilian international dealer group, In conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Assn. Their representative said the auto business has been very good in Brazil in 2009, up 11% from 2008. In fact, he added, Auto sales rose to an all-time high in 2009 due to certain stimuli, such as record-low interest rates and tax incentives. Brazil has been most fortunate to

Know Real Cost of Business
Jan 01, 2010, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
It's one thing to watch our volume drop, but that decrease, coupled with the erosion of our margins is creating real issues in our industry (for dealers) today. That's what a long-time dealer friend told me when discussing the challenges of dealer profitability. Today, probably more than ever, it's not just about selling in volume, but about the real cost and ultimately the margins generated vs. your


He's Finally Sold on CPO
Dec 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I attended the National Remarketing Conference in Las Vegas where used-vehicle industry experts looked at that segment's this year and beyond. Ron Smith and his team put on a first-class event. As many of you who follow my column may know, I was a late-comer to the factory certified pre-owned party. But now I'm on the front line exhorting the many benefits of this business. As I listened to dealers

Put Away the Crystal Ball
Nov 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
It's that time when we'd like to gaze into our crystal balls to see what the next year holds. Well, if it were as simple as that to see what our futures hold, then how we run our businesses would be different. Instead, we have to plan based on historical information, known factors and sound business judgments. One concern I've always had as I prepared budgets is my ability to create a final product

Busting Out of the Bad Times
Oct 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Hopefully by now you've received your Cash for Clunkers payments and settled back in to a normal business routine. Normal, as in selling and servicing vehicles, and collecting vehicle receivables in a timely manner. I, for one, am ready to swiftly end this year and begin fresh in January. But, not so fast. We still have work to do to ensure ending 2009 on a positive note. Get a legal pad and find

Write This On Your Wall:
Sep 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Sept. 14 will mark the first anniversary of what will debatably be written in history as the beginning of the collapse of the U.S. financial system. And the auto industry ranks right up there in the collateral-damage department. The auto retail sales slump had begun with the July seasonably adjusted annual rate reaching levels (12.8 million units) many of us would have said were not realistic. Little

Good Turn Deserves Another
Aug 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I was invited to Brazil this summer to speak at a meeting hosted by Fenabrave, the Brazilian auto dealer association. It is always a treat and an education to be with dealers, no matter where they are from. The market leader in Brazil is Fiat, and I took advantage of my time there to see some of the products, many of which will soon be sold here because of the new Fiat-Chrysler partnership. If I've

4 Ways to Greater Profitability
Jul 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I'm excited to have been invited to conduct a profitability workshop during the summer dealer meeting of a major import auto maker. We have limited it to four key areas that affect dealership profits. While there are many areas, when held to four, I went with: personnel productivity, expense management, asset management and departmental contribution. Let's look at each. Personnel Productivity is a

A Treasure Trove of Ideas
Jun 01, 2009, Ward's Dealer Business
Looking for ways to jumpstart or improve your service or parts department or your body shop? You can visit us at www.wardsdealer.com. We have a treasure trove of columns going back to 1999 that provide management tips, profit making nuggets and ideas to help you turn your fixed operations into a juggernaut. You can search by topic, or by columnist. For example, type Lee Harkins into the search tool

Self-Financing Stirs Interest
Jun 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
First of all, to the many Chrysler and General Motors dealer friends and colleagues who received the letters that their franchises were either being cancelled or not being renewed, please know our thoughts are with you and the many members of your staffs, during this difficult time in your lives. Through the first four months of 2009, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) stands at 9.5

Let's Educate Elected Officials
May 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I find it frustrating that many of our elected officials and others occupying powerful posts in our government and treasury neither seem to understand nor, with few exceptions, bother to find out, what's really going on. These officials are treating symptoms based on hearsay and have not diagnosed the illness. Do they realize that no auto maker can be viable if their dealers are unable to sell new

Identify Excess Spending
Apr 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
We all know that each dollar of excess expense is a dollar of net profit lost. So, how do we keep our expenses in line? This is hard if you do not assign each expense account a budget based on a specific set of criteria. First, identify a desired and realistic net profit figure, prior to including other additions/deductions, as a percentage of your total dealership gross. If my net profit goal is

Bootcamp Gets 'Em in Shape
Mar 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
It was great seeing and having a chance to speak with so many dealers, managers and vendors during the recent National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention. I thought the event would take on a different tone this year because of the turbulent position this industry finds itself in. The tone indeed was different. But I gladly experienced a attitude from almost each person I spoke with. This isn't a

10 Checklist Items for Dealers
Feb 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I'm often asked my opinion on the key areas dealers and general managers should monitor on a monthly basis. Here's my top 10 lists of what to focus on: Cash. As we've learned firsthand recently, cash management and cash flow have never been more critical concerns than today. Morningstar Report says if net income is much larger than cash flow from operations, it's a sign the earnings quality is questionable.

How Are Your Assets Doing?
Jan 01, 2009, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
First the good news: 2008 has finally ended. Let's hope the auto-industry meltdown is at end, too. All of us, including dealers (domestic, import, high-line, new and used), manufacturers and suppliers, have a chance to start anew. From a dealer standpoint, after living through this gut-wrenching experience of right-sizing our organizations, we all have a real opportunity to capitalize now. When the


Sound Advice/The Miracle Kid
Dec 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
My friend and colleague, Jeff Sacks, often says, Profit is an opinion, but cash is cash. Many years ago, from Karl Singer, if memory serves me, I first became aware of the term cash is king. Initially, it referred to customer money and the impact it had on our gross profits. While that's still applicable today, the term has taken on a broader significance. Have you ever found yourself in a position

Dealers, Start Your Budgets
Nov 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
May you live in interesting times is an old adage or a curse, depending on your viewpoint. Interesting times could be the understatement of 2008. It's beyond being merely interesting. At least there is a glint at the end of the tunnel. May reason and sanity prevail and help us get the economy rolling again. The housing and auto industries have been at the heart of our economy. Once liquidity returns

Be a Student for Life
Oct 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Here's an old Chinese proverb that makes a lot of sense: If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. In my 40 years in the automobile business, I've never seen the challenges we are facing today. The changes we are experiencing now are fundamental and the end result will shape our future automotive retailer

Be Prepared with Your Plan B
Sep 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I may sound like a broken record in my continually urging you to right-size your operations. But I have heard from many dealers who say they have heeded that advice and are glad they did. I would like to share with you a great suggestion I picked up years ago from a long-time client; a process he calls Plan B. This is an exercise he insists each general manager complete and then keep up to date. The

Much of Business Is Mental
Aug 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
In my alter ego state, I am a motivational speaker and an inspiration to others. I possess the ability to get, or keep, people moving in the right direction when they feel they are at the end of the rope. Oh well, back to reality! For 50 plus years, NCM has enjoyed a special relationship with our bank and its executive team. One member of the team, the community bank president is a major sports fan,

Good Dealers Become Better
Jul 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
The dictionary says hysteria is behavior exhibiting overwhelming fear or emotional excess. Granted we are in challenging times. But the media hype takes it to the next level, fixating on the high unemployment level, the high costs of fuel, record losses in many financial institutions and the continuing saga surrounding subprime loans. And let's not forget consumer confidence is at a 16-year low. Add

Auto Dealers Are Survivors
Jun 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
On an almost daily basis, I speak with auto dealers across the country and hear the steps they are taking to deal with this current economic downturn. Yes, there are challenges and yes, in my opinion, there will continue to be challenges throughout this year. But challenges bring opportunities; opportunities that make us stronger. As a mega-dealer recently said: The good get to great during the toughest

A Way to Do More with Less
May 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
The understatement of this century might be: We are in a tough business climate. Yes, business will improve and all of us will become stronger for having experienced this and for taking the steps necessary to grow in trying times. Much has been said about right-sizing your operations. This is a step I trust most of you have taken. This month, I'd like to focus on a process that may assist you in right-sizing

Keep an Eye on Your Spending
Apr 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Each meeting cycle, NCM provides our 20 Groups with a special study that lets members take a closer look at a particular area of their business. The focus of the first-quarter study was expense management and, as any of you who follow this monthly column know, this is a subject that is near to my heart. First, I realize the dollar amounts are ultimately what count in the end. But we budget and manage

Dealers, Auto Makers Win as 1
Mar 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Sitting at the airport in snowy Kansas City waiting to board an airplane, I thought of what I would talk about with dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention in San Francisco. The convention is always one of my most anticipated and exciting times of the year. I have a chance to spend hours visiting with dealers But I begin by attending the J.D. Power and Associates International

Plan Your Opportunities Now
Feb 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
What do you plan to do differently this year to improve your dealership performance? Hopefully, you and your staff feel you made progress as an organization during 2007. But there may be areas for improvement. If there are opportunities, what are your plans to take advantage of them? About 16.1 million new vehicles were sold in 2007. In 2008, if forecasted sales drop by as much as 500,000 units, we

Here's How to Order Right
Jan 01, 2008, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I've addressed the subject of new-vehicle inventory management numerous times over the years. Based on the conversations I'm having with dealers, the time is right to readdress it. First, as a qualifying statement, this article will not include any revelations or magic bullets. But I hope it will provide a few reminders of best-management practices as it relates to new-vehicle inventory. During the


What I Want For Christmas
Dec 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Forever, I've heard the saying, The older you get, the more quickly time flies. I refuse to admit and accept the fact I'm getting older, so we must be experiencing a scientific phenomenon in the fact it's already December and time to close the book on another year. By now we've established our respective game plans for 2008 and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of January so we can get started. Before

Plan the Work, Work the Plan
Nov 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
How would you rate your performance this year for sales, gross profit and most important net profit? If we, as an organization, have not performed at the level we planned, what were contributing factors, both internally and externally? Was our business plan sound and, if so, where did it break down? These are questions to ask as you prepare a new budget plan. When we begin a budget process, we must

October Is a Significant Month
Oct 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
What's different about this month than any other? We know with a degree of certainty based on historical evidence that actions we take or choose not to take in October will affect our business not only for the balance of the year, but also the first quarter of the next year.

If It Is to Be, It Is Up to Me
Sep 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I've often heard the comment that business people would be better off if they quit watching the news and reading the newspapers (plus web sites today). In the last 10 days, we have been bombarded with negative news. It seems all we hear or read about are items like the following: The stock market is in turmoil with its daily ups and downs; just yesterday, the Dow saw its second heaviest 1-day plunge

Control Your Inventory Costs
Aug 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Those who know me know of my passion for the automobile business and dealer profitability. Each month, I spend hours looking at statistics and testing scenarios to identify the greatest areas of opportunity for improving dealer profitability. We all know the challenges of managing our personnel cost, advertising cost and last, but certainly not least, our new-vehicle floor-plan cost.

Dealers Should Look at Odds
Jul 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
It's interesting to think of the number of times the average vehicle is sold — and by whom — before it ends up being scrapped I would guess a selling cycle of three to four times.

Skip the Nonsense
Jul 01, 2007, By Cliff Banks, Ward's Dealer Business
I received an e-mail from a reader thanking us for putting together a no-nonsense magazine (his words - not mine) that constantly provides usable and applicable information on the automotive retail industry.

Benchmark Your Profitability
Jun 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
The numbers I'm sharing here reflect first quarter results from the NCM database. They are average dealer performance changes compared with the same first quarter period in 2006.

Inspect What You Expect
May 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Inspect what you expect, goes the saying. But how do we actually measure performance? First, we must determine the performance measurements we need to monitor monthly.

How Do You Define the Best?
Apr 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I often hear dealers say they don't necessarily want to be the biggest, but the best. How do you define best?

Let's Do Some Benchmarking
Mar 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
One of the greatest benefits of attending the annual National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention is the opportunity to speak with dealers.

Chill Out, Chicken Little
Feb 01, 2007, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
A series of recent industry articles and expert interviews describe how bad the current automotive business is. They say that not only is our business in bad shape, but forecasts call for sales to worsen before we see any improvement.

Make More Profit in '07
Jan 01, 2007, TONY NOLAND, Ward's Dealer Business
We often make New Year's resolutions conversationally, without much resolve or commitment. However that can't be an option in business life if we truly want to perform at the highest level.


Stick to Your Standards
Dec 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Hopefully, by the time you read this, you have completed your 2007 business plan and budget knowing that, even though external influences may affect our performance, the final results will reflect the execution of our plans. Why is it that some dealers, regardless of franchise affiliation, seem to excel year after year? It is not totally that their personnel are any better than any other. True, we

Just What Is a Budget?
Nov 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
I have created forecasts and budgets each year of my professional career, and feel somewhat comfortable with the process. But I'm always open to insights from others. Accordingly, I participated in an informative audio conference, Understanding Budgeting, by Alpha Financial Consulting Inc. First, their definition of budgeting: A budget is a summary statement of plans expressed in quantitative terms.

A Seventh Profit Center
Oct 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
“Poor expense practices melt away gross profit dollars, reduce net profits, and take away from potential capital funds — funds which could be used to produce more income or to support better prices against competition.

End Year on High Note
Sep 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
Depending on your results, it may be good or bad news that three quarters of 2006 have gone transpired. Either way, the good news is we still have one quarter left to make a positive difference. Two questions. First, if we annualized your year-to-date results, where would you be in terms of your plan presented at the beginning of this year? Second, if your performance is not at the planned level,

Get In Fighting Shape
Aug 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
The General Manager's Boot Camp is a week-long class conducted by Jeff Sacks and myself. Our goal and motto for this dealership management class is Shaping Our Future Leaders. While much is devoted to helping attendees recognize and then act on gross opportunities within the individual operating departments, much of our time is devoted to helping enlistees focus on specific big picture perspectives.

Mid-Year Checkup Time
Jul 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
So far, this year has presented more than its share of issues for auto dealers. Fuel prices are affecting what products we sell and in many cases, those products offer less gross profit than SUV sales of recent times. Interest rates continue to increase. Costs increase. These situations reinforce the need for us to control costs, maximize employee productivity and maintain strong used-vehicle and

How To Protect Profits
Jun 01, 2006, By Tony Noland, Ward's Dealer Business
With dealer profitability a hot topic of late, one thing that has always impressed me about our business is a good dealer's ability to find a way to succeed even during the most difficult times. Fuel prices are increasing, the Fed has just raised interest rates for the fifteenth time and employee health-care costs are at an all-time high. But somehow good dealers have always recognized similar challenges

Sub Categories Tell More
May 01, 2006, TONY NOLAND, Ward's Dealer Business
While examining our dealership financial statements, certain expense-category percentages often jump out as being high compared with guide or goal numbers. Sales commissions and policy expenses jump out a lot. When comparing any expense percentage with a guide, first compare your gross. Quite often you will find high-expense percentages are a direct result of inadequate gross. Assuming your gross

Best Performers Do This
Apr 01, 2006, TONY NOLAND, Ward's Dealer Business
I recently gave an inventory-management presentation for the American International Automobile Dealers Assn. Not wanting to air just opinions on best-management practices, I researched this subject in-depth. The first issue to think about is the global manufacturing capacity vs. the global market's ability to absorb this capacity. Worldwide, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, is an estimated

Compare How You Did
Feb 01, 2006, TONY NOLAND, Ward's Dealer Business
From a dealer perspective, 2005 had its share of challenges. Quarterly interest rate increases, a high days' supply in some franchises during certain time periods and increased personnel expenses taxed the average dealer's net profit. For the second year, our average client's dealership expense increase was greater than gross. The exception was the regular import dealerships, as seen in the chart

How to Plan '06 Success
Jan 01, 2006, TONY NOLAND, Ward's Dealer Business
I have a question for you at the beginning of this new year: what are you planning to do differently in 2006 to improve your dealership performance? Hopefully, 2005 was successful for you and your staff, but are there areas where you have the potential for improvement? If there are opportunities, what are your plans to take advantage of them? I remind you of the folly of continuing to do the same