Best Practices: How a VW dealership acquires used vehicles

A Volkswagen dealership in Marion, Ill., is deploying strategies traditionally used to foster vehicle sales to encourage staffers to buy more used cars directly from consumers to help the store stock its lot.

The efforts have helped reduce Volkswagen of Marion’s reliance on buying from wholesale auctions, lowered its per-vehicle acquisition costs and boosted used-vehicle sales and overall dealership profitability, said Ashlee Church, general manager at Volkswagen of Marion.

Store leaders ramped up efforts to purchase directly from consumers in early 2019, bolstered tracking procedures around those acquisitions and subsequent sales and implemented bonus opportunities for sales reps who were successful at the new approach. The dealership also scaled back emphasis on its business development center.

“We really had to work to get everybody to embrace this philosophy … that acquiring a vehicle from a customer today generates a future sale,” Church told Automotive News. “That can be difficult in sales because a lot of salespeople, by nature, want instant gratification. They want to sell a vehicle today, earn a nice commission on it and move on to the next customer.”

But the direct vehicle acquisition strategy needed to be a longer-term play, Church said. New policies around tracking acquisitions and sales, lead handling and compensation were key because the resulting daily practices and subsequent data helped store managers reinforce with staff why it was important to stay focused on direct buying.

The strategy became even more critical in March 2020 in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Volkswagen of Marion’s showroom temporarily shut down, and staff pivoted to selling by appointment. Dealership managers reevaluated sales strategies and made changes that sharpened staff attention on the direct buying approach, Church said.

Since then, she said, the dealership has evaluated sales rep performance on both the number of vehicles sold and acquired.

“We went to our sales team, and we said, ‘We really need your help in acquiring inventory,’ ” Church said. “From our sales reps to our sales management team to our leadership team, we all take on that accountability of acquiring vehicles. Our sales reps on the floor are the ones who handle all of the leads.”

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