Matt Stuckey is signing more checks these days — and that’s a good thing.
At the beginning of October, the Stuckey Automotive dealership group that has Ford, Subaru, Buick-GMC and Mitsubishi stores in central and small-town Pennsylvania pushed an effort to buy consumers’ vehicles outright — even if someone wasn’t looking to trade in or buy a vehicle from the group.
In the summer, the dealership group, based in Hollidaysburg, Pa., saw its used-vehicle days’ supply dwindle to about 15 vehicles amid demand and auction acquisition woes during the coronavirus pandemic. The group, which sells three times as many used as new vehicles, typically carries a supply of about 30 days for used vehicles.
The goal of the We’ll Buy Your Car campaign is to help procure additional inventory and to connect with potential new customers, President Matt Stuckey said.
Stuckey said his group’s program is attempting to get out in front of competitors such as Vroom Inc. and Carvana Co. and is helping his staff talk to more potential customers who may not think to call them to sell their vehicle. He hopes to build relationships with those individuals.
“That’s how we win in the long run,” he said.
Stuckey said the group’s results so far aren’t “earth-shattering,” but he’s encouraged. His group completed 47 appraisals and purchased eight vehicles from customers from Oct. 1 through Nov. 27.
“We got almost 20 percent of the ones we were able to look at — certainly a start,” he said, adding that he didn’t officially track results before the Oct. 1 campaign began but that outright purchases are up.
The four-store dealership group sold 680 new and used vehicles combined in October. Year to date through October, the group sold more than 6,000 vehicles combined, with 70 percent being used vehicles, Stuckey said.
That’s much higher than the National Automobile Dealers Association average dealership, which through September year to date had a used-to-new-vehicle sales ratio of 0.96, just less than 1-to-1.
The group’s sales department was closed for more than a month this spring amid virus restrictions in Pennsylvania. To help combat the gap, Stuckey Automotive also accelerated how much of a transaction can be conducted online and ramped up vehicle pickup and delivery capabilities, Stuckey said.
The vehicle-buying campaign is prominently featured on Stuckey Automotive’s website and dealership websites. It shows a car wrapped in a dollar bill, with a link to provide details and schedule an offer.
The group also features the car-buying opportunity on dealership Facebook pages and has been airing a commercial on TV and digital channels. Stuckey said he plans to continue the campaign into the first quarter of 2021. And he isn’t just looking for nearly new used vehicles.
“Consumers own nice 3- to 5-year-old pickup trucks,” he said. “They also own 15-year-old sedans that we need to be talking about with them as well.”
His team since Oct. 1 has purchased vehicles ranging from a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu with 65,000 miles on the odometer and a 2004 Jeep Liberty to a 2016 Ford Fusion and 2018 Subaru Crosstrek.
Many of the public auto retailers have launched or accelerated their own car-buying programs as a way to boost inventory and trim used-vehicle acquisition expenses.
For example, AutoNation Inc., the nation’s largest new-vehicle retailer with 230 dealerships, secured more than 12,000 vehicles through its We’ll Buy Your Car program in the third quarter, more than doubling its figure from the second quarter.
Appraisals for Stuckey’s program take about 10 minutes, he said, and checks typically are cut to the seller the same or the following day. Given the pandemic, many of the appraisals were done via phone and even video calls, Stuckey said.
“Our customer we consider to be anybody that lives in the community we work in,” he said. “And for a variety of reasons we may have lost touch with them over the years, they never considered us, whatever else. So we’re really just always looking for ways to broaden our reach.”