Michigan Chevy Dealership Delivers 25 Volts Per Month

Written By Thomas Ponco on Monday, April 30, 2012 | 8:00 AM

The first Sports Cars are considered to be (though the term would not be coined until after World War One) the 3 litre made in 1910 Vauxhall 20 hp (15 kW) and 27/80PS Austro-Daimler (designed by Ferdinand Porsche).

Published April 30, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

We’ve heard questioning as to just how committed GM is to proliferating its "halo" car, the Chevy Volt, and seen its efforts to refine advertising to get the message out. True more could be done, but the front lines are at the dealership level, and regardless of political, economic or corporate marketing factors, one Michigan dealership is reportedly delivering 25 Volts per month.

In a feature by Forbes yesterday, Serra Chevrolet in Southfield was shown to be capitalizing on the fact it’s on GM’s home turf – and going well beyond being content with that advantage, it has proactively honed a formula to sell more Volts, proving it need not be merely a showpiece “halo” car.

There are nearly 2,600 Volt-selling Chevy dealers in the country, and could you imagine what potential is there if each sold only three Volts month after month?

That’s 7,800 units, a little more than the 7,671 GM sold for all of last year. But at present, that may or may not be a stretch, as last month was the Volt's best at 2,289 sold. The company is not expected to exceed this in April either, as nationwide sales growth is yet accelerating at a sedate pace.

Nonetheless, Serra, which opened only around a year ago, is cranking out the Volts.

“We’re getting in 25 a month” from the GM factory in nearby Detroit, “and we’re selling 25 a month,” said Serra's General Manager, Greg Brown, to Forbes contributor, Dale Buss. “We only have five left on the lot; we should always probably have 15 to 20 here at the dealership. So we just put in an order for another 25.”

Boiled down to the basics, Serra does benefit from local GM employee loyalty, but also has a top-down dedication to the Volt, its own Excel spreadsheet to demonstrate how the car makes sense, plenty of Volts on hand, and all of its sales people are proficient at explaining the car.

Following are the main points Brown relayed to Forbes that together outline Serra's Volt sales formula:

• Cross-selling the car

• Creating sales-force expertise

• Coming up with new sales hooks

• Playing the parent card

• Keeping Volts in stock

• Committing from the top

• Using The Windmill Effect

• Offering generous lease rates

Number one on the list is “cross-selling,” and here is a reversal of the all-too-often told story whereby Chevrolet salespeople steer would-be Volt buyers away from GM’s purportedly expensive halo to easier sales like the Cruze and Malibu – which, by the way, is not blame only to be placed on dealerships.

Last year GM issued a press release, and has made subsequent statements touting how the Volt was drawing new customers to buy its less pricey fuel-efficient models.

But while the Volt is still a centerpiece, it's also being sold in more healthy numbers at Serra, and even further justifying its existence.

Brown told Forbes the Volt-centric dealership has rapidly become a magnet for Volt shoppers, but about half the customers who purchase a Volt there do not start out with one in mind.

“Since we really got to know the vehicle, we’ve been able to switch people from the Cruze, Equinox [crossover] and Malibu [midsize sedan] to Volt,” Brown said.

This, he said, is accomplished by not having only one or two Volt-trained salespeople, but every single salesperson is fully comfortable discussing the Volt's pros and cons.

Brown said the dealership uses a consultative sales process to qualify whether the Volt fully makes sense – and often it does – but Brown says Serra’s salespeople are capable of leading a person to see that for themselves.

Of course, neither Ralph Nader nor an editor from Consumer Reports is in charge there, so the dealership does rely on old fashioned salesmanship to help with the psychological factors in the decision.

That’s where being creative with new sales hooks and playing the parent card come in.

A sales hook need not be mind games and manipulation though, rather one example was showing how much gasoline per month the Volt could save compared to a conventional car.

“A payment on a Volt might be $150 more a month,” Brown explained. “But we can show them that they’d be saving $150 or $200 a month in gas with a Volt, so it might make sense for them.”

The “parent card” was mentioned as a potential aid to closing the deal based on the simple fact that teenagers need not ask the parents for gas money.

“And if they are hitting you up for gas money if they’re driving a Volt, then you know that they’re driving the car further than they should be,” Brown joked.

Of course, if you are a parent, you can decide whether you are willing to turn your young driver loose with a new Volt ...

Other factors adding up to Serra's ability to deliver 25 Volts per month include keeping plenty of cars in stock, and “committing from the top.”

Regarding this second point, it simply means sales managers are all about the Volt, and encourage sales people to be also.

As for the last two points in Serra’s formula, the “windmill effect” and "offering generous lease rates" the second one probably needs no explaining, but the windmill effect is an environmentalist pitch.

Just as GM has been doing from the corporate level – issuing press releases showing how environmentally consciousness it is with solar installations, efficient light bulbs, recycling, etc. – Serra has a little bit of green cred to boast of as well.

In this case it has two large windmills reportedly quite visible to passers by that provide 15 percent of its electricity, and it offers a Volt charging station on the premises.

“Those aspects of the store, and the mindset of the Volt, go hand-in-hand,” Brown said. “It helps.”

All told, the synergy adds up to a whole lot of Volt sales, Brown said. Now just imagine if other Chevy dealerships yet finding it tough to sell Volts – or preferring not to – took these steps too.


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