It takes time
The company has not only grown its same-store sales, it has acquired dealerships in Ohio and Michigan. The economies of scale decrease costs as Germain Automotive Group finds opportunities through small groups or single point dealers that don’t have succession plans or aren’t comfortable with the future of the business.
The biggest lesson Germain has learned from these acquisitions is that it takes time.
“What I realized over the last six to seven years is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a two- or three-year process, from the time of closing to the time that you achieve what you thought you could achieve and the reasons that you bought those stores,” he says.
You can’t affect the outcomes overnight, as hard as you try or as lucky as you are. It won’t work, Germain says. A healthier and more realistic strategy for the changes or improvements that you want to implement is to move your timeline from months to years.
But even with a longer timeline, he’s going to continue to look for opportunities to acquire more locations, both in the company’s markets and outside those markets, because the industry is consolidating.
“I like the idea of being a consolidator,” Germain says. “That fits right in line with our family business and (the) next generation.”
- Adapt your business succession to the situation and individual.
- Give the next generation of leaders room to grow.
- Express your gratitude to get the best from your employees.
Drive Germain offers an innovative ownership alternative — car subscriptions
Subscription services have been around for a while for everything from clothing and razors to movies and home-cooked meals. In December 2017, Drive Germain, a subscription automotive fleet, was launched after Germain Automotive Group was approached by the people who created the technology behind the app.
“We liked the idea because it really centers around the customer experience, and we thought that we could learn a lot from this model to help us improve our resale and service businesses,” says Austin Germain, general manager of Jaguar Land Rover at Easton, who helped spearhead Drive Germain’s implementation.
Fulfilling a need
Some car manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes were early adopters too, along with some dealerships across the country. But he says they’re the only ones trying it in the Columbus area so far.
With the monthly car subscription, members can flip to a new car as often as they’d like. Germain Automotive Group carries the insurance policy, so you have to qualify to join the program. An app makes it convenient to change cars, but you can still call in if you’d like.
The response to Drive Germain has been better than expected, Germain says. It’s on track to beat the number of subscribers it hoped to have by year end, months in advance.
“We didn’t quite know what to expect. No one had really done it. We knew it was a good idea. We thought the customers would like it, but it was so new and so different, ultimately, we were just hoping that it would succeed — and so far, it has,” Germain says.
Some customers use the program to test drive cars for a few months and then buy or lease whatever they like the most afterwards. In other cases, a snowbird who spends part of the year in Florida can use the subscription service, rather than leaving a car sit dormant for months at a time. For others, the program makes more sense over leasing or buying a car, because of its convenience and ease of use.
Germain said the company is still learning about fleet management, how to have the right cars ready at any given time for a consumer, but the members have been great about giving feedback.
In the coming year, as Germain dealerships add brands, new brands will be brought into the subscription fleet as well.
“We’re just going to continue to grow and continue to learn from this program, learn from the analytics behind it, learn from the data it’s giving us — and it will not only make Drive Germain better, but it will make the Germain Motor Co. better as well,” Germain says.