Automotive Industry Q1 Recap: Supply Chain Issues Persist

Auto Industry Q1 Recap

Auto Industry Q1 Recap

In this installment of the fusionZONE blog, we’re covering the state of the automotive industry following Q1 of 2022.

What’s improved, and what’s stayed the same? Where are the areas of opportunity, and what’s the outlook for Q2 and beyond?

We’ll cover all of these questions and more, so stay with us as we recap Q1 and what to expect in the months ahead.  

The State of the Automotive Industry

 As we covered in our 2022 Automotive Industry Outlook, the auto industry is in a state of flux as suppliers and manufacturers continue to struggle with ongoing automotive supply chain issues.

In particular, the high cost of materials and components and low supply has forced many companies to raise prices on their vehicles. This has led to increased inflation throughout the automotive market, as consumers are increasingly unwilling to pay more for cars.

New vehicle sales in Q1 2022 came in at 3.3 million, according to Kelley Blue Book, down 15.7% year over year from 3.9 million in the first quarter of 2021.

However, Q1’s EV sales of 173,561 set a record for any quarter, representing an increase of 76% from Q1 2021.

Additionally, the industry is seeing some interesting used car market trends as consumers shift away from new cars in favor of cheaper alternatives. We’ll take a closer look at all of these issues in this article.

With the rise in vehicle prices, many consumers are turning to the used car market for cheaper alternatives. In fact, the used car market has seen a surge in popularity in recent months as buyers look to save money on their next purchase.

These used car trends are likely to continue as more and more people become aware of the benefits of buying used cars. Additionally, the increased availability of online resources has made it easier than ever to find quality used cars.

While it’s likely that automotive supply chain issues will continue at least in the short term, there are steps you can take to mitigate the effects on your business.

Opportunities: Overlooked Dealership Profit Centers

Despite the challenges faced in Q1 of 2022, there are some positive signs for the automotive industry.

One is that dealers are starting to focus on profit centers that have been overlooked in recent years. These include things like vehicle buybacks, service centers and parts departments.

By diversifying their revenue streams, dealers are becoming less reliant on new car sales and more resistant to market fluctuations.

Another positive sign is that automotive manufacturers are starting to focus more on electric vehicles. This is a good move for two reasons. First, it helps them meet stricter emissions standards that are being put in place worldwide. Second, electric vehicles are becoming more popular with consumers, so there’s a growing market for them when new vehicle supply improves.

While online car buying is still in its early stages, it’s growing at a rapid pace. More and more people are choosing to buy a car online. This is another area of opportunity for traditional car dealerships to improve and capture the attention of modern and next-generation car buyers.

Another area of opportunity for car dealerships is vehicle buybacks.

Dealers can buy back quality used cars or lease returns to add to their pre-owned inventory. Vehicle buybacks from lease returns or new or used car shoppers can help dealers replenish their inventory during this time of new vehicle scarcity on many lots.

Finally, service centers and parts departments are another potential source of revenue for car dealerships.

As motorists hold onto their vehicles for longer due to the higher prices of new and used cars, they’ll require routine maintenance and repairs. Dealerships that have a strong service center and parts department will be able to capitalize on this trend.

A well-run service center can generate repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing for the dealership. Dealerships that focus on their service center and parts department can create a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

See our 10 tips to increase service department profitability for ways to boost this area of your business!

Q2 Outlook

Despite these positive trends and areas of opportunity, the automotive industry is still facing some significant challenges going into Q2.

Supply chain issues continue to plague the industry, as parts shortages and production delays are becoming more common. Additionally, inflationary pressures are making it difficult for consumers to purchase new vehicles, as the cost of living continues to rise.

In the short term, these challenges are likely to persist, but the automotive industry is poised for a rebound in the long term.

The supply chain constraints will not resolve overnight, so expect more of the same heading into Q2 of 2022.

Some automotive industry experts don’t expect the automotive supply chains to return to some form of normalcy until sometime in 2023. But, of course, that all depends on things we cannot know or control, such as returns to overseas pandemic lockdowns and geopolitical events that could affect that outlook.

It is still too early to tell what the future holds for the automotive industry. However, dealerships will need to continue to be creative in order to adapt and thrive in this ever-changing landscape.

Digital Marketing Resources and Solutions for Q2 and Beyond

Are you looking for online marketing tools and resources to stay ahead of the competition in Q2 and beyond? The fusionZONE team has you covered, from SEO and Google Ads and social media, reputation management and lead conversion tools like our FastRing callback widget.

See our high-performing and competitively priced digital marketing packages for an all-in-one approach to enhancing your online marketing efforts.

You can reach out to the fusionZONE team if you’d like assistance creating a digital marketing playbook to help you thrive in Q2 and beyond!

Also, consider these budget-friendly digital marketing ideas to get you started on increasing leads and sales through the rest of 2022.

2022 Automotive Industry Outlook

The auto industry has experienced unprecedented uncertainty during the global pandemic and subsequent microchip shortage and supply chain issues. Unfortunately, it appears these supply challenges will continue well into 2022 and potentially beyond.

In this week’s edition of the fusionZONE blog, we’re focusing on the outlook for the automotive industry in 2022, including what carmakers and the auto sales industry may be facing over the coming months and year.

We’ll also cover some ways that dealerships can combat supply chain issues and outperform their competition in 2022!

A Look Back

If you look back to early 2021, things were looking up once again. The U.S. economy was surging, picking up steam as we looked to move past the pandemic.

Between low interest rates and stimulus checks, car shoppers were back and ready to buy. As a result, not only did new car and truck sales soar in early 2021, but pre-owned vehicles were becoming harder to find as more drivers jumped back into the market looking to buy.

Some automakers were anticipating a record sales year in 2021, and the industry as a whole forecasted to move 18 million-plus vehicles.

But that was before the microchip shortage and other automotive supply chain issues hit.

Now, the semiconductor shortage is expected to last into 2022. That means carmakers may have to wait another year or even longer to see a new sales record.

Ongoing Supply Chain Challenges

With the supply of new cars remaining constrained into 2022, the used car market will also continue to feel the effects.

Thanks to fewer options and record-high prices, used car buyers and dealerships will likely continue struggling to find ideal vehicles with favorable pricing.

In short, new and used car dealerships will need to continue thinking creatively to overcome inventory issues.

Innovation Helps

The car dealership inventory shortage has indeed forced dealers to think outside the box, and this type of thinking will continue to serve businesses well.

As we mentioned in our “Setting Yourself Up for Success in Q4” blog post, creating a plan to minimize the effects of inventory issues should be a top priority as we look to a new year.

It’s also critical to find better ways to understand your customer base. So dealers will want to consider the key takeaways from post-pandemic shopping patterns.

Want more insights into the car dealership environment for 2022? Then be sure to stay tuned to the fusionZONE blog for automotive industry updates!

This is a developing story. Tune back in for updates!

Don’t Let The Phones Keep Ringing

A strong online presence usually means a higher call volume. This means you need to work the phones better than ever.  Questions you should be asking:

  • When a customer calls the dealership, where does that call go?  Make sure your associates in-store are prepared to respond accordingly.
  • If your BDC is currently working from home, are calls routed to their personal phones?
  • What happens if a customer has service needs? Can you accommodate them at their home, or can a technician offer some tips?
  • Is your team set to text prospects?

The digital workforce depends on phones. Make sure your sales department has one or more active sales routing options to capture people’s interest and turn them into sales.
 
For those customers shopping from home, invite them to speak with a member of the sales team to discuss buying and delivery options on new and pre-owned inventory.
 
Get Some FaceTime

Consider taking to video. Do all you can to help simulate the car-buying experience from a virtual setting. 
Don’t shy away from being creative. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Use your service scheduling tool to make FaceTime appointments to discuss inventory and delivery options.
  • Record more vehicle walk-throughs and feature demos on video. (Video test drives are not recommended.)
  • Consider going live on a social media platform to open a Q&A on financing options, test drive deliveries, at-home vehicle service, or other ways your dealership is adapting to current concerns.

Be aware, the purpose of these calls may vary greatly right now, based on circumstance. These calls could range from the “discovery/information-gathering” phase, where prospects are early in the buying process, to the “buy now” phase, where customers are looking for convenience and immediacy for vehicle purchase and delivery.
 
Buyers still value face-to-face interaction. If you can’t get in front of them all in person, be creative and use technology.

 

 

Google Analytics is a beast. Within it, you can access all the data about your website that you could ever need. Unfortunately, since it is so jam-packed with great data, it can be hard to even know where to begin. I consistently meet with car dealers who aren’t sure what reports they should be looking at and what data they should be gleaned from those reports. Today I will walk you through two reports that everyone should be looking at, from first-time analytics users to the most advanced.

I’ll also give you a few data points to watch on each report, along with some standard goals to aim for! Just these two reports give you an excellent starting point to understanding what is happening on your website. 

These two reports provide valuable information about the behavior of your site visitors and what channels are driving good and bad behavior. When you can identify this, it is easier to fix what is wrong and boost what is right.

 

The two reports are Audience Overview and Channels. 

 

  1. Audience Overview Report

 

When you first log in to Google Analytics, it might seem confusing. My advice for beginners? Ignore the home page (it aggregates data from a variety of reports and isn’t a bad thing to look at, but today we are looking at some specific reports to get specific data). Look at the left-hand side of the menu. One of the options you will see is customers who are currently on your website. This is real-time data on what customers are doing at that moment. However, it is such a small sample set that you should ignore that as well. The larger the data set, the more you can learn from it, and the 10 people that are on your site at this exact moment is a tiny data set. Instead, skip down to “Audience” then to “Overview.”  

This will show your audience (user) activity for the entire site during a given date range. I suggest setting the date range to 1 month (top right). As covered in my last blog (LINK), you want to look at data sets of a minimum of two weeks. Generally speaking, a month of data should be enough for you to make educated decisions. Here are the specific data points I suggest you look at on this report:

 

a) Users

This tells you the number of devices that were on your site during the given date range. This gives you a general idea as to how many people were on your site during the given date range, but keep in mind that a single user could come to your website from multiple devices, and each would be counted as a user. Regardless, this is the most accurate data you have today in analytics as far as the number of users. So, the question is, how many users should you be getting? Roughly 10% of a market is shopping for a car at any given time, but it is entirely unrealistic to think that you will capture that entire market. It is much more reasonable to shoot for somewhere between 1%-3% of your PMA’s population on your site monthly. The goal you set should be realistic. Consider what percentage market share your store owns in your market and set your goal, but 1%-3% of your PMA population is a solid number to set as a goal.

 

b) Sessions & Sessions per User

Next, take a look at sessions. This is how many times your users came to your site during the selected date range. Now look at number of sessions per user. Let’s say your website has 10,000 users, with a combined total of 20,000 sessions. That averages 2 sessions per user. This tells you how many times, on average, your users came to your site during the selected date range. You want sessions per user to be as high as possible because it means people are returning to your site. It’s difficult to set an optimum goal for this metric, but you really want to shoot for anything above 1. Again, the higher, the better, but some of the top sites I see range from 1.5-2.0.  

 

c) Pageviews & Pages/Session

The next metric to look at is pageviews. This tells you how many total pages our users viewed onsite during the selected date range. Now, look at pages/session. This tells you how many pages your users looked at during an average session in the given date range. This is another metric that should to be as high as possible. The more pages your users are looking at, the better. A reasonable goal for this metric is 4 pages/session and above. In general, this means that a user has been to your homepage, SRP, and a couple of VDP’s.

 

d) Average Session Duration

The average session duration shows how long visitors stay on your website. The longer they are on your website, the more engaging it is to them and, most likely, the lower in the buying funnel they are. You should aim for a 4-5-minute time-on-site for average session duration. If this number is too small, visitors are coming to your website and finding irrelevant information or are not able to find what they want.

 

e) Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the final statistic you should look at on your Audience Overview Report. Bounce rate is the percentage of your website traffic that visits, then leaves, without engaging with your site in any way. We should be shooting for a goal of 35%-40% in this category. You may say, well, that seems high, and you want it to be lower. Just keep in mind that bounce rate is natural and will always happen. In fact, sometimes, it makes sense. Perhaps someone googled an event you were hosting at your dealership and clicked through to a page specifically about that event. It would make sense for them to then leave the site without engaging in any way. They got the information that they came for, and then they left. You also don’t want this number to be too low. Anything around 10% is too low and could indicate a setup problem in Google Analytics or Tag Manager.   

The Audience Overview Report gives you an excellent basic overview of website performance and goals you should set, as seen in the example below:

When you look at the numbers, you will probably find your dealership is not hitting every one of them. So, in addition to the Audience Overview Report, you need to know what is driving the numbers, both good and bad. For that, you need the Channels Report.

 

 

2) Channels Report

 

Scroll down on the left side menu and click on “Acquisition,” “All Traffic,” and then “Channels.” This report is where you will identify which channels (i.e., PPC, social media, organic search) are meeting the goals that you have set, and which are falling short.  Here is an example of the Channel Report:

This report breaks down traffic by referrer, which is just where did my traffic come from? Across the top of the report you will see the metrics that you looked at in the audience overview report. This report is the exact same report that you just looked at, except broken down by channel. The channels are lifted down the left-hand side of the report.

The goals that you set for the audience overview report still apply for the most part. I would advise speaking with your provider if you see any channels where you are not meeting the goals that you have set and discuss why they feel you aren’t at the goal you have set. Remember, certain channels will have very different results than others. For example, PPC tends to have a slightly higher bounce rate than most other channels, and display often has bounce rates as high as 90%. Because of this variation, the goals set above are a great guiding line. Still, you will need to discuss with your provider, or someone very familiar with automotive web traffic behavior to determine if there is a cause for concern in a given channel.

The final thing to note in this report is the goal completion metric. This is a metric that is not on the audience overview report. Ask your website provider to track form fills for this metric. You will then be able to see which specific channels are driving most of your website leads! You can actually track almost anything as a goal, but this is a pretty standard one for automotive websites and is a great way to help see what value your various advertising campaigns are delivering.

In summary, while Google Analytics provides a treasure trove of information that you can use, these two reports and key metrics can help you discover how to quickly and easily improve your website performance without being a digital marketing genius.  If you can isolate what is performing well, you can up your spend in that area and further improve results. And, if you can also identify underperforming channels, you can improve their performance or significantly reduce or eliminate spends on those channels.  I have been using Google Analytics for years, and these are still the first two things I look at on any site I advise on and are great reports for Google Analytics beginners and experts alike.  

 

In a quick review of dealership’s websites, I find that many are almost entirely sales focused and tend to neglect the one department that brings the most significant percentage of profit… service. Go ahead. Take a look at a few dealership websites. Service tends to be the red-headed stepchild; often neglected and forgotten. Yet it accounts for 50% or more of a dealership’s revenue.

 

In fact, just 10%, or even less of most dealer websites are dedicated to service, according to an article in Automotive News. Sounds like a bit of an imbalance, doesn’t it?

 

One dealer decided to change that. Feldman Automotive Group increased service-related content on almost all of its websites and, since late 2018, has seen visitor traffic increase by 60%. Perhaps more importantly, customer pay revenue increased by 32% in the first 3 months of 2019!

 

Service-related content is frequently searched for by consumers, yet many dealerships neglect to provide any information at all about this section of their business. In many cases, service coupons and specials are either outdated or non-existent. Keep in mind that any consumers who look at your dealership’s website for service information – and then find none – will simply continue to search and, in many cases, will find that information provided by an independent repair facility such as Jiffy Lube. And they are aggressive, transparent, and current in their pricing and services – which consumers seem to like.

 

In this highly competitive market, it makes sense to produce more service-related content for your website. Be sure to keep your service coupons current, be transparent, and provide information and pricing for your most popular service packages and what they include. Consider having a service director shoot a quick video about why customers should service at your dealership – what the benefits are of getting their vehicle serviced at a franchise dealer versus an independent, for example.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a customer come in for routine maintenance and not just warranty service? If you fail to provide the reasons why a customer should choose you over an independent, the consumer may well choose price and convenience, even if your dealership is competitive.

 

Most dealerships share the reasons why a consumer should buy a car from them. That’s a no-brainer. But too few share why consumers should service their car there as well. In my opinion, the ultimate outcome of neglecting service content and information on your website is just one thing – lost revenue.

 

Hey, it has been proven to work. If Feldman can increase customer pay by 32%; surely it’s worth putting at least a little time and effort into creating that service content. Think about creating blogs (both written and video) with topics such as how to pair your iPhone to the in-vehicle entertainment system, as well as specific services you offer and why they are essential. It is also great to highlight your service personnel, their achievements and training, along with the same message of quality, customer service, professionalism, and convenience that you probably already market in your sales messages.

 

Now, while adding service content to your website is great, taking it one step further is even better. Personally, I recommend specialized service websites as they are a great way to bring more customers into your automotive service and maintenance facility. These sites should be optimized with unique content about all things vehicle maintenance, repair, and service. Let your potential and existing customers know that they can count on you to not only sell them a great vehicle but to keep it in excellent condition. If you drive traffic to your service website, it will also drive more traffic to your main website, meaning you’ll have more people viewing your inventory, so it’s a win-win!

If you up your digital footprint as far as vehicle service is concerned, you should see an increase in service revenue and customer pay ROs. These customers can quickly become loyal brand advocates who you can win over as lifetime customers and also capture future sales from referrals.

 

Make your service department easy to find by providing the type of content consumers are looking for. Become the resource they turn to for information and your efforts could soon result in precisely what your business wants… more profit and more customers.

 

Next Generation Tools Enable Dealers To Contact Customers In Under 6 Seconds, Converting Leads Into Sales
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calf., January 7, 2018 – fusionZONE Automotive, LLC, the automotive industry’s highest-performing dealer website solution, today announced the launch of two lead generation tools, FastRing and FastPrice. These tools enable dealers to instantly generate competitive pricing on a prospective customer’s screen and contact them in under 6 seconds, converting more leads into sales.

 

“Consumers spend more and more time shopping online for a vehicle and expect to get the information they want in real time,” said Brett Sutherlin, FusionZONE Founder. “The days of car dealers withholding prices from potential customers are in the past. When the consumer requests pricing online, they want that information FAST! Unfortunately, many potential customers will leave a dealership website because they had to wait too long, or never received the information at all and went elsewhere,” Sutherlin continued.

 

FastPrice gives customers a “no haggle” price in just two clicks. The customer chooses a vehicle, clicks the “get today’s best price button,” and fills out a simple contact form. Behind the scenes, FastPrice crunches the numbers according to the dealer’s pricing structure, displays the best price instantly on the screen, and sends the dealer the lead.

 

FastPrice can be customized and programmed to give additional options to the information the consumer requested. For example, many dealerships use FastPrice to display new car alternatives or even a Certified or Pre-Owned option in addition to the information and price requested.

 

Dealers using FastPrice see a lift in leads of 100 to 400 percent, which in turn results in more sales. Capital Toyota in Chattanooga, TN, went from averaging 60 leads per month to approximately 432 leads per month, and new and used vehicle sales soared from about 180 a month to over 250.

 

FastPrice and FastRing are highly effective stand-alone products but also work exceptionally well together to make a positive first impression, increase website conversion rates and stop shoppers in their tracks.

 

“We live in a world of fast; fast cars, fast food, faster checkout. Consumers don’t want to wait; they want everything now. In this new car buying era, internet shoppers are no different. You have to grab your customers before they leave your website or a third-party website that features your vehicles, and certainly before they get distracted by another crazy cat video,” said Sutherlin.

 

According to a recent MIT study, the average consumer leaves a website within 30-45 seconds after requesting more information. With FastPrice they get that information immediately. Then, with FastRing they can still be on the dealer’s website when the salesperson receives the lead and calls the customer — all within 6 seconds. FastRing instantly connects the dealership to the customer while they are still browsing the website, dramatically reducing the likelihood of them visiting a competitor site.

 

“With FastRing you are in contact with a lead before the customer has time to click away or even check their email. FastRing connects you with a lead instantly, faster than your competition could ever dream off. First impressions are ones that last and fast impressions are ones that sell,” Sutherlin added.

 

FastRing integrates with 3rd party applications creating instant connections from any lead source. It includes an extensive administration portal with 24/7 access to call data including call recordings and real-time statistics.

 

FastRing and FastPrice will are launching at the 2019 NADA show, January 25-27, 2019, at booth 7935W. For more information, view this video https://tinyurl.com/y7637fc9.

 

To schedule a booth visit, /or a demo, visit: https://www.fzautomotive.com/contact/

 

About fusionZONE Automotive, LLC

 

fusionZONE Automotive offers automotive dealers the nation’s fastest, most cutting-edge customized and responsive websites. With the sole objective of driving website conversions and leads, fusionZONE Automotive websites help dealers sell more cars.

 

fusionZONE also offers complete, progressive digital marketing solutions, streamlining the digital process for dealerships of all sizes.

 

fusionZONE Automotive websites are designed to not only garner as much traffic as possible for dealer clients, but also to actively convert that traffic into leads and sales.

 

fusionZONE is based in Pacific Palisades, CA Lakeland, FL and Seattle, WA.

 

Media Contact:

(424) 330-2356

marketing@fzautomotive.com


Dealerships spend a lot of money on leads. The bigger the store, the more money spent. And, added to that expense are staffing costs and the time and effort involved in trying to engage with consumers who submit the leads.
In the car shopping process consumers conduct a considerable amount of research and visit many different touch points. A major goal of any dealer’s digital advertising is to engage that consumer, capture their interest in a vehicle and get them onto their website. Typically, at that point, the consumer has narrowed their vehicle choice down to one the dealership has in stock, and the behavior indicates a low-funnel buyer.
Then the magic happens… and that customer converts on your website. But then the process grinds to a sickening halt.
Wait a minute – what the heck happens here — why do so few of these leads turn into actual sales?  Something inevitably motivated that car shopper to fill in that form to get more information and initiate contact. So, where’s the problem?
We studied the process in many dealerships and found the problem lies in the fact that the average time for a lead to get into the CRM is 6-12 minutes. This is for a multitude of reasons including poor email providers, volume of requests being processed, etc. But the point is, it’s pretty inefficient.
The faster you obtain the lead information and contact the inquiring customer, the more likely that customer will still be sitting in front of their computer, perhaps even staring at the VDP they converted on! Each passing minute reduces the chance the customer is still in “car-shopping” mode, available to talk. The general rule of thumb is that the first person to get that customer on the phone gets the sale.
However, at most dealerships what happens is as follows: The Internet Manager or BDC team receives that lead in the CRM. Auto-responders get fired out and dealership employees start calling. But the customer does not answer the phone. The Internet Manager or BDC agent might make that initial outbound call within seconds of receiving the lead, but still fail to connect with the customer. Sadly, that lag of 6-12 minutes getting the lead into the CRM can quite simply destroy the sale.
Have you ever heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? The same applies to the digital world. The mechanics involved once a customer clicks that “submit” button typically go something like this:
Customer hits submit.  Information is sent to website provider.  Website provider sends the information to the dealership’s CRM in ADF/XML format. CRM provides dealer with the lead.
If the Internet Manager or BDC agent quickly connects with that lead, the customer is typically impressed and open to talk. It’s the time lag between a customer requesting information and being contacted that reduces contact percentages. It simply creates inefficient communication chains and a poor customer experience.
How can you tell if this is happening at your store? Test it yourself! Submit a lead and monitor how long it takes – on average – for a lead to go from your website into your CRM. But don’t stop there. In addition, monitor how fast someone on your staff reaches out. Both of these factors are vital to improving the time it takes to actually connect with a customer, and from there your overall closing rate.
Customers like a good experience. If you can quickly connect and provide relevant information, this starts building rapport and trust.
Don’t get caught out by a failure to communicate.


The sheer volume of leads many dealerships receive can be overwhelming. And, not only do they have to respond (hopefully quickly) to any new leads, they are also expected to follow up with those leads with a “buy or die” mentality. I can guarantee you that whoever is responsible for following up with leads can quickly be overwhelmed by their to-do list in the CRM.So, what do they do? Quite frankly, they cherry pick leads. They tend to place more focus on new leads, contacting and prioritizing them based on the few tidbits of information the customer enters when filling out the lead form.
To compound the problem, some dealerships fail to teach employees how to interact with these prospective car buyers to take them all the way down the funnel to a sale. This lack of correct training and processes can lead to salespeople pre-qualifying leads, wasting good prospects and leaving money on the table.
For example, let’s say an Internet Manager gets a lead. The customer has a 2017 Ford F-150 with 40,000 miles on it. The Internet Manager immediately believes this lead is a waste of time. Without further investigation they simply think the customer must be upside down on their loan. They may then contact them hesitantly, if at all. If they do reach out they perhaps begin the conversation with a negative attitude and then lose the sale due to lack of interest.
But wait a minute, for all they know the customer doesn’t owe anything on that truck. However, they have already made up their mind and pre-qualified themselves out of a sale. Rather than reaching out and aggressively attempting to contact the customer, they perhaps make one attempt, then move on to the next lead that just came in… and the cycle continues on.
Most salespeople are trained to pre-qualify customers in their normal sales process on the lot, asking exploratory questions to determine whether they should show the customer what they asked to see, or make a beeline into the showroom and have the customer fill out a credit application. But this mindset does not translate well to online leads.
Another part of the problem is that if the person at the dealership lacks sales experience, they quickly learn which leads are “hot” and which are not simply based on whether they are able to contact the customer or have tried a zillion times. Hell, I would probably get frustrated as well.
The point is that every lead is an opportunity and every opportunity should be treated and responded to the same way – quickly.
These days, it is not uncommon for a customer who plans to go car shopping THAT DAY to fill out a lead form on the Internet to see what responses they receive. When they don’t receive anything but auto-responders and templates (yes, they know that they are receiving templated responses), they simply go out and shop.  And if you failed to respond they may very well go shop your competitor who DID respond.
So, firstly don’t pre-qualify your online leads, treat all leads as prospective car sales. And secondly, respond to them quickly and appropriately.
Otherwise you are losing sales and throwing money away on leads that are never followed up. How many times has your dealership sold a car to someone upside down, with challenged credit or who seems like a lost cause when they came onto the lot? I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of those instances. The same applies to online leads.
Treat every Internet lead as an opportunity. Treat them all the same and do so quickly. Establish a process and reward those that follow it.
Sometimes, the runt of the litter turns into the strongest dog in the pack. And those can be the dogs with the most potential, but the easiest to miss.