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Dealing with Automotive Dealerships

(September 2008) posted on Tue Sep 23, 2008

Four methods for partnering with dealers.

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By Jared Smith

A dealership could offer to deliver not only a brand new truck to a client, but this truck could come from the dealership completely wrapped in that customer’s brand. This is a service that should come with a warranty and is a big enough ticket item that the dealerships could stand to make a great margin. This, in turn, means that the sales staff at that dealership could make a higher commission as well.

An obvious challenge here is working through the design phase with the dealership playing middle man. They typically are not educated in using graphics to communicate a message and anytime you cannot speak directly to the end client there's the possibility of communication errors. With some well-thought-out practices and expectations put in place, however, this challenge can be met.

Method number four: Roll your invoice into the financing of the vehicle. Most vehicles today are configured per the client’s request. Whether it be paint color, window tint, or interior options, there is usually some configuration before the client takes delivery. If pitched correctly, graphics can be one of those available options. Keep in mind that dealerships make money on the financing as well. So here's yet another opportunity for the dealership to make an extra margin.

You quote the graphics to the dealership or the end client (depending on how the dealership would like it to go) and, once accepted, that amount is added to the purchase price. Upon completion of the graphics, you are paid by the finance company in full and the end client simply makes his or her auto loan payments as usual. Again, this is a slightly involved process to get set-up, but since we're living in a convenience world that loves to buy on credit, offering this type of a solution is just one more service that can not only separate you from the rest but specifically help ensure that you are the shop getting the business.

Becoming the default option
The successes or failures earned in dealing with the dealerships hinges upon your ability to listen to their needs, supply a solution that meets those needs, and stay in front of them with enough regularity to become the default option when graphics are needed. Plus, the complexity of some of these solutions can actually work to your benefit: If it's difficult to get these programs in place, get them streamlined, and get them implemented, then it will be even more difficult for a competitor to "uproot" your program-especially if you are delivering on your promises.

Put yourself in the dealership’s shoes and do everything you can to help them with their objectives. If you can do that while meeting your own objectives, then dealing with dealerships will be a good deal for everyone.

Jared Smith is president of bluemedia (, a leading provider of design and printing for use in vehicle, large-format, and environmental applications, in Tempe, Arizona.