James Flammang, WardsAuto
Mar. 8, 2012 11:30am
“We can all learn from young people,” says Brian Benstock, head of Paragon Acura-Honda.
LAS VEGAS – Brian Benstock, head of Paragon Acura-Honda in Woodside, NY, has some unique ideas on how to run the dealership’s used-car program, including who prices the cars for retail sales.
Instead of the expected veterans handling that end of the business, his team consists of two 23-year-old men.
They price all cars for Paragon: one does Acuras, the other Hondas. A third young fellow, also in his early 20s, prices at Paragon’s sister store.
“I left the dinosaurs behind,” Benstock says with a smile. “You don’t know that you’re extinct until you’re already extinct.”
On a serious note, he warns that, no matter how old, the person buying a car at wholesale or trade-in should not turn around and price the car for retail. Why? Because it is hard to admit a mistake.
As for his young pricers, “They look at it as a math problem,” Benstock says. “You don’t need a $200,000 or $300,000 used-car manager” to price cars.
They consider transaction prices from previous sales, then determine the ideal pricing spot for desirable gross and profit. Stay 1% to 2% under that optimum figure, and you’ll deliver the “highest-quality product at the lowest-possible price,” Benstock says.
He contends that “many of our competitors are trying to underprice us,” but then add fees that vex customers. Some dealers, he says, “price their cars as if they were exotics.”
Used cars constitute 46% of Paragon’s profit. “It’s a really important department,” Benstock says, yet he chooses to “entrust this to three kids.” All sold cars for a while, but their experience falls far short of what’s customary in the business for what they do now.
On the other hand, “you don’t need to be an artist” to price cars, Benstock tells WardsAuto here at a recent National Remarketing Conference session on certified pre-owned vehicle programs.
Previously, one person did all the pricing at Paragon, but it proved too much to handle alone. The staffer became “too reactive, not proactive.” She still works at Paragon, in a different capacity.
When obtaining used-car inventory, Benstock says “We hunt with a laser, not with a shotgun.” The goal is to acquire the best choices, with highest statistical probability of yielding acceptable profit.
Hiring of employees from a younger generation is “based on the quality of niceness,” he says.
Benstock came up with a simple rule: “Would you let this employee babysit your child?” If not, he reasons, why put such a person in charge of a multi-million-dollar inventory? “We need people to be friendly and nice.”
He draws comparisons to Apple stores where a stereotypical salesperson “may be pimple-faced, wearing earrings and a ponytail,” but is eager to help. “It’s all about customer service.”
Benstock notes differences between dealership veterans who boast about working painfully long hours compared with young employees who say, “That’s stupid.”
If an average “pro” sells 10 cars a month, Benstock says he can take someone right out of high school and have him reaching that level, or better, in a short time.
He sees little evidence of hostility among older workers toward the young hires. Those who might have trouble are managers inclined to expect an employee to do something because “I told you so,” rather than to give a valid reason.
Benstock’s former partner was in his 70s, but “young” in ways that count, he says. Being around younger people has benefits beyond the bottom line. “Surrounding myself with people with energy motivates me. We can all learn from young people.”