Suzuki program seeks to boost dealership profitability

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
American Suzuki Motor Corp. is relaunching a program in January that aims to help dealers develop different areas of their stores to improve overall profitability.
The OEM first launched the Image for Success program in the mid-1980s, but Tom Buttleman, American Suzuki Motor Corp.’s dealer development manager, made adjustments to the program to get more dealers involved and make it more in-depth.
Image for Success is designed to help dealers look at different areas of their store and make adjustments accordingly to increase profits. There is no cost to dealers, except for their time, and any Suzuki dealer can participate.
In preparation for the new program, Buttleman worked with Retail Design Associates to put together a book explaining the areas dealers can improve on and how to make those changes.

The program
The original Image for Success program was only for dealers who were starting a dealership or had a 100 percent change in ownership. Buttleman says the new program was modified so all Suzuki dealers could participate.
They also increased the depth of information available to dealers.
“The original way the program was designed was to offer the dealers some ideas on how to improve mainly the aesthetic qualities of their location,” he said. “The original booklet was a little more brief than what I thought we could potentially offer so I looked at trying to expand into some other areas.”
Some additional information the new program covers is 20 group participation, sales training, F&I and traffic logs.
“There’s always been a lot of direction to our retailers to say you should do this or that, but there wasn’t a way to show if you did any of it,” Buttleman said. “We’re really trying to see if there is a way we can offer our ability to quantify where a dealer is at now and potentially adding or expanding some of the other profit centers, so they can improve overall gross margin per square foot.”
To monitor dealer improvement, the program has an evaluation survey. It’s broken up into different departments, and under the departments are areas where dealers can make adjustments/improvements.
“As we roll this out, the district sales manager and dealer will be able to sit down and cover the items on the survey, which will help introduce product, ideas or programs that Suzuki has available for the dealer to potentially improve their profitability, sales or image,” Buttleman said. “Also, this can help them acknowledge or understand some of the expectations we have per the provisions within our dealer agreement and/or district sales manager recommendations.”
Dealers starting the program will meet with the district sales manager and go through the survey to see where the store is currently. After 90 days, the survey is looked at again.
“The expansion of the survey and the interest from the sales floors and management has created some excitement around the idea of us incorporating this survey into an annual or potentially quarterly review,” Buttleman said. “I was trying to expand the survey into a more on-going basis vs. a one-time event.”
The program is voluntary for dealers.
“I think what’s nice is we’re offering this information to the dealers without a catch,” Buttleman noted. “We’re looking to provide them with some great information they can look at and possibly incorporate into their dealership.
“I have great respect for what dealers have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. This is their livelihood and the day-to-day retail demands are incredible. Image for Success provides them with some really easy ways to make a simple evaluation, nothing too complicated, but something that gives them a little something to chew on vs. to say, ‘Hey you should have an F&I department.’”

Image for Success was introduced at the Las Vegas national dealer show in September.
Buttleman says they plan to have full implementation of the program in January. “We’re going to take
small steps into the introduction of the ideas and concepts within this survey,” he said, “and attempt to help build a better relationship between the Suzuki district sales manager or technical service manager and our business partners.
“A lot of times the industry attitude is why would we want to help ABC Motorsports when they also carry XYZ products?” he added. “We need to look beyond that and see that these are our business partners and we need to help them. Hopefully helping them will help us out too in the long run.”

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