How do Automotive Dealerships Work? Strategies, Types & Trends 2024

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Automotive Dealership

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5 Min Read

Auto dealerships have always been an integral part of the automotive industry. They offer a range of services, including selling new and used cars, car financing, maintenance and repair services, etc. In recent years, the automotive dealership industry has seen significant growth due to technological advancements and consumer behavior changes.

Carmalls today are faced with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. As technology evolves, auto dealerships must adapt to stay relevant and competitive. This includes implementing new tools and systems to streamline operations, improve customer experiences, and drive revenue growth.

In this blog, we will explore the world of auto dealerships. We will examine how they operate, how you can start your own dealership, and what offerings can attract customers. Let’s begin.


What is an Automotive Dealership?

An automotive dealership is a business entity or person that purchases new vehicles for selling or leasing to customers. The business can sell both new and used vehicles in retail. The dealership is generally in contract with an automaker or a sales subsidiary. Many automobile dealerships also sell auto parts and provide automotive maintenance services.


How do Automotive Dealerships Work?

How Do Automotive Dealerships Work


Specific companies often franchise an auto dealership to sell and service their vehicles. They have physical showrooms that house the used and new vehicles to be sold, areas for offering mechanical services, and repair facilities. The State Law prohibits US car dealerships from buying from the manufacturer directly. Here we discuss the working of various departments of a car dealership.

1. Vehicle Inventory

Used cars are bought through trade-ins or direct purchases. Dealerships use floor plan financing to buy inventory and pay interest on the amount for the time period that a car stays in their lot. This means the quicker the car sells, the better. Discounts are used to sell cars that are sitting on the lot for a long period of time because the primary concern then shifts from making a profit to getting rid of the old inventory.

2. Pricing and Incentives

Some prices can be negotiated, while on other vehicles, the dealership is required to follow strict pricing guidelines. An automotive dealership can get ‘hold-back’ money from the manufacturer, along with other incentives and rebates on new cars. In the case of used cars, the selling price is decided based on what is paid to buy the vehicle and recondition it.

3. Management and Sales

The owner acts as a dealer principal if he owns a single dealership, and appoints managers if he owns more than one dealership. The manager looks after the day-to-day operations dispensing on their agreement with the principal. The manager often needs to buy in as a minority partner and is given bonuses for achieving targets or unusually high profits.

4. Finance and Insurance

F&I, or the finance and insurance department, takes care of the financing for customers. This department makes money by selling the car for a loan using the dealership reserve, earning a profit from the interest charged. Selling of insurance and warranties and the paperwork associated with a vehicle purchase are all taken care of by the F&I department. This department is often called the front end of a dealership.

5. Parts, Service and Body Shop

Where F&I is the front end, the service, parts, and body shop department are the backend of a car dealership. They take care of servicing the vehicle after it has been sold to a customer. They help increase customer interactions and dealership revenue, but not all dealerships have these departments. Nowadays, car dealership DMS software is available for this function.


What Makes a Car Dealership Great?

There are various methods through which you can make a great car dealership. Here are some ways that you can follow to make an auto dealership and provide a pleasant experience.

Creating a great auto dealership involves focusing on several key areas:

1) Responsive Support: Quickly address customer queries and concerns via automotive chatbots, and offer proactive support such as follow-up calls.

2) Accessibility and Convenience: Ensure the dealership is easy to reach, offers flexible hours, and provides a user-friendly online platform for various services.


How to Start an Automotive Dealership


3) Attractive Visual Display: Maintain a clean, high-quality visual display and an appealing, easy-to-navigate car dealer website for the best auto deals.

4) Professional Staff: Employ a team that exhibits professionalism, confidence, and excellent customer service skills.

5) Customer-Centric Approach: Understand and cater to the diverse needs of customers, offering personalized service.

6) Transparent and Fair Business Practices: Be clear about pricing and car dealership finance, ensuring customers feel they’re getting a fair deal.

These strategies help in building a dealership that not only attracts customers but also fosters loyalty and a strong market reputation.



Strategies For Car Dealer Success 2024

In 2024, the automotive landscape is changing faster than ever, so car dealerships need to adapt their strategies to stay ahead of the curve and build strong car dealership deals. Here are some key strategies for car dealer success in 2024:

Technology Integration: Utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to maintain or increase dealership revenue.

High-Quality Listing: Upgrade your inventory outlook with high-quality visuals.

360° virtual tours: Allow customers to explore vehicles virtually from any angle and location.

Focus on building brand loyalty: Implement loyalty programs, referral incentives, and personalized marketing to retain customers and generate repeat business.

Social media marketing: Use social media platforms to showcase your inventory, share customer testimonials, and run targeted advertising campaigns.


Types of Automotive Dealerships

There are various types of automotive dealerships each with their focus, Here we have listed some of the common types of car dealerships:

1) New Auto Dealerships: These dealerships offer brand-new vehicles straight from the manufacturer. Usually, they are franchised, which means they have an agreement with a particular automaker to sell their cars. A manufacturer’s many brands may be sold by certain dealerships.

2) Used Auto Dealerships: Second-hand or cheap car dealers sell previously owned vehicles. They can be independent or affiliated with a new automotive dealership. Some used auto dealerships specialize in certain types of vehicles, such as luxury cars, trucks, or SUVs.

3) Certified Pre-Owned Dealerships: These dealerships offer pre-owned vehicles that have undergone inspection and certification by the manufacturer based on a set of requirements.

4) Electric Vehicle Dealerships: As the EV market grows, dealerships dedicated to selling electric vehicles are becoming more common. These dealerships may also offer charging stations and other services for EV owners.


Trends in the Automotive Dealership Industry

The automotive dealership industry is witnessing several evolving trends, shaped by technological advancements, changes in consumer preferences, and broader economic factors. Here are key trends impacting this sector:

1) Connected Cars and Digital Technology: Dealerships are showcasing cars with advanced digital features, appealing to tech-savvy consumers.

2) Autonomous Vehicle Development: There’s an increasing introduction of semi-autonomous features in cars, as the industry works towards fully autonomous vehicles.

3) Shared Transport: The rise in shared transportation services is leading dealerships to explore shared ownership models and partnerships with ride-sharing companies.

4) Automaker and Tech Company Collaborations: Automakers are partnering with tech companies to integrate cutting-edge technology into vehicles.

5) Electric Vehicle Growth: Increase in production of digital vehicles and dealerships are expanding their electric vehicle offerings in response to increased consumer demand and sustainability initiatives.

6) Sales Slowdown: Changing sales experience and economic challenges have caused a decrease in car sales, leading to enhanced customer experiences and flexible financing options in dealerships.

7) Subscription Plans by Automakers: Some automakers are experimenting with vehicle subscription services as an alternative to traditional ownership.

8) Mobile Marketing Emphasis: Dealerships are focusing on mobile marketing strategies, including mobile-optimized best car sales websites and targeted ads.

9) Augmented Reality in Showrooms: AR technology is being used for virtual test drives and interactive car features.

10) Automotive Marketing Trends: Personalization and digital marketing are increasingly important for engaging customers.

11) Global Increase in EV Adoption: There’s a worldwide trend towards electric vehicles, influencing dealership inventory and marketing.

12) Automotive Digital Retail: The vehicle purchases shift towards online car shopping is leading dealerships to enhance their digital retail platforms. Also, maintain related blogs.

These trends reflect a shift towards more technologically advanced, sustainable, and customer-focused practices in the automotive dealership industry.


How To Start a New and Used Car Dealership?

To Start used car dealerships for second-hand car dealers or build a new auto dealership from scratch you need to follow these simple steps:

1) Market Research: Analyze the local car dealers’ market and identify your target market.

2) Choose the Name: Choose the appropriate name for your used or new auto dealership.

3) Create a Business Plan: Define your business concept, mission, and values.

4) Obtain Financing for your Dealership: Secure financing for your business’s initial capital needs.

5) Get a Dealership License: Research and apply for the necessary dealer licenses and permits required in your state.

6) Location Scouting: Choose the right location for your car dealership.

7) Stocking Up: Maintain your inventory stock and ensure quality control checks and inspections on purchased vehicles.
8) Build Your Team: Recruit and hire qualified staff for essential roles like sales, service, and administration.

9) Marketing your Dealership: Develop a comprehensive marketing plan utilizing online and offline channels.

10) Launch your Independent Dealership: Prepare your operations for opening day, including inventory, staff training, marketing campaigns, and grand opening events.

By following these steps and remaining adaptable to market changes, you can increase your chances of success in this competitive industry.


Customer Experience in Automotive Dealerships

The customer experience in automotive dealerships has evolved significantly, strongly emphasizing digital transformation and customer-centric approaches. Let’s explore the key factors:

1) Fast response to Inquiries or Complaints: Dealerships are actively utilizing CRM and AI chatbots to provide quick and efficient responses to their customer inquiries.

2) Simple purchasing process: Streamlining the purchasing process by providing clear information, transparent pricing, and minimal paperwork can go a long way in improving customer satisfaction. Online tools for pre-qualification, virtual showrooms, and e-commerce options can further simplify the process.

3) Ability to track orders in real-time: Once a purchase is made, customers want to stay updated on the progress of their delivery. Providing real-time tracking of the car’s status, from manufacturing to final arrival at the dealership, builds trust and reduces anxiety.

4) Clarity and simplicity of product information across channels: Dealerships should ensure easy access to accurate and detailed information across all channels, whether online, in person, or through brochures. Utilizing interactive tools like 360° views and virtual test drives can further enhance clarity.

5) Ability to interact with the company over multiple channels: Customers prefer flexibility in their interactions. Offering diverse communication channels like phone, email, online chat, social media, and even SMS allows customers to choose their preferred method of contact.

By focusing on these key elements, automotive dealerships can create a customer-centric environment that fosters trust, satisfaction, and ultimately, loyalty.

Nature of the Automobile Dealers Industry

Nature of the Automobile Dealers Industry

Auto dealerships link car manufacturers and consumers. They provide a wide range of vehicles at different prices to customers. Here we try to understand a car dealership business model by looking at its nature and work environment.

  • Goods and services: A car dealership sells most of the automobiles, vans, and light trucks that can be seen on the road. The sale of a vehicle can vary depending on consumer taste. Dealerships also offer auto-related services through aftermarket sales departments, including repairs, refinishing, and painting. Apart from generating revenue, this also improves customer satisfaction. Incentives, financing deals, and rebates are offered to customers during slow periods to maintain sales and reduce inventory.
  • Industry organization: New car dealers that sell new cars, SUVs, passenger and cargo vans, and used car dealers that sell previously owned or rented and leased vehicles make up the two segments of the automotive dealership industry. According to NADA, more than half of total sales revenue is due to new vehicle sales. Used car dealerships are also expanding to open stores across the country.
  • Recent developments: Used car sales are earning huge profits while margins of new car sales are shrinking. Automalls now offer certified pre-owned vehicles for customers who want a warranty on their used vehicles. Aftermarket services like vehicle maintenance, repair, and financing are increasing efficiency and flexibility. Apart from sales, car rentals, and leasing, where customers make monthly payments, and eventually return the vehicle, are also being incorporated by dealerships to increase profits and attract a broader customer base.


Work Environment for the Automobile Dealers Industry

  • Hours: The hours may be longer than in other industries. Employees work full-time, sometimes 40 hours per week. Customer service has to be available 24×7, including on weekends.
  • Work environment: Salespersons and administrative staff work in a shared space. Selling is competitive and stressful; meeting quotas and personal sales goals is required. Technicians and repair staff work indoors in well-lit, well-ventilated areas. Dealership managers take precautions to avoid workplace injuries and hazards.


Employment in the Auto Dealers Industry

Employment in the Auto Dealers Industry

There is a shift in trend from purchasing new cars towards favoring used cars. These used car dealership customers can now be found online, with many purchasing online without visiting a dealership.


Occupations in the Automalls

The number of employees in a dealership will depend on its size, number of vehicle handles, location, and distribution and sales operations.

  • Sales and related occupations: Salespersons are the first to greet costumes, identify their reason for a dealership visit, and demonstrate the features of vehicles. They also work with sales supervisors and negotiate the final terms of the sale with the customer. They must be tactful, respectful, and well-groomed.
  • Service and repair department support: They maintain the automotive parts inventory, and promote their sales. They also work closely with garage and repair shops that want to purchase auto parts.
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair-related occupations: The servicing, diagnosing, adjusting, and repairing of automobiles are taken care of by automotive service technicians. Automotive repairers are responsible for repairing and finishing vehicle bodies, straightening bent parts, dent removal, and replacing parts beyond repair.
  • Supervisors of installation and maintenance: They train and supervise the technicians, and oversee the service department operations. They are responsible for efficiency and dealership profitability, including troubleshooting, finding service parts and information, and scheduling customer appointments.
  • Management positions:  Filled by promoting employees, management staff look after market analysis, estimating volume potential of various vehicle models, developing sales campaigns, determining customer needs, etc.
  • Other occupations: This includes administrative and office support staff, involved in accounting, bookkeeping, coordinating operations, car dealership marketing and supervising. They mostly perform managerial duties.


Training and Advancement in the Automobile Dealers Industry

Advancement in the Automobile Dealers Industry


Since the automobile industry is constantly evolving, employees need to be constantly trained in automotive software usage advertising, communication, repairs, etc. If you are still wondering about employee training, here are 5 ways employee training can lead to the advancement of your dealership.

1. Better Product Knowledge

Salespersons should be trained and given information about the various makes and models of cars. This can be done by distributing information packets or helping them check out the cars in person. Individual training can also be given to identify problem areas for each employee and focus on that aspect. Group training should help them stay informed and build team rapport.

2. Staying in Touch with Customers

Employees should be trained to communicate with customers using social media platforms. This can be through posts, comments, or face-to-face interactions. These can be used to understand the budget and preferences of your customers. The employees must use the information on contact and about pages of company websites for uniform messaging. Emails and other forums can be used to raise and discuss customer queries, provided employees have been trained to answer questions and provide solutions.

3. Understanding of Car Dealership Progress

Training sales staff can also help identify problem areas in the working of the automall, by understanding the progress of each employee. Staff members can train each other; they can communicate better since they are from the same team. Once everyone is on the same page, meeting sales goals will become easier.

4. Helping Salespeople Stand Out

This means identifying and using the strengths of the salespeople. Those with better face-to-face interaction skills should be trained to enhance them. This also means identifying what is missing in their pitch to the customers. Some staff members can be trained to work on social media marketing and the dealership website to give attention to online customers.

5. Appealing to Different Demographics

Different demographics of customers have different needs, so your employees must be able to identify and approach them accordingly. Online promotions and automotive solutions should also be focused on, and phone call training should also be highlighted. Social media posts should target different age groups, and promotional content can be customized based on customer needs.


Benefits Car Dealerships Offer to Consumers

Car Dealerships Offer To Consumers

Here are some benefits that automotive dealerships offer buyers for increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.


Price competition

Dealerships are in fierce competition over prices, leading to lower costs and better customer service. There is transparency in pricing and negotiation. In the case of direct sales, the factory fixes the price, so there is no room for negotiation. The cost of showrooms, lots, staff, inventory holding, etc., is also involved in retail.

Consumer safety

Dealerships ensure that warranty and safety issues are addressed efficiently. Incentives are given to dealers to respond quickly to the safety concerns of customers; automakers pay them to perform recall and warranty checks.

Local economic benefits

Dealerships provide jobs to the community and opportunities for professional development to their employees. Dealership profits also benefit the community; local auto malls hire local people.

Added value

The complex process of buying a car is simplified by dealerships. They also offer a wide range of financing options to make cars more affordable. Many auto dealerships also offer assistance with title, registration, and regulatory paperwork.


What is the future outlook for the automotive dealership industry?

The future outlook for the automotive industry dealership is diverse. It’s a transformative period that influences so many factors. Let’s explore various factors:

1) Impact of Decreasing Dealer Margin: Intense competition from all sources whether it is traditional or online platform. Dealers may see a shift downward in dealer margin.

2) Technological Advancement: Utilizing AI for tasks like lead generation, auto photography personalization, and predictive maintenance can enhance efficiency and customer service. Analyzing big data can provide valuable insights into customer behavior and market trends.

3) Regulatory Changes: Environmental regulations and changes in laws regarding direct sales by manufacturers could disrupt traditional dealership models.

4) Consumer Trends: Shifting consumer preferences toward shared mobility, car-sharing services, and subscription models could impact traditional car ownership levels.

5) Economic Factors: Global economic fluctuations and uncertainty can affect consumer spending and car buying decisions.



Automotive dealerships are an integral part of the automotive industry. Various departments take care of the operations, from inventory management to F&I services. Employees of these departments contribute to the dealership’s efficient working, and training them can drive up sales.

The automotive dealership industry faces a dynamic future shaped by evolving technology, consumer preferences, and regulatory landscapes. Dealerships must adapt to decreasing margins, leverage technological advancements, and respond to changing consumer trends, including the rise of shared mobility and subscription models. Navigating these challenges and opportunities requires innovation, customer-centric approaches, and a keen understanding of market fluctuations.


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  • Q. What are the costs involved in opening an Automotive dealership?

    The total cost of opening a car dealership can range from $100,000 to $200,000. The cost will depend on the location of your dealership and its type.

  • Q. What are the ongoing expenses for an Automotive dealership?

    Listed below are factors that will contribute to the ongoing expenses of your car dealership.

    1. Rent and Lease
    2. Office and shop supplies
    3. Inventory
    4. Payroll
    5. Advertising
    6. Bonds and Insurance

  • Q. How does an Automotive dealership make money?

    Sales, F&I, and Services are three major operations that contribute to the profit of a car dealership. 

  • Q. How much profit does a dealership make?

    Dealerships make money through car sales, parts, and services. The estimated profit on every car sold is around $2000, including $200 lost on purchasing the car.

  • Q. What makes the most money in a car dealership?

    Profits on the sale of accessories and warranties are higher than the profit earned by the sale of the car itself. The major ways car dealerships earn money are:

    • Sale of a new car.
    • Warranties, accessories, and financing.
    • Sale of used cars.
    • The service department.

  • Q. Is a car dealership business profitable?

    Yes, car dealership business models can be very profitable.

  • Q. What is the most profitable department in a car dealership?

    The most profitable departments in a car dealership are the services and parts department.

  • Q. What is the difference between new and used car dealerships?

    New dealerships usually have higher prices due to exceeding costs and added value of certified pre-owned vehicles, whereas used cars can be less expensive and may compromise on quality and warranty.

  • Q. What is a franchise dealership?

    Those dealerships operate under agreements with manufacturers and distributors to sell new cars known as franchise dealerships.

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