Auto Manifesto

January 26, 2009

Penske = Smart

Almost everything Roger Penske touches turns to gold, as reported by Automotive News. As the sole U.S. distributor of Smart cars, his company has far exceeded the target of 15,000 units in 2008 (24,622 actually) in large part due to a unique reservation system and 50 city road show. Buyers put down a refundable $99 deposit to get a place in line.

What Penske has done is turn the traditional “push” retail model into a “pull” model. By having the line form before the cars arrive the company knows what the demand is for each specification. And for those customers who cancel, the cars they ordered can be redirected to other buyers who want the same specs.

Further synergy comes through using his truck leasing firm’s call center to handle service and information calls. By opening repair orders during the call, Penske can schedule and direct customers to dealers faster and anticipate labor and parts needs more accurately.

Finally, by doing the promotional road show without traditional print and media advertising the company saved money while getting the word out. Granted this wouldn’t work with most new car launches, but it would probably work well for many unique cars. It’s more incentive for manufacturers to start building unique products that can generate buzz.

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