Knowing what they need to do, and helping them do it, is the key to securing a long relationship.
Any time you make a customer’s first visit a productive and pleasant one, you improve your chances of keeping him. That’s especially important with new Canadians, who may be unsure of how to buy a vehicle and will rely on you to know what to do for them.
It’ll involve some time and work, but if your sales staff makes the extra effort, you could end up with someone who recommends you to friends and family.
The first thing is to reach out to these shoppers. Leverage any multilingual members of your staff, even if they aren’t in the sales department; they can help to translate where necessary. Advertise your languages on your store signage and advertising. You can also reach out to community centres and other organizations that are set up to help immigrants make the transition.
Don’t just advertise your new vehicles, either. Many recent immigrants are looking at more budget-friendly used vehicles. Reach out to these customers with the benefits of buying from you over a private seller—such as certified pre-owned, warranty, or any financing options—and you could create a new relationship with them.
Licensing and financing
Your new customer must have arranged a Canadian driver’s license and insurance. Depending on the province, there may be a grace period, usually around six months, where the license issued from the customer’s home country can be used for driving here. There are a few countries that have reciprocal agreements with Canada, and the other country’s license can be exchanged for a provincial one. In other cases, your customer may be able to take the driving test right away or may have to be treated as a new driver through graduated licensing. If your customer isn’t sure, making the call to the local licensing office to find out what he has to do will work in your favour.
For most new Canadians, obtaining vehicle financing is usually the biggest hurdle, since they won’t have any credit history here. Many automakers are now offering in-house financing options for these circumstances. If yours does, your staff should be very familiar with the programs, and be able to explain them and make the application under the program. It’s likely your OE is already advertising this financing through several channels, but be sure that your own advertising—at your store, on your website, and through social media—also lets newcomers know about the program.
Have options available
Several banks advertise loans for newcomers without a credit history. If the bank you use does this, become familiar with the program before your new customers come to see what you have. If you know what’s needed and how to apply, you can put together the paperwork as you do for your clients who already have their credit scores lined up. Having several options available for customers will help pave their way to getting the loan they need.
Because the lender doesn’t have any credit history here, there may be stiff stipulations on the loan, including a large down payment or high interest rates. If you can offer better terms than your customer’s bank or credit union will, it can pave the way to a sale and to your buyer’s impression of your store.
Depending on the lending program, qualified applicants may include foreign students registered full-time at an accredited Canadian college or university, or temporary residents working under a visa. Needless to say, the length of the loan or lease period can’t be longer than the length of time the person is qualified to stay in Canada under the study permit or work visa.
Buy or lease?
For newcomers, most lenders will require one or more documents, which can include a permanent residency card, a record of landing, a work or study permit or visa, or proof of diplomat status. Other requirements will include proof of income, and proof of an established permanent residence. There is usually a limit to how “new” someone is, and programs will usually establish an eligible period following the date the person came to Canada, such as two or three years. Lenders also typically offer these loans only once, on the buyer’s first vehicle, with subsequent purchases handled as regular financing with the usual requirements.
Along with new or used, some new Canadians may be better off with leasing. It’s up to your staff to ensure that your customer knows exactly what’s involved before signing the paperwork and handing over the vehicle, especially if he or she comes from a region where leasing isn’t commonly done and the terms won’t be familiar.
It’s likely going to involve more explanation than is required with most customers. Any issues that arise from miscommunication, such as understanding the full charges, going over the kilometres or the car’s condition at final handover, are going to be emphasized when your customer tells the story to friends and family.
All of this is extra work for your dealership, but you’ll see the benefits when new customers realize you’re both helpful and trustworthy. Many new Canadians will want help learning what they need to do, and it’s to your advantage to give them what they need.