For two days, April 24 and 25 in Quebec City, CCAQ member car dealerships worked to redefine their business framework and rebuild their reputation with consumers.
The Corporation des concessionnaires automobiles du Québec (CCAQ) is the umbrella organization for 10 regional corporations representing more than 890 companies, or 99% of all dealerships. With this representation, the association, now chaired by Ian Sam Yue Chi, decided to roll up its sleeves and tackle several issues directly affecting the operations of its members.
This was the first meeting of this nature organized by the CCAQ.
The main objective of this exceptional meeting was to establish a manifesto for all dealerships setting out their commitment in four main areas: the customer experience and consumer confidence, the image of the automotive industry, the dealership business model and the employee experience within the dealership.
An image to restore
The 350 or so dealer representatives gathered on site at the Voltigeurs Armoury in Quebec City were confronted, right from the start, with a powerful context. Repeated complaints to the Office de la protection du Consommateur, denunciations of bad practices to the Agence des marchés financiers and class action suits putting dozens of dealers in the public spotlight have fuelled the media for years and have greatly damaged the reputation of dealers.
In fact, while 70% of dealers believe their customers trust them, the consumer view is quite different. Only a slim 9% have a high level of trust in these merchants. This gap between perception and reality was at the heart of the discussions during this meeting.
This loss of consumer confidence also has an impact on dealership operations as workers are less attracted to the industry.
Rebuilding from the inside out
“Just as the Armoury that burned down in 2008 was completely rebuilt from the inside out while preserving the facade, our concessions must transform,” said Sam Yue Chi. “We see inspiring initiatives all over Quebec.”
Divided into four groups for each theme, the dealers, who represented more than 50% of the member companies, got down to work and prepared solutions, taking into account the causes, how the situation has changed in recent years and, above all, what concrete solutions could be included in the manifesto and applied in new car dealerships.
A committee enriched with four dealers analyzed the participants’ suggestions during the evening and presented the most promising leads to the participants’ vote the next day.
On the issue of customer experience, dealers recommend a cultural shift in organizations to regain consumer trust. One way to achieve this would be to require dealers to sell vehicles at the manufacturer’s suggested price (MSRP). This would eliminate the negotiation that is the main irritant for customers as well as for many sales consultants.
The members of the CCAQ also want to see the establishment of tools to measure the ethics of sales teams in an independent manner. It was also proposed that the compensation of sales consultants be reviewed to take into account not only the volume of sales made, but also the level of customer satisfaction.
Certification of Quebec dealers is also being sought to ensure that the services offered are consistent with the commitment to customer satisfaction and the regulatory framework. This certification would be standardized and supported by standardized processes and the creation or maintenance of a customer-focused corporate culture.
To support this certification, the CCAQ would be mandated to establish the framework for the implementation and set up an audit and compliance program, including the use of mystery shoppers.
The idea of calling for the legalization of off-licence sales was rejected by the participants.
In terms of the employee experience, the dealerships have agreed on a commitment to provide a healthy and developmental work environment with transparency and ethics.
The final statement of the discussion regarding this manifesto reads: “We are committed to providing a positive experience for all customers who come to our dealerships.” This wording, as with all of the statements in the manifesto, could vary in form during the development of the final version. The latter will be shared with all Quebec dealers and will also be published in the media.
Rallying the entire industry
In an interview with Autosphere at the conclusion of this meeting that will mark the history of the automotive industry in Quebec, Mr. Sam Yue Chi explained that the CCAQ’s mandate was clear. “We are going to work now, with the entire team of the Corporation, to put in place the means to achieve the mandate entrusted to us by our members. They want to improve their image by evolving their approach with the consumer and implementing tools to measure their progress. I am particularly proud of the strong mobilization of the dealers who participated in this meeting. The dealers present worked hard and put their expertise and experience to work for everyone. Now, we are going to put all our energies into rallying all the dealers to the concrete orientations of the manifesto.”