Modern day car buying is now all about choice. The consumer has so many options when buying a car these days that it can be a little daunting venturing out into the market. One alternative way of getting that new car, which is increasing in popularity is to utilize the services of a broker or “sourcing specialist” as they are sometimes referred.
Motor Trade Insider recently met up with Jeremy Sargeant of WR Autos, a specialist car sourcing company and asked him to give us the “inside” track.
We first asked him about his business model and what sort of experience customers could expect when using a company like his.
“WR Autos is not just about finding good cars at good prices. They key point of using me is that I work directly for the client on a fixed fee basis, so my advice is impartial and focussed directly at the client’s needs. My clients are not a onetime revenue stream.”
From Jeremy’s point of view the service he provides is designed to “build trust and long term relationships, as instead of having sales targets and a forecourt full of stock, I am able to choose the best option for the customer every time. That includes being able to advise on things like residual value.”
“My car sourcing service, by its nature, incorporates a complete consultancy package from choosing the car right through the whole ownership experience and eventual resale and replacement. Clients may not always want or need advice, but it is available when needed.”
When using a car sourcing agent or broker customers basically go through a six step process:
• Customer talks to the sourcing agent and asks him to evaluate the best car to buy.
• A budget is agreed.
• The sourcing agent finds the right car and the customer agrees to buy it.
• The customer pays for the car
• The sourcing agent checks the car and makes sure it is as good as possible
• The customer collects the car or has it delivered.
We asked Jeremy to give us a detailed overview the service he offers;
“The way it works for the client is flexible and depends upon the individuals needs. Much of the process below is not needed for sourcing new cars, but 95% of my work is in supplying used cars. Clients generally fall into two broad categories. Those that know exactly what they want and those that want advice on the vehicle to choose."
"The first category is pretty straightforward. For those that know what they want, I advise what sort of price they will have to pay, or if budget is fixed, what sort of age and mileage combination they will be able to afford. I would always offer advice at this stage if I think the customer could choose a better model or if I think the specification they have chosen is going to work against them when they sell the car. I then source the car and arrange delivery. "
"The second category is more common. All of my clients have a broad idea of what they want. Some have an idea of what they can get for the money. I talk to my customers, ideally face to face, and build a profile of the car they want. I factor in everything needed to work out the best cars to go for and then give them some options. During the specification process, I establish what the car has to do – carry loads, cruise the motorway, take the kids to school etc. I note clients’ needs and expectations on performance, economy, reliability, specification, condition, colour, badge, service costs, insurance group, CO2 band etc.
Key factors include the expected annual mileage and the length of time the client expects to keep the car. Both of these have an impact on how seriously we need to consider future resale value. As part of this process, I factor in my knowledge and available data on common faults and reliability issues with certain models. Very few clients ask to look at cars in the flesh or to drive them before deciding what to have. For those that do want to do this I arrange test drives, provide archive photos, specification lists and whatever else is necessary. Many have already been round a few dealers and know what they like and don’t like."
"Once the right choose of car is made, the process is straightforward. I search for the right car at the right price. Once it is located, I describe it to the client or take them to look at it, depending on the source and whether or not they want to see the car. (99% don’t because they trust my judgement having gone through the specification phase or because they have dealt with me before). At this stage I describe any obvious remedial requirement such as tyres, chips and dents and service and cam belt status"
"The client pays for the car at this point. It then goes into the workshop for a complete check and any work agreed with the client is done at trade price. I make sure there are no nasty surprises as part of the buying process, so budgeting for things like a service, MOT or replacement of wear and tear items is done when I select the car. When I am satisfied with the car, it is delivered, by me, to the customer or collected by them. When it arrives, it is better prepared and checked and cheaper than it would have been from any dealer."
"One regular client described the service rather simplistically as follows: “It’s brilliantly simple – you just order a car, exchange a few emails and give Jeremy some money. Then he turns up with your new car and takes the old one away, absolutely no admin!”
What would you advise a prospective client to do for his gathering information and test drive needs before making a decision? Is this something you can help with?
“I offer help on these aspects as part of what I do. Most clients do some research and have preconceived ideas. I help by building a tailored specification of the car based on the client’s unique needs. Then I arrange pictures, viewings, test drives or whatever is needed.”
Where are your cars sourced from and do you have preferred suppliers?
“My cars come from a diverse range of sources. Many are trade only, such as fleet and lease end of contract vehicles. Some are sourced from main dealer stock at trade rates and some are sourced from small ads. I do not have preferred suppliers, but know who I can and can’t trust.”
You obviously supply new and used cars do you import cars?
“I can import cars, but have my own views on the viability of doing so. If someone wants an American car not available in the UK, then I am happy to help. If it is grey or Jap imports, then I try not to get involved, because it is difficult to authenticate the vehicles and in some instances hard to sell them for clients in the future.”
How do you ensure a customer receives continued after-sales care? Or are you simply a sourcing company who will save money and aggravation at point of purchase.
“Categorically, yes I provide solid after sales support. For example, I remind customers about MOT and service due dates. I help out with warranty renewal; provide discounted smart repair and workshop facilities for local clients. I encourage clients to contact me post sale to answer and query however trivial. For example, I have just helped someone source a tow bar and have just notified someone else that their car has a recall issued for it.”
How do you sell a customer’s part-exchange?
“It depends whether they need to use the proceeds from the sale to fund the next car. Some I buy at their part exchange value, some I sell to other dealers, some I sell on a commission basis. In many cases, I supply the new car then sell the part exchange on the clients’ behalf for more than its part exchange value.”
Have you any horror stories to share with our readers of dodgy dealers antics
“There are probably too many to mention. One of the most startling recently was a BMW M6 that I rejected because the mileage was dubious. A 2 owner car, It had not been serviced until it was 18 months old and changed hands. At this point, the DVLA were notified that it had covered 32000 miles. In the next 2 years it was serviced twice by BMW at a lower mileage! It is for sale on a main dealer’s forecourt with warranted mileage of 9000. Probably a genuine mistake by the dealer, but then again, they can do the same checks I do…….
How about the main dealer that took a set of wheels to my refurb man and asked him to put 2 of the tyres on the other way round, so the worn tread was on the inside………customer shouldn’t spot that till he crashes!
Then there was the unfortunate guy who is now a client of mine for life. His previous car was bought from a small dealer with full service history. It needed a cam belt which the dealer duly did when asked to. A week later, the cam belt failed. The dealer had stamped the book and written in the cam belt change, but must just have forgotten to actually invest the time or money in really doing it. As for the service history – the book had two stamps in 7 years but they were irrelevant because it wasn’t even the right book for the car!
Of course there is also the warranty thing. I have actually seen 3 month warranties from dealers that have a claim limit of £50!!
Two of my clients have been told recently by main dealers that they will get a car in to show them, but only if they first pay a £500 deposit!
Finally there’s the elderly gentleman who bought a 3 year old M class from a car supermarket. When he came to me he was disappointed that his new car wouldn’t make it up the hill by his house. He had called the salesman who said, they were a bit underpowered and he shouldn’t worry about it. The car had a fault which only cost £75 to rectify. It could not have had a presale inspection. I drove it 50 yards before diagnosing, correctly, that the air flow meter was faulty.”
Do you have any funny or interesting anecdotes in your dealings with both customers and your suppliers?
“I was once asked to select a car on the criteria that a 6 foot spade would fit in the boot!”
Jeremy is pleased with the organic growth of his business and he receives a lot of referrals via word of mouth. He is mindful of the fact that the size of the business needs to remain manageable in order for him to continue to offer the personal service he does currently but he is looking at ways of generating business outside of his current customer base.
We at MTI wish him every success.