1. STRATEGY & COMPANY MISSION
Our company mission has been the same for 22 years: Northland’s strategy is to enable dealers to grow their dealerships and make more profits through our business solutions.
2. MARKETING OBJECTIVES & OPPORTUNITIES FOR 2012 AND BEYOND
Our marketing objective is quite clear to us. We look for an annual increase of 10% in our dealership body each year. We have been doing that for years and we continue to do that going forward. The objective is to aggressively engage in a comprehensive outbound marketing program to get that 10% each year.
As for our marketing challenges — we have two of them that are probably our most important. One of them is keeping up with the law changes in each state. That is always a huge challenge to us because lots of times the states will change their laws on leasing. We have to check each state individually every year to make sure we (and all of our forms) are in compliance with the laws in each particular state. So that’s one of our biggest challenges.
Our second challenge — just about as important or maybe more important — is to keep the customer’s insurance in force on each lease vehicle. That is a nightmare for the dealers and so our company takes that on and tracks the customer’s insurance on a daily basis. We are set up with the insurance companies on a direct computer system that lets us know when a customer drops their insurance or doesn’t pay their premium. We know that about 21% of that type of customer drops their insurance every time it is due. So, you can see the amount of challenge for the dealer to track insurance on their own. It is mind boggling for the dealer. He just becomes overwhelmed so that pretty soon he just throws the notification in the waste paper basket instead of doing something with it and he ends up with a large claim that could bankrupt him.
Here’s a powerful example: we just had a dealer where their lessee hit a police officer. The police officer was injured in the accident so now the state is coming after the lessee and the dealership, of course, for compensation for that police officer and all medical bills. So, you can see if a dealer fails to have proper contingent liability insurance in force, a claim of this size is going to bankrupt the dealer.
3. INDUSTRY & MARKET SITUATION
Well, as everybody knows right now, used car sales are down across the country in the last couple of months. I know some people have asked me and said, well, wait a minute we read in the paper where the new car manufacturers did really well last month and I said that is true. I said throughout my lifetime – being 70 years old — I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in the world. Normally what I have seen over the last 30 years that I have been in the auto industry is that the used car market will slow down first and then the new cars come after that. Seems to me to be a normal trend. I am not an economist, but it would not surprise me in the next months for the new car sales to drop off some as well.
I know our country is in some financial trouble and it is going to take a while probably to get out of this situation. I see a much slower market coming and people are keeping their billfolds in their pocket. It is starting to show up in the regular retail sales as well. I notice the last two months have been down. That is a little scary when we have just gotten through a tough market for the car dealers in the first place. Lots of car dealers have gone out of business. On our side of that market, it helps because more people with damaged credit need our type of vehicles.
4. MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT
Starting Ren’T’Own/Lease’T’Own program in the United States 22 years ago. It has been a significant accomplishment in working with the Attorney General in each state all the way along. Getting to all of the Attorney Generals, we have been able to keep our dealers in compliance. This has always been our biggest challenge. In most of the last few years, we have very few problems with the states. I believe that would be our greatest accomplishment all the way along and still is, that we have never lost a challenge with any state on our legal issues at all. Dealers that use our system and maintain compliance and guidelines operate in a safe business manner. I think, that we can bring to dealers a complete and proven turn-key business solution. Anyone can start their own program, which is not a problem. Making sure that it is legal and stays legal is a much bigger problem.