Allen Lentsch, Founder, Owner & CEO of Northland Auto Enterprises, Inc.,

lentsch_allen_northland

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.