Let’s face it: we’re all a little obsessed with prices at the pump. Whether or not the President has any real control over the cost of oil or what gas stations charge for a full tank, the ups and downs of fuel prices are constantly trotted out by politicians and pundits as evidence of failure or success when it comes to an administration’s economic policy, and the current run of low per-gallon charges have been making headlines for months.
Stepping away from the politics and back towards reality, gas prices really do have an impact on people’s daily lives—especially for those with long commutes or who otherwise spend a lot of time behind the wheel. From an all-time high of just over $4 in 2008, the average cost of a gallon of gas in the US has been cut almost in half, and is head back towards the $2 mark after the usual bump in summer prices.
With a 15-gallon tank and assuming a fill-up just once a week, that’s a savings of $1,560 over the course of a year.
With just dramatic numbers and all of the other surrounding hype, some auto sales analysts are claiming that dropping fuel prices are helping to boost auto sales; with less of their money going into the gas tank, consumers have more to spend on the rest of the car, the thinking goes. Yet while lower gas prices certainly don’t hurt, we don’t think they provide the best explanation for the continuing boom in US auto sales.
Gas prices have dropped dramatically over the past year, but car sales were climbing even before the cost of a barrel of oil plummeted. While it’s likely that a few consumers have been willing to buy a vehicle a little sooner with gas being so cheap, and that fuel economy took a back seat to other features in the minds of more than one car buyer given that lower prices look like they’ll be here for awhile, there’s no clear correlation between gas prices or car sales rates in the US over the long-term.
More to the point, there’s absolutely nothing you or your dealership can do about gas prices. Whether or not fuel costs are a major component of current car buying decisions, all you can do is stick around for the same ride your competitors are on. Meanwhile, there are plenty of things you can actually control that have far more to do with helping your customers reach a purchasing decision, and making sure that they make that purchase on your sales floor.
Outreach, customer service, and easing the sales process are the keys to increasing sales rates, same as they always were. There are a few new tools that can help in this digital age, of course, but whether gas rises or falls you have complete control over your dealership’s future.