Buy Center In a Tent with Eric Hall

August 24, 2022
Everything’s bigger in Texas. Including Classic Chevrolet’s buy center in an 80x30ft tent. Eric Hall is the Internet Director for Classic Chevrolet, and he talks about staying on top as one of the largest volume dealers in the nation, the challenges and success of looking at a buy center in a different way, and what he sees for retail automotive in the next 6 months.
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What we talk about in this episode:
0:00
Intro with Michael Cirillo, Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier.

3:59 Eric talks about becoming President of his NADA class.

11:47 Classic Chevrolet is a high producing store. Depending on who you ask, it’s one of the biggest GM stores in the nation. Eric tries to clear up where Classic sits in the list of top GM dealers.

18:10 Classic Chevrolet’s tent buy center has become so popular that other dealers are sending their customers to it for appraisals.

24:07 Eric is looking 6 months ahead and thinking about Christmas, but from a people perspective, not a sales perspective.

And keep in mind, coming in six months, we'll be going into the end of the year, so holiday time, keeping your people aware, keeping your people happy but you know, obviously holidays are a rough time for a lot of people and sometimes we forget about those. So you know being top of mind with your teammates and just being present for your people in general.”

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SPEAKERS

Kyle Mountsier, Eric Hall, Paul Daly, Michael Cirillo


Michael Cirillo  00:00

All right, so both you know, I'm in Texas now. It's been a bit of a culture shock


00:11

This is Auto Collabs,


Michael Cirillo  00:13

especially coming from Canada, where a large dealership, you know, you can pass it in about a blink of an eye, you're driving past it, and it's like, oh,


Paul Daly  00:23

there it was large and air quotes.


Michael Cirillo  00:25

Yes, there have been several occasions driving down the freeway in the Dallas metroplex, that I'm like, oh, there's a Chevy store that just keeps going and going and going. Same Chevy store still kids, same Chevy store and you feel like you've passed through municipalities. But you're still like this thing. It could be the size of the town that I grew up in. Lo and behold, it is where our guest today works. Of course, I'm excited to dig into his conversation and learn a little bit more about what he's got going on over there. None other than the man Eric Hall. You guys have gotten to know him quite well over the past, what few months it


Kyle Mountsier  01:02

was, it's one of those kind of pandemic introductions, I think through clubhouse for me. And, and one of the things that is really what I love about Eric is he has an extremely selfless personality, you know, we'll probably find this out. But I'm, I know a little bit of the story of how he became the NADA class president for his recent NADA graduation. And I hope we can dig into that into the interview a little bit, as well as one of the things that he did through through like 2021 and early 2022. Was do at Facebook Lives dedicated to serving salespeople in our industry. But what do you mean? Yeah, so so he and Dusty Sutherland, Sutherland just held weekly Facebook lives that were dedicated to creating a space for salespeople to learn and understand how to build their brand. And like selfless Wow, not not in a way that was? No, you need to come and work for us classic, this is how we do it. It was just like, here's some opportunities they brought on guests, they brought on hosts. And it was it was just like a selfless effort to say, hey, look, I'm here for the industry, not just for something self serving. And I think that that's the heart of him and the team at Classic.


Paul Daly  02:19

So I mean, let's just get into the interview because I want to hear the story behind the story. I didn't know that.


Kyle Mountsier  02:35

All right, we are hanging out with Eric Hall, the internet director of well, the highly debated whether or not it is the largest Chevy dealership in the country. Yes, some people they're number one other people. They're number five, we could let Eric talk about that. But classic Chevrolet, and excited to have you. Thanks for joining us today, man.


Eric Hall  02:57

And it's truly an honor, I appreciate you guys giving me the opportunity. So


Kyle Mountsier  03:01

Eric is Eric is definitely one of those, you know, longtime listeners, first time caller type type thing in the ASOTU world. But I'm really excited to have him and he's going to be a part of ASOTU CON in September and be a part of the session schedule in the content there. And I just love that Eric, one of the things that I love about you is you're just always willing to just be there to help right? You're there's no pride, there's no you know, I you've done some stuff on Facebook to even just like draw together communities and tell some stories and give some feedback and support salespeople. So I really appreciate that about you. I'm gonna give one more bio thing. He was a recent class president of a GM school and NADA so I didn't even wait, hold on.


Paul Daly  03:50

I didn't realize they have class president they were you elected? Yes,


Eric Hall  03:54

I was. I was elected. I didn't know anything about it until I got there. And, you know, I tell everybody that was in my class, it was kind of selfish on my part, because I wanted to teach as much into the class as I possibly could or get as much out as I possibly could. So you know, before we started class, I got everybody kind of together, just kind of as a late night Meet and Greet before we had class. And I was trying to get everybody's phone number because I wanted to make sure that I could continue to keep communications going. And like I said, I did it kind of selfishly and didn't know anything about the president opportunity until the election time came. So yeah, it was pretty cool.


Kyle Mountsier  04:42

He was a Debian president before he actually was that's uncle


Paul Daly  04:44

that's, I mean, that's like a leadership principle. Right? You give the responsibility to someone who's already doing it. Yep. Right. Well, either way, I'm wondering if you had a campaign on like, you know, like better snacks in the waiting room and all that but but I


Eric Hall  05:01

promised I promised everybody a $500 bump on their trade value as we went through class.


Paul Daly  05:09

Like we all got demos, man. Sorry, I had to stop it there. I had no idea that was a part of dealer Academy.


Kyle Mountsier  05:18

No, that's so good. That's so good. So, Eric, I want to hear just, you know, for the for everyone that's listening. And for you and myself and Paul, just kind of like, Where was your start in auto? Was it sales? Was it service? Was it internet? What you know, kind of have you? Where have you been? And how did you get into the industry? And where have you been since then? Yeah,


05:18

I got into the business about 20 years ago, just after 9/11. I worked in advertising prior to that. And that's how I ended up in the car business. So been here at Classic for 17 years, started out selling cars, and got into the internet business. I was promoted into finance. At the other dealership that I was at, went through all their they had some changes, like most dealerships do. And all I wanted to do was get back into sales. I had met the internet Director here at this store while I was at that other store and asked her if I could come to work and been here ever since. So I've been director here at Classic for about nine actually isn't even 10 years now. And pretty much developed the BDC I knew where my holes are, where as the salesperson and how I can use RBC to kind of fill those holes. And so that's how we've done it.


Paul Daly  06:39

How did you why did you pick auto? Right? You said you were doing you were in advertising like why automotive?


Eric Hall  06:47

So actually one of one of my clients when I was in marketing was one of the Chevy dealers over here. They were doing so well. My grandfather was in the car business up in Cordyline, Idaho, he was telling me how great things were. Of course, these guys here were killing it. And so that's just kind of where I ended up. It was one of those things like everybody else in the car business. It was gonna hold me over until I could find something else to do 21


Kyle Mountsier  07:20

day on a sidewalk fell into a dealership. It was crazy. And then you were like, there's another job that I want out there. But for some reason the doors and on your way, right on your


Paul Daly  07:31

way out, you decided to stay


Eric Hall  07:35

crazy saying so. I was salesman of the month first month in the business and I'm like, Man, this is this is a lot of fun. It's the same thing, but totally different every day. Yeah.


Kyle Mountsier  07:48

Isn't that interesting? How like, it is an industry where you don't come and just you're like, yep, know what, I know what Wednesday's gonna look like, you know, that's not a thing, right? In every single day presents a new challenge or a new conversation or anything like that. I'm sure you've been a part of some interesting ones over the years. So, you know, the, the I know, classic as just a massive Chevy dealership, has it kind of always been that way or has there been, you know, a shift over the 17 years that you've seen? Is there been an intentionality? Where, what what's been the story since you've been at Classic?


08:29

Yeah, so you know, Classic was always prior to meet him and up here. Classic was always kind of that mysterious dealership yard. They were always doing real well. But it was always you know, known is, unless you're a manager or admin or manager somewhere, you'd never get hired. And so, you know, it was I had done finance. Like I said, I had known Donna, the previous internet director that hired me. And I was done with finance, you know, finances are great for some people. And it was not for me. So I wanted just to get back into sales. And so that's kind of that direction. But you know, we were number one, we're the only GM dealership that has held the number one volume for nine years consecutive. So in that aspect of it, we've always been, you know, a it was the entire 17 years I've been here we've been a top five top 10 store.


Paul Daly  09:34

When When is the big one is is the decade when you hit 10 years. You said nine years?


Eric Hall  09:43

Yeah, so that's a really good question. That's one thing that our owner always reminds us of, hey, you missed the you missed that one year. And, you know, we're working to get back up there. Wait, wait, wait. So


Kyle Mountsier  09:59

So You didn't it was nine years, then you missed a year,


Eric Hall  10:03

don't ya? Yeah. Yeah, we've been we've been a top I want to say we've been a top five store for the last four years. So we missed it after that. That night. We missed the number 10. And so we've been fighting, fighting those top ones their sense. And like, yeah, we're, we're we're making our way back. I


Paul Daly  10:30

didn't mean to bring that up. I thought I


Kyle Mountsier  10:32

was walking every day and over the intercom, he goes, number.


Paul Daly  10:42

Remember? car business? 101. Right. That's so good. That's so good.


Eric Hall  10:51

So good. Always you can always sell one more. Yeah,


Kyle Mountsier  10:55

you know, it's interesting, because a lot of people in automotive, it's like, there's always kind of this target to get to the top or like, how do we grow? But there's a different set of, of intentionality that it takes to stay at the top right, like fallen off that 10 year getting back? And what are the things that that especially right now that the store or your department are kind of fighting and struggling with? To stay at the top right? Because you can't just you can't coast? There's no coasting. What are you? What are the challenges right now that you're that you're facing that, like aren't needing you to meet to stay at the top?


Eric Hall  11:37

You know, right now, we're like everybody else. The biggest thing is, is inventory and a new carside right. You know, and there's a lot of dealers out there that are, you know, number one in volume. And, you know, do well in service or well in parts that aren't, you know, top of their game, you know, we project ourselves to be the best at everything that we do. You know, we're the number one GM parts dealer in the country, we're number one fleet, technically, we are the number one fleet dealer in the country as a GM fleet dealer in the country, which technically, I guess, puts us as the number one volume dealer, for GM volume dealer in the country, retail sales and retail punches is a little bit different. That's where we're sitting in the number five spot here today. But you know, inventory right now is it's it's going across the board, not only for vehicle wise, we're facing it in parts, you know, in service, you know, loan cars, that that that same thing, you know, we're running about 9500 ROs a month through through our service center. And when you've got that kind of volume, you don't know that


Paul Daly  12:52

9500, or you open seven days a week,


Eric Hall  12:56

necessary. Basically, five days a week, we do light maintenance on Saturday, from eight to one.


Kyle Mountsier  13:03

Wait, you're only to one on Saturday to


Eric Hall  13:11

we've got a, you know, obviously been in the Dallas Metro learn a huge metro area where you've got stores that are open Monday through Saturday, you know, seven to nine, seven to 10. We're open Monday through Friday, services, seven to six sales is eight to seven, and then Saturday, eight to six on sales, a one on service, or a first service. Wow,


Kyle Mountsier  13:36

that is like a lesson in efficiency right there. Now, there's stuff that comes along with that, right? But you have to be executing things at like a top level, I don't care how much staff or how many people? Or how much space, you have to do all that there's an efficiency matrix that goes into operating at that level, at a whole dealership, and I'm sure is like, is it just constantly working as a leadership and management team to find those efficiencies in your day?


Eric Hall  14:09

Constantly, and that's, that's probably the biggest thing for us is, is making sure the team is not only performing, you know, with their top level, but doing it in a way that everybody's cohesive, everybody's happy. You know, of course, we're just like every other dealer, you're gonna have those moments and, and, you know, issues between people and personnel. But that's really what we do as a leadership team is try to lift our team constantly, you know, pick up the deficiencies, where they are, and, you know, kind of clear the field for our crew. Basically.


Paul Daly  14:52

What would you say is like, over the last 12 months, obviously, coming out of the pandemic, it's kind of this unknown territory where, you know, we throttled Back to a certain point, now you being in Texas, you didn't have the throttle back as much as you know, some people in other states did, you know you've rolled a little bit more like normal. But obviously the inventory situation and all the other dynamics that are going on in the markets, what is the one thing in the last 12 months that you've, you know, either you're proud of stuff that you put in place to make your, your, your operation smoother, or something you're most excited about that you're implementing right now.


Eric Hall  15:29

So the biggest thing for us and Kyle kind of knows is that we take a lot of pride in our buying center. And we, you know, like everybody else, acquisition became kind of the number one priority for us. And, you know, our GM, guys just phenomenal guy done an amazing job of kind of showing me that, you know, sometimes you got to think outside the box when that boxes is not functioning. And, you know, came up with the idea that said, Hey, let's let's rent a tent, put it out by the service drive, and a couple of banners that say we buy cars, so we got to figure out something. And, you know, we started off with kind of a smaller setup, which eventually led in person to buy in an 80 foot by 30 foot. Giant drive, we're,


Kyle Mountsier  16:25

you know, knowing that not enough people know about this thing, because let me when he says 80 foot by 30 foot giant tent, like normally, people will set up a buy center, right? And they're like, Y'all, we did a buy center. And they're like, it's like this back office that they finally figured out how to clear out all the cleaning stuff. And they shove two people back there with some computer screens, and they're like, we're buying cars from the ERP. I know this, they only did it because it's Texas, right? You can't.


Eric Hall  16:56

It's I'll tell you, I'll tell you a funny story about that, that he may or may not have known. So we were renting this tent originally, we had to then consolidate our 80 foot by 30 foot and had to basically go down to a 20 by 20. Because the people that we were renting it from had pre rented it out for the Texas State Fair. So that's how big this literally was at the State Fair of Texas last year.


Paul Daly  17:29

But you got it back now. Oh, you ended up buying one. We


Eric Hall  17:32

bought it from them. Yeah, we ended up buying it from them because the rental fees that we were paying for it quickly exceeded the cost of it.


Kyle Mountsier  17:42

Right. Right. Yeah. So


Paul Daly  17:42

so it's 112 106 degrees out right now in Texas, as we're as we're talking about with a real feel of about 112 And there's this 30 by 80 tent outside what's going on in the tent right now.


Eric Hall  17:54

So right now, you know, we we've kind of winterized it a little bit and weatherize that I should say. And in doing so, you know, we've been buying everything. We've bought Bentley's Rolls Royces. We've kind of become literally the regional buying center, we have dealerships literally that are across the street from us, that send their people to get buy bids from No way, craziest, craziest thing. I can't, I can tell you stories that would like blow your mind.


Paul Daly  18:27

Why would they tell me why they would do that?


Eric Hall  18:30

Perception is reality, right? I mean, we've got even some of our salespeople that take you know, we've teamed up with the guy from, givemethevin.com. So we've got one of their wholesalers that comes out every Saturday. And we've got some sales guys that tell their customers only bring your cars in to get appraised on Saturdays because they think that the bids are better through the tent. And that perception has kind of become a reality thing. And like I said, we we buy more Highline vehicles than we ever had,


Kyle Mountsier  19:07

and classic vehicles, like things, you know, road anymore. It's


Paul Daly  19:13

like, it's like bringing the trailer.


Eric Hall  19:15

Yeah, I brought it to you said that. That's where I was going. We bought a we bought a travel trailer from people and it kind of sits on the backside of our tent now. So when it's 112 we have air conditioning. It's the greatest thing in the world. But we literally have our mobile office and air conditioned tent. Yeah, we've, we've we've moved the computers and everything into this travel trailer that sits just, you know, we kind of opened one of the sides of the tent, back the Travel Trailer right up to it and we kind of work through there.


Paul Daly  19:51

You are single handedly removing excuses, left and right from everyone who says I don't have the space. I don't have the ability to do it. There's somebody else in my area doing a buy center, you're like we put up a tent, and our competitors sending their customers to us.


Eric Hall  20:10

If you if you build it, they will come and they have.


Kyle Mountsier  20:14

This is this is like the proof case of why brick and mortar stores still are like a big piece of what would it because this is another place that you can find space. Look, nobody has inventory. So it's like, what are you going to do with the empty spaces? Put a big tent out there, put some shines on the thing and buy some cars. Right? Wow.


Eric Hall  20:38

That's the craziest thing we get. I mean, we get customers to this thing. We've been doing it since April of last year. And we weren't really keeping a true number up until about July or August of last year. So I think we've got true records of about a year and we bought over 1700 cars in that last year. So you know, it's it's paid for itself. And what's the crazy, the craziest thing is the majority, I would say well over 85% of the cars that we buy. are frontline ready?


Paul Daly  21:16

That's exactly that was my next question. How many of those you actually keep it?


Kyle Mountsier  21:19

Well, because probably now people are like they're shining those things up. Right? It's like ready to get like, I'm gonna get all if I'm gonna go there. I'm gonna also get all the money, right?


Eric Hall  21:29

Yeah, for sure. And what's crazy is the amount of the amount of times customers tell us man, I didn't know it was this easy. I didn't know you guys bought cars.


Paul Daly  21:40

What are you talking about? Like, how do you talk about that in your marketing?


Eric Hall  21:43

It's it's all over our marketing. I mean, we've got great footage of you know, people come in through the tent vehicles through the tent. I mean, I put up pretty much every Saturday, I'll do either a live or video stream of the cars we're getting in the end, we take pictures of the customers coming through, we've done customer testimonials. So it's I mean, it's a huge, huge message for


Kyle Mountsier  22:11

are you marvel like raising their hand? Like I'll take that one when it's ready.


Eric Hall  22:17

So funny story is we've actually had customers offering to buy it from the people in the tent.


Paul Daly  22:27

Oh, like they're trying to cut you out? Yeah, that's, that's fine. We just have we just have a buyer's fee. 500 bucks, and then let's just let them go on their


Eric Hall  22:42

paperwork for you.


Kyle Mountsier  22:44

That's a man. Genius. That's genius.


Paul Daly  22:47

We never know we're getting into when we go into these conversations, which is why we like the long form conversation a little bit better. Look, a lot of people are watching and listening these looking for the next level up, or the next little thing they can implement in the store, I think you just gave them a real practical way that that excuses can go to the site and they can actually, you know, a dealer could actually start down this path. And what would your one word of advice to be if you get to speak to everyone else in the industry that's like in your position? Or just above? Just below? What What would you say their focus should be over the next six months? Wow.


Eric Hall  23:28

To me, it's, it's still going to be at least for us, it's still in that acquisition mode, and, you know, stuffs not really releasing, you know, you've got OEMs that say, oh, yeah, we're gonna be going into fourth quarter a little bit stronger with production wise and Toyota, you know, to me, Toyota is probably one of the best brands when it comes to logistics, and when they come out and scale their production numbers back again, that tells me that things are, you know, not loosened up as much as other people are saying. So the acquisition you know, is still going to be a huge one. And keep in coming in six months, we'll be going into the end of the year, so holiday time, keeping your people aware keeping your people say happy but you know, obviously holidays are a rough time for a lot of people and sometimes we forget about those. So you know being being top of mind with your with your teammates and just being present for your for your people in general.


Kyle Mountsier  24:40

Man, that's so good. It's like what can you be thinking about now as a business to make sure that the holidays for your people for your community, for everyone around are well taken care of because there's some careful planning that goes into that right. There might be some accruing some some funds to make sure that people are doing care of or your bonuses or the great Christmas party? Or maybe someone's struggling in your in, you know, in an amongst you like, what are you doing right now to prepare to take care of your people in the next like four to six months? That is, that's a student. That's I don't I don't think I've ever thought of like I've never asked that question and ever been like someone's going to tell me what to do to take care of their people in six months from now. And that is yeah, I appreciate that. That was a that was a bold and very well timed answer. I appreciate it.


Paul Daly  25:34

Thank you. Eric Hall Classic Chevrolet. Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us. We can't wait to hang out with you at ASOTU CON.


Eric Hall  25:42

And I'm looking forward to it. So that's gonna be a great time.


Paul Daly  25:47

Well, thanks for being here with us today. We'll talk to you soon.


Eric Hall  25:49

Thanks, guys take care.


Paul Daly  25:55

So it's easy for people to think because their store isn't that big that the person doesn't have any input. Like they can't speak into their situation, because you don't know how it is because you have this big store with all these resources in a major market. I think Eric just gave us some really, really practical ways to get excuses out of the vocabulary, especially I mean, selling that many used cars out of a tent, buying the types of cars that they're buying out of a tent in Texas, like that they rented from the Texas State Fair, and then it became a thing. Like, come on, man.


Kyle Mountsier  26:27

It really it's wild because it and what's crazy is they didn't start with the massive tent They started with okay, we need this thing.


Paul Daly  26:35

Let's try it.


Kyle Mountsier  26:36

Let's grow and let's grow and let's grow it look Classic Chevy. At some point. I don't know when this was didn't wake up and be like, cool. Now we're selling 1000 cars this month. Yeah, right. So now, you know, there's perspective, obviously, that a large group can or a large dealer can do different things, right with resources and people in time and money. But the practicality of going from, you know, starting in a place saying hey, look, we just need to buy more cars, we need to we need to solve this inventory problem. And then stepping into now where they actually own the tent. Right? They didn't do that at the beginning. They didn't pop up one day and be like, everyone, we're gonna buy a massive tent. And if it doesn't work, you're all fired.


Paul Daly  27:21

Yeah, right. Not if not even close. They're just willing. I think it's just that mentality of being willing to try something. Let's try something is okay if it doesn't work.


Michael Cirillo  27:28

Yep. This actually reminded me of I want to say it was one of my first times actually seeing Kyle. And he did this was when you're still in store, and you did a video commercial. You were like walking through the store. You had a cool narrative. Cool camera was the vroom The vroom commercial Reapers show? Yeah, but your narrative around that whole thing was, there's nothing they're doing that I can't do as a single point, as a gripe as whatever. And here we have, you know, an example of that, where it's like, yeah, hey, we can take a proof of concept. Try it at a small scale. And, and really just the emphasis on acquisition, I think is really, really interesting. I'm really fascinated by self sustaining ecosystems, which it sounds like that's what they're building at Classic. Yeah, so


Paul Daly  28:15

looking forward to you to meet Eric Hall at ASOTU CON. Ask them all the questions in person. I want to see more pictures of the tent though, haven't seen nearly enough, so we have Michael Cirilo Kyle Mountsier. Thanks for joining us on Auto Collabs.


28:28

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