Navigating the Road Ahead: Challenges and Strategies for Canadian Car Dealerships in 2024

By Ian Cruickshank

The Canadian automotive landscape is entering a more turbulent period of economic shifts, fluctuating vehicle inventory, and intensified competition, forcing us all to be more attentive. As the CEO of Leadbox, I have the pleasure of having many conversations with our Dealer Partners and many other bright minds in the market. While numerous challenges exist, most are opportunities in disguise – that will more clearly separate the winners and losers. 

Economic Hurdles:

The first challenge on the horizon is the economic landscape marked by high interest rates and escalating vehicle prices. Economic factors are pivotal in shaping consumer behaviour, and higher interest rates can deter potential buyers. Car dealerships need to recalibrate their financing options and communicate transparently about the value proposition of their offerings. Emphasizing the long-term benefits of owning a vehicle and providing flexible financing solutions can help mitigate the impact of rising interest rates. While it might be difficult, buying down rates will have a huge impact on this year’s sales as car buyers are hunting for great rates. 

Vehicle Inventory Dilemma:

After more than two years of grappling with significant inventory shortages, dealerships now find themselves in a paradoxical situation with excess inventory due to increased supply and reduced demand. Dealers will need a multi-pronged strategic approach to manage the inventory pileup. Dealerships will need to consider implementing data-driven inventory management systems to help them monitor the makeup of their inventory more tightly. Set a mandatory sell-by date for any aging inventory of 45, 60, or XX number of days that is appropriate for your market. The stricter, the better, and stick to it. Lastly, use marketing tools that are tied to your inventory so that you can adjust your spending based on the individual VIN.

Intensified Competition:

The automotive landscape is witnessing an influx of new players, disrupting the market that traditional manufacturers have long dominated. The likes of Rivian, Lucid, VinFast, and others, inspired by Tesla’s success, are entering quickly. Dealerships must evolve their marketing strategies to emphasize their unique value propositions to stay competitive. Your brand most definitely has electric vehicles; make sure these vehicles are front and centre on your website and in your showroom (barring certain markets*). While all of these new brands are getting lots of press, the typical consumer still prefers to buy from a trusted, long-tenured manufacturer with reliable service, and most car buyers still need the help of a dealership to organize financing or leasing. 

Competitive Marketing Strategies:

In the face of heightened competition, effective marketing strategies become paramount. Dealerships should leverage digital marketing tools to reach a wider audience, tapping into social media, search engine optimization, and targeted online advertising. Interactive and engaging content, such as walkarounds or virtual test drives, can enhance the online customer journey.

Be sure you get the most out of your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Dealerships can all do better to build lasting relationships with clients by personalizing their experiences. Loyalty programs, exclusive events, and post-purchase support can increase customer satisfaction and retention. These days, it is becoming even more essential to cultivate your first-party data to better communicate with new and long-time customers. Consider exploring the world of customer data platforms (CDP), and if this is the first time you’ve heard of a CDP – feel free to let me know. We’re happy to help. 

As Canadian car dealerships navigate the complexities of 2024, embracing change and adopting innovative strategies will be critical to sustained success. By addressing economic uncertainties, optimizing inventory management, and differentiating themselves in a crowded market, dealerships can weather the storm and emerge stronger and more resilient in the face of evolving consumer demands and market dynamics.


Dealer Marketing, Industry Thoughts