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Dealer Analytics with Dale Early

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Dale Early is the Dealer Principal and Owner of Hyundai of Silsbee in Silsbee, Texas, with over 30 years of automotive experience. Before his current role, he was the General Manager of Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Houston for over four years and the Owner of Deerbrook Forest Chrysler Jeep in Kingwood for over 23 years. Additionally, Dale served on the Board of Directors at NADA for six years and spent almost two years working as a performance manager for vAuto.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Ilana Shabtay and Chaya David introduce their guest, Dale Early from Hyundai of Silsbee

  • Dale explains why his dealership’s sales increased in June 2020

  • The effect of COVID-19 on digital marketing in the automotive industry 

  • What does the future of private vehicle ownership look like?

  • Dale shares his predictions for the automotive industry going forward

In this episode…

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, industries across the board faced a decline in sales. While car buying slowed during the first few months of the pandemic, June brought a spike in sales for many dealerships—including Dale Early’s. Dale, the Dealer Principal and Owner of Hyundai of Silsbee, believes that the car business model is changing for the better as dealerships continue to create new efficiencies during this uncertain time.

In this episode of Inside Auto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay and Chaya David talk to Dale Early from Hyundai of Silsbee about his experience in the automotive industry. Tune in as he discusses digital marketing, how he’s learned to run his business differently in light of the current pandemic, and how the automotive industry will continue to adjust as our world shifts to what he refers to as a “new abnormal.”

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics

Visit their website at to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to Inside Auto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you'd want to talk to in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay  0:15  

Ilana Shabtay here co-host of the Inside Auto Podcast where we feature top leaders across the industry. Today I have co-host Chaya David, Director of Product Knowledge and Training at AutoLeadStar who's joining me and before we introduce the man of the hour, our guest this episode is sponsored by AutoLeadStar. AutoLeadStar is pioneering smart marketing automation in the automotive industry, built by top tier engineers and data scientists AutoLeadStar's sophisticated machine learning future proofs the dealerships marketing operations, and replaces traditional marketing methods. Chaya, let's introduce the man of the hour. All right, so we're joined here by Dale, Dale Early comes with 30 years of automotive experience mostly as a dealer owner, before becoming the owner of Hyundai of Silsbee in Silsbee, Texas

Chaya David  1:10  

in August 2015. Dale was the general manager of Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Houston for over four years, and then the owner of Deerbrook Forest Chrysler Jeep in Kingwood. That was for over 23 years. And then he previously held a board of directors position with NADA for six years very nice and worked as a performance manager for vAuto for about two years. Dale's focus on customer experience and his customer first mentality stems from his leadership, optimism, and I'd say morals across the board. So thank you so much, Dale for joining us

Ilana Shabtay  1:53  


Chaya David  1:56  

So tell us, tell us a little bit about your experience at the dealer. These days, it's probably a little bit different than it was this time last year.

Dale Early  2:04  

Well doubt, you know, none of us can anticipate what we've experienced since essentially, March, you know, is when it started to kind of surface, you know, in our area, and we are in a rural and secondary market, so we don't probably have as much population density. So it probably kind of grew a little bit slower here, you know, from the standpoint of the hysteria side of it, than it did in other parts of the country, especially in Metro markets. So, we, you know, have been able to, you know, figure out, you know, a lot of things that no, we should we should have addressed in the long before now, you know, things such as, you know, digital retailing, you know, we were already on that road, you know, this kind of accelerated things like sanitisation you know, we were you know, already doing some things primarily to remove micro microbials out of the car was related to odor, but some of Stuff also with bacteria that would lead to viruses. So, you know, a lot of these things we had to get better at. And everything that we're trying to do today, you know, has to be done with speed and efficiency. We don't have the luxury of making any mistakes in this kind of market that we have, you know, we saw, I think, most significant drop in business back in April, that's when it dropped the most. And we dropped off about 50%. You know, we were down about 25% in March 25%. In May, and actually, in the month of June, we actually had our best June ever. So we rebounded pretty good in June, you know, July was better than both March, you know, April and May, but not as good as June. So we still have to see that some positive trends in the market. And we're just trying to make sure that we can turn it off or whatever happens. We learned how to run a business a lot differently than what we had before. You know, I think every dealer in the nation is probably saw some efficiencies that he's been able to gain as a result of the corona Corona virus epidemic. pandemic, and, you know, those things are things that we're going to carry forward, you know, as we know, move, you know, into 20 2021, you know, so, you know, there's some positive things that have kind of come out of it in a strange way, you know, we've been fortunate enough not to have had much impact of the virus directly, you know, in the dealership, so we haven't had to worry about closure, you know, we were always considered essential business for both sales and service. So, you know, we've been operating the whole time. So, you know, it's been, without a doubt, a very uncertain, you know, unprecedented time, but, you know, a time that he has his opportunities as well.

Ilana Shabtay  4:39  

And what do you think you can attribute June, June success to,

Dale Early  4:44  

we were trying to determine what level of activity was really out during the market. The month of May was when the state of Texas began to reopen business and the stay at home orders you know, expired and want to kind of look at you know, What type of activity was really out there? So we did some marketing things that we typically don't do. They were more based on traditional marketing, direct mail and things of that nature. And the marketplace responded extremely well, surprisingly, so. So we know that some of those things that we did in the month of June aren't necessarily going to be sustainable. You know, we've probably tapped into some pent up demand in the month of June. And now you know, what we're trying to put in place the things that we know we can do my favorite month out. And most of those, you know, strategies relate to digital strategies as opposed to any type of traditional, you know, media such as radio, TV, or even print. So you know, we are, you know, trying to make sure we stay on the cutting edge of whatever is going to get people excited about coming and doing business with us. You know, in the dealership, we are, you know, heavily into doing remote sales, about 50% of our business. Now, as you know, this done remote and when I say remote, that doesn't necessarily mean we deliver the car remotely, but it kind of starts online. About via phone. We're trying to figure out ways to be able to engage people and let them know that they are safe to come into the dealership. One of the primary things that keeps people from coming out obviously you know them having the fear of contracting the virus right so you know, we're constantly you know, making sure that we sanitize you know, all frequently touched areas and no sanitized you know, all the vehicles know, from the time that we take them into inventory as well as when we actually deliver them to the customer. So, you know, we're trying to make sure they have confidence and coming out because still, majority of the people are gonna want to know, test drive an automobile, you know, a lot of the test driver here at the dealership, as opposed to the home has a lot of questions that they just can't answer any other way without coming into the dealership. So we have to make certain that we have, you know, the confidence when they decide they want to cross that threshold.

Chaya David  6:50  

Right. I heard from a few dealers that June was a really banging out months and I was trying to think like why, why all of a sudden are we seeing That's sort of spike up in June. And I think that I think for a lot of dealers, you know, this hit and obviously like yourself and Hyundai of Silsbee be like they were on that trajectory to get that digital stack in place that they knew they needed. But you know, they ramped up really quickly to make sure that they could address what was going on. And they were testing things and setting things up. And then by June, they were sort of solid and like, then they started reaping the benefits. So I think anyone that was like a foot or a mile ahead, you know, saw the benefits earlier and earlier for those that saw it in July, maybe they weren't set up as quickly for those that saw it in June, they were kind of well placed. So maybe maybe that's got something to do with.

Dale Early  7:43  

Well, I think the pandemic kind of drove us all kicking and screaming in some ways, you know, related to what we had to do. You know, you know, when you get in survival mode, it's amazing what you can be able to accomplish. And I think the month of June, still probably related to a lot of folks that had been at home, had gotten cabin fever, want to get out, you know, and start living again. You know, we all want to exhale and not hold our breath like we had been doing and they pretty much were able to do that, you know, and the month of June and then we ended up getting a second wave to kind of, you know, slow down it a little bit, but it hasn't done the same thing that it did back in March. No, I think people now will be smart about how to go about dealing with the pandemic, what they can expect, you know, there's some basic things that we can do, such as one mask and social distancing, and washing our hands, those things are going to be with us for a long time to come and probably necessarily so. So I believe that, you know, all of us have found a way to kind of, you know, live our lives even though our lives are not, you know, anywhere close to normal or what we consider to be normal. I call it the new abnormal, you know, I don't think there's gonna ever be business as usual fitness is unusual, and we're gonna have to really, you know, start to look at different ways of being able to connect you know, meetings such as what we're going through right now, you know, even though they've always been in play, you know, obviously, you know, people are starting to get, you know, zoom fatigue, you know, and going through this, you know, left and right, and we still missed a human element, you know, human beings are social animals and, you know, we have to have that kind of connection and contact. So, we had to find ways of being able to intranet back into it as well. And that also bodes well for us as dealerships because the majority of the business that we're still going to be able to do probably is going to be executed, you know, right in the showroom. And that's gonna be you know, face to face across the desk.

Ilana Shabtay  9:33  

Yeah, and you talk about the new the new abnormal which I like everyone says the new normal I love that new abnormal I'm gonna steal that. And we know Dale that you've always been a fan of video, have you as your dealership then integrating video more? What How have you have been leveraging video or zoom during this new abnormal?

Chaya David  9:55  

You know, we, you know, for the first time open up a zoom account, you know, we were Dinosaurs in that respect, we had never, you know, had some, you know, as a portal that we benefited from a regular basis. So, you know, we can be able to conduct business via zoom, you know, we had already been doing things such as making videos of the automobiles and things of that nature and, you know, emailing or texting that information to the customer. So, that wasn't anything unusual, but you know, without a doubt, you know, the more you can engage somebody without them, you know, being in front of you, the better off you're gonna be, I still think it's going to lead to you eventually gaining the confidence for them to come in, because they're just some things that are real difficult to be able to accomplish, you know, completely remotely when it comes to an automobile and and the experience that people have gained over the years, you know, in automobile dealerships, even though a lot of people have associated negatives with it, by and large, have been positive and the public still wants it, you know, they just want to be able to do it in a safe environment. And that's the key know, making sure that everything is safe.

Ilana Shabtay  10:58  

There's actually a lot of research right now. It says that there's gonna be a lot of new emerging markets coming from COVID-19 that might not have been looking for a car that now are in market like millennials that were that were heavily reliant on Uber or Uber shares, or like, you know, one one family cost of living one car families in suburban areas that now want to get maybe two cars. And then I even saw something in the Wall Street Journal that was like all New Yorkers are now buying a car, which is a huge deal for New York. So what do you think about that? Do you think that there's just going to be a huge surge in private vehicle ownership so that people can avoid public transportation?

Dale Early  11:39  

I don't think we'll see much of it in a state like Texas, Texas has been a state that pretty much has relied on personal transportation forever. We will have large mass transit systems in place, you know, I think any kind of mass transportation is probably going to see a drop off. You know, yeah, Uber, you know, it's been, you know, a popular, you know, way of getting around in Metro markets. Since we're Secondary Market like we're in not so much. So I don't think we'll see this much pick up is a place like New York, California, some of those places where they may, you know, have a better mass transit system that people are relying on. And that now they don't want to take the risk of being on the subway with somebody so they'd rather have their car. I think the biggest opportunity for growth is building, you know, parking lots. Because one thing about it, you know, if you ever tried to find a place to park in New York City, good luck, you know, yeah. Oh, gosh.

Chaya David  12:36  

New problems, new opportunities, but new problems come out of that one,

Dale Early  12:40  

no doubt, no doubt, but we'll figure it out. You know, the one thing about, you know, Automobile Dealers, as well as our country, we have found a way to bounce back and be resilient regardless what the circumstances are. So, you know, I'm excited about what we can anticipate in the future, even as we're trying to work through all the uncertainty that we have. To deal with from day to day.

Chaya David  13:01  

Yeah, for sure. And interesting dealership stories that have taken place the last few months that maybe wouldn't have happened a year ago. But now as people are sort of shifting what they do and how they do it, there's got to be some good juice we can hear. Well, yeah,

Dale Early  13:18  

this little store, you know, store in Silsbee, Texas is a little bit boring. You know, we haven't had a whole lot of excitement associated with it. The other day, I was watching a video of the lady that had taken her panties off and put it over her head as a mask. You know, we haven't. We haven't. We haven't had anything like that to happen in the dealership. You know?

Ilana Shabtay  13:40  

That sounds like a story that would happen in Miami.

Dale Early  13:42  

Like, probably was Miami, you know? I don't know. Exactly. It was in the US for sure. But, you know,

Ilana Shabtay  13:49  

Florida story.

Dale Early  13:50  

Yeah, that's Florida, California. You're right about that. Yeah. But no, we haven't had anything exciting like that to happen. One way We know we, we definitely have had our share of folks that have, you know, show them a different side of themselves related to you know, Coronavirus, and you know, the things that have happened as a result of the pandemic. But by and large, you know, I wish I had had a few more humorous stories, too, you know, to pass on but, you know, nothing that comes to mind at this particular point other than the lady putting the panties over here for a mask that kind of blew me away.

Ilana Shabtay  14:31  

Very creative. Very. I'm gonna look that up after my best on Miami, for sure. woman and a

Dale Early  14:41  

lot of scenarios, she knows. I know, I know what to do with alcohol too, you know, probably has something to do with alcohol.

Ilana Shabtay  14:48  

Yeah, for sure. I hope the dealership doesn't didn't let her test drive.

Dale Early  14:53  

No, no, no, no, no, no. I tell you what those you should probably pay somebody to ride for. Without a doubt, you know, it's a strange set of circumstances, you know, so long as shorter. But, you know, that's about the only thing I can relate to this early in the morning, you know?

Ilana Shabtay  15:11  

That's great. That's the types of stories that we wanted this podcast. In all seriousness, let's, let's wrap up with one last thing, which is, what do you predict will change in the next year in light of COVID-19? So I know we spoke about a lot that's changed. Do you think there's going to be any changes to come?

Dale Early  15:32  

Oh, yeah. You know, what we're experiencing right now, to me, it's extremely organic. So, you know, he's continued to change, you know, it's not going to end up reverting back to the shank, same form, but it was, you know, pre pandemic. And that's true all throughout all businesses, specifically in the car business as I think our business model has changed forever. You know, we found some efficiencies that we didn't know existed before. Doesn't require as much personnel to do some of the things that we were doing, you know, we can definitely do them. You know, better and more cost effectively than we were doing in the past. You know, I think we all have to play a little bit different role when it comes to being responsible to each other. So I think that, you know, there's gonna be a newfound responsibility across the board for everybody, you know, and that we're gonna all have to, you know, be a little bit more willing to cooperate, you know, in order to be able to thrive in the new economy that we're gonna experience. So, you know, there's a lot of things that we probably could get down into the details in the minutiae and discuss, but, you know, overall, you know, I don't think any of us can expect things to return to what they were prepared in again, I think everybody's in preparation for something new, you know, from a person who has a mom and pop type of operation, you know, to the, you know, multinational corporations. You know, we're all you know, going through a CCF change right now and it's an exciting time to be part of something that was really unpredicted and unprecedented. So, you know, we'll see that on the other side of this, you know, some sunshine, you know, that we may not have even realized was there.

Ilana Shabtay  17:10  

Yeah, for sure. There's all I feel like we're we literally lived in a historic moment, I don't think nothing and nothing is going to be the same, that's for sure.

Dale Early  17:21  

Now there's a story you can tell your grandkids and they're pregnant looks real strange, like really, you know, because, you know, these type of pandemics happen every 100 years, supposedly, somewhere in that neighborhood. And, you know, I could have probably passed this one up if I had, you know, been born a little bit later or left this earth a little bit earlier. But the long and short of it, you know, there's definitely changes that we all got to you know, adjust to and there's gonna be stories to be told, you know, and history that would be written that all of us will look back on one day and just hope that we learn from it all.

Ilana Shabtay  17:58  

Yeah, for sure. I can't wait to sell Tell the story. We used to be able to go to grocery stores without wearing a mask and the gray.

Chaya David  18:09  

I actually love the new delivery culture like I mean, it was already heading there anyway, like Amazon everything but like, now I feel like people are so much more open to just like buying things online, having them delivered to your door like I fully support. I'm a huge proponent of that. And I'm I'm glad to see that that kind of made its way in the automotive more, more of the shopping more of the process into automotive.

Dale Early  18:37  

Well, some of us didn't have to be encouraged to social distance. You know, we were already pretty much standard ourselves. And this thing has really been a boon for those types of folks, you know, so yeah, on deliveries and everything else. Yeah. You know, it's like, my son says it's Christmas every day when you got Amazon Amazon.

Ilana Shabtay  18:56  

And it's very true. Well, thank you so much Dale for joining us today on our Inside Auto Podcast, it's always so nice to hear from you and learn from you. And we hope to have you on future episodes again.

Dale Early  19:08  

Alright ladies, y'all have a wonderful, amazing week. Thank you. Bye.

Outro  19:16  

Thanks for listening to Inside Auto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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