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Stimulated

Car sales roll on as area dealership adapts to times

Staff writer

An economic lifeline thrown to Americans during the spring high-sell season may have played a small part in getting an area car dealership back on a roll.

In a rare glimmer of good news for an industry that has seen sales plummet, Hillsboro Ford has enjoyed months of brisk business, Terry Hagen, owner and sales manager, said Monday.

“It’s hard to put a finger on it, but I have moved a substantial amount of iron as of late,” he said. “I hope it will continue.”

Randy Hagen, co-owner and office manager, estimates the dealership sold about 50 cars in the past two months.

“Mostly it’s just the simple fact that we have the right stuff,” he said. “It’s a lot of work trying to get the right stuff.”

Car sales and repair businesses were deemed essential under Kansas’ state mandates, which meant the dealership at 202 S. Main St. was able to stay open but limited visitors allowed in its showroom.

Hagen’s team practiced careful social distancing and sanitized surfaces after hours.

Another stroke of luck came as federal payments of up to $1,200 per person began landing in bank accounts during peak spring sales.

The $2 trillion relief package was intended to address the economic fallout of COVID-19 mandated shutdowns.

While many used their stimulus payments for basic necessities, the money also provided a nice down payment for someone in the market for a car.

“It…could help someone with more disposable income who was looking to get a car repaired or an upgrade,” he said.

While the pandemic limited visitors to sales floors, preferences of younger buyers moved many car sales online. The dealership’s sales territory now expands all the way to Kansas City — and beyond.

“This business is more ferociously competitive than it was 30 years ago,” Terry Hagen said. “We are competing with much bigger dealerships in Wichita. That’s the nature of this business.”

Instead of visiting showroom floors, prospective buyers hit websites to research their purchases until they find the car they want at the right price. And they are willing to look far from their hometowns, he said.

“Buyers are willing to drive an average of 200-plus miles to buy an automobile,” Terry Hagen said.

A dealership either finds cars at a competitive price or loses the business of customers who have done their homework and don’t want their time wasted.

Haggling between dealer and buyer, once an expected ritual, is now out of the question.

“People are not going to play that dog-and-pony game where they are going to sit for hours and argue over $500,” he said.

Randy Hagen credits his son, Michael, who joined them after working in Oklahoma, with developing the dealership’s resources online.

“We have been working that a lot harder than we ever have,” he said.

Terry Hagen recently sold a transit van to an Iowa man by video chat.

The two then filled out the sales paperwork at a Kansas City outlet mall, swapped keys, and drove home.

“He committed to it sight unseen,” Hagen said. “He had to trust me about the vehicle, but I had to trust him about his trade-in.”

Taking risks and welcoming change are a part of surviving in a tough business.

“If you don’t adapt to challenges you will not be around,” Terry Hagen said. “I have had this dealership in my family for a long time, and if we hadn’t adapted, we would not be here.”

Last modified June 3, 2020

 

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