Automotive Updates

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By Marilou Vroman, CPA, CFE

In many years working as a dealership controller and as an internal auditor, I’ve unfortunately seen frequent cases where employees have taken excessive advantage of a dealership’s travel and entertainment policy.  Travel and entertainment normally are common business expenses for dealers, such meetings with manufacturers, conferences, technician training, and travel between multiple rooftops.  While travel may be viewed as an inconvenience to some employees, others view travel and entertainment as an opportunity for enrichment.  The question becomes, at what point do business travel expenses go from necessary and reasonable to an abuse of privilege and self-enrichment at the detriment of the dealer?

You’ve probably seen it or even experienced it – lavish dinners with expensive cocktails and wine, the five-star hotel room and “resort” fees to cover the golf cart and 18 holes, the first-class tickets to Europe, an occasional spa treatment or luxury rental cars.  Some dealers may choose [...]

By Phil Villegas

“They say it has no memory (the Pacific Ocean). That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.” This was a famous line from the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”. It has always reminded me of the attitude of many dealerships towards historical financial statement analysis. For many dealerships, after being provided unit sales count, gross and net profitability, past performance is often forgotten, and the endeavor of the new month is ahead, with no memory of the past.

With the New Year often comes renewed energy for change and improvement. These resolutions should not in any way be limited to ourselves as individuals, but should also be incorporated into our businesses.

One resolution would be the incorporation of detailed financial statement analysis of the dealership.  While the thought of detailed financial analysis is enough to get most dealers, GMs and even Controllers to immediately [...]

By Marilou Vroman, CPA, CFE

With the topic of healthcare so frequently in the news and topics of discussion, I couldn’t help but notice how people feel about preventive care is quite like how some dealers feel about internal audits.

I recently visited the doctor for an annual physical and went through the usual tests including EKG, blood work and X-rays to help reveal any underlying health issues I may not be aware of.  I felt perfectly fine during the visit, and all the outward signs of being healthy were present.  The test results fortunately revealed everything was just fine. So, if we appear to be healthy on the outside, or our last physical was good, why do we keep going through the process of missing time from work or family, the unpleasantness of medical testing, and paying for those surprise lab bills that are not covered by insurance?  Put simply, it’s for peace of [...]

By Marilou C. Vroman, CPA, CFE

Those who know me know I tend to focus on fixed operations because I find this to be the area with greatest opportunity, and often some of the greatest risk.  Parts and service tend to be a bit of a blind spot from an internal control perspective because the focus is traditionally on vehicle sales and repair orders in a high volume prevent detailed analysis and complete review. 

One area that often if overlooked in service is the cost of rentals and service loaners.  Customers often expect a replacement vehicle as part of their service experience.  For vehicles under warranty, this benefit is often paid for or subsidized by the manufacturer, either via reimbursement of rental days, or by requiring a fleet of loaners to be in place which are eligible for additional incentives and other credits to offset their cost. 

While there is often no cost [...]

By Sam Flores

The debate regarding the “right” amount of automation in the office has been around as long as I can remember.  I for one, am a huge supporter of automating the office. Specifically, automating the redundant, routine tasks that can be easily set up, provided they are monitored. One specific example is the use of Microsoft Excel. You can integrate this software into nearly every aspect of a dealership’s operations, whether used simply for financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, bonus calculations, or using it to power post entries into the DMS.  Using features such as V-lookups, pivot tables for example can help employees work with large amounts of data in a fraction of the time.  In your DMS and peripheral software, some tasks and reports can be preset to run at precise times, using preset formulas and criteria. This type of automation can reduce the inconsistency or errors in doing a recurrent task that is [...]

By Phil Villegas

With the Holiday season upon us, many dealerships are planning year-end parties to celebrate the year. These gatherings are great for employee morale and a great opportunity to socialize with other co-workers in a much more relaxed setting. Some dealerships will have their event onsite at the dealership with a pot-luck or barbecue, while others will choose to have their event hosted at an outside location.

Regardless of the location, one practice I saw a few years back from a dealer in their effort to be equitable to all their employee’s hard work was the following:

Early in December, the dealer would send notices to its vendors informing them that in lieu of any holiday gifts or baskets, to either contribute gifts or funds to be used as door prizes during the dealership holiday party. Any gifts or baskets received at the dealership would be kept together to be shared during the [...]

By Marilou C. Vroman, CPA, CFE

As the year end approaches, we get wrapped up in the holidays and strive for strong year-end sales  performance and profitability.  While we focus on a strong finish, it’s also a great time to focus on clean and compliant beginnings and make sure our dealerships up to speed with regulatory changes coming in the new year.

One hot spot for many dealers is sales tax compliance.  States tend to focus on dealers as they are a great source of tax revenue and are at risk of non-compliance, whether it’s use tax on purchases, tax on policy repairs or substantiating sales tax exemptions.   Sales tax audits are common for some dealers and it can be very costly if amounts remitted to the state fall short of an auditor’s estimate.

From personal experience, many auditors react positively to good faith efforts to be compliant, at least when it comes to tax [...]

By Sam Flores

It seems that as technology has taken a stronger foothold in the office, so has the tendency to overload managers with the amount of reports available at our fingertips, and because they are available, they should be run, right? Not necessarily.  Often, I see managers inundated with reports that are either, redundant, or irrelevant.  Either way, sifting through these reports to get to the truly relevant information causes inefficiency. It is important for managers to determine what data they require to manage effectively and efficiently.

Companies should periodically review the reports being sent throughout the company and determine their purpose.  Who is using them? What type of data is being sent out and to whom?  Should certain employees have access to the information? This streamlining of data reporting process may uncover some interesting results.  I have seen companies reduce the number of reports being generated by 30%.  One issue we uncovered was [...]

By Phil Villegas

For most of my automotive career I’ve been around dealership buy/sells, first as an employee at a dealership, then for a dealer group that was acquiring stores, and lastly as an advisor to dealers in these transactions.  Over this time, I’ve had the opportunity to witness a wide variety of what makes some deals work and others not so much.

In circumstances where transactions went very well, I’ve found that it’s a progressive evolution of the dealer, where expansion comes on the heels of maximizing current operations.  These dealers have put themselves in a situation where they have generated strong financial performance and developed a deep management bench and look for new stores to provide their capital and team members a platform for continued success.

Which raises the inherit question as to why certain dealers expand when there is still plenty of growth and opportunity at their existing stores.  For most public [...]

By Marilou Vroman, CPA, CFE

Remember a time when journal entries were hand written on green ledger paper and were reviewed and approved by the controller prior to posting?  In a time when our DMS systems have enabled ease of journal adjustments through source journals we have found more opportunity for theft and income manipulation than ever before.

During our internal audits we often review adjusting journal entries very closely; we have found there is an inverse relationship between the cleanliness and “health” of a dealers financial records and the volume of journal entry adjustments that occur within the dealers books.  In a perfect world, there would be very few adjustments since every transaction would be recorded correctly up front.  Since we are not in a perfect world, it’s important to know who is adjusting the books, why those adjustments are being made and whether the adjustments have been properly approved by department management.

In [...]

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