Sonic Automotive will rename stores with Sonic tag in 2014

Article by Anita Panait, on July 29, 2013

Starting 2014, Sonic Automotive Inc.’s stores across the United States will carry the Sonic name. The branding move will go along Sonic's introduction of a new sales approach in which staffers will use iPads to handle vehicle transactions from start to finish – a method linked to the company’s True Price strategy that limits price negotiations.

Sonic launched True Price to stores early this year but the strategy met some issues. Sonic intends to introduce the iPad process starting July 2014, with the Sonic rebranding to roll out at the same time, according to Jeff Dyke, executive vice president of operations at the dealership group.

Dyke remarked to Automotive News that although “putting the name up on the building is important,” the most important thing to differentiate themselves with the process. Dyke disclosed that Sonic, which is the third-largest dealership group in the US, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars over several years to implement the changes in its customer service approach.

Aside from investments on personnel training, Apple devices, software development and information technology infrastructure, Sonic has also improved compensation plans and overhauled vehicle pricing.

He remarked that the additional investments are the reason why the dealership group is talking about the plan now, saying that they have expenses associated with it that they just can't hide. Sonic's branding initiative follows that of AutoNation Inc.’s store rebranding with the AutoNation name this year. Dyke remarked that the company will keep existing market-specific names while append the Sonic name in a smaller font to all signs.

Sonic Automotive, Inc. is considered as one of the largest automotive retailers in the United States, operating 111 dealerships in 14 states in the country (as of December 31, 2012) and representing around 25 different brands of cars and light trucks. The company also operates around 21 collision repair centers across the US.

As of December 31, 2012, Sonic Automotive operated 100 stores, which are essentially certain dealerships sharing management and inventory that have been grouped for management and operational reporting purposes.

According to Bloomberg Financial Markets, via Stephens Inc., the US auto industry’s sold 13.3 percent more new vehicles in 2012 to 14.5 million units, from around 12.8 million vehicles in 2011. New vehicle unit sales in 2012 jumped 18.3 percent for import brands as well as 7.8 percent for domestic brands.

For 2013, new vehicle unit sales are expected, in average, to leap to between 15.0 million and 15.5 million vehicles, represent a surge of between 3.4 percent and 6.9 percent from 2012. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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