Month: February 2016

Five-Part Series on Online Car Buying

I wrote this ad-hoc series last fall, around the topic of online car buying. It started out as technical post on how to do tech strategy, and then one thing led to another. Here is a guide to the five articles.

The first two are from the perspective of a traditional dealer system, like a menu, that needs to find a new home online:

The next two are from the opposite perspective, online car buying sites that need to add traditional dealer functions:

Finally, when I had looked at all of the car buying (and shopping) sites, I needed a way to classify them:

I hope this makes the series more readable. If nothing else, it will help me to keep the blog organized. Enjoy!

Six Month Term Bump for Menu Selling

Whenever I design a menu system, I always include a second finance term that defaults to the base term plus six months. When I did the first menu system for AutoNation, I was coached on this by Arthur Knosala who learned it, I believe, at JM&A.

We had an object lesson when I was working on Route One’s menu. The team was just getting into this requirement when the product owner happened to buy a new car, and took the term bump. She was able to maintain the agreed payment, and still buy some good products.  Even a three-month bump is significant.

My spreadsheet, below, shows how this works. The idea is to goal-seek the amount of product that maintains the original monthly payment, at the longer term. The input values are blue. Everything else is calculated. This allows the possibility that the APR may be higher with the longer term.

Term Bump

If your menu system won’t do this, you can download my spreadsheet. It automatically calculates the finance amount which, with the term bump, results in the same payment. Remember, only type in the blue cells.

Magic tricks are easy once you know the secret — Marshall Brodien

When I was at MenuVantage, one of the guys put together a demo in which he used the term bump to sell a raft of products, and then a biweekly payment program to ratchet the term back down.  It was like a magic trick.  Same payment, same term, and presto!  He pulls two thousand dollars’  gross out of his sleeve.  Dealers couldn’t sign up fast enough.

Not Why They Hired a Linguist

il_fullxfull.484268216_q56jWe received a resume this week listing every language from PL/1 to PHP. This fellow has some good experience, and a degree in linguistics. Someone remarked that linguistics is the master skill for programming, and then I told my story about Greg Turner.

Greg was a linguist I worked with years ago in the Wayne County public schools. He had funding to develop speech prostheses for handicapped children. Think Stephen Hawking and his artificial voice.

In the 1970s, personal computers were just coming out. The county could never afford to help these kids, except that Greg was building custom gear from scratch. We would crack open a See ‘n Say, pull out the speech chip, and order the rest from the Motorola parts catalog. That’s how I remember it. I honestly don’t know how the stuff worked.

If you studied a foreign language at university then you probably have, next to your foreign language dictionary, a grammar reference. My French grammar is the Cours Superieur. For Greg, the chip catalog was a grammar reference. It told him which chips he could use with other chips, and in what context.

I was the programmer on this project. The third member of our team was an actual EE. “Unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head. Without any training, Greg would read the specs, order from the catalog, and then build these wonderful contraptions. Salvaged joysticks and homemade head pointers. We all agreed it was unbelievable. The children just said “thank you,” with their tinny, synthetic voices.