What’s up in the Swedish vehicle market right now? We asked Thibaud Hartwig Holmgren, Business Development Director and long-time Board member at Holmgrens Bil; a modern 4 billion SEK multi-brand sales and service organization with 16 branches around the country. The company is also a co-owner of J Bil with a turnover of approx. 2 billion SEK.
Hi Thibaud, What would you say are the most important changes or trends on the Swedish car business scene right now?
Right now everybody is kept pretty busy managing the effects of the corona virus. Financially, some companies have suffered more than others but everybody is hurt by the uncertainty. How does not knowing about the future affect buying decisions? Will next year be more normal? And so forth.
In a macro perspective, the steadily improving quality of new cars means that there is less money to be made on car service, and many companies are struggling to maintain a reasonable profit in this, traditionally so lucrative end of the car retail business.
Another major development is that Swedish car buyers have become very “digital” and computer savvy, and have come to expect the same dynamic and responsive service level from our industry. Which is of course way more complex to achieve with automobiles than with most other products.
But there should be no excuses, the consumer is always right and our industry has a considerable “IT debt” to deal with. This is a challenge that we take very seriously, and in retrospect, we should have adapted to the dramatic structural changes many years ago. Now we have to catch up.
How does your business differ between new and used cars?
These are two different worlds. The new cars business is very regulated, and all resellers compete on more or less equal terms. Here, we essentially strive to perform above average in terms of customer service, operations, and sales efficiency.
In contrast, the used cars market is much more flexible, and competing resellers have plenty of opportunities to be creative, differentiate, develop new services and build their own strong brands. And that is what we try to do, as well.
For us, it’s mostly about optimizing the customer experience, and right before we were hit by the pandemic we initiated several customer-related projects: We strive to be best-in-business in terms of CRM, so we can deal with every customer’s needs and expectations more responsively. And our automated video project actually started with enhanced customer interaction foremost in mind.
Another important aspect is to reconsider our product offering and to prioritize means daring to opt out. We used to carry 16 different brands, now we are much more focused.
We were among the first in our industry to actively drive digitalization, and we continue to push the limits. We have revamped our logistics and operations of spare parts which will allow us to create new offerings suited to both the B2B and B2C customer.
We are also building a stronger network with suppliers and partners with qualified knowledge to make sure that we drive innovation and first class customer experience.
“It has definitely contributed to push our already high conversion rates
another 15 percent during the last three months.”
You mentioned the pandemic … How has the corona affected your strategic development so far?
Right now there is a lot of uncertainty. So, rather than launching new program, we and probably everybody else are primarily focusing on the “now” to defend our positions and achievements.
In doing so we are also working hard to simplify and shorten each customer’s buying journey, reducing the number of days in stock for each car.
And, when the pandemic is over?
As I mentioned before, we want to be the best at meeting our customers’ needs and wants, which also means that we must perform above par online.
Our automated video project is fairly new, and there may have been several factors in play, but it has definitely contributed to push our already high conversion rates another 15 percent during the last three months alone.