Interview w/ Wendy Rinehart of OIADA

August 25, 2022| Zach Klempf

In this transcribed blog of the Used Car Dealer Podcast, Zach interviews Wendy Rinehart, the executive director of the OIADA (Ohio Independent Auto Dealer Association). They discuss the used car marketplace, the importance of IADAs, the upcoming Ohio convention, and more! 

Zach Klempf: Hello, Zach here, and we have a fantastic guest on the podcast today, Wendy Rinehart, who's the Executive Director of the OIADA also known as the Ohio Independent Auto Dealers Association. Wendy, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.

Wendy Rinehart: Thanks, Zach. I like being here.

Zach Klempf: So Wendy, I want to start with an icebreaker. When we were talking last week, you mentioned to me that you made two big business mistakes before 18. What were they?

Wendy Rinehart: Alright, my first bad business decision was made at age six, when my grandmother's neighbor was babysitting a little girl, and we used to play all the time and hang out and she gave me one hand-me-down clothes that still had a lot of tags on it. And she had a birthday. And she had this little lime cake that had coconut flakes all over it. And I hated coconut as a child. And I couldn't believe she would have the nerve to have a birthday cake with coconut on it. So I didn't like her anymore. And I let her leave my life over a lime cake. And I came to find out my little friend Laurie was a couple of doors down. That was her name. Laurie's dad, her name was Dave. His last name was Thomas of the Wendy's Corporation, Dave Thomas. And I was playing with Laurie Thomas. And I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have let her out of my life. My second bad business decision, which I guess isn't bad but was in hindsight 2020 at 16, I got a job with DuPont regional purchasing office as the youngest employee they had ever hired. And two years into my career with DuPont, a friend of mine working at a car dealership told me that they needed a cashier operator, and it paid 50 cents on the hour more than I was making. And it came with overtime. So I left DuPont and went to work in the car business. I should have retired seven years ago if I would have stayed with DuPont. So that's my second bad business decision, so I'm still in the car business, seven years after I could have retired.

Zach Klempf: Well, that kind of leads me to my next question. So I was gonna ask you a little, how about how you got into the car business? But I also want to know how you eventually became to run the Ohio Independent Auto Dealers Association.

Wendy Rinehart: I guess I have a knack for doing things that nobody else wants to do. So when I'm in the car dealership, when I first started, I would help finance, I would, you know, take projects that no one else wanted to do. I ended up as a title clerk by making a comment to the controller one day that you know, you've been through three title clerks in four months. If you pay me more, I'll try it. Well, he paid me more. And I tried it. So I ended up doing titles. And then I ended up as the head title clerk at Manheim. And when I left Manheim, their largest consigner tapped me to come work for them. And they ended up putting me in charge of inventory control. So I was going to the auction to buy and sell cars. And then they decided that they needed someone to open dealerships. So I was going across the country in like two or three different states opening up used car lots, not realizing, okay, I've never opened the dealership, I'll go do it. So anytime there was something that needed to be done, I just kind of did it. Well, fast forward to the previous director of the association. He and I were good friends. I was a vendor as a Subprime Bank Rep. I worked with the association a lot. And I used to joke with him that when he was ready to retire, he should let me know and I come take over. You know, I'm like, that'd be a great retirement job. And I kind of figured he had 10 years or more before he ever thought of retiring. But he ended up getting sick and the board of directors came after me and said, “Hey, you should take this.” So I wasn't really ready to take it in my business plan of life. But it was an opportunity. So I jumped in on it.

Zach Klempf: Wow, what an interesting story. And what's it been like as a female leader in the auto business? What's that been like?

Wendy Rinehart: I would say it was a lot harder back in the late 80s and 90s and the beginning of the 90s. Even in 99 when I was in Tennessee, vendors down there would walk into the office that said General Manager on the door and I'm sitting behind the desk, and the Rep would walk in and say "Hey sweetheart, when's the general manager going to be back?" And I would just look at him like, really? You're asking me this question? But it was hard in the beginning, it's getting a lot easier. And the longer I've been in it, the more I think I've proven myself in the industry as a car person, not a male or a female. So yeah, it's fine.

Zach Klempf: Wow, interesting story. Still can't believe that. But let me ask you my next question. So a lot of dealers might be listening to this, used car dealers, and they're wondering, why should I join the Independent Auto Dealers Association, especially on the state level?

Wendy Rinehart: Okay, because Facebook is not where you get automotive advice. That's why you should join your dealer Association. No, seriously, there are some really good Facebook groups out there. But one thing I noticed is that there's not really a place where an independent dealer can contact and get a straight answer or a good answer. Besides, outside of the dealer association, there's nowhere to go except Facebook or Google. When they're on social media platforms, asking questions, they're getting answers from dealers in different states. And the laws are not the same across the United States, every state is unique. So the dealer really shouldn't be a member of his association, just to be able to a be in the know, we inform our dealers of what's going on legislatively, what's changing in our state with what needs to be, you know, dealt with, but we can supply them with the right answers the first time. And it's a lot easier for them to call one place and know they're gonna get an answer than to have to call 17 and still not know if it's right.

Zach Klempf: So what's specifically unique about what you do in the Ohio Independent Auto Dealers Association that kind of sets you apart from some of the other associations?

Wendy Rinehart: I really don't know if we do anything that sets us apart. I mean, I like Ohio better than everybody. But one of the things we tell them is that after 35 years in the car business, if I don't know their answer, I'm gonna find it and I'll have it for you in less than 24 hours. I have two girls in my office that answer the phone from nine to five, that's our help desk. Outside of that my cell phone is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. My dealers don't call me at seven o'clock on Saturday, because they want to say hi, they're calling me at seven o'clock on a Saturday because they have a problem that they need an answer to at seven o'clock. And I'm going to answer the phone, and I'm going to do what they need, so they can get on with their lives. So I think that might be what sets us apart is the fact that I'm not afraid to learn anything on their behalf.

Zach Klempf: That's an amazing kind of skill set and value for the dealers. And let me ask you another question. So during the pandemic, a lot of things changed, dealers started to sell online, they started to, you know, source inventory online. How did you help dealers through the pandemic in Ohio, from the association's standpoint?

Wendy Rinehart: The first thing we did was normally associations will only be supposed to deal with our members and give advice to our members. But during a pandemic, I mean, this is uncharted for everybody. We were going to Facebook, we were going everywhere. And we were sending out all the information we could find. So that all of our dealers, whether there are members or not, had good information. The first thing we had to do is explain to them that we were somebody that could be open, we could stay open according to what everybody's guideline was. And if they were going to be open, how to do it properly. So we tried to address you know, PPE and you know, protection and all the things that the CDC and the government wanted us to do. Then it became more of the PPP money, the ERC money, the EIDL loans, where this money can be obtained to keep them afloat and to keep them going during this unchartered time. We tried to make sure they all had everything they needed for that information. And then online buying that's a hard one. We have a lot of auctions that we're trying to, you know, help with transportation help them understand this is how you should be doing, how you should interpret a condition report that kind of thing. Just anytime they had questions. We did all we could to help them navigate the waters

Zach Klempf: And we look at 2022, we're starting to get out of the pandemic a little and it's still another roller coaster of a year for the auto industry. What have you observed in Ohio from used car dealers in the interesting trends this year?

Wendy Rinehart: 2022, I think is the beginning of a different industry, the old ways aren't going to be what we do anymore. And what we're used to is not going to be normal going forward. And nobody is used to what the normal is going to be because we don't know what it is yet. I do know that my dealers need to learn technology, they need to know how to give the customers what they want, virtually, they can't be afraid of trying something different, changing their business model, you know that the dealer that used to deal in $2,500 cars, there are no more $2,500 cars. I mean, you can't find a car that you want to get into for $2,500 or buy and put another customer into. So they're all having to change their mindset and their strategies and learn new things. So I think 2022 is just the beginning of our new normal.

Zach Klempf: So what are your thoughts on the online dealers, the Carvanas, the Vrooms of the world and their model? I know there's been a lot of market pressure recently, these are public companies, and their kind of valuations have collapsed a little but what do you think about them?

Wendy Rinehart: I know, there are two sides to every story. There are a lot of dealers that don't like their model, I think they're intimidated by the market share, they go in and get. But what the dealer should take from this is that the public is speaking very loudly, that this is an option they want. There is a market out there that wants to be able to do everything online without ever seeing their salesperson. Our dealers are going to have to join the bandwagon if they want to continue and be successful. You know, the Carvana is and all of the Vrooms and all of those big giant companies out there are doing something that customers want, you know, so I don't have a problem with them. As long as you know, everything is being done legally, as far as I know, it is in our state. So I don't have a problem with them. I just think it's showing our dealers they need to step up a little bit.

Zach Klempf: And future’s question, what are your thoughts on digital retail and its role for used car dealers? So in the same way that Carvana and Vroom have an E-commerce checkout on their website? What do you think about that for the average, let's say Ohio independent dealer?

Wendy Rinehart: I think for the majority of the dealers that are focused on retail, not so much Buy Here Pay Here, but on just retail transactions, I think they're going to see this as a way of the future. And whatever percentage they have right now, whether it be zero or 10%, it's going to go up, it's going to double, it's going to triple, it's going to keep growing. I think the Buy Here Pay Here, dealers are still going to do a lot of face-to-face interaction. Anytime you're looking at an older vehicle, maybe with higher miles, I think the consumer wants to see it, touch it, you know everything before they actually commit to it. But on later model lower mile cars, I think consumers are ready to do it all online and get the vehicle delivered to them. So I think it's gonna be a trend that they're not going to get away with. They're not going to hide from it.

Zach Klempf: Couldn't agree more, especially the point on Buy Here Pay Here as well. So, Wendy, I've been talking with you a lot lately. There's a lot of exciting stuff happening at the Ohio Independent Auto Dealers Association. You have a conference upcoming in October that I'm going to be speaking at. I want to hear more like what's all the interesting things coming down the pipeline from Ohio?

Wendy Rinehart: Okay, well, the convention obviously because you're going to be there speaking so everybody in Ohio, all the independent dealers of Ohio are invited to our conference. The admission for our convention, unlike other states, is free for my dealers. All of our dealers, whether they're members or not, are invited to attend for free. We're gonna give them breakfast, we're gonna give lunch, but that's not what they're here for. We're gonna have people like you speaking. I have attorneys coming in to talk about the safeguard rules and the new FTC compliance things that we have to deal with. We have a class on the CFPB and your dealer agreements. Does your dealer agreement protect you from the CFPB? That's something you might want to know. We have training coming on panels going to be there. We sell cars every day as-is. When does as-is turn into an implied warranty? Well, you might want to know that and how you can protect yourself from these things happening. But for all the classes they're running all day, we'll have 40 different vendors in our expo hall, meeting with all of our dealers looking at the greatest and latest technology and different platforms they can look at. But we want everyone there, they can register on our website or call the association that will register for them. But we want everyone at our convention. And then I want to know when they're there, what they want next year, what they want to learn so I can get them the right speakers and the right training for the next year.

Zach Klempf: That's awesome. And especially the fact that it's free, you know, there's no reason why not to go to this show.

Wendy Rinehart: Maybe I should charge them money, and I get more people to show up.

They've talked about charging, but I'm trying to keep it at the free things. So it's still free.

Zach Klempf: And lastly, Wendy, anything I didn't mention or anything else for the used car dealers listening to the show today?

Wendy Rinehart: I just want them all to realize compliance is something that doesn't go away. We are the second highest regulated industry next to housing. So they may think that they're a small dealer, they're not under they're not going to fly under the radar, no matter how big or small they are. They're all on everybody's radar. If they want to be a member of our association, they don't have to be a certain size or be in business for a certain amount of time. I want to help as many independent dealers as we can stay in this business, be successful, make money and have fun.

Zach Klempf: Awesome, very well put! So Wendy, I really appreciate you coming on the show today. It's been a great episode. Thank you so much.

Wendy Rinehart: Zach, you're awesome! I can't wait to see you and another like, what, 60 days?

Zach Klempf: I know it's coming close. I'm very excited. 

Wendy Rinehart: Alright, so, thank you very much!

Zach Klempf: Thank you.

Tags: vroom carvanna carvana used car dealers bhph dealers Wendy Rinehart OIADA OHIADA Ohio Independent Auto Dealer Association

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