Insider’s View: Interview with John Nossiter

Photo of John Nossiter

Industry veteran John Nossiter has seen just about everything when it comes to selling vehicles.

As an integral part of Perth’s dealership scene for almost 37 years, John spent two decades working in the fleet and corporate divisions at Holden Morley before moving into senior management within the Allen/Schoolland Group.

After joining City Subaru as Dealer Principal 10 years ago, John moved to Perth City Prestige in 2020 to manage Citroen, Peugeot, Skoda and Subaru sales.

We spoke with him about what he’s experienced over the years and whether the art of selling a vehicle has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic times.

What’s your take on the state of the sector at present?

“The biggest thing we’re seeing at the moment is undoubtedly the global shortage of computer chips. Together with factories closing worldwide and greater numbers of people working from home, there’s a widespread shortage of cars.

Combine that with an increase in the number of people wanting to buy a car – many of whom find themselves with excess disposable income – and what we’re left with is a supply and demand imbalance.”

What’s been the impact on your business?

“We were experiencing a shortage of cars even before COVID began. Of course, you need to sell ‘X’ number of cars to make things viable. We’ve been receiving roughly half the number of cars we need to run the business effectively.

Sure, the impact of COVID has worked in our favour in terms of the profitability of each of the cars we sell. But we’re not necessarily selling the volume we’d like.

The flow-on effect is that in six months’ time, we’ll have fewer cars getting serviced and fewer used cars coming in, so we’ll have to buy good cars outside of the business and pay more for them than we usually would to fill up our used car department. You can see how it has an impact right down the line.”

As a business based in Western Australia, do you feel your experience of COVID has been any different to the rest of the country?

“Not so much. Perth has always been an isolated city and that has brought with it some issues. But, remember that WA hasn’t really experienced COVID in any major way yet.

Western Australia’s border closures haven’t had a massive impact other than people not being able to travel and being more likely to spend their money on a vehicle purchase. But when the borders open up, I expect we’ll see a lot of professional people come into the state who’ll need a house and a car. In turn, that may well put added pressure on our supply situation.

The other thing I’d say that is that people know there’s no urgency with buying a car because they understand there’s a significant wait period involved at the moment.”

How does the customer experience at Perth City Prestige differ from other dealerships?

Communication has to be the single most important thing for any business to get right. We’ve learned that providing a good car purchasing experience and being open with our communications is what’s going to bring new customers to us and keep existing customers with us.

We use AI-based messaging software to help us find out how our customers want to be communicated with. And we use it to ask our customers to review us. Was their experience good or bad? If it was bad, we want to know why so we can fix it.

What about the commercial relationships you have with your partners?

Constructive partner relationships are essential to us because our partners provide a product that’s not within our specialist field. If we can work together successfully, we can retain our mutual customers and not have them go elsewhere. After all, repeats and referrals are the lifeblood of our business. What we’re working towards is a win-win for both parties.

We have a representative from Allianz visit us at least once a fortnight, if not once a week. And I receive weekly updates on how our insurance offering is performing. There’s no question that relationship is a valuable one – for both of us.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during your 37 years in the auto industry?

If you treat your staff well, they’ll treat the customers well – and the customers will come back. If you surround yourself with good people and ensure they’re happy, the customer will experience that and they’ll want to send their friends to you.

People are creatures of habit – they want to deal with someone they know and whom they can trust. If you can’t create a level of trust in your customer, you don’t have anything.

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 (“Allianz”). Information contained in this article is accurate as at March 2022 and may be subject to change. In some cases, information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way. Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of the issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article.