I was watching the latest episode of 'Mad Men' earlier this week on my DVR and was fast forwarding through a commercial block when I saw an ad for a local car dealership. As someone who loves cheesy commercials and follows the auto industry, this was a tremendous opportunity to indulge in two passions simultaneously. So I rewound.
I'm glad I did. Toward the end of the commercial, the local dealer made reference to the time of year. Not spring. Not the start of the baseball season. But income tax time. He said that if you walked into his dealership with a tax refund, you'd walk out with a car. (I think, I hope, he said drive out with a car, but I can't recall his exact verbiage. I'm not one for mixing metaphors, so that's why I'm hoping he said drive.)
That got me thinking.
Why don't lenders offer to do car shoppers' taxes, under the condition that they'll put any refund earned toward the purchase of a new car? It would be a tremendous way to drive traffic to a dealer or to a website and then create a long-lasting and sticky relationship.
This idea becomes even more appealing when considering the results of a study released by TurboTax. More people are planning to use their income tax refunds to make major purchases, such as automobiles.
There are not a lot of actual opportunities for car lenders to make meaningful, long-lasting connections with their customers. It's not like a mortgage where a consumer is making payments for 30 years. Repeat business is an important benchmark with any industry. And the nature of car dealerships and how they drive which lender a consumer ends up with doesn't lend itself to repeat business. Lenders need to do things to stand out from the rest.
And tax preparation has become such a commoditized business that a number of companies are offering free services this year. If tax prep companies can offer the service for free, then car lenders should be able to use tax preparation and filing as a carrot to attract new business.