Cash flow has always been the lifeblood of a business, especially ones like Toyota and Lexus dealerships. But it’s especially true as the economic impact of the global health crisis begins to hit home.
What can Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) do to help?
One answer: continue with the national rollout of iPlus.
The all-new sales incentive reporting system was initially pilot tested at 23 dealers in 2019 and then introduced at 100 stores in Toyota’s San Francisco Region and the Lexus Central Area at the start of this year.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
It would have been understandable if, at that point, TMNA decided to hit the brakes on the national implementation. But Integrated Marketing Operations forged ahead, in large part because iPlus’ primary benefit to dealers is improved cash flow.
“By using the iPlus suite of tools, a dealer is able to submit their sales incentives details in a timely manner and get paid weekly, which helps their bottom line,” says Gregg Swartz, senior manager of Dealer Engagement. “This is a huge benefit at a time when dealers are selling fewer cars. Now, more than ever, every penny counts.”
How Does It Work?
iPlus is an incentives ecosystem that gives dealers the tools they need to efficiently apply, manage and reconcile their incentives.
With iPlus, the dealers make an incentive selection within the same screen they use to input the RDR. Also, the incentives system is based on each unit’s vehicle identification number (VIN). This helps cut down on the confusion surrounding the incentive offerings, simplifies the process, reduces errors, and significantly improves the flow of data and dollars.
So, for example, prior to iPlus, a dealer would typically get reimbursed for 70 percent of the incentive cash it was due and then have to wait weeks if not months to receive the remaining 30 percent. Now, with iPlus, the full 100 percent shows up in their bank account within a week.
Further, iPlus’ Incentive Status Portal gives the dealers’ back-office personnel a quick and easy way to review what the dealer has been paid, and what they are owed. And the VIN-based approach reduces the number of incentive challenges. So the time they spent sifting through reporting can now be redirected to more productive tasks.
“iPlus has truly been a collaborative effort across One Toyota,” says Sandy Lobenstein, group vice president of IT Experiences. “By adopting a customer-first approach as well as ITx’s new ways of working, we developed a system that’s intuitive for the dealer and integrated with multiple business units, including the dealers’ back-office systems. And thanks to the use of advanced technologies, we were able to accelerate the rollout and help our dealers during this crisis.”
How Is It Going?
Toyota and Lexus dealers have embraced iPlus with open arms. The second wave of stores — in the Denver, Portland and Los Angeles Regions — came online April 1, bringing the total number of dealers launched on iPlus to 348. The success of iPlus during its initial launch has provided Toyota and Lexus the confidence to roll out iPlus to all remaining Lexus Areas on May 1 and all remaining Toyota Regions on May 5.
Josh Corren, general manager of One Toyota of Oakland in Northern California, is among the early adopters.
“iPlus is easy and straightforward,” he says. “It’s super intuitive. And it puts the ball in our court to resolve issues that in the past required pulling deals and then copying and faxing rebate forms, contracts and RDRs. If we don’t get paid, it’s probably because we did something wrong. When we fix it, we get paid the following week. Easy breezy.”
Meanwhile, TMNA will soon be in a much better position to get an even bigger bang for its sales incentive bucks.
“We have a big hit on our hands with iPlus,” says Tony Mueller, general manager of Strategy, Incentives and Finance. “Our message to the dealers we’ve yet to get on the system: ‘Good news is coming.’ That’s something we could all use more of these days.”
By Dan Miller