In April, 2002, Newsflash passed along the story of the Asbury Automotive Group of Stamford, Connecticut, one of the largest used car chains in America, driving a deal with Wal-Mart to sell cars from five Wal-Mart parking lots in Houston, Texas. At the time, a Wal-Mart spokesman called the car deal “consistent with our program to provide one-stop shopping. You can get your hair done. We have banks, optical and now we are looking at getting cars as well.” But this week, Wal-Mart’s car connection hit the brakes. The pilot program, called “Price 1”, collided with the fact that Wal-Mart could not produce enough draw to make the plan viable. “Customer response to the Price 1 concept has been excellent,” said Ken Gilman, Asbury Automotive Group CEO, “however, customer traffic was lighter than expected.” The “lighter” traffic translated into a $4.8 million after-tax loss for Asbury in 2002. The experiment of selling used cars on parking lots leased from Wal-Mart ended up with a flat tire.
Wal-Mart will probably admit that many of the experiments it trys do not prove profitable, and the Asbury Auto deal is just the latest. So if you were hoping to drive off of a Wal-Mart parking lot someday with your used discount car, all you can do now is just drive off. For more background on the used car crash at Wal-Mart, search Newsflash by “Asbury.” Happy motoring!