Buying a car is one of the largest purchases most Americans make. A financially astute buyer comes to a dealership with an appreciation for the size of the purchase, knows what they can afford, and understands how credit and financing work—that’s the ideal customer for most dealers. Preparation equips this financially savvy buyer for a smooth closing on a vehicle that’s within their means, a win for dealerships and a positive for a customer’s financial wellbeing.
Incoming Chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Geoffrey Pohanka understands the value that financial literacy brings to auto dealers and their customers. A third-generation owner of a DC-area dealership group, Pohanka knows firsthand what happens when customers arrive at the dealership unaware of what they can afford or how their access to credit is determined.
“People come in with their heart set on a certain car, but making it fit within their budget or overcoming credit challenges can be an obstacle,” Pohanka points out. “Many customers don’t understand that missed or late payments on relatively small expenses like cell phones can create credit problems that can balloon. The rules of the game of life are often financial in nature and not everyone knows them. Knowing how credit scores are established and how to manage them puts customers on a path to one day being able to finance larger purchases.”
Involvement in financial education
Witnessing the credit challenges that can occur from small financial missteps inspired Pohanka to action. He urged local education leaders to implement a financial literacy program in the Prince George’s County school system—one of the nation’s largest—where he serves as a community-based business advisor. High school students in the county now take part in a comprehensive financial education program, offering teenagers practical tools to help them succeed as adults.
The program’s impact extends beyond the high school students taking the financial education course. Pohanka explains, “Our top goal is to get young people off to the right financial start, but we often find that the student brings financial literacy materials into their homes, and the entire family benefits from that exposure.”
Advancing financial skills doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse door. “In addition to our work with the Prince George’s schools, Pohanka Automotive Group has supported a Junior Achievement program that we sponsor alongside Truist. It helps the students put what they’ve learned in class into action.”
Call the community to action.
Not only a leader and education advocate in his hometown, Pohanka also has a national voice as the 2023 NADA Chairman, and he’s bringing his financial literacy message to the podium. “One of the things I’m focusing on is a call to action for the nation’s dealers to promote financial literacy in our communities.”
“As dealers, we can raise awareness of the community need for higher levels of financial responsibility and use our voice as business leaders to push for implementation of financial literacy education in the school curriculum. What better way for our members to have a positive impact on their communities?” he adds.
Pohanka is bullish on what NADA can do to provide dealers with the tools to support financial proficiency in their communities. “I’ve seen first-hand the positive role that education can play. When my father, John Pohanka, was a NADA director and Chairman, he helped establish ASE and NATEF, which certify auto technicians and vocational schools respectively, to enhance the quality of technical education available to those starting a career in our industry.”
Going a step further, dealers can extend financial education to their employees. “Offering this life skill to our team strengthens their financial expertise and aids with staff recruiting and retention.”
Dealers should get involved.
As dealers work to help buyers find a vehicle they want and can afford, informed, financially aware customers make that job easier, resulting in better buying and ownership experiences.
Financial literacy has a tangible impact—it not only empowers individuals, but it also contributes to community vitality. “Giving kids financial instruction improves their lives and sets them up for more opportunities—that changes the financial trajectory of families for generations. That’s the kind of powerful effect that auto dealers need to make in our communities.”
How can you support financial education in your community?
Give us a call at Truist Dealer Services to talk about ways you can make a difference in your community. Visit us at Truist Dealer Services.