Dealerships- The Game Has Changed

It is no secret most people do not like car shopping.  This stems from multiple things.  Sure everyone wants a new/newer car but it is the act of acquiring one that people dislike.  While the cost does set some people off, the nature of how it all comes together is more off putting.  The old “snake oil” sales person is the main reason that people are put off by car shopping.  It is without question intimidating to walk into a dealership to buy a vehicle.  How do you know you are getting the best deal?  How do you know what you really need?  These and a myriad of other questions run across your mind as the sales person approaches like you are a fresh piece of meat.

This is the problem with car sales.  The above fears and many others.  Not to mention the part about you being viewed usually as a piece of meat.  I want to discuss an experience I had in December 2008.  I was bored one day and started looking at cars online.  I stumbled upon a really nice condition 2006 Mazdaspeed6.  It had RX8 wheels on it and the body looked great in pictures.  It was near by at a local dealership.  After deciding I will not buy this car, the thought crossed my mind that a test drive might be needed.  That evening I went to the dealership and it was cold.  I mean frigid.  I located the car outside without even entering the building and within less then two minutes a sales person had spotted me and was on his way.  He approached me and introduced himself asking if I was interested in the car.  I quickly responded with asking if we could go for a test drive.  As he went to grab the keys I did a walk around finding really little to complain about.  The body and paint were in nice condition though it was dark and I was in no way going to purchase this car that night.  The sales person came back and we went for a test drive.  He obviously had no of idea the actual features of this car (engine size, that it was all wheel drive, etc) because this was at a Chevrolet dealership.  I am not saying that is an excuse it is more of a fact in the situation.  Nevertheless, the sales person and I had a great conversation about what I did for a living and whatever small talk questions he wanted to ask me.

We returned to the dealership and I asked if I could see the Carfax.  He ran and grabbed it.  Till this point it had been a pleasant experience.  No pressure, he was nice, it had been light and airy conversation.  As I am looking at the Carfax he sits back down at his desk and says “Joel, what do we need to do to put you in that car today”.  I almost threw up a little in my mouth.  They still say that!?  Is that still allowed?  I calmly explained in one word “nothing.”  I went on to say I was not purchasing the car tonight and would think about it, possibly calling him tomorrow.  Not liking this answer he said he would run and talk to his manager for me about the pricing.  Before he could get up I explained that was not necessary it was not happening tonight.  He then went on to inform me that there was a lot of interest in this car and I should move quick.  I was a little perplexed by this statement as in the beginning he informed me he forgot this car was on the lot it had been here almost two months.  So now he is out right possibly lying to my face to try and scrape a sale.  The more this guy talked, the less I liked him.  I left the dealership that night without the car (against his wishes).

While I did not like his style I knew if I wanted that exact car I would buy it from that dealership.  It had low miles, good paint, and really it was at the exact moment what I was looking for.  I thought about it for a few days and decided the price was not right, the time was not right, I would pass.  Looking back on the situation a little over a year later, I am happy I did not purchase the car.

The beginning of that experience was great.  The sales person was nice, he talked about nothing sales related and overall I enjoyed the conversation.  He then became pushy and the old sales tactics kicked in.  There is a reason people do not like car shopping and it is because of the second half of that experience.  Pushy sales tactics, lies and overall pressure are not an enjoyable way to buy something that is expensive and important.

Dealers need to realize this is not the same sales environment it used to be.  Things are now drastically different.  When someone walks into the dealership you need to genuinely care.  Do not treat them as if they are fresh red meat.  Do not look at them with a hungry eye.  Ask what they are looking for.  What is important to them in a vehicle.  Everything from characteristics to features.  What is their price range.  Offer solutions to what they are asking for.  Know your audience and make sure you are connecting with them with the right verbiage.  There is a reason some dealerships are successful and some are not.  The ones that are getting with the times and realize it is a new day, they are going to be successful.  If you want to see a successful dealership look no further than Classic Chevrolet.  I refer to them a lot and there is a reason.  They are the largest volume Chevrolet dealership in the U.S. and there is a reason for that too.  I encourage dealerships like the one in my experience to look to Classic Chevrolet and learn.  Look forward to more on this topic in the future.

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2 Responses to “Dealerships- The Game Has Changed”

  1. Jason Sigal #

    I dreaded car shopping over the summer for the exact reasons you explained. Its definitely interesting to see how different dealers, and even individual salesmen work for their sales. When I was car shopping this summer, I had a salesman with a similar approach (i.e. talking to the manager about the price before I could even think about it, etc.). At the same time, I also talked to some that wanted to help me figure out which car would be best, rather then just trying to make a sale for them.

    02/18/2010 at 11:34 am Reply


  1. AutoBird Podcast – Esp 16: “What’s In a Name?” - Accelerate Mpls - 02/23/2010

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