When I started the Car Pro radio show almost 16 years ago, I had two things in mind…calling attention to the good dealers out there, and warning people about the bad ones. After 35 plus years in the auto industry and owning multiple car dealerships through the years, I got really good at being able to tell the difference between good dealers versus the evil ones. I have met some of the best and the worst in the car business.
What Makes A Dealership A Great One?
As a part time buyer, how do you really know the good dealerships? It starts at the top with good leadership. Either a good Owner or hands-on General Manager who truly cares about his customers and repeat business. One thing to watch for is dealerships that do a ton of advertising. You know the ones, they are on TV every time you turn it on. So why is that important you might ask? It is simple: the dealers that have to heavily advertise year after year generally have very little repeat business, and that is a huge red flag for me.
If you see prices and offers that are too good to be true, you can bet they are and it tells you a lot about the dealership.
Watch For Shady Advertising
How a dealership advertises tells a tale too. If you see prices and offers that are too good to be true, you can bet they are and it tells you a lot about the dealership. This goes for a dealer’s website too, I wrote not too long ago about the new-age bait and switch, which is the Internet. Unrealistic pricing or a dealer using incentives that you may not qualify for is a tell tale sign you are going to get run through the ringer. The general rule of thumb is the louder a dealer yells at you, the more they should be avoided.
The Internet Can Be Your Friend
Using the Internet to choose a dealer is wise, as long as you look in the right places. I pay no attention to discussion groups or blogs about dealerships, or cars for that matter. The info is not verifiable and you can’t tell who is writing it. However, checking with the Better Business Bureau is a good idea. Unresolved or unanswered complaints will tell you a lot about how serious a dealership takes complaints. At www.BBB.org, you can check for unresolved complaints and even see what areas are problem areas. Another good website to check is www.DealerRater.com, it has a lot of feedback.
First Impressions Will Tell You A Lot
The atmosphere when you enter a dealership is telling. Is it clean? Are the grounds well kept? Is the landscaping manicured? This shows attention to detail and that will wash over into customer satisfaction. I am not talking about a Taj Mahal dealership, just one that is uncluttered and neat. Smart dealers know that first impressions can make or break you. Are the salespeople out in front of the dealership, in a circle, smoking cigarettes, throwing the butts on the ground? Keep driving. When inside a dealership, do the employees seem happy? You can’t have customers who are happy if your employees hate their jobs. When I had dealerships, I had a 10-foot rule. If any employees got within 10 feet of a customer who was unattended, they were required to check with him or her to make sure he or she didn’t need anything. I never had a customer complain about being asked too many times.
When inside a dealership, do the employees seem happy? You can’t have customers who are happy if your employees hate their jobs.
Does Big Volume Mean Great Treatment?
I am often asked about the volume dealerships, the ones that sell the most cars. The assumption is that if they sell the most cars, they must be the best. While this is often true, it is not always. Sometimes it is just they have a great location, other times it is because they do a great job and get a ton of repeat business. There isn’t anything that can be concluded just from the number of cars that dealer sells. Some big volume dealerships do a horrible job taking care of customers. Once again, usually these are the dealerships that advertise a lot.
As part of the Car Pro Show radio process of endorsing dealerships, we look for the best dealerships to send our listeners to. There is one common denominator among the best, and that is someone at the top of the chain who really cares, and is in it for the long haul. One of our dealers, Carl Sewell who has dealerships all over Texas, wrote the book Customers For Life, and it has sold over 1,000,000 copies. I am not interested in a dealership that only cares about one car sale, I want the ones that work hard for your business so that the next time you need a vehicle, you wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.