When I started my radio show almost 11 years ago, the idea was to take the mystery out of the car business. At the time, I owned a string of car dealerships and I was a very hands-on owner. I spent a lot of time on the showroom floor, talking to customers. One thing I learned early on was that customers would never steer you wrong. They always shared their thoughts but most of all impressions. The voice of the customer was always the key to improvement.
To this day, I still don’t understand why some car dealers make it so hard to spend money with them. Luckily, there are more dealers today that understand the right way to do business than not, but you still see plenty of examples of dealers doing business the way they did in the 1970s.
I have seen all the misleading headlines in ads, outrageous claims, and tricks to get you into the showroom. I think some of these folks sit around trying to come up with new ideas to trick you into coming to their dealerships. This is a real shame, especially in this day and age when consumers are more educated than ever before.
Today’s consumer has all the power. The fact is, cars are the only commodity sold that you can find out with accuracy what the dealer paid for their product. This fact alone sets things up to be confrontational. The struggle comes when the dealers need to make a profit to keep the business open, and the consumer wants the best possible deal. Both sides can win with openness and honesty; it is really not a hard thing to accomplish.
Today as a consumer myself, I actually want the dealer to make a profit. I want him to be there should I need anything in the future. I just don’t want to personally pay for a new Rolex watch. I think most people understand the dealers need to make a profit and most feel like I do. Just give me a decent deal but most of all, be honest with me and give me good service after the sale.
Luckily, the tide has turned. As people get more educated, and the “old school” dealers keep up their tricks, consumers are staying away from these type dealerships. Word of mouth will always trump advertising dollars and the good dealers understand that. They don’t pressure, they are responsive, and most of all they tell the truth and require their people to do the same.
It truly has gotten to be a simple business. The golden rule has never been needed more. Good communication between consumer and dealer is critical. Honesty must be foremost by both parties, and yes I have had my share of customers lie to me. Life is just too short my friends.
I am blessed to work with a group of dealers in nine major markets who understand the right way to do business and they remained strong during the worst of times in the car industry, which was the last few years. Many of the crooks in this business are gone as they had no base of repeat business.
That is the best news about an economic downturn. As the auto industry rebounds, we will see more crooks emerge. When the car business is good, anybody can be successful.