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February 10, 2010

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Car Sales: Old-School Pitching Makes for Negative Buying Experiences

Why is it after all these years, the majority of the car buying consumers cringe at the thought of dealing with a car salesperson?  Being in sales for 20 years myself, and now at Glance Networks, I have seen companies evolve their sales process away from the hard-sell pitch and toward a value-add conversation.  But not the car dealers.  Why not?  My own emotional response:  It is a game to see how many consumers they can take advantage of... 

And most Americans agree...in a Gallup poll taken last November, 51% of Americans believe car dealers to have "very low honesty and ethical standards".

My most recent experience was a few months ago.   I went into the process fully armed with months of research (reliability, safety, features, and price). After all my research, I selected a Honda CRV.  I drove to the dealership and expected to test drive and get a price all within an hours' worth of my time. 

I should have known better.  

I was there for FIVE hours!  (Did I mention I was 8 1/2 months pregnant?)  My frustration was boiling over as they determined I would be better off purchasing a used 07' model for the same price as an 09'.  It  was amazing to watch the tag team dance performed by the sales person and the the sales manager,  driving the point to me that this was the best deal I'd ever see, and I needed to agree NOW, as it wouldn't be offered tomorrow.

Did they know I was pregnant, not stupid?  Of course I walked away from the dealership with a very bad taste in my mouth, and NO sale. Two questions crossed my mind:  

  1. What purpose does a car salesperson serve, if they actually have no power? They seem to always have to get their sales manager involved, as he / she makes all the $$ decisions; and
  2. What was I thinking....wasting 5 hours of my Sunday afternoon at a car dealership? 

I did finally purchase a vehicle, but not without a fight. Instead of wasting my time driving from dealer to dealer, I found a way to take matters into my own hands. I went to Vehix.com for a price quote, and completed a bid request, which was sent to local dealers of my choice. They all contacted me via email and I was able to price-haggle with them by email, by stating another dealers' offer of a lower price.

I don't intend to purchase another new vehicle for many years.  When I do, I will research, test drive, but then opt to do the price haggle dance via the Internet again. Lesson learned: I don't really need a salesperson for the close anymore.

What are your thoughts? Why does the car buying process seem to stay "old school" at the dealerships? Why haven't we evolved a less painful car sales process? Anyone out there have different experiences at dearlerships?

-- Jo Klos, Senior Account Manager

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