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An Auto Industry Insider’s View…From A Woman’s Perspective

Archive for the ‘The Real Deal…at the dealership’ Category

TRED this way

Posted by carsdiva on July 4, 2013

In a society that demands instant satisfaction……along comes Tred.  Couple that with the factor of limited time, and the general aversion to car shopping, and you have a genius solution.  Think about test driving a car in your comfort zone, on your own turf, without having to go to a dealership.  Yes.  It’s true.  And it was launched last month.

TRED logoTred delivers vehicles (up to four) to the shopper’s home.  For $19, the shopper gets a15-mile test drive, along with the company of Tred Auto Experts, of course.  They, much like the traditional sales consultant at a dealership, ride with the shopper to answer their questions about the vehicle, and the overall sales process.  Furthermore, Tred then provides a price report to the shopper that compares the participating dealer’s price with third-party sources— think Edmunds.com and TrueCar.com.

So who’s involved?  Well the company is led by CEO Grant Feek, a Harvard MBA grad who grew up working as a porter at a BMW dealership.  And then [some] of the money backing the venture– $1.7 million to be exact, comes from Rick Wagoner, former CEO of General Motors.  (I’d wager to say that having his automotive background and expertise on board helped to push this along.)  Dealerships pay a subscription fee to participate, and about 40 have signed on so for, beginning in the King County, WA (Seattle area).

Brilliant.  And the car biz continues to evolve……

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Car Shopping…. who holds the purse strings?

Posted by carsdiva on June 10, 2013

Did you know women buy more cars than men???

Yup, it’s true.  Women directly purchase about 54% of all vehicles, and they influence the purchase of 84%.  If you put two and two together, that’s quite a lot of buying power.  (And yes, I realize I just stated the obvious.)

So what do they buy and how do the sexes differ in their buying process?

Well, for starters, the purchase motivators are distinctly different.  Looking at what tops the list, for women it’s safety, and for men it’s performance.  Their needs, desires, and priorities differ, as well as their reason(s) for purchase. Therefore, the buying process is different.  Ahem, [car] salesmen…correction, sales “people”, please take note.

Car ShoppingI’ve seen many lists as far as which cars women buy vs. men, and they vary depending on the source.  However, the general conclusion across the board is that women favor SUVs, crossovers and compact sedans, while men have a preference for trucks and sports cars.  Again– this is a generalization– exclusions may apply, yours truly included.  (I prefer sports cars myself, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Delving further into the difference when it comes to car shopping, one will see that women tend to be more economical and pragmatic. Again– we already stated that safety is their number one purchase motivator.

Now let’s take a look at the process in terms of being at a car dealership.  Women, hands down, ask more questions.  They want to know everything. (I think perhaps I fit that stereotype…maybe.)  And they want to feel happy, satisfied and content with their purchase.  Men, on the other hand, revel at the game.  They take pride in getting a good deal, and they definitely don’t ask as many questions.  Men tend to rely on what they [assume] they know.  Could that be an ego thing??? Just sayin’….

Women complain that they’re intimidated by the whole car buying process– specifically when it comes to walking into a dealership.  They dread it.  Sometimes they’re ignored.  Having conducted my own recent survey, I garnered the same findings.  Not one female did I speak with state that she had a “fabulous” time buying her car.  In fact, in one instance, a lady told me she was initially excited, got home, and then started having buyers’ remorse, contemplating whether or not she got a good deal on her new vehicle.  Interestingly enough, 9 out of 10 car salespeople are men.  Perhaps that has something to do with it?

The evolution of the internet is definitely making things easier for car shoppers— both men and women, and shifting the process. Before the Online Shoppinginternet, women used to visit 5 to 7 dealerships before deciding on one.  Nowadays, most visit just one store.  That being said, there’s still room for improvement as evident by the discontent of people’s experiences.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with two powerful and interesting findings.  First off, more women have a driver’s license than men– 1.4 MILLION to be exact!  So basically more women can [legally] drive than men.  And secondly, women spend $300 BILLION on cars annually!!!  Now THAT is quite a compelling number, wouldn’t you say?  Maybe car dealerships should be figuring out how to cater to them a bit more…..

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Automotive Sales Consultant Fired Over His Selection of Necktie… what is this world coming to?

Posted by carsdiva on January 26, 2011

An automotive sales consultant was fired from an Illinois dealership for wearing a Green Bay Packers tie in honor of his late grandmother.  This happened on Monday, the day after the NFC Championship game where the Chicago Bears were defeated by the Green Bay Packers.  The sales consultant stated that his grandmother was a big Green Bay fan.

Now don’t get me wrong, I happen to be an avid sports’ enthusiast and like most of those around me, fully support my home teams.  However, when does the situation permit your work superior(s) to dictate which sports team you can or cannot support?  There comes a point where figures of authority step too far, and in this case, that line was crossed…. by a lot.  Where does it end?

Priorities…

In a time where people are still struggling to find jobs or hold on to those that they have, someone gets fired based on the team they support?  Last time I checked, we live in America, the land of free choice.  One would assume that the manager would be focused on something a bit more relevant to the success of the store– say how many cars were being sold, or the service provided to the customers, rather than focus on the attire of the individual.  Unless of course, it violates a specific policy, which in this case, the manager admitted it did not.

Aren’t we backtracking here?  In a society so concerned with discrimination [of all sorts], the scenario becomes hypocritical if one can justify terminating an employee because of what sports team they support.  It’s a throwback to the “old” days of the stereotypical car dealerships and the image that manufacturers and dealerships themselves, have been trying to change for many years now.  It evidently still exists in some places.

A “Happy” Ending?

Last I heard, after the media got word of the situation, the dealership attempted to “re-hire” the individual, but he refused after receiving and accepting an offer from another store.  Kudos to him.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this game has gone too far…

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And the Guest of Honor is…. Porsche 911 GT2 RS!

Posted by carsdiva on December 23, 2010

Last week I had the privilege of attending an uber-exclusive Porsche event at The Porsche Exchange in Highland Park, IL, where the “guest of honor,” for you Porsche fanatics, was the rare and limited vehicle on the showroom floor.  Upon arrival, I was greeted by the very hospitable Sales Manager, Faris Nijim, who led me to the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS.  Yes, it was the car itself, live in the showroom!

Limited to only (2) public appearances in the U.S., The Porsche Exchange was the lucky contender for the second viewing of the vehicle.  The former was the unveiling at the L.A. Auto Show back in the fall.  Nijim proceeded to tell me that the next stop would be the Porsche Sport Driving School in Birmingham, AL, and then went on to share some of the details of the vehicle.

The Ultimate Driving Machine…

A Porsche enthusiast himself, Nijim was eager to relay that only 138 customer cars would be built for the U.S., out of a total of 500 GT2 RS vehicles to be built worldwide.  In the showroom was #31 out of 500, (which we noted from the numbered commemorative plaque on the glovebox.)  The MSRP base price comes in at a mere $245, 000.  Well, being the fastest and most powerful street-legal car Porsche has ever built and unmatched in its class, I thought it a relatively conservative number– relatively speaking, of course.  That being said, the top track speed was recorded at 205 miles per hour, boasting 620 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque at 2,250 rpm, or a mind-boggling output of 172HP per liter.  Equipped with a 3.6L twin-turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission, reaching 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, this Porsche is not for the meek or inexperienced driver. The quarter mile flashes by in a tick over 11 seconds at an incredible 129 MPH!  The color palette includes GT Silver Metallic (which is what I got to see at the dealership), black, white or red, and weighs in at 3,075 lbs as a result of a primarily carbon fiber construction and even an available lithium-ion battery.  One thing I found rather entertaining was the “emblem” that adorned the hood, which was indeed a decal rather than the traditional metallic ornament, to eliminate even the smallest ounces.

The national delivery date is set for February, and customers were given (2) options:  they could either pick-up the GT2 RS at their Porsche dealership, OR, at no additional cost, they have the opportunity to attend the Porsche Sport Driving School (Birmingham, AL for the Midwest), where high-performance, professional drivers will teach them the techniques and skill to handle their ultimate driving machine.

A bit about The Porsche Exchange

To give you a bit of background on the store, The Porsche Exchange has been family-owned for over 30 years, at their current location for over 7 years.  And for those of you movie buffs out there, this was the dealership that appeared in the movie “Risky Business!”  They are ranked the number ONE store in the Midwest, and fluctuate between number 12-15 in the entire country out of 200 franchises.  This past year (2010) they sold close to 400 new cars– not too shabby for an unstable economy, and out of the 138 new 911 GT2 RS vehicles, they are getting two of them.

One thing I noticed immediately, was the immaculate showroom, and Nijim went on to explain that The Porsche Exchange is one of the first stores to align with the corporate identity design.  Furthermore, because of their status and deep involvement with corporate, they are one of the first dealerships to pilot the “Porsche Experience”, which he explained as being the ultimate program in Porsche identity, which they also helped to create.  I’m not talking product knowledge here, that’s an obvious requirement for an employee.  The program is simply about the customer experience, and how Porsche wants to be the first and only automaker with a globally certified customer-facing workforce..  Beginning in March with the pilot, The Porsche Exchange will be investing over $4,500 per employee to participate in the program.

Expect the Exceptional

Delving further into the customer service experience displayed at The Porsche Exchange, I had the opportunity to speak with co-owner & VP, Bruce Semersky, who shed light on a particular situation that he encountered.  Ladies (and gentlemen), how did The Porsche Exchange build their top-notch reputation?  Well after speaking with Semersky, it was evident that even from the onset of ownership, they were a forward-thinking group.  He told me a story about his experience with an employee that insulted one of his female customers back in the 70’s.  Luckily for the customer, Bruce happened to be in the vicinity and intervened, AND proceeded to fire his employee for not displaying all due respect to the customer because she was female.  Impressive, to say the least!   Ladies… this is a store I’d buy my Porsche from, hands down.

No wonder they’re the number ONE volume Porsche store in the Midwest– they stand behind their motto “Expect the Exceptional.”  Actions speak louder than words, that’s for sure.

Posted in Car News & Trends, CarsDiva News, CarsDiva: Fast & Furious, The Real Deal...at the dealership | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Five Star Hotels, Spas and Car Dealerships

Posted by carsdiva on January 14, 2008

Florida Lexus

Car shopping takes on a whole new meaning as luxury car dealerships are implementing multi-million dollar makeovers.  A recent Wall Street Journal article by Neal Boudette, “Luxury-Car Sellers Put on the Ritz,” caught my eye:   one, because I like luxury cars, and two, because I love to be pampered. (Really now, who doesn’t?)  And the reason for these makeovers?  Well, “the goal is to create the look and feel of five-star hotels for customers, increase the dealerships’ car allocations and even make it less likely that rival dealerships will pop up nearby.”  Large retail chains like AutoNation Inc., Wilson Automotive Group, Fletcher Jones Management Group, and Herb Chambers Companies are all jumping the gun to actualize these lavish changes in their dealerships.    

Dealership GolfLattes, Golf and the Spa…

Who would’ve thought you could walk into a dealership to get your car serviced and get a “day at the spa” all at the same time?  I love the idea as much as I hate walking into a dealership service department (which is the raison d’être, I think).  Luxury dealerships, like Lexus, are remodeling their venues with amenities like European coffee bars and cafes (think Starbucks), vibrating massage chairs, test tracks, putting greens, flat-panel TV’s, and offering free services like shoeshines, manicures, and shuttles to the airport.  The interior decor has transitioned to an upscale environment, creating a luxurious “5-star” ambience to include polished stone bathroom counters, fireplaces, and skylights over the showroom floor.    

Dealership Interior 

Why They Do It – Part 1:  Standing out from the Crowd

The reason for this increase in upscale-style dealerships is a result of several factors.  First off,  it reflects the growing population of the wealthy, and what they require in “raising the bar” for luxury service.  And of course, as more car dealerships are stepping up in the ranks, competition increases, making those super-luxury dealerships that were once considered the few and rare, now a norm.  As, Vince Liuzzi, general manager of Herb Chambers Lexus says that “you’ve got to do a lot more to wow people now.”  Once upon a time Lexus was the only brand that offered loaner cars to their customers who brought their vehicles in for service.  However, now this has come become expected at most dealerships, and an alternate differentiating point becomes necessary.          

Why they Do It – Part II:  To Get More Allocation, to Make More Money, Today…

Don’t be fooled guys, there is a more exigent, immediate reason why these dealers spend so much to give you so much.  It turns out that it’s not only good for customer relations and ambiance, but the manufacturers specifically incentivize this type of spend by giving those dealers who build these mini palaces more allocations for in-demand, hard to get product.  Every extra car a dealer can get each month in a luxury brand that the public is craving translates into extra, immediate profit, enough to make the amortization payment on lots of creature comfort amenities with some bucks to spare.  As is mentioned in the article, “For dealers that sell the three top luxury brands — Lexus, BMW and Mercedes — building palace-like showrooms is also just about the only way to grow. The three companies that make those cars keep supplies of the vehicles tight. Many dealers could sell more cars, but they can’t get additional vehicles from the manufacturers.”…and, “The big three luxury brands also limit the number of dealerships. And building a bigger facility means Lexus won’t put another store in the area.”

If you do the math on the recent AutoNation’s Palm Beach Lexus store’s $35 million dollar upgrade, it’s pointed out in the article that the investment made sense (and cents) from day one.  Lexus has a deal that they will allocate more cars to dealers who upgrade facilities.  For the $35 million investment, the Lexus store in Palm Beach can order 2,000 more cars on top of its normal allocation over the next 18 months or so.  Last year the store sold 2,710 new cars, so by quick CarsDiva math they increased their likely sell through by roughly 1/3 or an additional potential sales of another 111 a month, on top of their 225 or so monthly sales.  Who knows exactly what is made per sale, but, chances are with that kind of growth in the “top line” number the upgrades were a wise financial expenditure – and they protect their exclusive market sales area in the process, in their demographic of growing population and affluence.  Not a bad deal at all.. 

So It’s All Fair, but Don’t Be Confused As To Who Is Really Paying for All of This Pampering…

As an educated consumer though, the facts above dictate that I am really paying for these upgrades in preserved profit margins for the dealer though, right?  They get a third more cars instead of a competing franchise in their territory, and I was always taught that competition fosters price competitiveness.   So without it,  there is naturally a lot less discounting and the preservation of the profit margin of the dealer with no competition, right?  Not to mention the fact that, as the only local Lexus dealer in a large market territory, the service pricing, that is, what’s not covered under warranty, can probably include a very hefty price margin as well.  That’s a basic law of supply and demand.  That’s probably fair though, as a wealthy consumer (hypothetically speaking), I’m demanding this type of catering (remember I’m the one that expects the “bar raised”), so I should pay for it.

It’s clear lots of consumers are loving it as Barry Speak, a 2005 Lexus LS 4300 owner and customer of Palm Beach Lexus is quoted in the article,  “My wife and I are going to be fighting over who gets to take the car in now.”   

And ladies, well I don’t know about you, but I would love to  go car shopping, get my nails done, AND drink my latte all at the same time.  It would certainly take the “trauma” out car buying–  at least until it came down to the price proposal…                                     

 What do you think???

  Ferrari

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“The Dealership Treatment” – Women Vs. Men

Posted by carsdiva on November 13, 2007

girl-and-keys.jpggirl-and-keys.jpg

 

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Looking at American society today, women are definitely in the driver’s seat, purchasing over half the cars sold and influencing the purchase of over 80%.  With such a critical impact on automotive decision making, you’re probably wondering then, why is this industry so behind in placing more focus on them and their needs?  Well, perhaps it’s because men still hold the majority of high-ranking positions in the automotive world.  Although women are (very slowly) breaking through the barriers, it’s still controlled by men! little-kid.jpg

 

Women need to be satisfied

According to surveys conducted by CARMAX and Capital One Auto Finance, women continue to be unsatisfied with their car buying experience.  Studies continue to illustrate that women are increasingly purchasing more and more vehicles, yet their visit to the dealership has not improved.  In fact, it’s often referred to as “traumatic.”

Men drive the sales

Men don’t only dominate the high-ranking positions in the auto industry, they drive the sales.  In fact, women only make up about 8% of car salespeople.  Women are just viewed upon as being less aggressive.  Although both men and women give the car buying experience a negative connotation, women often take men along with them because they anticipate being treated badly.  I’m sure you’ve all been in that spot before- whether you were the man accompanying your wife or girlfriend, or the woman pleading your father or brother to come with you. 

The disparity often lies in the lines of communication between the salesman and the buyer.  Women like to take their time and “shop around”, and they’re not afraid to let the salesguy know that they’re “just shopping.”  Redflag!  Two things could happen at this point.  The salesperson ignores the lady and moves on to help the next GUY that just walked in.  Women take this as discrimination; they get frustrated and pissed off when they realize the person that was supposed to be helping them disappeared and they can’t get their questions answered.  (I don’t blame you- that’s why I’m here to help with that.)  OR, the salesguy, with all his tactics, will somehow find a way to con the shopper into buying a car she really didn’t intend on purchasing that day.  And again, the women leaves feeling aggravated, manipulated or pissed off that she allowed herself to be put in that position.  You’re supposed to be thrilled, feel excited– like a little kid getting a new toy when you buy a new car, right????

 

little-kid.jpg 

 

Interestingly enough a study completed by Princeton University and Edmunds.com concluded the following:

• 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
• Men initiate negotiations about four times more often than women.
• When asked to pick metaphors for negotiations, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”
• Women will pay as much as $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car.
• Women are more pessimistic about the rewards available, and so come away with less when they do negotiate-on average, 30 percent less than men.
• 20 percent of women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
• Approximately 80 percent of women feel pressure when browsing for cars in showrooms — and yet women play a critical role in nearly 60 percent of new   vehicle purchases, according to Edmunds.

Take control! …or say goodbye

I don’t know if I’d compare negotiating for my next car with going to the dentist (at least not if you have as many cavities as I do), but well, you can see the point being made.  The important thing to remember for both men and women is that you are in control of the situation– don’t allow yourself to lose that confidence.  You can always walk out if you’re not getting the treatment that you deserve by the wise-guy in plaid pants, (there are a ton of car dealers out there.)  Now on that token, in order to remain in control, you need to walk into the dealership prepared!  Don’t expect to come out ahead or strike a great deal if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  A recent survey showed that women are more likely than men to visit a dealership without doing any prior research.

Preparation before Purchase

Research and lingo is key- I mean come on ladies, you wouldn’t go browsing for your next Louis Vuitton bag without doing your research beforehand, would you?  You know how the sales rep will look at and/or treat you if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  I was just reading an article from the Wall Street Journal about shopping in a luxury district (Taking an Emotional Audit of Rodeo Drive by Christina Binkley), and it reminded me of car shopping, as the emotions that accompanied the shoppers frequently included “delight, shame, disappointment” and “self-indulgence.”  Luxury boutiques often profile their potential customers, and send signals that are unwelcoming, reflecting exclusivity.  Sound familiar?  Well the same applies for the car biz.  Forget about it, you might as well stay home.  You won’t be taken seriously.  Be prepared before stepping out or yes, you’ll fall into the pool of those with the “traumatic” experience.

 armwrestle.jpg

The number one thing to do is to research vehicle prices- not only the price of the car that you’re looking to buy/lease, but if you’ve got a trade-in, know the value of that car!  There are a lot of tools out there, whether you’re relying on a traditional source like newspapers, or you’re surfing the Web.  You can find what you need (and should do so) before you walk into a dealership.  It’s a lot easier to negotiate and remain in control when you can justify your argument.

Another point that consumers often forget (or don’t realize) is that there is a huge range of financing options out there—banks, credit unions, online financial sources.  Do some investigating.  The dealer is not the only one who can provide you with the financial assistance you require, AND he or she may not offer the best rates.  And if you have any specific questions on auto loans, feel free to ask me.  You know I’ll be honest with you…

“Say what???  Show it to me…”

Know your budget, and also know what you’re looking for in a car- from the drive train, to the horsepower, to the 5-disc player.  You’ll be amazed at how much more seriously you’ll be taken if you know some of the car “lingo.”  And finally, don’t be afraid to be demanding!   Take your time when you’re looking through the sales contract, and read all the fine print.  If you have questions, ask.   If you need an explanation, demand it.  You’ll appreciate taking these extra steps later on when your monthly payments aren’t sky high, but what you estimated them to be, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you cruise off the lot. 

 

 girl-and-keys.jpg

 

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