Confessions of a Car Man

HEY! I FEEL ALL ALONE OUT HERE! THROW ME A BONE AND BECOME A FOLLOWER. AND WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, LEAVE A FREAKING COMMENT!







Your Still Here!

I'ts now 2014, and I haven't written in this blog for quite awhile, but to my astonishment and pleasure, I'm still getting hits--especially "I Hate Corvettes" that just about everyone misunderstands...

The stories I tell on this blog are in a way, timeless. They happen to all Car Men everywhere at some time in their careers. As for me, I'm still hussling Chevrolets and dreaming that one of my novels catch fire.

Any of you know a good literary agent?

If you wish to check out my fiction, please click on the link below..

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?ie=UTF8&rh=n%3A133140011&field-keywords=david%20teves&page=1


In the meantime, I might come back to this if I can think of something entertaining to say. Check back occasionally! Thanks for all your support!

David Teves

Chevy Volt: A "Star Trek" Moment

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called “Chevy Volt: When They Build It, Will They Come?” or something like that. It had to do with the general acceptance of an American car company doing something innovative and new. At the time my opinion was that the propeller heads out there would never accept a new vision from Detroit simply because they are politically opposed to American cars in general.

Well, the Volt is here, and I have some new thoughts. When I first sat in a Volt and turned the sucker on—that’s right, you don’t start it, you turn it on like a flat screen television—I was struck by the impression that for the first time in 40 years of selling iron, I was sitting in something that was brand new: the automobile reimagined.

When I drove the car I was not only impressed by its performance, I had a Star Trek moment. GM is taking us where no man has gone before, and I’m freaking impressed! It drives like a dream, handles like a sports car (well, kind of) and goes about its business with efficiency and grace. A truly impressive ride.

Critics have pointed out that the Volt is impracticable from a financial standpoint, and they are right. It’s impracticable as hell! At $43,000 or so its price is a mind bender even taking a possible Federal tax credit in consideration. But that’s not the point. If we are going to someday rid ourselves from foreign oil, if we are going to be (and I HATE this terminology) going to be a truly “green” country, the Volt and its successors are going to lead the way.

When people first bought cars more than a hundred years ago, they, too, were impracticable as hell. It was a rich man’s hobby. It wasn’t until Henry Ford brought his Model T to the common man that investing in the new technology of the automobile made sense. So too with the Volt. At the beginning it’s going to take a few visionaries with some extra cash to get this sucker on the road, put it through its paces and figure out if it’s really going to work.

When GM filed for bankruptcy it was a wakeup call for them. It was do or die. And by God they are finally doing it! With new vehicles like the Cruz and the Equinox leading the way, they are broadening their sales base and inspiring people who wouldn’t have been caught dead on a domestic lot ten years ago to come in and see what’s happening.

I know things are changing. I sold a Cruz to a Chinese guy! When I started selling Chevys fifteen years ago, one of their appeals was that Chinese people don’t buy them. I’m not going to turn this into a rant about the Chinese—let’s just say they’re a little hard to deal with. If they start coming in, it’s a sure sign that the “times they are a changin’”. (It’s also a sign of future headaches!)

Back to the Volt. Last Saturday I took an environmental scientist from U.C. Davis for a ride. He and his wife were impressed. She kept asking me, “Are you sure the engine isn’t on?” Yes, I was sure, and I’m also sure of this: regardless of what Consumer Reports Magazine says, the Volt is the way of the future. The Volt is here to stay. And with it the Chevy bow tie.

I’m just glad I’ve lasted long enough in this business to see it.

Driving With Assholes

I knew I was screwed the moment the Harley’s pulled into the lot. Every Car Man knows that a motorcycle ups are just about the worse you can get—only a notch above a goof on a bicycle. The second clue came when they parked the two bikes under the used car display tent, a spot recently vacated for a demo ride. People who don’t park where they are supposed to are usually a problem.

There were four of them, a married couple on one bike, their two teenage children on the other. They crawled off the Harleys and began the traditional motorcycle ritual: slowly removing their helmets, their obligatory black leather jackets and matching leather chaps. Full Harley-Davidson regalia. Not a good sign.

“Please don’t go to the Camaros, please don’t go to the Camaros,” I chanted under my breath.

They went to the Camaros.

It was my up. There was no way out of it. I let them wander around, hoping that at least they would land on a six-cylinder model. Those people are usually pretty reasonable. But no! They landed on the white, 400 Horsepower SS. The ultimate Mooch Magnet. Shit!

Two weeks before I had had an incident with that same white SS. A younger couple had emerged from a beat up old Honda and announced. “We want to drive a Camaro!” Notice he didn’t say, “We’re thinking about buying a Camaro”, or “We’ve been looking all over for a white SS Camaro.” No. They just wanted to drive a Camaro. And me, like a fool, didn’t question their intentions. I just took them out in a Camaro.

The guy took it up to 100 MPH on the freeway. I urged to slow the heck down which he did without protest, but he then proceeded to tell me that he really wanted a 4-door performance car like a Pontiac G8. “Then why the hell are you driving this Camaro?” I asked myself. I pointed out that they didn’t make Pontiacs anymore, but he was undeterred. “They’re plenty of them on the internet,” he stated firmly. I felt like I the victim of a one-night stand!

I should have learned my lesson with that one. Over the months since my return to selling Chevrolets an idea had been forming in my mind: stay away from SS Camaros. But whore that I am I couldn’t resist the idea that the next one to look at one might actually buy one.

My man on the Harley was about 40. His name was Ben. Ben was one of those guys who is hanging onto the last vestiges of his youth by his fingertips. I knew this because he glowed over the Camaro, saying it was “sick”. “Sick”, I gathered meant it was good. What grown man uses an expression like that?

His wife, Beth, was a sweetheart. Apparently she was the one who wore the maturity pants in the family, and better yet the car was for her. She looked at the SS warily. When she told her husband that a six-cylinder model would be just fine for her, he told her in no uncertain words that if she were to buy a Camaro, it would be a SS. I saw a conflict there, but when she said she loved the white color my hopes brightened. A demo ride was in my future.

I took Beth and her daughter for a ride leaving Ben and his big galoot of a son back at the dealership to drool over Corvettes. Beth felt the need for speed, telling me that she drove to work and back at 85 MPH every day. The fact that this was 20 miles over the speed limit on most California Highways didn’t seem to faze her. But she was polite and drove responsibly. It was when we circled back to the dealership the trouble began. Ben and the galoot wanted to drive it too.

Ben asked if I would sit in the back seat. His galoot of a son was too big to fit back there. I wasn’t happy. At age 61 I don’t load and unload in the back of a Camaro very well. Why couldn’t Baby Huey stay with his mom? Well stupid me, I smelled a potential deal and with great effort, I stuffed myself in the back next to the daughter.

Sometimes in the life of a Car Man you reach a sudden realization: you are driving with an asshole, and Ben was a textbook example. He hit speeds of 100MPH plus, bobbing in and out of slower traffic as if he was participating in his own private Daytona 500. I was in the back, ass puckered, my view of the road ahead blocked by his massive son, praying that I wasn’t going to die.

I told him to slow down. He shot me a quick glance and slowed for a bit before once again punching the accelerator. The kicker came when exited the freeway. When he made the right turn at the stoplight he lit up the tires, the car momentarily going sideways before righting itself through the miracle of Stabilitrack. I snapped. I told him he was abusing the freaking car! This started a brief shouting match between me, Ben and the galoot. He denied he was driving recklessly stating that this was a performance car. How the hell was he going to tell if the car was worthy of his consideration if he didn’t drive it like one?

Duh, because it’s not your car?

When we pulled into the lot I was done with him. I parked the Camaro feeling anger that I’d fallen for the Camaro SS death ride once again and depressed that I sure as hell wasn’t going to sell a car to this all American family. (Damn, that sounds desperate, doesn’t it?) This delusion carried itself even further when Beth, oblivious to the drama in the SS, asked me if she could drive a six-cylinder. And you know what I did? You know what I freaking did? Once again, whore that I am—

--I took her for a ride!

While we were gone something wonderful happened. Ben decided it would be a good idea to complain about me. He marched into the showroom demanded to speak to a manager. This was big mistake because the manager is a guy named Bill McKenzie and Bill—

--likes to argue.

I’m sorry I didn’t hear what was said. My fellow salesmen filled me in later. Ben stated his case and Bill blasted him with both barrels, reminding the jerk among other things that I had a family of my own and had the right to not get killed on a test drive with a jerk. By the time Beth and I got back from a brief drive in the Camaro I knew I would never sell, Ben was spinning like a top. There he was under the used car tent, angrily strapping on his leathers, yelling that they’d go to Sacramento to buy the God damn car!

I stood back and said nothing as they mounted their Harley’s to leave. I was having a philosophical moment, wondering why the hell I was still putting up with all this BULLSHIT after 40 freaking years. I guess I should have invested more when I was a kid! Needless to say, I have not demoed a Camaro SS since then, and if I ever do, I’m going to read the customer the riot act before we ever get into the car.

The life of a retail transportation consultant is not an easy one.

Car Business Blues

I have spent the last month or so contemplating my place in the automobile business. The second half of 2010 was rough for me and a real wake up call. One of The Others left a comment on my “I Hate Corvettes” piece that I’m “nothing but a burned out car salesman”. I always take things like this to heart, and I came to the conclusion that even though this idiot had no idea what the column was about he was right. I am burned out.

I think I’ve earned the right to be burned out, but that’s another story. The thing is what can I do about it? I have a little less than five years before I can move to the country and forget I was ever on a car lot. I’m 61 freaking years old. It’s way too late to consider a career change, so what can I do about it? What can I do to perform reasonably well and not be an embarrassment to myself or the dealership I work for?

I’ve decided to get dumb.

Knowing a lot about the car business can be a real plus, especially when it’s used to figure out the dynamics of a dealership. Being a former manager can help you in determining how to structure your write up and commitment. But it can also be a curse. I can size up a prospect in about thirty seconds. I’m sure that it’s helped me from getting jacked off a thousand times over, but it has also hindered me from writing up some people I should have written up.

The secret, I feel, is I have to try to go back to my basic training from all those years ago. I was trained well, by my brother, Danny, and the many other Car Men who gave me hints about the process of selling cars. I have to clear my mind of bad habits. I have got to stop sales managing my deals. I must take to heart the saying “He who sales manages his own deals has a fool for a desk man.”

Here is the beauty of our business: After a terrible December, I received my washout check and sat in my office stressing out over my poor performance. A near panic attack would be a good way to describe it. After a few minutes, I pulled myself together, went out to the showroom, and the first person I encountered bought a car from me.

What the hell is that all about?

Is it a message from the Car God telling me not to despair? What is in the past is in the past. In the car business today really is the first day of your life. Last month’s zero may very well be this month’s hero.

I’m taking a couple of days off. My wife broke her shoulder. I have to take her to the doctor. I have to take down the Christmas tree. And while I do this I will think about 2011, and try to find a way to make it better.


David

The Sound Of Silence

Before I get into any more detail about the mechanics of a write-up, I want to talk about the most effective close known by Car Men: silence. It’s so easy. All you have to do is learn when to shut your mouth, but it’s also the hardest close for many Car Men to learn and use effectively. Why? Because we like to talk, and no one likes the sound of silence!

Over the last forty years I have found that the old adage “less is more” applies perfectly to a car deal. In training, budding Car Men are taught what they should or should not say in a given situation. Closing a deal is almost always tied directly to eliciting a response from the customer, but little or no time is taken to teach you the art of keeping your mouth shut when it’s appropriate and allow the customer to answer the question.

Silence is against a Car Man’s nature—bullshit is—so we’re always trying to come up with magic closing words when words may not be necessary. Ever listen to the radio and all of a sudden no is speaking? That’s called “dead air” and it’s a basic broadcast “no-no”. I want you to think about what goes through your mind when you encounter dead air. Does it make you feel a little uncomfortable? What the hell is going on, you ask yourself? Do you switch to another station just to make sure there isn’t some national disaster going on? Well you can use that same tension to help you sell a car!

Just like you, customers don’t like silence either. It makes them feel uncomfortable. It makes them want to say something to fill the gap, but no one has taught them to fight the temptation to speak. So keep this in mind as we go through the subtleties of writing up a deal and closing it.

The simple rule is this: Once you are in the booth, if you ask a closing question, DO NOT say anything else until there is a response from your customer. An example: “My boss says the payments are going to be $450 per month. How is that?” You now SHUT UP AND WAIT! At that moment time slows down. Ten seconds feels like a minute; twenty seconds an eternity. You can feel the tension rise as you await an answer. More importantly, the customer feels it too. Maybe worse than you, because the question and an expect response is aimed at him!

Imagine yourself in this situation: Joe Carman is sitting across from you. He’s asked you to buy the car and now waits patiently for your reply, his smiling face looking into yours. The tension starts to build. You sit there and smile back at him. Do you say yes or no? After what seems like an hour your eyes begin to bulge, your palms begin to sweat. But Joe just sits and waits. He’s as patient as Buddha. Who will win? Who speaks first? You or him?

This is the battlefield where many a car deal is made or lost. This is where the rubber really does meet the road. Many times the deal is lost because a lot of salesmen crack under the pressure. They can’t stand the silence either (who does?). They crack first and say something stupid and the moment is gone. They lose.

Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask a closing question and shut up? The customer might finally say “No freaking way am I going to pay $450!” If he does, then you start would-you-taking him again until you get another commitment. But if you stand your ground and keep your trap shut sometimes, especially when it becomes obvious to your customer that you’re not going to back down first, he’ll say the magic word: “Yes.”

Bingo! You’ve got yourself a deal!

So remember, as we go along, the sound of silence. It should be music to your ears if you’ve got the testicular fortitude to do it right. Keep it in mind as we explore the inner workings of a successful write-up. Can you do it?

And at this point I will shut up and wait for your answer.


David

On The Lot With David Teves: The Phone Call

PHONE CALL: 6:10 PM:

“Good evening, Sledgeway Chevrolet. May I help you?"

“Let me talk to service.”

“Sorry, sir. The service department is closed for the evening."

“Closed, heh?”

“Yes.”

“I wish I had a job like that.”

“Me too.”

“So they’re closed. With hours like that you think I could get a job back there?”

“I don’t know, sir, you’d have to talk to service about that. This is the sales department.”

“Oh, so you’re one of those dealer scumbags, heh?”

WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID:

“Gee, sir. There’s no need to talk to me like that. You don’t even know me. I’m just a working stiff like you, just trying to make a living for my family. I know you’re stressed out about something, and I sure know where you’re coming from. My job is as stressful as they get. But remember, in this life men are all brothers. Now tell me, is there anything I can do for you that might help you out tonight?”

OR:

"That's MISTER Scumbag to you, Dude!"

WHAT I DID SAY:

“Hey, buddy? Fuck you!”

IRONIC REPLY:

“Fuck you too, you asshole!

(CLICK)

I’m the asshole?! I’m the freaking asshole?! How does he figure that?

Later that evening while driving home, I looked at myself in the review mirror and reflected on the situation.

Maybe I am an asshole.

Gettin' Certified

I’m getting’ certified. Soon I will become an official GM salesman, welcomed into the bosom of the reborn corporation like a long lost son. Soon I will be qualified to sell new Chevy cars and trucks with confidence and clarity like there’s no tomorrow. As a bonus, I’ll soon be eligible for any GM spiff money--as soon as the federal government gives them the okay.

I’m freaking excited!

Regardless of what some of you might think, I have no problem with gettin’ certified. As a matter of fact I kind of enjoy the process. Though I prefer the simplicity and potential gross profit of a used car, selling new ones is a hell of a lot easier if you know what you’re talking about. Understanding how Stabilitrak works and what the hell DEF is may be the key to my future success in my declining years.

No, I’ve got no problem with it. Seriously. I’m learning how my product stacks up against the competition. I’m figuring out how to calculate a payload for a horse trailer and which truck will pull it even though I don’t really get along with those types of people. Ford salesman are shaking in their boots just thinking about it. David Teves will soon be unleashed on the unsuspecting new vehicle automotive world. Lock up your wife and children, pink slip and check book.

But I do have once little itty-bitty bitch about the whole thing. It’s the part of the certification program where they try to teach you how to sell a car. For me that’s where the whole gall darn thing begins to break down.

Any faithful reader to this blog knows that I have written rather extensively on this subject: the manufactures version of the sales process versus real life; also, their attitude toward Car Men in general. Early in the course, “Becoming a Professional Sales Consultant” the term “car salesman” is presented as an old, out-molded term for those of us who sell their products. As the name of the course suggests, we are now “Sales Consultants”. This is a grand concept for sure. We are no longer the brave Car Men who hustled their iron for the last one hundred years; we are now described like clerks at a Target store.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for new advances in the car business, and I’m all for meeting the new generation of cooperative customers that GM optimistically thinks are out there. I’m all for sitting them down in my office and presenting them with a “sales plan” prepared by my willing sales manager that the customer will go along with with only minimal amount of haggling. I’m all for introducing them to the used car manager who will happily let them help him evaluate their trade. (I’ve suspected for years that used car managers secretly enjoy that.) I am all for showing them an appraisal sheet with not only the ACV (actual cash value) of their trade but the retail value as well, even though I don’t understand why the hell you would want to do that.

As I went through the course I couldn’t help but notice the images of what Sales Consultants look like it. It’s as if the models in a “Lands End” catalog stepped off the pages and went to work in a Chevy store. They are all a very handsome and diverse collection of YOUNG people, all looking as if they’ve been waiting for the opportunity to sell cars all their lives. As I said in the very first post of this blog, no one graduates from college and says, “I’m going to sell cars for a living.” These people do not exist. The car business is filled, and will always be filled, with misfits and dreamers who are willing to take a chance doing something that 99.5% of the population would never dream of doing.

We are, according to GM, a young, chipper crowd, bursting with knowledge, eager to please, eager to cooperate in the process of the politically correct perfect sale. I was struck with the tall willowy blond in her late twenties who represents the image of a sales manager. I couldn’t help but wonder, are there actually people like this out there somewhere in a wondrous Chevy dealership that totally embraces the GM approved sales process and has a high CSI to match?

Regardless of what the GM thinks, the car business will always be at least to a certain extent a war zone, and the Car Men are the infantry who fight the battles. It will always be a place where salesmen continually come in conflict with people who do not go along with the blissful vision of what a customer should be and should act. The Others have never taken the course on how to act with Sales Consultants. They haven’t passed the test that makes them the reasonable people GM (and all the others manufactures!) think they should be.

We Car Men should take note that “beating up” customers is not something you can do today. We have to conduct ourselves with professionalism and honor. (Me included.) But we should always remember that this is a dirty business and those that survive will be those with the talent and guts to do the job.

After, of course, you get certified.


David

UP NEXT: The First Moment of Truth