Shopping for a car is always a stressful experience. It doesn’t have to be, but when you are spending a large sum of money it tends to be. This is an example of two separate experiences I had today. One good, one bad, both examples of dealership and corporate culture.
The first example involves looking at a Chevy Volt at Superior Chevrolet in Shawnee Kansas. The second looking at a MINI Countryman two blocks down the road at Baron MINI. The experiences are like night and day, with the Chevy experience being one of the worst ever.
I like the Volt. It’s an American car with bright future. It’s green. It is a showcase car for Chevy and one they should be proud of. Currently Chevy is running a killer lease deal on the Volt, and it’s compelling enough for me to burn a Saturday morning trying to test drive one. The thing is though, I walked out of the dealership without ever driving the Volt, and saying I’d never shop at Superior again. Actually most Chevy dealers I’ve been to pull what I’m going to explain in a bit. Before I do, let just say that last Friday I test drove a 2013 Porsche Boxster at Aristocrat Motors, alone, after a quick copy of my license and insurance. That my friends is a huge thing. I do not want a sales person going on my test drive. Neither should you. It doesn’t allow you to relax, be yourself, and really experience the car.
So the Superior visit went like this. Kristy called to make sure they had one we could drive and double check the lease rate. Everything looked OK, but it seemed a bit odd that the receptionist passed her to a sales associate who told us we had to check in with the Sales Manager when we got to Superior. Why would you have to do that? You’ll find out in a bit.
We drove to Superior, pulled in and parked. As soon as we got out of the car, we were pounced on by a sales associate wanting our business. We told him we needed to speak to the sales manager as we had been told to, and he immediately started fishing for details on what we were looking for, what our time frame was, who we had talked to, etc.
In typical fashion, he ushered us to an open office and asked us to wait while he went to look for the manager. A few minutes later he was back, and said the manager would just be a bit and he wanted to get some more info before we began. All we want to do is test drive a car. We aren’t even looking at buying or leasing at this point. We just want to look at it. None of this seems to matter at Chevy though. Before you can test drive they need your phone number, address, credit score, relationship to each other, the options on the car you are interested in, what color you might want it in, your first born, and a sack of gold. Did I mention all we wanted to do was test drive the damn thing to see if we even liked it?
After about 30 minutes of sitting in the office where our sales dude would periodically get up and go talk to the manager down the hall, the sales manager finally arrived. Now this is where it gets really old school. This is not a car for me. It is a car for Kristy. The sales manager directed all his talking to me. Even when I pointed out I’m not buying or leasing the car, she is. Strike One. At this point he informed us that the sales associate would be “taking us” on a test drive and he disappeared down the hall. The sales guy got a set of keys and slipped outside to fetch a Volt, and we sat and waited.
10 minutes later he returned and informed us that all three Volts in stock had dead batteries, so we couldn’t drive one. Strike 2. At this point trying to salvage a test drive, I said it was OK charge one up, we’ll go run some errands and come back later for a test drive. Sensing a loss of sale he said hold on, disappeared into the managers office and came back a few minutes later. The manager said we could drive it even though the battery is dead. ( if you are unfamiliar with the Volt, it’s all electric. The gas engine charges the main battery, but you kind of want to drive it battery only to see how it runs in normal everyday conditions ). We were there so we said OK, only to find out the sales guy was coming along for the test drive. He told us it was Chevy policy, he had to. Strike 3. We walked.
Here is the deal. From the moment we exited our car, the whole experience felt rigged. The sales guy sized us up. He asked me if I was trading my BMW for the volt, he checked out my watch, he captured as much info visually and through the pre-test questions as he could. He relayed it to the sales manager who didn’t give a damn about Kristy, he simply wanted to sell ME a car. The whole experience was a giant fail because Chevy’s corporate dealer culture is steeped in old school methods. We walked out without driving or leasing a car. We drove down the street to Baron MINI, and experienced the complete opposite.
I have purchased a number of cars from Baron, but the experience I am going to describe is exactly like it was the first time I ever went there. We walked in, looked around a bit said we wanted to test drive a MINI Countryman and a Coupe, they photo copied our licenses, and insurance, handed us the keys to the first car and said go have some fun. The sales person didn’t ride along. They didn’t try and gather a bunch of info or ask what our credit score was. They didn’t get my phone number. They simply said take the car for a spin and let us know what you think. It was easy, relaxed, zero pressure, and it worked. Chevy could learn from this.
Out of the last 5 cars I have purchased, only once did the sales person ride along. Two years ago when a Honda sales person pulled this on a test drive, we walked and bought from another Honda dealer. The fact is, the only reason they want to go along on the test drive is to get more information from you that they can use to close the sale. In reality if the product is good enough, and the sales person treats you right, they don’t need to ride along. Like I said earlier, all it really does is make the potential buyer nervous and uncomfortable. The Chevy dealer told us it was “Policy”, for “Insurance reasons”. I’m calling BS on that one. If it is policy, it’s one GM and their dealers need to change.
So where did Superior fail;
They didn’t try to understand their customer
They targeted the wrong buyer assuming it was the man, not the woman
To much pressure from the start
They were overly aggressive
The product didn’t work. How can you sell an electric car with dead batteries?
They let their old school corporate cultural control the sales experience (the world has changed and buyers are to well informed, and don’t like being sold every moment.)
They treated a person interested Ina high tech 21st century car, like the same person buying a Camero
There were to many people involved in the exchange. Why did it take 3 Chevy employees to try and lease one car
They didn’t listen. All we wanted to do was take a test drive.