Stepping into a larger world

A friend of mine that I met, during my 2013 trip to the Chicago Auto Show sent a message to me recently. He said he had seen someone looking for writers for articles, to be published on an automotive website. He thought I’d be a good fit. I responded the only types of vehicles I could write with, with any authority or expertise, would be EVs and hybrids.

Brad, my friend, forwarded my response to the publisher, which resulted in a phone call, from the publisher and a discussion of how publishing with his website works.

I have a demanding full-time job, as well as a blog and a podcast I am starting, so I was pretty timid about sticking my toe in the pond. Armen, the publisher, suggested sending a test article. Like most people, I am unsure of myself, but this seemed like a good approach, so I submitted the article. If you like it, please share from TorqueNews or leave a comment there!

It was published almost immediately on TorqueNews.TorqueNews Article

Huge tracks o’land!

***NEWS FLASH!***

Texas is big. I know, you’ve heard that somewhere before. But here’s the deal: To understand the scale of today’s post, you have to understand the scale of Texas. Driving from Texarkana, in the northeast to El Paso, in the west, takes 11-1/2 hours and covers a distance of 814 miles. A trip from Texline, near the northwest corner of the panhandle to Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas is a 13 hour drive, spanning about 900 miles.

Texas

Click on image for a larger view.

Here’s a map of the trip I took last weekend:

Lubbock to DFW mapThe city, at the left terminus of the route, is Lubbock, Texas. The large metropolitan area on the far right side is the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex (DFW). The time it takes to drive from DFW to Lubbock is approximately five hours and is a journey of 335 miles (each way). My wife and I drove, from DFW to Lubbock and back again, this past weekend, to take our daughter Zoe, to college.

Buzz in heaven

Buzz in heaven

Notice the red curve, on each of the above maps? That is the subject of today’s post. The red curve is the drive from Justiceburg at the north end of the red road to Sweetwater at the south end. It’s about an hour’s drive, running 67 miles, give or take.

That area of North Texas is primarily farm land and rocky, dry wilderness that looks like this:

Wide Open Spaces

It is interesting, if somewhat monotonous scenery. Something I enjoy doing, on road trips through Texas, is to stop and read historical markers. Normally, Bonnie (my wife) hates this, but this time she obliged my “hobby.”

PostGenerally, Texans are fascinated by their state’s varied history: The Alamo, the battle of San Jacinto, Bonnie & Clyde, NASA, Judge Roy Bean, Spindletop and more. Now that Bonnie (my wife, not the Bonnie of bank robbing fame) and I are empty-nesters, we can take a more leisurely approach to road trips. The first stop for us was just north of Post, Texas. The town was named after C.W. Post, of whom, you may have heard (see historical marker, to the left). Yes, the maker of Post Toasties liked to explode dynamite from kites to try to produce rain with the goal of ending droughts!

Texas history has had lots of colorful characters.Post, Texas Picnic Area

Shortly after resuming our drive, we spotted something amazing on the horizon: a wind farm. Actually, it was the northern tip of a gigantic wind farm. It wasn’t my first sight of one though. Back in February 2013, I stopped to check out a wind farm, in Indiana, while on my way to the Chicago Auto Show. I thought it was an amazing sight, with over 55 wind turbines!

Escarpment panorama

You’ll want to click on this image.

This time was different.

The northern edge of this wind farm was perched, on the edge of an escarpment. This is a desirable location, due to the wind swooping up, over the escarpment, which concentrates the wind energy. The area we were driving through had lots of these long, steep cliffs, making it a good area to harvest wind energy. It also had been a good area in which to drill for oil and gas. Old & New EnergyWe saw many, many jack pumps, rocking slowly, up and down. What was different this time, compared to the wind farm I saw in 2013, was its size and the number of wind turbines. We saw wind turbines constantly, for at least 60 miles. They numbered in the thousands! The stretch of highway, marked in red in the maps above, show how far we traveled with wind turbines within sight. No photograph could do justice to the vista that stretched out before us. We were in awe!Volt WindFarm 75

In the photo above, at much higher resolution, I was able to count 75 wind turbines. I got curious about the extent of this collection of this wind farm, so I looked at satellite imagery, once I got home.

Wind turbines from above

Click for MUCH larger image

In the image above, you can easily spot the wind turbines, due to the shadows they cast. Much of the land around the turbines is farmland. For each turbine, there is a small gravel drive and pad, surrounding it. Beyond that, farmers are growing crops. This has to be a financial boon to the farmers with no negatives, like possible crop contamination. Here’s a closer view:Satellite zoomed

In satellite imagery, of this area of Texas, one can observe both the wind turbines as well as jack pump sites. Many Texans seem to like the image of the old, oil and gas jack pump, but I have to admit loving the beauty, grace and spectacle of the gigantic wind turbines.

Times change.Old & New

Time is fleeting.

A lot of my friends, whom I hold in high regard, are silent on social media, or so it seems. It is well past time that we spoke, in a unified voice, against white supremacy, Nazi flags/regalia/salutes, nighttime torch marches meant to intimidate, violence against others due to race/religion/sexual orientation/ethnicity.

If you refuse to believe that one political party courted the alt-right, in order to win elections (or at least held their noses/comments so as to not alienate those voters), let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

If you have forgotten a candidate who did not renounce endorsements by racist, terrorist organizations, while deflecting media inquiries about the lack of renunciation, let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

If you are a proud Southerner (as I am), but have been swayed by arguments that the monuments & flags of the defeated Confederacy are your heritage and have not been twisted for the purposes of being racist and used for intimidation, let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

Real Americans, join hands!We all make mistakes, out of anger, me included. However, we are approaching a moment from which our country will be unable to turn back. America will become that country that gave way to dark forces, which the world WILL rise to defeat, after much noble sacrifice. Generations of Americans, decades, if not centuries from now, will have to hang their heads in shame, when discussions of the coming war arise.

I implore you to let go and search your soul, without blaming yourself, to find the good person I know you to be. Then speak up against the hatred and violence, AND all politicians that are complicit. American politics is not a game, like football. Sometimes, it’s okay for your team to lose, if it makes the country better and your children safer.

It was the silence of very good people and an anger and frustration that had been building for decades, that caused a good country to lose its way, just 80 years ago. An extremist minority there, thought they were justified, in their anger and hatred and lit a fuse that devastated a generation worldwide. They thought their country to be invincible and it almost was. If only their good people had risen up to say, “No! This is wrong! The demagogue speaking now, does NOT speak for me!” then perhaps history would have been different.

It is easier to put out a torch than a forest fire.

We need your good voice, before it is too late.

Using the right tool and the 1% car

The Right Tool


The Right Tool

My office phone at the dealership rolls over to my iPhone, after two rings. In commissioned sales, a missed call is missed income and a tragedy at bill-paying time!

This morning, as I was getting ready to jump in the shower, my phone rang. The caller said she wasn’t sure why she’d been transferred to me, but she was interested in the Volt. Just to make sure I understood, I said, “Is the first letter of the car bravo or victor?” I always want to make sure we’re discussing the same vehicle. She affirmed that is was victor for Volt.

She said she had one question, “If I get a Volt, does the dealership have a charger, on site, I can use to recharge my car?”

I responded, “Yes, we do, but you won’t want to use it.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

I explained by asking, “Do you want to stay at a Chevy dealership 4-1/2 hours every day?” I explained how far you can go, on a single charge, and the time it takes to refill a depleted battery pack. I added that the Volt comes with its own charger that can be plugged in at your home for exactly that purpose. She asked, “Can it be plugged into any ‘normal’ outlet?” I explained that it plugs into a 110V outlet, just like an iPhone. The circuit would have to meet a minimum amperage, but basically, yes. She seemed very surprised. I went on to say that most Volt owners only recharge at work or at home, due to the time it takes to charge. I explained that there are apps for smartphones that locate public chargers, and some chargers are free to use, but that the Volt’s backup gasoline engine allows owners a degree of freedom that purely electric vehicles do not have.

At this point, she said she is an apartment dweller and doesn’t have an outlet near her parking spot. She asked if she could run an extension cord from her apartment to her car. I explained why that isn’t a good idea. I also mentioned that the Bolt EV is a better choice for apartment dwellers, because the average driver would only have to charge one a week or so. The Bolt EV also supports DC Fast Charging, which means the weekly “fill up” would take only about 2-1/2 hours. She was aware of the Bolt EV, but said her budget was only $14K, so she was looking for a used Volt.

I passed along something one of my managers once told me, “You don’t ever have to plug the Volt in. It can be run, exclusively, on the gasoline engine and would result in about 37 MPG. Then I told her that in her situation, I would recommend a “normal” hybrid, like the Malibu, Prius, etc. Since those vehicles don’t get plugged in, but get impressive gas mileage, they are also a good choice for an apartment resident and can be acquired, on the used market, within her budget. She thanked me and ended the conversation.

It amazes me, after 79 months of Volt availability, that people are unaware of basic things like charge time or that the Volt comes with its own charge cord, just like a smartphone. THIS is a failing I put at GM’s doorstep.

The 1% Car


I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while and the previous narrative seemed to make this time appropriate.

I’ve spoken with people who LOVED the Volt test drive. They needed the efficiency and could live with the limited seating capacity. However, they started asking about three-row crossovers, like the Traverse or SUVs, like the Tahoe. When I asked why, their response usually went something like this:

“Once a year, we have family come down to visit us and we need a vehicle that has the capacity to handle that.”

I am floored by this approach to car buying! The customer is deciding on the best vehicle, based on how it will be used 1% or 2% of the time! My response is usually along these lines:

  • You (the client) loved the silence and the acceleration of the Volt and know you’ll be giving this up, in the crossovers and SUVs, right?
  • Let’s look at the economics: The Traverse and Volt are in the same price range, but only the Volt gives you the $7,500 tax credit.
  • The Crossover/SUV gets 19 miles per gallon but the Volt gets the dollar equivalent of at least 80 MPG (conservatively)
  • Driving the crossover 15K miles per year, results in a fuel cost of $1,776 per year. (15,000 miles ÷ 19 MPG X $2.25 per gallon)
  • The Volt would have a fuel cost (electricity) of $640 per year, to travel the same distance. Assumptions: 11¢ per kWh, 20% charging loss, 0.31 kWh per mile, 41.1 miles per day: a VERY conservative estimate. (15,000 miles X 0.31 kWh ÷ 80% X 11¢)Rental rates
  • The resulting savings, of driving the Volt year round, just in fuel/electricity is $1,136 per year. This figure does not include at least three oil changes for the crossover/SUV per year or the convenience of refueling at home.
  • The image, to the right, was just pulled today, for rentals the week of Christmas 2017, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Just the fuel savings would rent one or two SUVs for the week!
  • Why not rent a really nice SUV, for the one week per year that the family visits, and thoroughly enjoy the driving experience the rest of the time?

July 2017 Sales Numbers

Bolt EV Take-OffJuly 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were mostly down with a couple up slightly, and the Chevy Bolt EV jumping up 20%, as it continues it’s rollout across the U.S. The image to the left shows the adoption curves of the plug-in vehicles I track, including the original Prius (non-plug-in). As can be seen, the Bolt EV has outperformed them all, over the first eight months of availability, even though it is still not available in all states yet!

For the last three years, July has been a pretty good month for me. This July was pretty good as well, mainly due to my Bolt EV customers’ orders beginning to arrive. My final Bolt EV sale of the month is an interesting story. The daughter of the dealership’s owner gets a new demo vehicle, about every six months. She could pretty much have any vehicle here, but her last two choices had been Volts (fully loaded Premiers). In July, she decided to purchase a vehicle: The Bolt EV. Stay tuned. I hope to have a video interview with her soon.

I mentioned last month that the 2018 Volt was about to go into production. Production has started and my first two 2018 Volts have been built! More on that in a later post…

July 2017 EV Sales NumbersHere are the July 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 13% (1,518 vs. 1,745)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 20% (1,971 vs. 1,642)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 15% (1,283 vs. 1,506)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 2% (1,645 vs. 1,619)
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 39% (1,425 vs. 2,350) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 25% (1,650 vs. 2,200) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 6% (601 vs. 567)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 1% (703 vs. 707)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 10% (844 vs. 936)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: DOWN 26% (43 vs. 58)

In July, the average price of gasoline was about the same as the previous month, $2.27. It bottomed out on the 4th of July, at $2.22, but rose 11 cents per gallon over the rest of the month, ending at $2.33.

My Sales By MonthAs I mentioned earlier, July 2017 marked my first Bolt EV sales. In the graph above, the largest bar for June and July is red, representing a tie for best July ever and the best June I have ever had. But notice its size, compared to all the other red bars for 2017. Things are getting better???

Vehicle Sales By ModelMy July sales were comprised of six Bolt EVs, three Malibus (still no, not hybrids), and a Volt . As in June, I did not sell a single Silverado pickup, so the Volt continues to be my most popular vehicle, but the Bolt EV has already surpassed my career sales of four other vehicles: the City Express van, Sonic, Spark and Trax.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 37% (1,518 vs. 2,406) **2017 model year ended, awaiting 2018?
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in July 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 21% (1,283 vs. 1,063)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 41,025% (1,645 vs. 4) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last July
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 34% (1,425 vs. 2,150)
  • Tesla Model X: UP 120% (1,650 vs. 750)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 59% (601 vs. 1,479)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 48% (703 vs. 1,341)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 12% (844 vs. 755)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in July 2016)

Click baiting EV fans

Recently, there was a headline on several sites (even some that specialize in EV news) that GM’s Orion Township facility, where the Chevy Bolt EV is manufactured, was on an extended vacation shutdown, due to poor Bolt EV sales. Of course, as reported earlier, 8,171 Bolt EV’s have been sold, in it’s first 6+ months of availability and it still is not available nation-wide yet! That is better than any other vehicle I currently track, including the original Toyota Prius! Here’s how they rank, in their first 7 months of availability:

  • Bolt EV – 8,171
  • Prius (original) – 6,401
  • Prius Plug-in – 6,082
  • BMW i3 – 5,079
  • C-Max Energi – 3,951
  • Leaf – 3,894
  • Volt – 3,071
  • Model S – 2,650
  • Model X – 2,614
  • Fusion Energi – 2,591

Admittedly, the market has matured and expectations are higher. Some of these vehicles were manufactured, more or less, by hand and not in a mass production mode. The concept of a hybrid or electric vehicle isn’t as new or strange as when the more venerable of these vehicles debuted. But the Bolt EV isn’t even available nationally yet and it’s death knell is already being sounded?!?!?

I used to work for Apple, while Steve Jobs was still alive. I got to experience this from the inside, regarding the iPhone. Remember the iPhone “Antenna-gate scandal?” No? That’s because it was what came to be know an “click bait.” For those unaware of the term, click-bait is a bold headline, meant to convince the person seeing it to click on the link, to read the article. The reason for this, is to sell ads. The user, clicks on the link and the website hosting the story gets paid pennies for the ads that are presented alongside the article. Those pennies can add up to big money and did, whenever the “scandle” was Apple-related. Both Apple fan boys (of which I consider myself a member) and Apple haters would jump on the link to see the “news.” (I’d use the term “fake news,” had it not become so disreputable, recently…)

Well, EV and plug-in hybrid fans are at least as rabid as Apple fans. I often direct people, considering one of these fabulous vehicles, to the Facebook pages that have sprouted up for them. Nothing sells an EV like someone who owns one! Those same EV fans, just like the Apple fans before them, pounce on the click-bait articles, generating revenue for the sites posting the questionable articles and then repost them on Facebook to debate their veracity, whether through fear or indignation. This just fuels the fire and rewards the people posting the questionable articles, in the first place, reinforcing their crappy journalism by rewarding it.

In the real world of wanting to be the first to scoop the rest of the world, this probably cannot be helped. It’s not a new phenomenon…

Remember when?

The Bolt EV “news” was rebutted by a person who actually works at the plant. They said that the vacation/shutdown was extended to retool the line to produce more Bolt EVs at the detriment of Chevy Sonic production. The Sonic, for those unaware of it, is a very low-priced, small four-door sedan, which isn’t selling well, during these times of low cost gasoline.

Another recent “news story,” that I deem as click bait, include the UAW being in talks with GM about ending the production of “6 passenger cars.” The reason stated for this is that, with people buying large trucks and SUVs instead of cars, UAW members working at plants that produce cars are being financially hurt by extended vacations, lack of overtime, etc.

One of the offshoots of the above-mentioned UAW/GM story, is that it is predicted that the Chevy Volt would be a victim of this in 2020.

I’m a major fan of the Chevy Volt. We have had five of them so far, in our household. You’re probably aware of that.

I was not perturbed by the story at all, for a several reasons:

  • The American public has an incredibly short memory, when it come to vehicles. Every time gas prices go down, we forget the struggle of high gas prices/gasoline shortages. Demand is a pendulum. Americans go back and forth, between small, fuel-efficient vehicles and large, not-so-efficient SUVs (remember Hummers?). All it takes is a war in an oil-rich area or for the effects of climate change to become apparent and the pendulum will swing back.
  • Every day, I get to see people drive a Bolt EV or Volt for the first time. I see them light up over the acceleration, the silence and how inexpensive they are to operate, even when considering how cheap gas is.
  • I interact daily online, with owners of EVs and plug-in hybrids and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that 99% of these people will never, ever go back to an exclusively gasoline-powered vehicle. I call this the “stickiness” of EVs. It’s sort of like the Hotel California, in that (paraphrasing) “you can check out any time you like, but you won’t ever leave.
  • Finally, it was the 2020 prediction of the Volt’s demise. I’m completely cool with that. In 2020, the Volt will be ten years old. Advances in battery technology, as well as the expected roll-out of faster charging infrastructure, makes me hope it’s true. There should be no reason for plug-in hybrids to exist, after 2020! Some other incarnation of the Volt, one that’s fully electric, should bring about the retirement of this wonderful GM creation. (Personally, I’m hoping for a fully-electric, two-seat convertible roadster…that I can afford)

So, don’t fret. Someone once said there’s a tipping point coming that most people, pundits included, don’t foresee.

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Things you may not know about the car business

Every day, I am surprised by car buyers. There is a huge lack of understanding about what goes on, during a car deal. Here are some of my observations:

Many people believe there’s always some more discount they’re not getting. I understand this. Every time I bought a vehicle, I always felt I had gotten ripped off, somewhere in the process. I didn’t know where it occurred, but it was my gut feeling. Even when I went to a dealership that advertised “No Haggle Pricing!” I just knew something didn’t work out in my favor. My feelings were justified, in some cases, and sometimes they weren’t.

Not to sound off for a competitor, but my 1992 Acura Integra GSR purchase experience was probably my best ever (at least, until I started selling them to myself). I bought one of the very last 1992s, after the 1993s had started shipping to dealers. It was a color I loved (a metallic turquiose), but was probably one for which most people would not have opted. The dealership was also a very good, customer-oriented dealership. A few months, after my purchase, the radiator hose blew. I called the dealer to see about having it towed in and the Service Manager came out to me, at the side of the road. They did not have the hose I needed, in stock, so he brought the closest thing they had and customized it on site, poured in some coolant and had me on my way! I will never forget that customer experience. If Acura had offered plug-in vehicles, when I was shopping for my first one, I would probably be driving one now.

prebuzz

1976, me and my maroon Monte Carlo. Yes, I had hair at one time…

I have definitely experienced this ripped off feeling myself. My very first new car purchase, when I was 18 years old, was a 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo (yes, I am that old). Just three exits from the dealership, it overheated. The thermostat was faulty, so the engine didn’t get enough coolant. After being repaired, the car always made a rattling noise, somewhere under the hood. I was told this was normal and was the “heat riser.” I swore to myself that I’d never buy another Chevy, for as long as I lived.

I know. I know. I’ve bought or leased 5 Chevy Volts so far and am now an EVangelist (EV specialist/salesperson) at a Chevy dealership. Sometimes we are confronted with something that makes us enjoy dining on crow…

But back to being ripped off…

I have seen people keep pushing for a lower price, when I know we’ve hit rock bottom. Sometimes, just to clear out old inventory that will soon have no manufacturer incentives, dealerships will sell below their actual cost. I’ve done this (with management approval, of course) and still the customer thinks there’s more discount available. They have even left, without buying, passing up an incredible deal. The pricing procedures in dealership sales is the reason for this distrust/misunderstanding. Manufacturers have incentives (discounts) that change monthly, in order to move inventory that isn’t currently moving. One day, I may have an unbelievably great deal, that is not available the next day. This really happens, but it makes people wonder if they’re being jacked with.

Many people do not understand basic math. I do not mean to sound harsh, but I’ve met people who don’t understand why we sometimes cannot get to the payment they want. I’ve spoken with people who start out wanting a $65K vehicles at a monthly payment, “no higher than $600 per month.” I’ll usually have to show them that their $65K vehicle, after Texas’ sales tax, is actually going to have a drive-out price of $69K. If we take that number and divide by 72 months (the usual finance term) we’d be at $958 per month…at zero percent interest. Occasionally, there are zero percent financing incentives, but usually this is not the case. A vehicle with a $600 per month payment would have to be priced at around $40K, before tax AND get zero percent financing, as well! Needless to say, it’s important to understand the customer’s expectations, before showing them a vehicle they cannot afford, but often they’ve been told, “Never let the salesperson know the payment you want.” These people (and their salesperson) get the bad news, only after wasting each others’ time, and for a commissioned salesperson, time actually IS money.

Some people don’t read or understand the contract they are signing. I have met people who have been trapped by less reputable dealers/finance companies. There were hidden fees they paid, usually due to poor credit, just to get their vehicle financed. They weren’t really hidden. They were in the contract, but were ignored because the customer had to have basic transportation, in order to keep their job. They were charged stunningly high interest rates but were unaware of it. They were only fixated on the payment. They just made a mistake, due to their circumstances, at the time of purchase. I’m proud to say my dealership only deals with reputable, non-predatory financing sources. I have had customers, crying at my desk, when they realize what happened, when they got their last vehicle. They were trapped in a crappy, unreliable car, because they still owed so much more than it was worth. I am happy to say I have been able to save some of these people. I did this by finding a new vehicle with enough incentives/discounts, from the manufacturer and the dealership, that I was able to get them out of the bad situation, into a much better one. It’s kind of a specialty of mine. Like many of the things I do at work, it is time-consuming, but helping a person out of a bad deal, creates a new client that won’t go anywhere else for a new vehicle, until they’ve come to see me.

Many people do not understand how commissioned sales works. Like the example above, people will drive to the dealership, when they have no intention/ability to purchase. They just want to check out cars as a diversion and have no intention of buying a vehicle for months, if not years. However, they want a salesperson to describe the differences between trim levels or between vehicles. They expect and deserve great customer service, and may buy eventually, so some salespeople (like me) will spend a great deal of time with them, while having to ignore other customers who may actually want to drive away in a new vehicle today. I have spoken with car salespeople who will be rude and say, “Come back when you’re ready to buy. You’re wasting my time.” This probably burns that customer for that dealership, even though, in some ways, the salesperson is justified in saying what they said. A commissioned salesperson makes zero income, unless they actually sell something. There is no minimum wage (other than zero) in this business. Imagine going to work and working hard, in the blazing sun or freezing wind, all day, only to end up making nothing for your efforts. That’s the life of a commissioned salesperson. I strive to give the best customer experience possible and spend a great amount of time with my customers, both before and after the sale is complete, hoping that they’ll recommend me to their family, friends and coworkers. I have even explained to clients that, as of the moment their sale was complete, I am effectively unemployed. They look shocked, thinking I have just been fired, but I explain that a salesperson is unemployed until they start their next successful car sale. The dealership and manufacturers track customer satisfaction, through surveys, so this is very important, to them as well. In fact, dealerships can earn extra cash from the manufacturer, if their customer satisfaction surveys are above a certain mark.

Another common problem, is the customer asking a second or third salesperson, at the same dealership, to show them a vehicle. The salesperson with which they’ve been working is out of pocket for a moment, perhaps finding a particular vehicle, putting their proposal paperwork together, locating a brochure, out to lunch or have the day off. The customer grabs the nearest warm body and asks to be helped. In the world of commission sales, the car deal’s commission is now split between the two salespeople. This hurts both the customer and salesperson. When a deal is split, the negotiating salesperson knows they’re going to make half the commission they normally would. Due to this, they are much more reluctant to discount the vehiclen as much as they would have, had the deal (and commission) been theirs alone. Who loses? Both the original salesperson and the customer!

As you may know, I once worked for Apple and got my customer service indoctrination there. People love going to the Apple Store just to hang out and check out the latest tech. Of course, Apple salespeople are not commissioned. They receive a salary for what they do. They’ll take home a check, whether you buy something or not. Many of them, like me, are tech nerds who absolutely love talking about their products. As long as they’re not overlooking customers who need help, their managers are happy to let them spend large amounts of time with their clientele. I have had that used against me, in plug-in vehicle sales. The client will spend a great deal of time with me, asking everything possible about the Bolt EV or Volt, only to buy from a dealer that is selling below cost, because that dealer doesn’t understand the product and has decided to cut their losses. The customer will then call me, after their purchase, asking more questions and for my advice on driving, chargers, etc. They found that the salesperson, who gave them such a great deal, was clueless, once the deal was done. In the past, I have reluctantly answered their questions, but have now decided I need to spend that time helping the people actually interested in buying from me.

Most people, even those who really appreciate great service, won’t return a satisfaction survey. A salesperson’s career can be made or destroyed by the customer satisfaction surveys. If an entire dealership’s average customer service index (CSI) falls below a level, set by the manufacturer, the dealership can lose bonuses and the salesperson can lose cash incentives, paid directly to them by the manufacturer. The customer receives a survey via email or traditional mail and sees it as junk mail. Most think it is worthless, both to themselves and to the salesperson/dealership. This is a failure of the salesperson. The salesperson should make sure the buyer knows the importance of this, but many are already looking over their customer’s shoulder for the next sale and just want the buyer to leave, in their new vehicle, to free them up to find the next buyer. There is a running joke, among my friends at work, about the time I spend teaching my customers about all the functions of their new vehicle. It definitely costs me, in that moment, because I miss potential sales. However, as the General Sales Manager here once told me, “You’re customers don’t just like you. They love you. I just want them to love you faster.” I have found that my time investment has several benefits: 1) My customers are very loyal, both to me and my dealership. Most tell me they won’t even shop at other dealers because they know I’ll treat them right. 2) My customers recommend me to their friends and family. When I started selling cars for a living, I thought it would take at least three years, before I got repeat business from a customer. As it turns out, I have many, many customers who have already bought multiple cars or trucks from me, although I’ve been in the business less than four years. In fact a few have bought four vehicles so far! I’ve also seen referrals from my customers generate multiple sales from their family members, friends and coworkers. This makes for a much easier, less adversarial, sale and my spending time with these referrals generates even more referrals. I believe this is the best way to grow my business and income. It is a longer road, although much more enjoyable, to success.

Some customers will become friends. This caught me completely by surprise. I’ve been invited to parties, out to have a few beers, to dinner, or to ride in a new vehicle they got from someone else (never something I could have sold them, of course…). The first time I realized we had more than a transaction between us was heartbreaking. A husband and wife came in to check out the 2SS Camaro. We had one on the showroom floor, so I opened it up to let them check it out. The man had a very difficult time getting into the Camaro. He had back issues and his wife has knee problems. They really had to struggle to get in. Once they had extricated themselves from the car, I told them about the Chevy SS four-door sports sedan, made in Australia. I showed it to them. They found it much easier to get into and out of. However, they had dreamed of the Camaro for years. I helped them configure one and they placed a factory order with me. I kept them apprised of their Camaro’s progress and texted them a photo of it as soon as it arrived. They were so happy and we all took pictures of each other around the car. When they stopped in to get their car serviced, they always came by my desk to say hi. Then one day, I saw on Facebook that the woman had passed away the night before. It felt like I had been stabbed, in the heart. That moment was when I knew I was making friends, not clients. Since then, I have made many friends here. We’ve gone out together. We’ve connected on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc. In fact, I recently sold the third vehicle to a couple of friends and we were all hugging, as we parted.

I love doing business this way.

Here are a few of my favorite customer comment cards my dealership has received, regarding my clients’ experiences with me:

comment 1comment 2

This one made my day (as you can well imagine):comment 3

This one caught my manager’s eye, so he called me into his office to show it to me. She has also generated two other Volt sales for me, in her family:comment 4