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Ed Voyles KIA Dealership, Image:

TTAC Commentator Halftruth writes:

Can we talk about the absolute incompetence at dealerships?

  • Mild issue: Bought new SUV for wife back in 2010. Wife complains that “something not quite right.” I drive it and notice something slightly off. Take it to dealer, no trouble found. On a whim, I check the tire pressures: 40 psi, 37 psi, 45 psi and 35 psi. I called the dealer on this as they missed it TWICE. Once during prep and once when brought in for the original complaint. I asked how could they miss this and was told “well, it is a new machine and some of the guys are having trouble with it.” To which I replied, “I don’t have a machine and I was still able to troubleshoot this and DO YOUR JOB!” Service manager was not happy with me.
  • More severe issue: I went for a late-model used sedan and picked a local dealership that I had bought cars from 3 times before. I test drive a car, like it, come back with the wife and decide this is it. I backed the car in and by mistake popped the trunk; the young salesman was all too eager to show my wife the trunk and how clean it was. I saw a pushpin sitting in the spare tire area. I asked the salesman, “you know what this is, right?” He said no. I explained this is one of the pushpins that attaches the bumper underneath. He turned white and I got right under the car and, sure enough, the bumper was not attached well and was flopping around. At that point I asked for sales manager and asked about their 172 point inspection and if there were any accidents on record. They had no answers. We ended up agreeing to them fixing the bumper and replacing the battery, as it had shown some signs of weakness after sitting a couple of days on the lot. I was trading in a truck and the trade deal was very favorable, so I went with it. I come to pick it up and bumper is not fixed, battery not replaced, and the tire pressures were all low. I left and bought elsewhere.

Kindly shine some light on this.

Sajeev answers:

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I’m sorry to hear about your experiences.  I’m filled with explanations, but must temper a response based on experience: my full-time gig is in auto retail.

Be it sales or service, your problems highlight this industry’s inability to recruit and retain talent. It’s a long standing problem (with new complications for digital retailing), suggesting the average Piston Slap reader knows more about cars than those in auto retail. That’s no excuse, as non-car people neither deserve your experiences.

So when finding yourself getting the short end of the stick, do the following:

  1. Use a carrot, not a stick: elucidate without losing your cool…definitely don’t be the next customer going viral.  
  2. Speak to the Manager, the General Manager if needed.
  3. Go elsewhere if #2 fails.

But let’s examine Step #1 to the logical extreme; let’s embrace the enthusiast-retailer disconnect. Dealerships operating like the ubiquitous Zappos case studies from college are unlikely. Any retail job is challenging (even life changing) and experts need even more patience than your average buyer. I am sure it’s the same for tech junkies at Best Buy, doctors getting a physical, foodies at a restaurant, etc.

Rarely does a hobby and career form into a single entity, yet I’m filled with hope as I see fresh faces entering the business, creating passion where nothing existed beforehand. Take my word for it, or not because you won’t hurt my feelings

…I’m used to it because I work in retail.



Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Since this will come up in the comments: your (valid) opinions regarding the dealership franchise model won’t change the employee recruitment/retention problem. Luxury retailers like Lexus, Tesla, etc. offer golden handcuffs and great overall customer service, while other brands have similar pay, more modest job pride/prestige, and the constant challenges of the changing retail employment landscape. Retail will always be retail.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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