An open letter to auto sales and marketing executives

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Dear Sales and Marketing Executives, I was in the market for a new car and I would like to pose the following question. What day of the week does a salaried employee have off so that he can go round car dealerships and look at cars? Sunday, correct. What day of the week do many of the dealerships close? Sunday, that is also correct! Is there a basic truth here that somebody is missing in your organization? Perhaps if the dealership were to stay open on Sunday and even close Monday, you might get a better response? Like the lottery, you’ve got to be in it to win it!

I went to the Bangkok International Motor Show and whilst getting an overview of the cars on offer, saw a couple that I could be interested in. I approached one and all that happened was a young lady, who could not speak any English, gave me a brochure. Unfortunately, the brochure, which was in Thai, did not have a price on it, and having exhausted my Thai language skills, I gave up at that point.

The other car company did have brochures in English and a price, and as an extra bonus, the name of the sales person. I rang when I got back to Pattaya, or I should say, I got my wife to ring when I got back to Pattaya. “He has not got any cars left. He is very busy. He will ring us later.”

It was April when my wife rang. By August I had given up hanging around near the phone. Either he was very, very busy or the manufacturer stopped production when they heard I was interested. Perhaps they were afraid I might not like it.

Still on the lookout for something that appealed to me, I saw a very attractive car on the forecourt of a major dealership close to my home. It was all in white with two broad blue stripes over the roof and with big fat wheels, and looked fabulous.

There was only one problem, the model seen on display on the forecourt turned out to be a private car. It was not a production car. It did not even belong to the dealership. I asked how much would it cost for another car, done exactly the same, all in white with two broad blue stripes over the roof, and with big fat wheels. They did not know. However, I had not given up (at that stage), so I asked if I could go for a run in one of their demonstrator cars. “Yes, but not the same size engine.” “No, I want to drive one with the same size engine as the one I might buy.” “Sorry, that one not going.”

Another salesman appeared. The reason the 1.8 liter car was immobile on the showroom floor was because it had a flat battery. Another car was driven into the showroom, jumper leads applied, and the demonstrator taken out into the sunshine for me to drive. Can you imagine what I was thinking as I drove down the road? “I hope it doesn’t stall on me. This car has a flat battery and nobody cared.”

Lesson number 1 in the car salesman’s manual – always have any car spotless, tuned, cleaned, fuel in the tank and air in the tyres and ready to go.

The next situations come from dissatisfied customers who have complained to me, and are also worthy of your attention, Sales and Marketing people. It seems that when the customer has decided to buy and the specifications and details are being recorded, at that point the dealership does not have one like that, but a special order can be put in to the factory, and the car will be available in three months. However, for a certain payment ‘under the table’ the friendly salesman (or woman) will be able to find one in another dealership and have it brought down for the customer. That payment is not insignificant, I am told.

Another situation occurs, I am told, when a possible purchaser wants to have a test drive. Some dealerships will just not do this, or worse, put the customer in the passenger’s seat and drive the customer around the block. Once.

Considering that a new motor car is the second most expensive purchase in most people’s lifetime, surely your sales personnel should try just a little harder? It might even increase your sales, and the profitability of your company, and we all know just how precarious that profitability can be in these troubled financial times.

Thank you for reading my letter.

Dr. Iain.