Car salesmen should be more like REALTORS®.
That’s right. I said it.
I know what you’re thinking. As a REALTOR®, the last thing I should be comparing myself to is a car salesman. History and hollywood have painted us with the same sleazy brush. The truth is, I spend the majority of my day finding ways to shed those old brissles.
However, as my wife and I are currently in the process of shopping for her next vehicle, it occurred to me how much better the car buying experience would be if car salesmen were more like REALTORS®.
Maybe I’m just kicking tires, but I truly think these hybrid ideas could take the top down and grind this industry into the next gear (too many puns to pardon):
An MLS® (Multiple Listing Service) System
A good friend of mine sells cars for a local dealership. He’s the guy I want to work with. Unfortunately, he only sells one brand of car. I am now forced with deciding between buying a car I don’t really want from the guy I like or buying the car I really like from a guy I want to punch in the face.
All available, in stock, new or used vehicles should be listed on an MLS® System. Each vehicle’s price, features, age and description would be available to all dealerships. Each vehicle would have a listing brokerage (the dealership) along with a specific listing agent (the sales person). The agent’s job would be to represent the owner’s interest to sell that vehicle and promote it for sale to fellow WHEELTORS® and the general public. As a member of the general public in the market to purchase a vehicle, I may contact the listing agent directly or I may choose to work with another WHEELTOR® of my choice. Just like shopping for a home, my WHEELTOR® could spend the whole day with me, visiting different dealerships throughout the city to help me find the right car that fits my budget with all the right features I’m looking for, despite the make or model.
My WHEELTOR®’S knowledge of vehicles helps me find the vehicle that’s right for me, without having to do all my own research and be affected by all the various car advertising thrown my way to sway me.
While my WHEELTOR® represents one brand, he’s still able to show me vehicles from other dealerships. This allows me to place my trust in my agent and know that he’s looking after my best interest, not those of the seller. Also, his experience in the process and access to information on recent sales allows me to make sure I’m not over paying for my vehicle, buying a lemon or being tricked into paying some of those mystery charges.
Cars should have a listing and buyer’s brokerage commission
Just like a home, the commission paid on the sale of a vehicle should be split between the listing agent and the agent representing the buyer in the transaction. This allows my agent the comfort of knowing he is being paid for the transaction, no matter which vehicle I purchase. The focus shifts into what’s important for me, not his pocket.
Also, the listing agent is more than happy to work with a fellow WHEELTOR®. The more agents that bring buyers through his doors, the more cars he’ll sell (and listing commissions he’ll make).
Sometimes, an agent will be working with a buyer who ends up purchasing a vehicle that they have listed for sale. Similar to real estate, this would be a Limited Dual Agency situation that requires the proper disclosures and steps to ensure both parties interests are well represented. In this situation, the agent would earn both commissions in the transaction.
Custom Orders are like Home Builders
I admit, sometimes it is very important to know the various details of a make and model. If I am interested in ordering a brand new vehicle with all the features and specs I want, I am likely going to have to sit down with a specialist of that product. Together, we’ll go through all the details of building a new car. Just like working with a Home Builder, my WHEELTOR® will introduce me to a product specialist at the dealership. My agent is paid a referral commission from the builder. This allows my agent to have a general knowledge of all vehicles, but refer me to a detailed product specialist when custom ordering and more detailed knowledge of a specific brand is required. While my agent may also be a product specialist, he may not be trained or affiliated with the product I am interested in building.
Education should be broad and universal. Certification should be established.
This business model shifts the training focus away from being product specific to a broader knowledge of vehicles and the buying process. Agents are trained to represent buyers and sellers and guide them through the process. Once qualified and properly trained, agents acquire a professional certification (WHEELTOR®).
On going professional development and product education is a part of the ongoing development of the certification. A WHEELTOR® can even specialize in certain types of vehicles such as commercial long haul semis, agricultural machinery, recreational vehicles or even shared ownership leased vehicles.
For Sale by Owner
Just like home sales, private newspaper ads and for sale by owner websites will always be a part of the model as well. This for sale by owner (FSBO) market will see great benefits from this model. Just like selling their homes, private vehicle sellers are exposed to the same frustrations as private home sellers (outlined in my blog: A View from the Buyer’s Shoes).
As I work with my agent to find the right car for me, he helps me out by searching through local private sale listings hoping to find the right car for my budget. The private seller welcomes all WHEELTORS® working with buyers and offers a commission. With a professional representing the buyer, the seller knows the proper systems are in place to ensure the transaction goes smoothly. It also saves the seller from having to work directly with all the “tire kickers” out there.
Conditions of my purchase
When I finally find the car I like, I’m going to make an offer. But I’m no fool. I’m going to make my offer conditional on a Professional Mechanical Inspection. Once my offer is accepted, I will have a set period of time where I am able to have the vehicle inspected by my mechanic. If satisfied with the results of the inspection, I will remove my condition to firm up the sale. I will also be asking the seller to fill out a Vehicle Condition Disclosure Statement (VCDS) outlining any previous problems they’ve had with the vehicle. If any of my conditions fail to be met, my deposit is returned and we continue our search to find another vehicle.
While I would have already been pre-approved, I would likely still include a condition in my offer that allows me to ensure the terms of my financing fit my needs.
The time is now. The place is here.
I know this model seems a little far fetched. The way dealerships sell cars hasn’t changed in several years. It’s a stubborn, traditional industry that may never open their eyes to a better way. However, there’s no better place to try it than in Regina.
Why? Because the majority of Regina’s dealerships are owned by a handful of businesses. The Dilawri Group is Canada’s largest automotive group, operating 12 seperate brands in Regina alone. Taylor Automotive Group manages 6 brands, while others like Capital, Bellamy and others run the rest. While convincing their major brands may be a different story, it would only take changing the minds of a few to get local buy in for the idea.
Together, these brands and dealerships spend millions in Regina alone each year promoting their dealerships and vehicles to the general public, trying to convince them to buy a directly from them. These dealerships could benefit by working together with other co-operative dealerships. They would save money from having to compete with each other and sell more vehicles by opening up their doors to fellow sales people.
Dealerships and agents would be held accountable, having to build relationships built on trust and their reputation.
The constant turnover of sales people would be reduced as the opportunity for good sales people to have successful careers drastically improves. They are no longer reliant on the mass marketing and product development of the specific brand they represent. Even more, this model allows a consumer to have a life long relationship with the same agent, using them to help find different vehicles as their needs change. It’s a shift to doing lots of business with a group of clients who you have a strong relationship with, rather than selling cars to lots of people you barely know.
Best of all, buying a new car could become fun again. Less face punching.