Friday Five: The business of car sales

the business of car sales

By: Ryan

There must be something in the air. First Krystal, now T. Still, we’ve dealt with layoffs before, and we’ll make it through this one. Whether or not he gets another role in car sales, the below (drafted a little while ago) still stands…

It’s not everyday your partner announces out of the blue that he wants to work in car sales. If I recall correctly, we were on the road somewhere between San Antonio and Roswell at that moment.

Unlike me, he’s not the introspective type. My gentle attempts to prod him into thinking critically about the kinds of things he might want out of a job over the past couple years had mostly fallen flat. (Alas, the Do What You Love philosophy has mesmerised, paralysed and flummoxed him – I’ve tried to deprogramme him of it, again with limited success.)

As it turns out, though, searching for jobs that come with company cars throws up a load of sales jobs, including car sales jobs. In this case, materialism overlapped with practicality. That’s what I call a win.

Sales is about the last thing in the world I’d ever do, and he’s very much a no-bullshit type – an extrovert, yes, but a people person? Not necessarily. So it never really occurred to me as a viable option.

Yet it seemed so right. He loves cars. He loves to talk. He was not cut out to sit in an office. He picks things up quickly, and what’s frustrated him about all his previous jobs is that performance was not rewarded – and of course sales is entirely achievement-driven.

Once he got the basics down, he reckoned a little bit of that old enemy, boredom, was popping up. But more importantly, he was still enjoying it and  called it the best job ever.

Some random reflections on his first job in car sales:

One bad thing: it’s normalising car finance in his eyes. “Everyone finances their cars!” he exclaimed to me one evening. Car debt is not something that’s ever fazed him; almost everyone he knows has taken out ridiculous loans for their cars, which I really hate, and it’s not something that needs reinforcing in his mind. On the plus side, he now sees what a terrible thing financing is numbers-wise.

They work surprisingly long hours. 50-60 hours a week, and commission only (though I’m not sure if this is the norm across dealers in general).

The profit on individual cars varies hugely.  The cars you see listed for rock-bottom prices in ads are basically loss-leaders, off which salespeople make nothing.

A lot of the salespeople actually get their shirts tailored. Yup. 

Sunburn is a real issue! They have sunblock provided and T has gotten to the stage where he reapplies it every couple of hours, but is still getting burnt. Between our enormous ozone hole and his precious Scirish skin that quivers in fear as soon as it comes into the presence of any UV rays, he’s screwed. And he refuses to wear the company’s uniform hat because it looks ridiculous and will put customers off. (Nobody wears it, ever.)

I’ve always been curious about how the auto industry does in NZ. We have so many tiny indie garages everywhere – is there really enough business for all those mechanics? (I guess so, since we all drive such old cars.) And do people REALLY buy enough cars to keep dealers afloat? Judging by the amount of foot traffic that T reckons they get, yes. And while not all prospects convert to sales, the ratio sounds higher than I would’ve expected – some guys will sell five cars in a single day. The top salespeople make well over the six figures. Hot damn.

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