I recently came across some less than favourable comments regarding car salesman (and the motor trade in general to be fair) and the fact that they are “untrustworthy”, “liars” and “con men”. Well this perception is widespread and, perhaps in many cases, totally justifiable.
I felt compelled to respond to this, not by way of defence or mitigation but more by way of giving some insight to the driving forces, especially in today’s marketplace.
So some of the reasons for this perception and why some car salesmen cut corners and are less than truthful may be because the whole industry is built on targets, monthly and annual, and salesmen are being pushed very hard to hit these targets.
Take this for example; a salesman is targeted to sell 8 new cars and 10 used cars in a month, many commission schemes are banded so he may get an amount for each car he sells and an amount for any extras he may sell, but crucially he may be paid up to double for achieving that monthly target. Now imagine there are 2 days to go before month end and our salesman is 1 new and 1 used sale away from making target and in doing so can earn himself an extra £1,000 in commission. At this point you walk in interested in a used car and ask all kinds of questions, has it got full service history? Was it privately owned? What’s the warranty on it? Etc.
Ask yourself a question, knowing all this what chance do you think there is that this guy will tell you anything you want to hear just to close that sale and edge closer to that pot of gold? I am not saying this is right it is just another factor in ensuring a lack of transparency.
Another reason is that in order to get a job as a car salesman you need little or no qualifications to do the job; if you have a bit of personality some reasonable financial acumen and own a suit you can usually get a job. I have often employed young guys who have hardly been to school, because they are likeable, have a bit of confidence and can learn fast, everything else can be taught going along, and I have got them to the stage where they are selling 120 cars per year.
The problem lies in the fact that because of the pressure they are put under the shelf life for a lot of these guys is maybe 6 months – 1 year and its only when they are gone that you discover the trail of destruction left behind.
I have had customers come in saying, the salesman offered me my next MOT and service free of charge, or he said he would give me x for my car if I wanted to change it in a year’s time! I’m not making excuses I’m just telling it like it is and of course these things are not right and in fairness the industry is doing its best to clean up.
However targets and pressure continue to be a burden to a modern day salesman and although this won’t make you feel better, when you next go to buy a car from anyone, a simple bit of advice to protect yourself is this: Anything they say you will get or they will do for you (right down to refurbishing an alloy wheel) get the salesman to write it down on the order form and make sure his manager and you counter sign and retain a copy, that way no one can lie because if they do you have it in writing.