Published on Friday, 16 September 2011
Judging from the feedback I receive from Wheels readers, I sometimes get the impression that consumers regard auto dealerships as palaces of mystery and intrigue, where dealer principals and staff members sit around plotting ways to hoodwink the public.
Of course, I empathize with anyone who feels intimidated by a modern new car dealership. Today’s facilities are architectural wonders compared to the modest facilities that were built decades ago. Plus, our products and internal processes are more complex than ever.
But, as a dealer principal myself, I can honestly say that “intimidation” is the last feeling I want to convey to customers.
Dealerships invest millions of dollars to ensure that their facilities are comfortable, efficient, safe, and above all user-friendly. Most dealerships are independently owned and operated, and dealers have a vested interest in satisfying all of their customers. If there is any aspect of the dealership experience that a customer finds intimidating or confusing, then he/she should contact the dealer principal or general manager and let them know. We take customer concerns seriously
Some of the letters that I receive also suggest that dealer principals are far removed from the daily activity on showroom floors and in service departments; that we’re above the fray, as it were. Dealer principals are highly involved in their businesses and are accessible to their staff and customers. I know many dealer principals and general managers who – at a customer’s request – will get directly involved in addressing a customer’s needs. Over the years, I’ve sold many vehicles to friends, neighbours and family members.
In addition to being involved in their business activities, dealer principals are a lot of other things, too. They are equal opportunity employers, who are proud of the ethnic diversity of their workforces. The average dealership employs between 30 and 60 people, many of whom are fluent in more than one language. Our Association members employ some 21,000 people within the GTA.
They serve as mentors to all employees who want to do their best and further their careers. In my own case, I’ve mentored many talented men and women who started at entry-level positions, and who now run entire departments and who own and operate small businesses.
Dealers also contribute to their communities by donating vehicles and resources for non-profit groups, and by supporting sports teams, street festivals and countless fundraising initiatives. In fact, dealers are among the largest corporate donors in their communities.
Dealers are fervent supporters of educational programs for the auto industry, partnering with schools such as Centennial College and the Canadian Automotive Institute at Georgian College in Barrie. Most dealers offer co-op work opportunities, where students learn about the auto industry and gain practical, hands-on experience.
For anyone who feels intimidated by their local new car dealership, here’s some straight advice: Get to know your dealership and its staff. After all, these folks are your mothers, fathers, siblings, neighbours and friends. These trained professionals know your vehicle better than anyone, and their primary mandate is to look after you, the customer.
The more you get to know your local dealership, the better they can assist you. They will help you to navigate your next car purchase and offer money-saving advice about vehicle maintenance. They will provide invaluable advice about collision repairs – hopefully before you actually need those services.
The automotive expertise found within a dealership is aimed squarely at making your car buying experience as pleasant as possible.
I appreciate the reader feedback on all subjects pertaining to dealership activity and the opportunity to address your concerns. So keep those letters and emails coming!