Making the car biz cool

Jenifer Lambert
At non-industry cocktail parties and social gatherings when people ask me what I do, I explain that I'm an executive recruiter focused on the auto industry. Nine times out of ten the response is some sort of dismissive facial expression as if the phrase "auto industry" conjures up an image in their mind of guys in plaid jackets and white shoes. Outside of the industry there is such a stereotype and misperception about the significance and sophistication of the industry. Simply put, to the general public the car business is not cool. Those of us who know and love this industry know that the perception from the outside looking in is not particularly flattering. What does the auto industry need to do to attact the best and brightest and to break through deeply ingrained stereotypes? These stereotypes hurt the industry on all fronts--recruiting and retaining dealership staff, attracting and retaining customers, etc.
Larry Schlagheck
Jenifer: An age-old question that has yet to be answered so let me give it a shot. First, it will take a long time to erase or even begin to defuse these stereotypes. And, unfortunately, our industry has done it to itself. It's a justified stereotype over time, but not so as a current snapshot. I've found that people outside our industry are surprised to learn what dealership personnel are paid. Here in the Detroit area, it's very common for sales people to make $80 - $100K under normal economic conditions. So, while this may not be the take-home the lawyer or doctor you're speaking with at that cocktial party are bringing in, it certainly dispells many stereotypes. As for the "shady" stereotypes of ethic-less dealers and salespeople, we have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, the Bill Heard's of the world take us back three steps for every step we take forward.
Christian Leon
I agree that it will take a long time to change the perceptions of most people at that cocktail party. I remember not long ago when it was uncool to play with computers, video games or play an instrument, unless it was in a garage band. Yet those geeks and nerds are the billionaires of today. We offer a commodity that near about everyone uses. In this new financial climate good quality dealers will survive and maybe as the technology in vehicles increase our coolness factor will also increase.
Bart Wilson
I am often concerned about how this stereotype affects the salespeople already employed at the dealership. I think a you could get a lot of mileage by doing a sales meeting and asking them how many people are positively impacted when a vehicle is sold. When they see how many people depend on them for their income, they are a little bit prouder of what they do. As we know, one of the big keys to success in sales is confidence.
Michael Kebrdle
You know, the stereotypes are the stereotypes and some people will never lose them and will even pass them on to their children. As far as the car business being cool, I live in a community driven by the automotive industry. We have 3 chrysler plants and a delphi plant (once the GM Delco world headquarters) because of that, the community registers a lot more vehicles per capita than most places in the country. One way that people in the community get to know our dealership employees and realize how cool the car business is, is by all of the community events done in our area. Nearly every event that happens has some sort of dealership sponsor. From fund raisers to golf outings, there are always dealership employees not only present but INVOLVED. When car dealers get out and socialize with the community on a positive and FUN level, people start to see how cool we really can be. thanks to all of those events, being in the car business has a certain stigma to it. People in my community respect car salespe
Ray McGowan
I love this business! There are some really cool people that make it that way and then of course those who make it hard. Fortunately, many of those bad ones believe these forums are utter nonsense and can't join us here. People are going to have stereotypes for years and years to come (unfortunately for us). There are still sub-prime people burying people and other selling cars that should be in the junk yard. All those people are the ones we deal with for our reputations. As far as the people working in dealerships that are unethical, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Either a manager tolerates it or the owner allows it. That's the bottom line. With some dealers making it better there are always the ones making it harder. It's unfortunate but until the manufacturers and distributors take action and make some changes, it's the way we live. Man, I love this business!

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