Buying a car

If you are going to buy a car ever in your life or are interested in how the sales process works in some companies, you must read this article titled Showroom Turncoat Comes Clean which was in the May 2006 issues of Car and Driver Magazine.

The last page is something called How to Avoid Getting Screwed which is also a must-read.

You will learn many of the tricks the salespeople in the auto industry use. If half of this article is true, it does not bode well for the ethics of the industry as a whole.

But I am not here to pass judgment but if you read this and learn how not to get taken by any salespeople ever then I will be happy.

Thank you Michael Feyen for writing this article. It is well-done and kind of scary.

  • Tracy
    April 29, 2006 at 1:54 am

    There are lots of things that you must consider when buying a car. Whether it is new or used, hybrid or not, as long as it fits your lifestyle and comfortable with it, it would be a great car. Knowing the pros and cons of a car would save you to unneccessary expenses.

  • AutoAllen
    November 27, 2007 at 10:43 am

    When I was shopping for a new car I found a website that delivers auto quotes to your email address from all the local dealerships. It saved me some time. Click my name for the link…

  • Paul H. Blakeman
    February 6, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    This is directed primarily at Mr. Feyen’s article published in your May 2006 issue, that has resurfaced today on This article does have thought provoking value for anybody that has run into a “short timer” in any field!
    I am offended that you promote this negative stereo type of the car salesman. I am a car salesman. I can assure you that I do not “slick back my hair” and “slip on a gold tie” each morning before I goes out into the world to “steal money from innocent consumers.” This article would be best served sticking to the tips on research rather than portraying tens of thousands of people in this country in such a demeaning way.
    As a person that happened to work at a car dealership for the sheer purpose of finding scandal for an entire 6 months (This has been my career for 23 years), How dare Mr. Feyen call himself a salesman. You and your attitude and the ease, at which you would take advantage of an uninformed consumer, make YOU that which you ridicule. A true salesman, in any profession, coaches, counsels, informs, and builds long term relationships. And if talented and disciplined, you can make a very nice living. If you are empathetic, patient, have a great work ethic and are always willing and able to learn and improve; you can excel at anything. Even at car sales.
    There is no shame in making a fair profit for a job well done. Your problem is that you don’t know what a job well done is. You actually think that selling 1 person 1 car is a good job. Anybody can sell anybody else 1 of anything. The true test of a professional is the “book of business” that you build. And yes, referred and repeat clients are usually willing to pay more for the service a true professional provides. It’s worth something not to run into someone like you. The high road in any profession is paved with gold.
    You took the path of least resistance, you took a short cut on integrity. You took advantage! Or in your own words “I had succumbed to this devious practice”. Don’t even try playing the victim card here. Succumbed? (To submit to an overpowering force or yield to an overwhelming desire). You volunteered to be devious, you did it for a few bucks and someone got hurt. After you cashed your paycheck and left your career in auto sales, somebody else had to try and repair the situation you created with your client. Newsflash! The woman you so condescendingly described is going to buy more cars in the future. She has friends, neighbors and coworkers that could have been a wealth of future business in the hands of a professional. Instead, because of you, she’s just bitter. I hope your 30 pieces of silver were worth it.
    Unfortunately, I’ve seen more part time, clueless, shortsighted people like you than I can remember in a multitude of disciplines. An entire 6 months in a questionable dealership, with no experience and a willingness to take advantage of a potential long term client, and you blame the business??? Take a look in the mirror, “the business” didn’t take advantage of that client, YOU did! Rather than conduct a proper needs assessment and cater to your clients needs both now and into the future, you became the stereotype that you disparage.
    I currently manage one of the largest and most successful BMW dealerships in the country. I have worked for reputable auto dealerships since 1986 and have a large client base that consistently returns to me for car purchases because of these very reasons. I’ve had clients I sold cars to 20 years ago bring their grown children to me for a new car.
    Many people I socialize with are in the car business. We all have nice homes, well behaved children and are civilized, decent people. Oh yes, and we too are consumers.
    Saying that “Here’s a guy who’s trying to get you to part with as much money as he can” is a ridiculous, unfair statement. Every sales person you run into in any scenario is trying to get all of us to part with our money. There isn’t one company out there that is trying to get you to leave your money in your wallet. Sales of Car and Driver Magazine, as well as need to generate a rational profit in order to stay in business and continue to have the ability to cater to their customers. We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in product training and education for all of our staff, in sales and service alike. Not to mention the amenities that our customers’ have come to expect and enjoy.
    What is the true “cost” of an automobile? When delivered to the consumer, we make sure that everything is 100% mechanically sound, full of fuel, clean, and spend the time with our clients to ensure that they are comfortable with their purchase before they leave. And should they need additional assistance, we gladly offer that too without charging for a technical hotline. We welcome our clients as family members, and are grateful for every customer we earn.
    Here are some interesting questions for you. What is wrong with a fair price for a quality product sold by a professional salesperson (not a Johnny come lately ex teacher on his way to somewhere else). When done correctly, sales is a difficult and tremendously rewarding profession.
    Do you advocate that people bicker on price with sommeliers at restaurants where the mark up on wine is sometimes 300 percent? Do you bicker with the clerk at the perfume counter, the hair salon, the gas station, the grocery store, the clothing store, the garden center, the pharmacy? Do you haggle over price with them and treat them like dirt? Do you write and publish articles that poke fun at what you perceive to be their appearance, wardrobe choices or hair style?
    And you say that car sales are all about control? All sales are about control – take a sales seminar at any company, selling any product and you’re horizons might broaden just a bit. Or just talk to the director of sales at your company (Just don’t give them any advice).
    If you want to help consumers buy cars, teach them to do the research and ask the right questions. But please do not paint a picture of people in this profession as being sleazy thieves. Every profession has some bad apples. Why don’t you publish articles about them with such fervor and lack of respect?
    I have been selling cars for 23 years. Much of that time on 100% commission and worked hard for every dime without “trying to get as much money as I could” from my customers. I have endured bad press and ignorant and nasty consumers who have been given the impression(by articles like this one) that they can treat me like dirt because I am a car salesman. You could pick 10 names randomly from our customer database and you just might find some good in what we do.
    Few industries are as focused on customer satisfaction and service as the auto industry. No other product or service has the pricing transparency that automobile sales do. That being said, why not encourage consumers to shop for a quality organization and great service at a fair price; rather than the absolute lowest price from some part time, short timer, that couldn’t give a darn about you, wannabe sales guy. Do yourself a favor, shop for a good salesman. They’re worth the price. We have all met one. We all know what the bad ones are like too. Like most things, you get what you pay for.
    I am angry and disappointed that CAR & DRIVER and YAHOO would be so irresponsible and discriminating by publishing this article. By the way, if you didn’t sell one magazine, sell any ad space; sell click-thru arrangements, etc., would your company be able to survive? I guess articles titled like this one (written by someone with 1 semester of experience) “Showroom Turncoat….” Help you sell and make your profit.
    The real question is “What are you selling”?

  • Michael Feyen
    February 15, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Dear PHB,
    To your point about stereotypes:
    I did not attempt to propogate any stereotypes against car salesmen. The language you included was yours, not mine – “slick back my hair” and “slip on a gold tie” each morning before I goes out into the world to “steal money from innocent consumers.”
    To your point about control:
    As you may realize, the intended audience of this article was not car salesman, or all people who buy all things, it was “car buyers”.
    To your point about bickering on price:
    Without getting into a treatise on macro-economics, you and I both know that there are certain products which have no equivalents, for which pricing is more complicated than it is for products found at restaurants, salons, garden centers, and gas stations. Car pricing is more like housing pricing than it is like any of the examples you offered.
    To your point about experience:
    During the year that I sold cars I was an excellent salesperson. I put out 20 cars my first month and almost 30 cars in my last. In between I was promoted to manager and learned the business from the side that you are familiar with. My career goal upon entering the business was to eventually manage or own a dealership. My goal in writing the article was simply to correct the asymmetry of information that exists between customers and dealers, and make it more difficult for unethical salesman to operate. When the dealer I worked for read the article, he said it was a “fair and accurate portrayal of the car business” – that from a 4th generation dealer. It sounds like you are an ethical salesman, and I applaud you for that.
    To your point about making a fair profit:
    On the “high road” to success have you done nothing which you consider unethical? Have you ever told a customer who trusted you that they were getting a “good deal” when that deal would give you one of your largest commissions for the month? Have you ever dodged a question because you knew you could not answer it honestly without killing the deal? Have you ever implied that a documentation fee was compulsory when in fact it was not? Have you ever said, “the best interest rate we can get is …”, when in fact that rate included a point or two for the dealership? That is the type of gray area I am talking about. I never flat out lied to anyone to sell a car, but I did play along with the norms of the business.
    I agree with you that no one works harder than car salesmen to make a buck, that customers often treat salesmen terribly, often lying in the process, and that there is nothing positive that can come out of generalizing stereotypes. But where we may differ is that I believe that if customers have the type of information I give them in the “10 tips” section, everyone will benefit, except for sleazy salesmen. If you are already on the up and up, I don’t think you should have any reason to be concerned about my article.
    Michael Feyen

  • Paul H. Blakeman
    February 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you for responding.
    My primary issue is the impression that articles like yours are representitive of the norm. Your article’s title and opening salvo use exaggeration to drawn in the reader.
    “Showroom Turncoat Comes Clean – Feature
    Dirty dealing exposed, and how not to get taken to the cleaners when buying a car.
    May 2006
    All my customers paid hidden fees. All of them.
    After six months of selling cars, I had succumbed to this devious practice. My conscience had been reduced to: sale = right, customer leaves = wrong. But after one particular customer last spring, I knew my days as a car salesman were numbered”.
    1) In fairness, the hair and tie comments are from a similar biased article.
    2) To insinuate that selling a car is all about control; that presupposes that control is a bad thing. Again, all sales are about control. Control as in asking qualifying questions, leading someone through an unfamilar process is an important part of any sale of anything. Control as in overcoming misperceptions or flat out wrong information is imperative for client satisfaction. Control as in steering in the right direction avoids errors and hazards.
    Granted, control can also lead one astray, but that goes back to intent. Without clarification it not a leap to read into your article that “control” is always designed to harm the client.
    3)There is a difference between good faith negotiation and bickering about the lowest common denominator, often being price. Why not advise people to shop for a fair market price from an establishment with an excellent reputation for overall service anf follow up. That may cost a little more; but in the end, isn’t it the better deal?
    4) Your goal in writing the article to correct the asymmetry of information that exists between customers and dealers is undermined by your bias that unethical practice is the norm. Most anything a consumer wants to know is readily available online. Or just a dealer with the good reputation; nothing long term is gained with misinformation.
    5) Like any good business model, a car dealership has multiple revenue streams. That’s no secret nor do I ever hide that fact. To do so would insult the intellegence of my clientele. Do I have a profit margin on my financing? Of course I do. For example, I can offer a client financing through BMWFS at 2.9% and make a small margin. My rates are still far better that commercially available money. If I client chooses to take advantage of what I can offer, and it is a benefit to me, is that unethical? That is win-win defined.
    Your final point is the most telling of your bias. You have once again implied that unethical “grey area” is the norm. I would never dodge a question to make a deal. You asked a rhetorical compound question that infers deciet.
    I think that you have been out of the market too long and are out of touch with the way things are.
    Here and now, I extend to you an invitation to visit me at my dealership. I’d be happy to show you how we do things at BMW of Fairfax.
    Just once it would be refreshing to read an article by someone from that advises clients to shop for a quality organization, find a professional salesperson, and pay a fair price.
    I truly believe that most people would agree that this is a good plan. The problem with most articles of this genre, is that readers are left with the impression that there are no ethical, reputable people in the car business and the be all – end all is the lowest possible price.
    A wise man once told me to never have a deck built by the lowest bidder.
    Thank you again for responding to my posting. You are the first to do so. It speaks well of your integrity.
    Paul Blakeman

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