In this job it is common to be asked the question by friends, colleagues and industry contacts: “So, what car are you driving at the moment?”
Recently I’ve said a Suzuki Swift, a Mazda CX-5 and new Mazda6.
Their follow-up question is invariably, “And what’s it like?”
But tell them I’m in a Beetle and to a man (or woman) everyone has a story to tell about owning one, wanting one, considering one – or they just love it and everything it represents.
But one response pricked my interest: “I’ve just tried to buy one of those.
"Want to know what happened?
"It didn’t go too well.”
Not long ago I concluded judging for the AM Awards, having spent the preceding weeks poring over the entries, and with the buzz around the best practice insight shared by experts and dealers at our sold-out digital marketing conference still tangible, I was imbued with a sense of supreme confidence about dealer customer service initiatives and standards.
However, the following conversation saw it drain away.
The tale that this person told went like this.
He and his wife wanted to buy a new Beetle.
They had a car to trade in.
They found one locally that would have cost them around £26,000, although given a £7,000 part-exchange value on their car by the dealer, exceeded their budget, prompting a web search further afield.
This found one 110 miles away.
On the telephone on a Monday, the dealer said he would need to see the part-exchange.
My contact said he would rather not make two trips and since his local dealer had already given a value, wouldn’t this be acceptable?
The salesman on the phone checked with his manager, and said yes.
The salesman then checked once more with his manager that a £1,000 deposit could be paid to ‘secure’ the car.
My friend then said he would be down at the weekend to complete the deal.
He was told, however, by the salesman the car would be gone by then such was the demand.
So, the deal was off, a potentially positive relationship with a franchised dealer burned and maybe even with the manufacturer brand a little sullied.
So, when a car is popular/selling well is this the attitude to take?
I know the answer, but it is a circumstance I would not have easily imagined. Is a dealer right to prefer business in his traditional ‘territory’, that he will in theory see again?
Or do all dealers have to work in a territory called the UK now?
Obviously there are dealers out there with a very defined view.