Muscle Cars

The Tricks OF Selling Muscle Cars

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By Mark Weisseg

Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care came to mind when I saw this picture.
Sure thing it is a car show from another era. What stood out to me at first glance is the way everyone dresses in the picture. They all look well groomed, well tamed and seem like they have a genuine interest.

From the photo it appears the car show is at a car dealers lot. Smart thinking if correct. Put up with a bit of noise and such on a Friday night and maybe a new customer will head to your door on Saturday. That was the general rule of thumb at one time.
It still happens but not like it did then. Locally, we have a Ford Dealer that allowed the local Mustang club to have a show once a year on site. That concept always intrigued me. See, when you are in business you want as much traffic as possible. Dealers spend tons of cash on the regular nothing and nothing ever really changes in newspaper print. News flash. News papers subscriptions are down and still falling. Yet, every day and especially on Sunday the dealers fill a section nobody reads.
In spite of there unwillingness to change they still manage to sell some cars. But, how much new blood do they get in the door by running ads in newspapers nobody is reading except old people? Some have started to use Social media and other newer ideas but the magic is in the ingredients. Rarely do I see anything new or unusual.
Now, enlightenment time. Hold a special event every week. Duh. Let’s see, a local car show here draws about two thousand cars every Friday night. Each car has at least one person in the car, maybe up to three or four. Then, the spectators arrive as well as the food vendors and Zingo you have three thousand plus people on your door front.

Car dealer car shows?
But, no, the dealers close early on Fridays. And then, for some oddball reason the dealership owner decides he or she is now a accomplished actor and spends thousands of dollars making corny commercials that degrade themselves and the dealership. And they wonder why sales might be off?
I remember once for no good reason at a place under my care we rented one of those giant search lights. We did it in the fall so the sun went down sooner. Well, really the clocks moved back so it got dark earlier. We turned on that huge spot light and searched the skies until 11pm. We had people from many miles away come to see where the spot light was coming from and what was going on. We were having a snow tire sale and got customers to show up that never knew we were there. Some bought that night while most showed up within a few days of the spot light show. You know, popcorn and balloons for the kids, trinkets and trash for the parents but it worked.

We sold a truckload of snow tires all for a minimal investment of a search light in the sky. Today’s dealers are still using sales gimmicks they used twenty years ago. Once in a while you will see a tent sale, maybe a DJ from a local country and western station and the local mascot of a sports team. Pretty boring. Back to the tent sale idea. We did that in the 80’s once and a woman approached me and asked why we were selling tents now? Was the automotive repair business slow? The deal is when you do these special events it takes a lot of planning and hard work before and after the event. You must get the buy in from the employees or you are a dead duck. But as I drive down auto row where I live I see sales people standing outside smoking the nails, and talking a good story – again to another sales person with nothing better to do.

The dealerships have not changed much. The front does not like the back and the boys in the back cannot stand the suits in the front. Parts people don’t trust the service department and so on. And the rotating GM promises change and fun for all. Now, I am not suggesting that every day be like Bozo circus but certainly someone can come up with something better than nothing? I was always a promotional guy. I was one of the first to hire a woman back in the day to sell to our female customers. Put the ladies at ease. I hired one of the first African American sales guys to relate and sell to that segment of our base. I hired a lady to call every customer we had after a service event. Folks, this was the early 1980’s before computers and such, heck a fax machine was a big thing.

Then, we went and rented pagers so when the customers walked over to the mall we would page them to call us back or come back over. We did everything we could to draw them in and keep them. We were one of the first to take trade ins on the old tires. People would love getting a credit for there old bald tires. All we would do back in the day is resell them on used tire racks or pile them up for the recycler to come in and give us a buck a tire for them.
Today, trashing old tires cost the service center money but they charge you by using an environmental waste charge so they really never lose a cent. We always had banners flying outside or a blinking light in our window to grab your attention. We had ladies car clinics, the local police or fire department would come up with the vehicles to show them off and so on. We were always looking for that angle to get you in the door.

We even had a old car show during working hours once. We had a big inflatable blimp and we blew the thing up and put it on our roof. We had people calling the police saying a blimp landed on a building. We felt like carnival workers at times but boredom was rarely an event. I know some dealers do some things today to drive in traffic but what I see has been used many times before and nobody gets excited about the event. The employees just want it to be over so they can go back to standing outside smoking nails and telling the same old stories.

The whole point here is to look into the decades of car selling in the past unpick the stuff that works, starting locally, then expand out.
Don’t just do stuff because you’ve always done it. Maybe, think outside the box, have a car show at the dealership, hire a searchlight, whatever. You may get some press coverage, but there is nothing like a car show to bring in the interest.

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