Joe and Kara’s stories opened up a floodgate of comments, ranging from people sharing their own horror stories to others sharing how they’ve had nothing but good experiences. Some have also accused me of making up the stories just to boost Tesla and bring down Ford.
First and foremost, no one is “bringing down Ford.” And that isn’t the goal of anyone here. If anything, I remember how Ford stepped up to help my state during Hurricane Ida. However, Ford as well as other automakers who depend on the dealership network are depending on a flawed system that is well known for hurting customers.
That said, Laurence Reinhard owns a Ford Mustang Mach-E, and he said that he had nothing but great service with his dealership in Philadelphia. He pointed out that he empathized with Joe and Kara’s experiences but he wanted to remind everyone that all businesses sometimes provide poor services. He felt that painting auto dealers completely red (or bad) is unfair to all the other reputable dealers out there, and I agree with that.
Along with Laurence, I had someone who works for Ford reach out to me to share his thoughts on Kara’s story as well as the processes of his particular dealership that are different from most others. Chandler has been a car salesman at a Ford dealership for the past few months and has an extensive background in customer service. The following are his thoughts:
“Our processes are a lot different than most car dealerships around the country for the better. Upon reading the article, it’s crazy to me that there are car dealerships in California with Mach-E Mustangs on the lot. We have yet to have any retail pieces come out to be available to the public, all we have had is orders come through. The way our process works is we start off by doing a typical walk-around the vehicle.
“During that time we find out what features are most important to the customer. Facts such as cloth or leather seats; lighter or darker interior or exterior colors; a vehicle with more convenience features or something a bit more basic? Upon finding out those preferences in our customers, then we next find them the vehicle on the lot that fits the most (if not all) their needs and wants. The customer is getting ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars with us, they need to trust us! Now that we found them the right vehicle, we have to show them WHY it is the right vehicle for them.
“This is where product knowledge during walk-around is huge. This is the time where we walk around the vehicle pointing out different features and options that fit specifically to them. Next, we get them on a test drive. Once they’re back, it’s time to work numbers. A lot of dealerships across the country are marking up new vehicles right now due to the lack of inventory, ourselves included.
“People generally do understand that in times of no cars, vehicles will be marked up. Once we can agree on a price, that’s where our process is truly different. Traditionally, a lot of salesmen have to plant seeds to fill out some paperwork and then ship the customers off to the finance office so that the finance manager can sell service contracts and GAP and other depreciation-freezing protections for the new vehicle.
“Where I work, we are a ‘one-stop shop’. We are fully financially trained to walk through this car buying journey and guide them through the protections to make sure they get what they need and not what WE WANT them to have. Once we complete that, the customers sign the final paperwork and are on their way to the new vehicle. Efficiently, our process takes about 2 hours (down from the national average) for the customer to be in and out.”
Chandler also shared his thoughts on Kara’s story. He told me that it sounded like more of a unicorn story — one of those rare types that happen every once in a while. He pointed out that every car salesperson who works for Ford is required to be fully trained in product knowledge. (That said, several other commenters noted a similar request/issue as that story was centered around.)
“I hold all the current certifications Ford requires us to have in order to sell their vehicles both electric and combustion. Secondly, not all salesman and saleswomen will admit it, but they do pre-qualify customers when they drive up on the lot. It’s a human thing to do, everyone is guilty of it whether they sell cars or not, but unfortunately in that line of work it can be done a bit more in order to make a sale.
“The first mistake that the dealership made was in fact, the prequalifying of them buying the vehicle. The second mistake was allowing one of the employees to do a walk-around that didn’t display why the vehicle was good. It takes 30 seconds to read a window sticker even with the customer standing next to them. This person should have at least gone over the window sticker to review some features and specs with the customer.
“In terms of the management incorrectly handling the rebate, it sounds more like a profile of bad management than anything else. Poor management is the root cause of the issues in the story and it’s quite obvious. The managers lacked in making sure that their employees were able to complete an adequate walk-around, lacked communication in getting with customers when they said they would, and then blatantly treated the customer like shit.
“In terms of the rebate, there are sometimes where stuff happens and it’s not completely clear at the time of the deal, but then the dealership needs to honor their terms as well. I know that if we have a car online for $20,000 for example, but then plan on raising the price to $25,000, we would still honor the $20K if a customer had seen it and come in for the price of $20K. It’s all about experiencing better, which is our motto at my dealership.
“We don’t want customers to view car dealerships this way, we want them to view us as someone who is trying to help them purchase a vehicle, not make a check. We work hard to make sure our customers are extremely happy and that they have a good experience with us. Unfortunately, it’s not Ford’s fault that specific managers at specific dealerships are bad.
“Ford corporate doesn’t dictate who manages the sales and financial departments, that is up to the General Manager, Owner, and CFO of either the dealership or the auto group. The best thing to do in her situation would be to contact someone higher up in corporate and let them know about the poor situation, and hopefully, they’ll put the good name of the business first and make things right.
“At a different name brand car dealer in the town I work in (not one in my auto group), they are putting window etching and a few other products on customers orders to mark up the price. When the vehicle gets in and the customers don’t want it, then they simply say too bad — either you pay it or we’ll sell it to someone else. That isn’t how it is supposed to be done!!! We certainly do not do anything like that at our dealerships and never would. We are trying to change the way the car buying process works, but it’s situations like these that only make things worse.”
Although I tend to go hard on dealerships in general (I have in my past articles), it is crucial not to lose focus on humanity. Meaning that many employees of dealerships go to work, take care of their families, and are active members of communities. Not everyone is a bad person, but not everyone has good intentions. What Joe and Kara and so many others who shared their bad experiences have gone through isn’t right.
Ford and other automakers need to implement a system that will help their dealerships evolve in a new market. We want more EVs on the road. This means that we want legacy automakers to make them, bring them to market, and actually make it easier for their customers to buy them.
In general, car dealers are among the least trustworthy groups according to a Gallup annual poll, and this reflects the negative experiences that Americans have had while buying cars at franchised dealerships.
For those concerned that I am boosting Tesla because I own just over 2 shares, let me assure you that I don’t trade options. I hold long term, meaning I bought the shares and I just let them sit there. I’ll add more later on when I have the money to, but I don’t know enough about options trading to get involved with that. So, no, I am not making any extra money by writing articles that provide Ford with constructive feedback while sharing the stories that were sent to me from the CleanTechnica contact form.
It’s great that Laurence and Chandler reached out because it gives all of us a different perspective from both a Ford employee and a Ford customer who didn’t have the hard time Joe and Kara have had. It also brings a little bit of hope that employees like Chandler will help companies like Ford survive the market changes and evolution to an industry whose survival depends on evolving.
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