Dealer Perception does not reflect reality

The public has long held the impression of car salespeople as untrustworthy, and despite Dealers’ best efforts, this unfortunately remains the case.

The AADA and Automotive Dealer are determined to change this perception and bring the public view into line with the reality: that car Dealers are good people who do a power of work in their communities.
The annual Roy Morgan Research ‘Image of Professions’ survey ranks car Dealers last of 30 professions for trustworthiness, well below accountants, lawyers and even politicians. This result has been the same for the last 30 years.

Each year the Roy Morgan Research Company releases the results of the Image of Professions survey. 598 Australian men and women aged 14 and over were asked via a telephone interview to rank 30 professions in order of how trustworthy they perceived the job to be. Nurses and doctors were ranked at the top; car Dealers (includes used car Dealers) were ranked last.

The issue is not just isolated to the Australian automotive industry. A recent study by global management consulting company Accenture found that out of the 10,000 US citizens surveyed, more than half would like to avoid dealing with car dealership sales people if possible.

There is little recorded data on why this might be, but some experts speculate that a person’s lack of knowledge, coupled with the high price of a car, makes them feel vulnerable to being ripped off.

Old stereotypes die hard

Business Insider Australia last month published an article detailing ways in which the public can ‘outsmart’ car salesmen. Tips included watching out for a low appraisal of trade-in vehicles, an upsell of unnecessary services, and high interest rates on finance.

This is a frustrating situation for the retail automotive industry, for as we know, car Dealers do a mountain of good work in the community. It is a perception more likely based in tired old stereotypes than any relation to the current situation.

We all know the classic stereotype of the sleazy used car salesman, ready to take advantage of customers’ ignorance, possibly dressed in an ill-fitting plaid suit. In reality though, this image couldn’t be further from the truth.
AADA members are franchised new car Dealers who take staff training and customer satisfaction ratings very seriously in what is the most highly competitive right hand drive market in the world.

Employment for car salespeople has risen by a rate of 22.9% over the past five years, and is expected to grow very strongly through 2017. The job requires exceptional communication and people skills, as well as the ability to think on your feet. Basic finance knowledge, problem solving capabilities and time management are just some of the additional skills required to succeed. It can be a challenging role, and no profits are made unless the customer is happy enough to follow through with the purchase.

Yet, the perception remains. We might not like it, but we cannot ignore it. AADA has recently offered Dealers and their staff a range of NADA University courses in service department management and sales, to enhance skills and accreditation.

What can we do?

One car Dealer who has enjoyed a positive public perception is three-time Victorian finalist for Australian of the Year, beloved TV personality, and founder of the Kids Under Cover Australia charity, Ken Morgan OAM, who owned and operated car dealerships for decades.

He believes car Dealers must ensure customers feel they are receiving the ‘personal touch’ in order to breach the trust barrier.

“I had dealerships for 40 years and I was always there, my door was always open,” he said.
“I’d go out and meet customers, sit and talk to them, be involved in the transaction. I used to sign off probably 80 per cent of the deals we did in any dealership I owned, and I got to meet the people, I had to meet the people.“People are not going back to the same dealership because the relationship hasn’t been built in the first place. I used to delight in being there at 7 o’clock in the morning and meeting my customers and signing them in for service.”

While there may not be the same level of interaction between Dealer principals and customers as there was in the ‘good old days’, dealerships still accomplish incredible work for their communities.

Mr Morgan knows better than anybody the importance of car Dealers giving back.

“Writing out a cheque is one thing, but it’s got to go further than that, you have to get involved,” he said. AADA is of the view that it is a personal investment in yourself and the community.

Community spirit elevates ‘job’ to ‘profession’

Addressing the Institution of Engineers in 2003, the then Chief Justice Paul de Jersey now Governor of Queensland reminded them that without a commitment to community, a profession ceases to be worthy of that title. He praised the Engineers Australian Members Emergency Relief Fund, which was established in response to the Canberra bushfires, and was designed to assist those whose homes were lost.

“It is this sort of contribution to the community, as much as any degree of competence or skill, that truly entitles a profession to describe itself as such,” he said.

“The challenge for professionals such as engineers, lawyers and others, is to ensure that the idea of contributing to society remains important. If business and commercial interests are permitted to overwhelm that sense of community spirit, then the idea of professionalism will indeed wither and die.”

Don’t be shy

Australian car Dealers are very generous, regularly donating to charity, supporting local sports clubs and programs such as Kids Under Cover and Bailey’s Day. The problem is one of perception. We believe Dealers need to better promote their good works. Not in a ‘look at me’ way, but a little public awareness of your role as a good corporate citizen can go a long way.
Prominent, in-dealership displays of programs you support not only raise awareness of your good deeds, but foster a sense of community. If you sponsor a local sporting club, post team photographs and colours on your walls. If you are involved in any community developments, progress reports and photographs will highlight your level of commitment to the local community.

Tell us what you’re doing

Automotive Dealer would love to hear about programs Dealers are involved in with their communities. Drop us a line and we can help you promote your works with a feature article.
We know that car Dealers do a great deal of good in the community, and are unfairly and incorrectly judged. But with a little effort, we can turn that perception around.

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