what if car dealerships were run more like Apple stores?

Nissan Leaf, Apple iPhone

recently, i went to check out one of the most expensive high tech gadgets you can buy: a new car. 

perhaps, our experience was atypical. but I suspect not given the larger transition underway in the auto industry.

at one dealership, only a single dealer – out of say 10 – knew about the model we were after. and that dealer wasn’t in.  

at another dealership, two sales reps traded rough words almost within earshot of us while discussing which of them was allowed to show us the car we wanted to see.

can you imagine going into an Apple store and finding nine sales associates who know all about iPhones but nothing about a MacBook? Or striking up a conversation with a sales person only to see them get into it with another one about which products they’re allowed to demo?

i understand that commissions are at the heart of the auto sales business. but do they need to be?

could a  bonus for which dealership has the best customer service drive more sales across the board? could a higher baseline salary produce a more democratic and a more collegial work place where everyone knows the products and everyone can sell the products?

consumers are already changing the way they shop by going to web sites to research big ticket purchases. a more informed consumer will expect a more informative salesperson. and a more integrated sales experience, from vehicle maker web site to dealership, could benefit all involved – not just the consumer.

for example, if the car marker’s web site encourages potential buyers to schedule an appointment to see the vehicle in person, rather than dropping by without warning, the dealership could hire fewer warm bodies and focus only on retaining the superstars. such a referral process could even generate helpful leads.

a differently trained sales team could also bubble up important consumer insights to the engineering and marketing teams. after all, who better to capture the “deal breakers” than the deal makers?

update like so.