Story of a... Car Salesman
Honestly, it’s a tough job selling cars. Just ask Ian Riding.
By Steven Cole Smith
Norma Lopez Molina
“It’s tough to overcome the reputation car salespeople have. It’s so annoying to anybody in this business. People think we are all liars and thieves. It’s not the case. It’s a terrible obstacle to overcome every time someone walks onto the lot. We’ve tried to disprove it over the years, dealing with people with integrity.”
Riding, 48, moved to Orlando from England in 1993 to work at Disney. He has worked at Sun State Ford since 1997.
“I’ve always been fascinated by cars, and by the American way of selling them. I promised myself I would give [car sales] a week, and if I still liked it after that week, I’d end up as one of the managers of the store. And that’s what happened.”
“There’s just not that much profit in new cars these days. No longer do we have thousands and thousands of dollars in markup. That’s the problem. Before the recession, margins were higher, inventory levels were higher. On the 2012 Ford Fiesta S, there is $189 of profit in it.”
“It’s a tough business because of the long hours. If you have been in car sales for a long time, you’ll probably stay in it forever. But getting the salespeople over the two- or three-year hump is the hard part.”
“The recession was brutal, and it changed the car business forever.” Manufacturers cut production, which erased gluts in the market that led to huge discounts. “My salary was essentially cut in half during the worst part of it.” Has his pay fully recovered? “No. But it’s getting better.”
“The Focus is hot right now, and the Explorer is, too. We can’t keep them in stock. Both are fuel-efficient in their classes. Fuel prices have certainly hurt truck sales, absolutely. But a lot of people still need trucks.”
“The Internet will tell you most everything about the car, but until you put your rear end into the seat, you won’t know if the car is right for you.”
There will never be what amounts to an automobile vending machine, Riding says, “because of the intangibles: the trade-in, the financing, the need to have someone demonstrate the product to you. There will always be salespeople.”
“Trade-ins can be difficult. Everybody thinks their car is worth more than it is. Everyone thinks their trade is in ‘excellent’ condition. Very, very few are. A quick walk around, done with respect, can show customers that perhaps the car needs a couple of tires, or has some dings and scratches, and they can see how the starting point of the value you find on Kelley Blue Book or autotrader.com comes down a bit. Is it an uphill battle? Of course. But generally we’re in the ballpark with Kelley Blue Book. And used cars have never been worth what they are worth right now.”
“I would prefer my kids not get into the car business. But if they are happy, I wouldn’t mind it. The hours are killer, and the pressure is substantial. But if it made them happy, that would make me happy—so long as they don’t go into a shady business like journalism!”