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Well it’s been a while since I worked for this manufacturer, so I think I can safely dig the knife in now. You all see the sparkly Ford adverts on the TV and some of you have probably been persuaded by those adverts, if not to buy a car, then to at least check them out. What I am going to do in this opinion is give you a little insight into the goings on behind the nicely decorated “Customer Facing Area”.
I will start at the start (for it is best to do things this way occasionally), I started working for a Ford dealer about four years ago as a trainee parts person. I earned the vast sum of £1 per hour and no that is not a mistype, that is the most they could find it in their hearts to pay me and they even offered me overtime at the same rate. Wow! What a big earner I was. Even the fully qualified staff only earned just enough to pay their bills. After earning this much, I get angry when I see workers go on strike because they are only earning £20k+. I left a year and a half later.
I am not just writing to moan about dodgy pay though, because this is a site where you describe the product to inform "consumers". So here we go.
When you walk into the showroom, you will normally find the forecourt packed tightly with cars. This is deliberate, so you have to weave between the new cars to get in. You can’t help seeing the interiors as you pass and the nearer you get to the showroom, the more lavish the options package is. As you enter the show room, the only cars on display are top of the range ones. Another piece of tactical selling. It is to make you feel that if you get a bog standard model, it is only worthy of a place on the edge of the showroom. However, the basic cars with the lower price serve the other purpose of enticing you inside in the first place. A double whammy for the marketing team.
I worked in stores, so I didn’t really get to watch the sales banter, but you will have probably seen TV shows about car sales. I pick up again once the unwitting victim has purchased the car. (That is just banter between staff members, in our lingo, all customers are victims to be ripped off in the search for profit). Of course, “ripped off” cannot be used in real life because you would be sacked out of hand. We generally call it “Related Sales”, for instance: if you come in for wiper blades, we will try to get you to buy screen wash and maybe some new washer jets on the basis that you might as well overhaul the whole screen washing system.
Back to your new car though, when you have ordered the car, it will normally be delivered to the show room. It would then sit in the delivery van area for a while, waiting for it’s pre-delivery inspection (PDI). While the new car is in the van bay, it gets liberally coated in dust as the stores area is a dirty place, and it can be guaranteed, especially if it is a high spec car, that all the non-management staff will sit in it and play with the switches. If you think about it literally, that would mean you were already getting a second hand car.
Some dealers may take better care of customers new cars, but I doubt it. Due to the fact that Ford operate by a network of bonus schemes and low pay, most staff feel “Why should I look after this stuff, they are not paying me extra to do it”. It is disappointing to see this behaviour, but it is a way of life in the motor trade. The trainees are overawed by the sheer scale of everything, and the old hands sit around wishing they could be working in another industry. In most cases, you will find trainees doing all the work because the others can't be bothered.
Then we move onto the spare parts themselves. These are treated with about as much respect as you would give to someone who makes advances towards your wife/girlfriend. They are thrown in a roller cage at the warehouse, when they are taken out of the roller cage they get thrown in a trolley and then thrown on the shelf. Generally 10 –15 percent of the stock arrives at the dealer in damaged condition, and another 15 percent is returned as it was damaged in the box. A large part of the working day of a partsman is spent filling out return forms. Think how much money everyone could save if a little more care was taken.
The other thing I will warn you about is services. You know, the things the dealer tells you to get done every couple of years or whatever it is. I can tell you now that half of the parts on your invoice are either not fitted at all, of only partially used. For instance, it is Ford's policy to give the customer the remainder of the screen wash if it is not all used in the car. Nine times out of ten though, you will find that they say it was all used, and then the mechanic puts it in his car at your expense. The mechanics think of it as a tip from the customer. Quite often, mechanics will repair a part but the customer gets charged for a new one. This is the most often used tactic as it gives the dealer a 100 percent profit on the part even though it is still on the shelf. You will normally find a list of clips and screws on your invoice. It is usually wise to get the dealer to show you where they were used as it is easy to make up a part number and make a few pence more profit.
This is a very big secret, but managers are given a mailshot at stock take time telling them how much of a gain they are expected to make. This mailshot is promptly destroyed. It is generally accepted in the dealership I worked in, that we were expected to gain £4500 worth of stock per year. It is a sobering thought. I was forced to sign in my contract there that I wouldn't talk of these things while employed for them or afterward, hence I am not mentioning the dealer by name.
You will generally find that a smaller dealer will take better care of you as they have a smaller customer base. The larger the company, the less time they can spend with customers and their vehicles as there are just so many of them.
Even I admit to once or twice sitting in the Ford Cougar, just at the time of it’s launch. The staff considers it one of the perks of the job. A number of times, I have seen new cars get scratched by inattentive staff who carry parts out to the vans and get to close to the new car. Then it is a mad rush to find the correct touch up paint and rush someone down from the bodyshop (paint shop, not the well known retailer of cosmetics) to fix it before the customer arrives to pick their new pride and joy up.
This stuff is all off the top of my head at the moment and no doubt, I will update this as I remember different things. It WAS four years or so since I worked there. Of course, things may have vastly changed over the last few years, but I think you will agree it is extremely unlikely, wouldn’t you.
I will add that this opinion is made based on my own experiences at one dealership, although I can say that the other dealerships in the group(all makes of car) were run in pretty much the same way. My old dealership has since closed down and moved to another dealership in the group which was expanded to cope with the large amount of parts, etc. I was obviously still in my teens when working here, so my views may have been tainted slightly by the views of more senior staff members, but I am just honestly stating my particular experiences. Make your own decisions based on what I have said.
Always try to use small independent mechanics myself.
Don't like main dealers, or their "superior" attitude to customers.....I worked in car sales myself (briefly, many moons ago now) and can support your contention that customers are looked upon simply as "victims"......At the time, all I was concerned about was selling the car and pocketing my commission, nothing more and nothing less......It's a problem though, because as cars become more and more "computerised", it is getting almost impossible now to get anyone to repair them, other than the main dealers....I believe this to be a deliberate marketing ploy.....Ken (the mad cabbie)
From_The_Continent 03.07.2001 11:02
I've found it very interesting to read about Ford from the point of view of a former employee. It's this kind of insider information which can help us consumers most. Yet, having read Angus' comment to this op, I suppose that not the whole company operates like you describe it, but many dealers probably do. Good to know. Cheers, Hans