Sales Talk : No second chance with a first impression

Mike Humble

Times have never been tougher in the Motor Trade, but sometimes the traders are their own worst enemy…

The stunning new DS5 – but are the Dealers wrecking its chances?

I count myself as a fully blown petrolhead but very few modern cars stop me in my tracks and cause me to drool with admiration. Yes, there have been one or two but, on the whole, mainstream volume models seem to pass me by. ‘When I were a small boy’ (to quote the much-missed Fred Dibnah), I could tell almost every make and model from the window of my father’s car when out and about. I still try to do that now when there nothing on the wireless, but it’s increasingly difficult – everything seems to look the same. Back in the good old days of really wonky cars, Citroen produced some of the most iconic shapes. The CX was amazingly handsome in a Gerry Anderson sci-fi kind of way and I will never forget watching a teacher’s GS slowly rise to its optimum ride height when I was about five years old – it certainly left a mark on me as 35 years later, it still seems like yesterday – thanks Mrs. Jarvis.

Something went wrong with French cars, crazy idiosyncratic styling fell by the wayside with the BX, and great cars though they were, the styling was more function than funk. The flying saucer-like CX gave way to the angular XM and, to this day, I still hanker for a CX GTi Turbo 2 – having driven a couple, they are just so so cool and capable. The Peugeot 406 is another amazing car too, around town the cabbies swore by them and yet, out on a never ending highway, they soak up the miles with an almost Jaguar-like ability. However, even Peugeot have really struggled in recent times, even after a comprehensive model shake up. Oh, and then there is Renault… Well, what more can you say apart from what the flip are they playing at? Even the Dealers are running away in droves.

Just look at that – retro-modern and those superb chairs echo the ultra cool SM. There seems to be a genuine quality feel too!

Citroen, on the other hand, have launched the  DS range and only just yesterday a demonstrator DS5 floated by me – for the first time in a long time, I was mesmerized. After some rather uninspiring models like the C5, Citroen have seemingly found their mojo once again and I truly believe that the DS4, for example, is the perfect antidote to other European hatchback cars. Actually, I was so impressed with the styling of the DS5 that, after seeing a man about a dog in a nearby town, I called into the resident Citroen Dealer to see whether the aforementioned big Citroen looked as pleasing on the inside. Turning into mystery shopper mode (we had to do this in the MG Rover days), I pulled onto the expansive premises at around 10.00 am only to be frustrated by one of my all- time showroom pet hates – nowhere to park your car. All the parking slots were crammed full of demonstrators and unregistered cars –  in my sales days you would actually see customers drive in and then out because of this.

In the end, I double parked and wombled into the showroom making a bee-line for a stunning-looking, top of the range DS5. The windows were all down on the car and, even before you were at arms length from the door handle, the aroma of high-grade leather filled your nostrils. The interior is just fantastic and even the buttons, knobs and dials are seemingly made of a quality a gulf apart from any Citroen you may have known before. The doors close with a chunk and the boot closed with a thunk – here is a car that not only looks sublime but certainly feels like it will run the distance too. However, after five minutes of closing doors and studying its beauty from every angle, my presence had still not been acknowledged by the plethora of staff. One of the Salesman seemed to be enjoying a spot of teasing with a girl on the Service Desk, who giggled annoyingly and almost as loudly as the actress Betty Marsden did in the epic film ‘Carry on Camping’. Another female staff member sat there texting away on her mobile…

Oh, it gets better too. Just as I was about to leave, the aforementioned Salesman wandered over to the vending machines and bought two coffees and a packet of crisps. With a cup in either hand and his crisps tucked under his armpit, he walked over to me and asked if I needed any help – all of this in full view of his Sales Manager, who was sitting there in his office. I rebuffed his greeting, stating I was only having a ‘blimp’ and I would give him a shout for anything specific. Bear in mind that I was a walk-in customer in decent attire potentially looking at a £30.000 Citroen – one would have expected slightly more, but this was not to be. Using grammar with words such as ‘Mate’ rather than ‘Sir’ and ‘Grand’ rather than ‘Pounds’, had I been a genuine mystery shopper the guy would have probably lost his job at the manufacturer’s request – this does happen. When I enquired how much the range started from; he told me that if I ‘hand over 22 grand I`ll sell you a car.’

Yes okay, I know I was a stroker on the day (there to just look and feel) and did not  plan to spend any real time wasting, but I struggled to even provoke any kind of response or indeed, emotion. Making reference to the sublime retro touches, he just nodded in agreement with a blank face – funny that, I was always told to rev the customer up into loving the car, but here I was trying to rev the salesman up. The chap did supply a brochure (which I had to ask for) and rather casually staple his business card on. The brochure was the last one on the rack – an ideal opportunity to glean the customers information by offering to post one out ( at trick I used ) but no. In the world of sales there is a phrase that goes ‘attitudes are infectious, is yours worth catching’ – its very true, and he simply came across as not being bothered – thus neither was I.

Finally, in the end, I simply walked out –  at no point during this interesting dialogue did the Salesman concerned ask me for my name, my buying preferences, my timescale, my contact details or any part-exchange info. Suffice to say, I was staggered by his response and, in all my 20 years of working in the Motor Trade, I have never come across anything as shocking. Dealers always cry about how hard times affect them and your average Salesman will be earning a basic salary of £10.000 – so just HOW can they afford to be so utterly useless? More to the point, Citroen have invested millions into creating a stylish range of really different-looking cars which quite rightly deserve to do well in these financially-straightened times, only for the Dealers to set fire to potential customers – it’s all so bloody wrong!


Mike Humble


  1. I can only agree wholeheartedly. There are reasons why I dislike Citroën UK and PSA as a whole, and a huge amount of it is down to the dealer network.

    What I don’t understand is a corporate culture can breed such a consistently awful experience.

    Your experience reminds me of my first visit to a new local dealer. Driving my C6. Looking at the unloved and almost unsaleable C-Crosser. I think I’d only have gained the attention of the dealer by driving the C6 through the plate glass and ramming the damn thing – walking around it, sitting in it, picking up the brochure, folding the rear seats and measuring the boot wasn’t sufficient.

  2. (By comparison, when in Mayfair and looking like a ragged journo who’d had a 5am start and a day’s press conference, but with a shiny new camera in a bag with a red dot on it that was ALL MINE – so feeling a bit confident as well – I stuck my head in the Rolls Royce dealer and asked if they minded me having a look at the Drophead in their showroom. They were polite, showed me various aspects of the car, had plenty of time for me despite it being clear there was no way I’d be putting down a deposit and walking out of there with an order).

  3. Had exactly the same experience at the new Audi dealer in Swindon. I was in the market to buy a brand new A4 (high spec) but the Salesman could not have been less interested (nice position to be in). Not surprisingly I ordered the car from Ridgeway Audi in Newbury who are excellent.

  4. Would you get this from small,family owned dealers?i think not,when you are big like pendragon group or similar im sure the attitudes would change,with salesmen (order takers now)giving you the once over to see if you had coin,and dismissing you out of hand for the merest enquiry.

  5. A few years ago I elected to come out of the company car scheme and go my own way. I shortlisted 9 cars and duly visited all the relevant dealers. The response was staggering, considering I had voluntarily walked into their showroom (bit of a buying signal), had a lump sum of cash and to part exchange. I explained my situation to each salesman and left contact details.
    The results were:-
    Ford dealer, demo car had flat battery so could not be unlocked, no brochures, told to look on Ford website, no follow up
    VW dealer, who I had had company cars through previously, no follow up
    Renault dealer, from whom I had bought my wives car previously, demo car never materialised, no follow up.
    Fiat dealer, (I was looking for a budget MPV), to quote the salesman to colleague, “do they make a car version of the Doblo?” walked out pretty swiftly
    Audi dealer, distinct lack of interest, salesman didn’t even stand up out of his chair when I asked him for information, no follow up
    Skoda, excellent, offered demo car for day, followed up enquiry twice.
    Citroen dealer (family owned), also excellent, given demo car, good advice and follow up. Bought a (brilliant, now on third) Berlingo, and subsequently bought DS3 for wife.

    I was absolutely stunned by the ineptitude of most of the dealers, not even making a simple phone call to follow up my visit; my only conclusion is that selling cars is both too profitable and easy.

  6. One of my big hates in life is buying a New Car, Not just the way the salesman expects top dollar for the New item He/She is selling (And the usual “We dont do discounts on New Cars Sir”) but also the Rock Bottom price they offer and expect you to jump at the “Cost to change Deal”.

    Do Sales people really expect customers to walse in and say “Err that one Please”, I also completely agree with Mike experience of No parking space’s (another problem when you need to book your car in for work), Sales people are either stark you are ignore you, then come across as arrogant/bolshy, boring or patronising. I know these people have to make a living probably on the minimum wage but they all tend to look you up and down to see if your worthy or a time waster.

    On every occasion I have bought new either for ones self or for family, preparation has been made before hand with colours/spec etc so the minimum work required for the Sales to do, Other than work out the price of “How much can they sell it for?”, Yet still there is a fight on your hands of ” That is the price, no good looking around we are the same all over the UK”. (there is huge differances by region). Then the phonecall later of “we can sell it for £x amount cheaper”.

    One time I quoted the Whatcar price or even better Orangewheels prices and I got “well go with them then!” So we did.. After buying from them I really cannot see the point of having to sit through wasted hours of Sales Pitch.

  7. Far and away the best experience i’ve had has been on my two past new cars, both volvos, from Paul Rigby in Aston, Birmingham.

    I had an interesting experience recently in the nearby Merc showroom where I showed a bit of interest in a 6 month old C220 CDI estate. The salesperson (female) got two cars moved (both AMg models so the engine noise was fabulous!) and into the car in 15 minutes. Had a test drive and a 24 hour follow up. Shame I didn’t like the car.

    Over the years, Ford has made some good cars, many of which I’d’ve been happy to own. the dealers? Universally awful. One, having taken 3 weeks to arrange a C-Max test drive, presented me with an out of date engine spec and the test drive was less than a mile. When I explained there was no way I’d make a decision based on that test drive I was told that I’d have to talk to the sales manager. Still not owned a Ford!

  8. I had the short test drive experience with an MG ZT260.

    Wonder if I’d have gone for it had I been allowed to get it out of a 40 zone…

  9. I have to say that my only experience of Citreon was my mates C3. He got it not long after they came out replacing his old but battered Mk2 Mondeo with a brand spanking new C3. His missus had a Saxo and they had had no probs with it. Anyway the idiot left his satnav in the car, went indoors and literally five minutes later his step daughter came in and said someone had smashed the drivers window (and so had gone the satnav). When Autoglass came to fix it, he was informed that the clip that held the window to the up and down mechanism was plastic and had broke when they smashed the window. After contact the dealer, first they could not help, then told him to bring it in but could not find anything wrong, then they contacted Citreon’s head office before finally telling him he had to buy the whole mechanism, motor and all, just to replace 1 part.

    I have to state that the DS range to me look like over designed cars. Yes they have a certain individuality about them, they are not exactly pretty in the original DS or CX range.

    Oh an Mike, I think it depends on the Volvo dealer. I bought mine from Lookers who were always excellent with the car. However when they closed my local branch down, the new dealer became Essex Autogroup, and they have not been helpful at all. First the Soot Filter got clogged up (don’t you hate Common Rail’s) and Essex Ford told me I needed a new filter at several grand. I contacted Lookers and travelled to them (several miles up the road) who burnt it clear for £80. Then when I contacted them for a new alloy wheel centre (someone had stolen it) they were quoting me twice what Lookers charged. Won’t deal with them now and prefere to go to Lookers, even if its another 20 minutes up the A130.

  10. Hmmmm I wonder how Vauxhall and Citroen, what with their grand aspirations of competing against MINI dealers, will succeed with the Adam and the DS ranges? The 3 dealers I know (from IIRC large groups) seem to staffed by surly ex-Woolworthers.

    Manners don’t cost much do they? Now I know salepeople size prospects up so that begs the question who is the ideal punter worthy of attention?

  11. Isn’t it just Sod’s Law of car showrooms the very time when you have the cash burning a hole in your pocket you get ignored by the sales staff, yet you get hounded to death if you just pop in to window shop?

    I was selling my house at the time and intended to syphon off some of the profit (this was in 2005, when the property boom was at its maddest) into replacing my wheels. Picture the scene, I was a proud owner of the Mk.1 Focus, and the Mk.2 had just came out and for the first time in my life, I found myself able to walk into a showroom, choose the colour, put the spondooliks on the table and get my hands on the latest model on the latest registration plate!! Sadly the salesman was not interested – I was asking him pertinent questions about the car and what features it had, fuel economy – genuine buying signals I though – and still I was ignored, in fact he never made eye contact at me once. And yes, he also addressed me as “mate” – something which I absolutely detest in formal conversation. Maybe it was the fact I looked rather young to be buying a brand new motor in cash (I was 24 at the time), but I’ve gone into the Audi agent I use now in my scabbiest trainers and trackie bottoms and I still get treated like royalty.

    Needless to say another Ford dealer got my business for the aforementioned Focus, and although they also tried to screw me for factory fitted options I didn’t order (another story), as you say first impressions count for a lot!!

  12. @4. Francis, sadly yes sometimes. I went to the MG dealer in Bury or somewhere like that last year, in the middle of nowhere, I had to literally hunt round the showroom to find a person with a pulse.

    On the Citroen front, I agree, the new cars are really very good. I also saw a DS5 the other week in a showroom whilst I had my Metro MOT’s at an old Rover and now Citroen dealer – they didn; come up to me as they know me and I wasn’t buying.

    The car however was really very nice. I was very impressed and it is certainly a whole load more interesting than any Focus or Astra (the latter of which is the most bland car in the segment IMO)

  13. My experiences are that small family owned dealerships work best.
    They seem to remeber their customers, i started going to them to get a dealer service while under warranty (original supplier was too far away)
    Since then the quality of customer service has impressed me. They will pick up and drop off your car for service at no charge.
    When the time came to replace the car, i’d looked around at other marques out of curiosity and the trade in prices were laughable. Decided to stick with the current brand and the trade in was more than reasonable, the sales pitch honest and there was no hard sell to “upgrade”.
    Large dealership networks need to pay attention

  14. I can endorse that dealers (and manufacturers) are their own worst enemies.

    I bought a Honda Civic which turns out to suffer quite horrendous road noise that it sounds like driving an empty oil drum.
    Kier, MD of Honda UK tried to fob me off with stupid excuses, and point blank refuses to explain his refusal to rectify. Now refuses to communicate with me.
    The dealer simply filed my correspondence asking for attention.
    SMMT, though having no knowledge of my vehicle, finds in favour of Honda.
    SMMT was most enthusiastic that I take the matter to arbitration. SMMT refuses to communicate with me since I changed my mind.
    RMIF is disinterested.
    Office of Fair Trading is disinterested.
    Which? Is disinterested.
    Autocar is disinterested.
    What Car is disinterested.
    Auto Express is disinterested.
    M. Penning, MP is disinterested
    G. Barwell, MP is disinterested.

    Local Skoda dealer lent me five / six cars for 2 hour test drives, then wanted full list for the new car and trade for the p/x.
    Eventually bought the new car through internet broker and sold old car privately, saving £3700.
    Then Skoda dealer wanted £250 for first service. Little more than oil change. Now use local independent, much cheaper and better service.

    Went to Toyota dealer, wandered around showroom and all over vehicles, no salesman approached me.
    Toyota mailed me claiming ‘one day we hope you will buy a Toyota’.
    Sales director ignored me when I suggested he meet me with vehicle of my choice to prove vehicle will be satisfactory for me after explaining problem with Honda.

    Yes, dealers (and manufacturers) are their own worst enemies.

  15. I am very impressed by Jaguar for whom nothing seems to be a problem.

    Even main dealer groups are good (HA Fox Leeds deserves a special mention as does Barrets of Canterbury and -for a different market Allen Ford of Northampton.

    For salesmen (and they virtually all are men) many seem to be on a different evolutionary plane to the rest of us – were they born with bad shiney suits, unpolished shoes, bad ties and were their first words patronising cliches?

  16. I love the term having a ‘blimp’. However Mike, have you considered that as their is a plate change in 2 weeks, that they actually DONT want any more sales this month as they have met their quota?

  17. I too went through the whole Salesman experience when I bought my Espace.
    I got it in the end from Harrats at Pontefract from a older salesman who was friendly, polite and seemed to genuinely want to help, even when I spent an hour screwing them down on the finance rate.
    I would happily go back there, even though it is a 2 hour round trip.
    They even phoned me twice over the following six months to check I was happy with the car.
    Shame they are Nissan now instead of Renault.

  18. A very entertaining story and laughable – no wonder some dealers give the trade a bad reputation. Having said that I still prefer dealing with some car salesmen to builders

  19. It’s down to the dealer – my local Citroen dealer is rubbish (Yoemans – Plymouth) will never buy another Citroen after buying a new C8 which they had no idea how to service (even leaving tools in teh engine bay and damaging the first of three clutches and two gearboxes in three years and 30,000 miles) – went to a family run Renault dealer who were brilliant with my Demo Espace, until they became subsumed into the local multi-frachise dealer here in Plymouth – who with eight other franchises only care about teh bottom line and what they can steal from you. The Espace is looked after by a family Renault dealer, brilliantly – who sadley look like they’ll loose the franchise because the bigger guys are only ten miles down the road, and can’t go electric 🙁

  20. After reading the comments thus far I am not surprised or shocked by any that I read, is it any wonder sales & registrations of Cars in the UK are down and Car Dealers are going out of business at an alarming rate.

    I was in the Motor trade for more than thirty years and as recently as two years ago. i have been involved from every part from valeting cars as a trainee salesman (yes we used to have to serve an “apprenticeship” before we were allowed to even talk to customers) to running my own Citroen dealership (I was involved with the Citroen Marque for over twenty years – selling the Dyanne right up until 1999) and finally as Head of sales for a Commercial Vehicle manufacturer.

    I loved being part of “the trade” I enjoyed helping people decide on which was the right vehicle for them, giving advice on how best to fund the new car etc, indeed I had many customers who dealt with me for most of my career and still have the privilege to call the friends today.

    Having now left the Industry altogether now, I can say that the decline in sales Professionalism is almost entirely due to the lack of training, respect and support by the “Managers” of the various large Dealer Groups. If one was to graph the decline is standards and the demise of the “Family-Owned” dealership it would flow as a mirror image.

    The large Groups (Pendragon et al) are mostly run by accountants and bean counters, who by nature have no long term plan for sales strategies and merely review a sales team member’s performance and are willing to hire & fire on a daily basis.

    The result, baby faced, snot nosed oiks in designer suits who are seduced by claims of OTE of £40k p.a. They are then placed behind a desk and told to sell, sell, sell with little or usually no sales training whatsoever apart from when they worked in MacDonalds or the local Mobile Phone shop and when after a short number of weeks have failed to reach their target are summarily dismissed and new oiks are recruited they bean counters always blame the front-line pawns who are as expendable as front-line soldiers in WW1.

    Gone are the days of training, learning how to present a product, how to build rapport and match customer expectations in terms of a buying experience.

    The truth is as with Governments the dealer Groups get the results & staff they deserve.

    I could go on, but by now you probably have glazed over and are thinking that I am some kind of Motor Trade relic. There was a time that I could never imagine myself not being involved in the Motor Trade, but I am glad to be out of it and would rather sweep floors in the a fore mentioned Fast Food chain than return to it.

    I now work in the Utilities Industry, which the general opinion of people in this field is perceived by the public as being even lower than Car Sales people, however I still work to the high standards trained into me five decades ago, and have very many happy and satisfied customers who are more than delighted to chat when we meet in the supermarket or buy me a beer in the pub.

    Being a professional salesperson is a great career, but it is a dying art too.

    Take care and if I can give you any advice it is this, get their best price, then walk away and return several days later to squeeze them again, however regardless of whatever line of work you are in, Nobody and I mean nobody should do anything for nothing, even oiks in designer suits………

  21. ive always liked Citroen, even the BX, which while it was obviously an attempt to lift sales (they needed to), it was a good allround car. it was nice to look at, practical, not too big not too small, light, and a good performer. A couple of things I didnt like, the indicators didnt self cancel (a citroen thing I think) and the seat wouldnt come far enough forward for my wife (and shes not exactly short short). i have had an ID19 and a DS20, nearly bought a CX2400. the only Citroen I really (and truely) didnt like was the ami8. good for keeping a 2cv going maybe. but i really like the current round of Citroen, the only ones I was keen on was the zantia and xm period, but again not bad lookin cars, they still look ok. the thing that let citroen down really, as Clarkson put it, some were held to together with spit, and some newer ones were improved ones usinig bluetack.

  22. They seem to have lost their sense of humour, too. My mate John had a summer job at a Vauxhall dealer (Horn’s of Macclesfield) in summer ’75, he was 16 at the time, that didn’t stop a salesman telling him how much he would give him for part exchange for his bicycle! Seem to remember it started at £10 against a Viva, and went up to £40 against a Ventora…

  23. I thought the Xantia was a great car, seemed very well built, I never had any issues with mine.
    Some people thought the styling was generic, I thought it was a good looking car with some Citroenesque styling features such as the front overhang and the tapering C pillar, with from the inside looking back did give a slight impression of DS C pillars. It also had proper suspension! 🙂

    The XM was left field enough to be a big Citroen, especially under Peugeot’s reign. Was tempted to buy one before the Honda, but the other half thought they were quite elderly looking. I guess the futuristic styling hasn’t aged too well.

    The ZX looked a bit like a squared off Astra, but it was comfortable, reliable and economical, and as they get rarer and rarer on the roads, they are starting to look appealing again.

  24. Do car companies not used mystery shoppers to weed out all this poor practice?

    I have a list of experiences similar to above when buying Citroen, Renault and some other cars and that’s why I bought a new Lexus LS400 . My first was bought in 2000 when I turned up, casually dressed, in my old 1987 D reg Granada Ghia with rusted rear arches. I was treated as though I had arrived by Concorde. And I bought the car on the spot. I ‘bought’ the dealer as much as the car. (The car was and is still superb and the dealer has never failed me once)

  25. Brad: I made the mistake of wandering into the Audi dealer in my gaffer-taped Cherokee. Shame the salesman didn’t clock the Leica hanging off my shoulder, really 😉

  26. I am also fortunate to own an XM from new. I bought this in 1992 and another in 1994. The two different dealers couldn’t do enough to help and to make it as pleasant as possible. The second car is long gone.

    Since then, I bought a new 2007 Grand Picasso C4 which I chose from this particular dealer because of the price. The dealer was inept, disinterested and unreliable. The car has been very troublesome as well, to say the least. I will add that from the buying stage onwards – the servicing, the remedial work, the warranty work, the four recalls, the 15 software update – dealing with the dealers has always been difficult to arrange, work badly carried out, carried out with disinterest and lacking in any interest in me or my car at all. The last recall in June we combined with a service and a small repair to a heat shield and an Mot. We collected the car and only the Mot had been done. No apology, no excuse. Just blank faces.

    I sold my C6 after 6 months because of poor service and can’t state too highly how bad all the Citroen and Renault dealers have been. There must be exceptions, but how do you find a good one?

  27. @29 – Brad… wait… C6?

    Another person who had XMs and got a C6 then got rid of it because of the dealers? Anyone would think it was a serious problem!

  28. Could there be a correlation between the quality of the dealers and the quality of the cars ?

    Most human beings want to avoid confrontation so perhaps the Renault, Citroen salesmen are subconsciously trying to avoid this by discouraging a sale. If they sell you a car they know you’ll soon be back with a list of problems they won’t be able to fix.

    Look at the position of Jaguar and Lexus on the satisfaction charts and the vastly different welcome from their dealers.

  29. I once questioned why Skoda was topping satisfaction surveys while their VW compatriots where mid table.
    Someone suggested their dealers were better.

  30. I’ve bought Citroens for the last 10 years or so and this article pretty much sums up why I will be looking elsewhere for a new car in the future – my local dealership has just changed ownership – going from a smallish family style business to being part of a chain. Whilst under the previous ownership, the customer service was pretty good and the staff were always helpful. Now, no one seems to be bothered. Looked at Toyotas recently and they couldn’t have been more helpful.

    Citroen seem to be loosing money as part of the PSA group so stories like this can’t be helping.

  31. When I was hunting for a nearly new Ford Fiesta for the other half a couple of years back I was shocked by the lack of acknowledgement we got from the car supermarket type places. We spent weeks trawling forecourts until one day on the internet I came across a 18 month old example that was up for just £6,500 (list price was almost £13K – it was high spec). The only downer was that it was a Ford dealership so was worried that I wouldnt receive much assistance unless I was interested in a shiney new Ford – how wrong I was! From the moment we arrived to the moment I collected the keys the staff were polite, friendly and helpful, they even put the car in the showroom the day we collected it so that the weather didnt wreck what the valetting team had done the day before. Certainly opened my eyes and as a result of their help I would have no worries going back for another Ford in the future.

  32. My dad deals with an independent Ford dealer in West Yorks, and the customer service, and sales team always seem top notch. My dad bought an ex Jersey model for my mum that was only a few months old, and several grand off, and loaded with spec. The big boys couldn’t touch them on price for some crackpot reason, and when they collected it, there was a huge bouquet of flowers on the passenger seat.

  33. It seems the current policy, strategy in many organisations not to immediately approach the customer and to play the ‘soft sell’. However, this seems more like un-professional sales staff with a blatant lack of interest. Reckon I too would have walked away. If genuinely interested in a purchase I would have thought something like ‘sod you then, if you don’t want my business’.

  34. John Armitage (Comment 22) hits the nail right on the head.

    And so he should. I have known John since I was around 13 when I used to pinch the brochures from his Citroen dealer and before anyone even thinks “oh no, an ex salesman`s love in” it was watching and listening to the methods of old school guys like John and other really great salesmen I knew in days of yore, where I crafted my own methods.

    To this day, I truly believe that a good living can be made in the car trade by simply being yourself and selling yourself before the product. There are still a few good men and women out there, but on the whole – they’re a dying breed.

    Close friends and family often egg me on to back onto the floor, part of me sometime wishes to, but I decide against it as no dealer groups encourage the long game or relationship building… something that has seemingly long gone from the trade.

    In these hard times – and they ARE just that, there is definitely a defeatist attitude within showroom staff – especially my mentioned Citroen dealer and again, part of me wishes I was sat at the desk next to him – I`d wipe the floor with him!

  35. A lot of people are now ‘buying over the net’ too, so the ordinary sales staff don’t even get a look in with the deal, and the car is often delivered to the customer’s front door, and their part ex collected, so there is zero face to face communication at all sometimes

  36. Funnily enough the above sales ‘experience’ is par for the course here in Ireland. I’ve only ever come across two dealers that were actually interested in selling a car, both got the sale too. A Renault and VW dealership. The worst I’ve ever experienced is Honda dealerships. I’ve yet to go to one which can be described as anything close to acceptable.

  37. It’s all rather one sided this is! You all seem to forget that customer will lie, cheat, faff about, dither and time waste to an unbelievable degree, miss thier appointments, expect a value on their car when thay havent even bothered to arrive in it, shop you round all over the UK to screw you down on price, expect a courtesy full valet when in for a service, a free loan car, or collection and delivery, can slate you for the merest and tinest error when they get a questionaire, and are willing to waste your time for hours on end about a car that they ‘might’ be thinking about bying at some – as yet- undecided timescale in the future. Salesman are paid if they sell cars and not if they dont. No one is perfect but stop pretending that just because you are a ‘customer’ that you have the right to be pandered to. You treat sealeman with utter contempt most of the time and wonder why you reap what you sow? You dont work for nothing, so dont expect them to either! Anyway, rant over as I must go and waste several hours chatting to a supermarket assistant about a Turkey that I “am thinking about buying one Christams in the future…”

  38. @Richie,

    my mother went to a local Ford dealership 3 times to purchase a new car. The first 2 times she went on her own and was completely ignored by all of the salesmen. I went the third time as I couldn’t believe this had happened but sure enough the 3 salespeople sat in their offices and never came out. Eventually one came out, got a cup of coffee and went back into his office again. They lost the sale. I rang the dealership principal to complain later that day and was told his “staff wouldn’t do such a thing”. We are a long term customer of the garage but now never again will we shop there

  39. Hang on though, you had absolutely no intention of buying this car. In other post you yourself boast that as an expert salesman you could spot a time waster a mile off. Perhaps these guys where as perceptive as you!

  40. @40

    I get positively furious when my car gets a ‘courtesy free valet’. I don’t want it touching. If they’ve got it mucky, I want to know why. If they’ve scratched it, I want it owned up to before I’ve seen it, and to see it without a hurried attempt to polish it out (Citroën Birmingham scraped one of my wheels on the C6 incredibly badly, didn’t realise I’d take a walk around the car BEFORE going to the showroom, and were completely unprepared for me seeing the damage – claiming that my car needed to come back in because my wheel had a ‘warranty issue’ with the lacquer).

    it’s absolutely logical to shop around all over the UK for the best price for a car when you can almost guarantee the same degree of excellence or ineptitude from your local franchise, whether you bought the car there or not.

    And when my car suffers from a manufacturing defect or a dealer-inflicted fault, I will expect a loan car. I will expect that fault to be fixed correctly, efficiently and effectively with no excuses – in the former, with the full support of the UK parent company requested by the dealer (with my C6, I had to threaten Citroën’s PR department before a faulty suspension strut was fixed in a timely fashion because the dealer was unwilling to order it on a next-day service, despite having the car stripped down in the workshop AND it being their flagship model!) – and I do not tolerate excuses. If I am to entrust the second most expensive purchase I’ll make to professionals, for money, anything less than professional and expert service is unacceptable.

    From a sales perspective – and I have worked, briefly, in sales on the cheap used end of the market – I’ve a lot more sympathy for the staff, and frankly if they’re crap, they lose out, not me. But on service and maintenance from any dealer carrying that manufacturer’s brand as their identity, high expectations are justifiable and should be met. It’s my relationship with the brand as much as it is with the dealer – they make or break the success of the manufacturer.

  41. Agree with Richard Kilpatrick- not a fan of large main dealers service and repair departments.

    After colliding with a badger at high speed near Oxford, I needed a replacement bumper, but was temporarily a bit skint, so ordered a scrap one off the net- which was ok apart from the fact that it didn’t match the colour and had scratches that revealed the primer. As it happened, an ambulance driver clipped my front wing, so it was sent to Ford Main Dealer Bristol Street Motors, Gloucester, as the insurer’s preferred repairer. I asked to have the bumper seen to at the same time at my own expense. Sure enough, when I drove the courtesy car back to the dealer to pick up my Focus, the wing had been repaired but the bumper hadn’t been touched, although I was billed for repairing it.The lame excuse they tried to palm me off with was that ‘someone must have driven past the car (which was parked at right-angles to passing vehicles in the forecourt) and scratched it.’ Yeah right, and how about the fact that the colour of the bumper is still a slight mis-match, and the repaired wing isn’t? I told them I was keeping the courtesy car until they’d repaired the bumper to my satisfaction.

    Needless to say that dealer doesn’t enjoy the best reputation in the area…

    The local Audi dealership (Blade, now Parklands Audi, but still part of Blade, is no better. When I went to buy my A4, my first main-dealer sourced car, there were issues with a missing pedal rubber, central-locking issues, and other minor defects. Since Blade Audi pretended to have an ‘Audi Approved’ 100+ point pre-purchase vehicle check, I arranged the banker’s draft and went ahead with the purchase in the sure and certain knowledge that the car would be in tip-top condition when I came to drive it away several days later. Needless to say, none of the faults had been addresses, and I needed the car urgently for work, so I had to take it away. They refused to attend to the necessary repairs unless I claimed on the warranty, which is effectively an insurance policy not presumably intended to rectify faults which were evident before the sale- smacked of fraud to me.

    I was not impressed.

  42. @ Paul (42)

    I make a point of paragraph 5 where I told the chap I was just looking and I would give him a nod should I require something specific.

    The guy did not even qualify the customer in any way shape or form – How do you differentiate the difference between a browser or a customer then If you make no effort to use probing questions?

  43. Mike,

    I Forgot to mention, even though I currently drive a SAAB, my wife drives a C8 and my eldest Son drives a C1, so I’m still very much a Citroen Fanatic….

    see you for that beer soon I hope!

  44. It’s fascinating to see how people involved with selling cars see it. As far as I’m concerned the experiences outlined in the original post are what you can guarantee will happen, every single time you go anywhere near a car showroom. It’s one reason why I will never, ever buy a new car. The only used car salesmen I’ve found to be better have been enthusiastic independent specialists.

  45. I agree with people’s comments on here. In Cumbria the evil empire of Arnold Clark has taken over most of the Ford dealerships and the standard of customer care, workmanship and service has gone down.
    For all Arnold Clark’s dealerships look impressive and the used car prices are competitive, the standard of customer care is abysmal, also they seem to like playing rave music at loud volume over their sound system. I can rememeber wanting to trade in my Nissan Almera for a 3 year old Ford Fiesta and being told the car was old hat and not worth more than a grand, and being treated like an imbecile by a 21 year old salesman who was out of his depth. More worryingly a friend bought a car whose tracking was out, the garage said they had fixed it and she ended up with the tyres wearing through as the work had not been done.
    However, I tried the family Nissan dealer J Edgar, who also run a Ford service centre, and the treatment was vastly better as the salesman recognised me and offered me £ 2000 for the Nissan against a 58 plate Fiesta. Also they were offering a service plan and a 12 month warranty, which Clark’s wanted to charge for, and the deal was done. Consequently my car buying will be with the small family dealer rather than Clark’s glitzy showrooms.

  46. Apathy annoys me more than anything else in salesmen. Some salesmen simply amaze me with their selling skills though. I enjoy watching their ‘form’.

    Rcent example- Started shopping for new cars. Walked in to main dealership from which I bought a car new 3.5 yrs ago. Got talking about P/Xs. I didn’t have the car with me, but out of nowhere he said to me (with a confidence which betrayed that he knew exactly what he was saying was correct) ‘and your PX would be a Fiesta Zetec S would it? Wasn’t yours Vision blue?- we didn’t sell many in that colour.) The man didn’t have my name off me during that visit. Master at work…

  47. I am not sure if it comes down to family vs. network dealers. I am convinced it is down to people. I have used the VW and Audi dealers in Newbury for many years and have a good relationship with them. In 2011 I bought my wife a new VW Polo for her birthday but alas it had a recurring boot lock problem that the dealer (and VW) could not fix for a numer of months. In the end we wrote a note to the MD of VW UK who promptly replaced the car. We had excellent service for Ridgeway and VW UK. The replacement Polo arrived in April 2012 and is perfect.


  48. I remember my sister (a corporate lawyer in the City) and I were looking at Honda Civic Coupe’s (the Mk1) and we went into one Honda dealer and the very officious salesman proceeded to engage me in conversation, when I advised him this was my sisters purchase he started talking colours and pointed out the Civic hatch which at the time had a split folding tailgate (like a tiny Range Rover?) his comment was ‘we sell a lot of these to ‘the fair ladies’ as its helpful for the shopping – I will never forget my sisters face, I actually think he finished his sentence to our backs as we walked out of the dealership! Found another who treated my sister as the buyer and showed some respect – and he got the deal – it really was not rocket science!

  49. I’ll have to go against the general opinion here that small, family owned dealerships are better. I bought a brand new C3 in March 2011 from my nearest Citroen dealer (Thomas and Davies in Merthyr Tyfil). This is a small, family run business and I received a jaw droppingly poor level of customer service. I turned up, for a pre-booked test drive, for them to state that they were just in the process of changing their demonstrators and they probably wouldn’t have a car for me to try!!!! Eventually they found one, ex demo they were selling so I took this out. Came back impressed, wanted to buy. Got a decent p/ex for my VW plus £3,000 off the C3. Took delivery a week later.
    Then the problems started. Part of the deal was to include the small amount of finance owing on the VW into the Citroen finance package and the dealer would pay VW off. I was advised to cancel the VW direct debit by the Citroen dealer. Think you can guess what happened….the dealer didn’t pay VW finance off. About a month later, lateish in the evening I had a call from VW asking what was happening. I rang Citroen dealer the following day, they said they had definatly paided them. This situation went on for a month, me doing all the running between the two of them, the Citroen dealer changing their story each time, ‘we’ll pay them today’ etc, they didn’t. Eventually three weeks in I was put through to the Citroen dealers sales manager who was extremely aggressive and abusive, shouting and swearing down the phone to me, stating I should pop up that afternoon so he could ‘sort me out’ I’m pretty sure that didn’t mean solve the VW finance issue!!! I did politely point out that he was talking to a customer, to which he stated ‘I think you need to remember who you are talking too butt!!!’. He carried out shouting and swearing so I stated I was terminating the call and his behaviour was totally unacceptable and would be calling the police. The police were stunned at the events but stated that they could not get involved as it was a civil matter. I rang trading standards who took my details and did nothing. I contacted the financial ombudsman who was disgusted, took on the case and sorted it out. When I phoned Citroen U.K they couldn’t care less and just stated that the dealer would ‘probably have a different version of events’.

  50. I know selling cars used to be rather easier but, when Dad was selling Datsuns in Bristol in the 70s he’d have rolled a salesman over the parquet floored showroom for such disrespectful and unprofessional behaviour.

  51. It’s interesting how PSA dealers have a bad rep throughout these articles – well here’s another to add to the list. I changed jobs in the summer and relocated back to the home counties. My DS3 had an intermittent fault with the interior lights flickering on and off and after several phone calls managed to get hold of the local dealer Palmers of Watford. When asked if I could bring the car in on a Saturday (September – December is the busiest period at the corporate firm I work for) I was told no chance so I managed to find a small hole in my diary to drop the car off early in the morning. The person I had booked the car in with hadn’t booked the courtesy car properly so I was lucky there was one spare so not a great start. When I again enquired why I couldn’t book the car in at a time convenient to me, I was met with the curt response “it’s your car, it’s your responsibility to find the time to bring it in when we are able to do the work” Early afternoon they called me (in fairness as promised) to say they had diagnosed the fault (faulty comms unit) but didn’t have the part in stock. I said fine, we’ll re-book for another time but it will need to be a Saturday. Again, “no sir we can’t do the work on a Saturday and we won’t order the part until you commit to a weekday”. The car is financed through Banque PSA and they don’t care either. Dealers need to realise that working people find it difficult to fit things in on a Monday – Friday 9-5 schedule. All I can say is I have subsequently cost them at least two sales by telling colleagues how rubbish they are and they have bought their new vehicles from different PSA dealers instead.

  52. I’ve bumped this up as I was driving past Arnold Shark near Workington and they have lost their Ford franchise, with the remaining local franchise belonging to a well respected family dealer in a village. I know Ford are downsizing as their current range of cars isn’t selling as well as in the last decade, but it’s nice to see Shark lose out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.