Crazy Car Business Stories

12:02:00 PM

Having been in the automotive industry for quite some time I thought I would take the time to write down some of the best stories that have actually happened while on the front lines of retail automotive sales.

Mustang Fakeleen:

At the dealership I worked for the owner really wanted to be a Saleen dealer, however, just down the road another local Ford dealer was the regional authorized Saleen dealer and we were out of luck. He then had the plan of creating his own aftermarket car department like Galpin, so he must have watched some episodes of Pimp my Ride for research. Having researched the aftermarket completely via MTV he hired a white guy, with a Spanish name who thought he was a rapper to run aftermarket department. I mean all the elements where there dawg.  The owner of the dealership asked him to put together a package that would rival the Saleen.

Now this guy had a history of building devastatingly bad vehicles and had worked at one of the worst companies in the aftermarket. You know the one that built products like “simulated carbon fiber spoiler” and “racing style seats” all made in overseas very poorly. So he tells the owner that he can build a complete Saleen clone “down to the decals dawg” and gets the owner to give him not one, but two brand new Mustang GT’s to do a complete “Saleen Conversion” on. I having worked in the Mustang aftermarket pointed out that they need to put a disclaimer on the car that it is not a real Saleen….but in their wisdom, they decided that that would take away from the car and they would just call it a “Saleen Equipped Mustang”.

So a customer comes in and see the “Saleen” black convertible, supercharged, complete Saleen package, (no seats, or interior modifications) and writes a check of $65,000 for his new “Saleen”. I see that one of the other salesmen is selling the car and the whole time I was trying to get anyone a manager, finance guy, even salesman, to have the guy sign a waiver stating that it is a Saleen Clone. They refuse saying “it will take away from his buying experience.” 16 months pass, and the guy that bought the Fakeleen comes storming into the dealership looking for blood. It seems he decided to trade the “Saleen” in at the BMW dealer across the street for a new M model, only to be told that his $65K+ Saleen is really a $28,000 Mustang GT with some parts on it, and it has a trade in value of about $19K, not the $45K of a true Saleen. Needless to say some lawyers got involved and the dealer wrote a big check for the full amount of the car. The buyer got to drive a supercharged Saleen equipped Mustang for a year for free. The car was later resold as a used car with the correct tags pointing out that it was not a real Saleen.

New Baby:

It was about 3 months into my sales career at a Ford dealer that I had a young couple pull up in a one year old Ford Expedition. They had a newborn baby, and walked right into the showroom floor. I did the normal “welcome to XYZ motors, I can help you” blah blah blah. They informed me that due to their newborn baby, they were looking for a Ford Excursion SUV the largest SUV sold in the US at the time. So I asked if they had other kids…NO, perhaps a large trailer or boat to tow…NO. They needed more room for the babies stuff. By the looks of the tactical assault stroller they had for this 18” tall human I could see why. I go out to do an appraisal on the Expedition that is like new, leather, fully loaded, they has a massive baby seat, a large duffle bag, and about 1.5 million toys stuffed into this car.
Thinking back on my own childhood, I recall my parents had a VW beetle, a S10 extra cab, and a old station wagon kind of like the Family Truckster from National Lampoons. They almost always had two door cars, and for a time they had a mini-van. I had two sisters so there were three of us, and we somehow fit into a 5 passenger car. My stroller folded up like an umbrella, and did not have heated hand grips or an I-pod holder. We all managed to survive… This young couple ended up buying the Excursion it cost them about $10,000 in loss on their Expedition, but at least they had enough room for baby.

Your tax dollars at work:

I was working as the Internet Sales Manager for the dealer group that included Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and Kia when a phone call came in from a local state assemblywoman’s office. The staffer was frantic and looking for a Lincoln Towncar Signature L. These had been discontinued from regular production at the time but had been available for special fleet orders, but production was done so they were few and far between. The staffer told me that he needed two Black on Black Towncars. One for the local office and one for the Sacramento office. I put him on hold and did a search find that there were none within 500 miles and with Southern California being the hub of the automotive industry and the largest market if we did not have it, no one did.

So I Google the assemblywoman’s name and find countless bills, speeches, and articles on her green legislation, hybrid car bills, and other general tree huggery. I pick the phone back up and tell the staffer “good news I have the cars you are looking for in stock. Black on Black Ford Escape Hybrids”…. Complete silence on the other end. “Well seeing as the assemblywoman is so concerned about the environment that she keeps passing laws regulating the cars we should drive and the types of cars we should have in California, I thought she would like a car that gets double the gas mileage of a Towncar, and costs about $15,000 less” the staffer flies off the handle. “She cannot be seen in something like that she needs a prestigious car for entertaining dignitaries… if you are not willing to help us we will go to someone that will” At that point I was just laughing a the idea of a state assembly member “entertaining dignitaries”. They wanted to spend almost $100,000 for two Towncars so some hack can be driven around in by a staffer like she was the president….they did find them from a dealer in Nevada that orders them for the casinos…your tax dollars at work.

The Millionaire:

“Hello sir welcome to XYZ dealer, how can I help you” I ask to the poorly dressed, dirty, and disheveled man standing in front of a new GT500. “I want to drive it” he said. “Well sir I am sorry but no one test drives the GT500, not even me” I replied. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM…I OWN A VIPER, LAMBORGHINI, CORVETTE, FERRARI, AND ABOUT 20 OTHER CARS, I AM A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE SUPERCAR MARKET” he yelled.

 “Well that’s all well and good sir, but the store policy is that no one drives the car until they are approved to purchase it, if you would like to fill out a credit application, I can see what I can do” I said as he cut me off. “I AM A F&%@ MILLIONAIRE; I WRITE CHECKS FOR MORE THEN YOUR ENTIRE YEARS PAY, I DON’T FILL OUT ANY F@&#ING PAPERWORK, WHERE THE F#&@ IS YOUR MANAGER.” He is turning red at this point, and about 2 inches from my face. I step back and open the door and tell him to please come in.

“Brian this gentleman would like to speak to the manger about driving the GT500” I say to the general manager who happens to be at the front of the sales tower. “Tell him no” the manger replied, but before I could say another word he explodes. “F@#& THE TEST DRIVE, I AM PAST THAT, I WILL BUY THAT CAR FOR FULL PRICE IF YOU WILL FIRE THIS SALESMAN (me) RIGHT NOW IN FRONT OF ME, THIS LITTLE PRICK TRIED TO TELL ME THAT I NEEDED TO QUALIFY FOR THE CAR BEFORE I COULD DRIVE IT, DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM”. He is freaking out so the manager invites him into an office to try and claim the man down and keep the noise off the showroom floor. A few minutes later the man come flying out of the office red in the face and he yells as he leaves. “F@#& THIS DEALER, THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO TREAT PEOPLE WITH MONEY, AND I’LL BE BACK MOTHER F@&$KERS”

The manager comes out and just says “that guy was nuts”, we watch through the large windows to see what super car he jumps into in the parking lot. There were some major cars out there, a M6, AMG Mercedes, Ford GT in for service…. Nope he walks over to an early 1980’s Toyota pickup truck with a mismatched bed, and a bondo filled door, and burns out of the parking lot. That was amazing, but it happens that he kept his promise and the next day showed up with a sandwich board sign and one of his supercars…a gold metallic flake painted 1980 Corvette. He spent the day marched back and forth yelling and ranting about our dealer wearing his sign that had a long rambling message on it that could not be read at a distance. The police helped him leave.


We had a used BMW that was put out on the lot, a large woman in stretch pants, walks up and says I want to buy that BMW in the front, can you pull it up. I was up so it was my turn to help the tire kicker. I pull the car up and she says “I will take it for that price right there” pointing to the windshield stickers that reads $2599, the rest of the stickers, the window sticker, and the tag in the window all say $25999. I started to explain that it looks like someone has pulled a decal off and that it happens from time to time with the cars on the front line.

“Nope, not gonna work, I know my rights, that is false advertising and I am going to call the ACLU” she said. I asked her why she would call the ACLU to which she replied “they give people free lawyers for when people like you try to screw them over”. I started to laugh because it was just so crazy and she got even more pissed off. I go to move the car and have the decal fixed, when she yells to her “partner” an older man with a cane, who was wearing some very nice sweat pants that said MICKEY on the butt, to block the car, while she took photos with her camera phone. “This is for the ACLU, the shit is gonna hit the fan once this gets out” she yells at me. I pull the car away as the old man was a little slow to react and have the decal fixed.

Upon returning to the front of the dealer, I find she is now inside and yelling at the sales manager, who invites her to leave. She says she is going to wait for the ACLU to call back and then we will see what’s what. She helps herself to some free coffee and sits down in front of the TV in our service lounge. Turns out she was waiting on a car in service and was not happy that the bill was so high and that the car was out of warranty because she had never changed the oil.

Toilets are for customers:

So we are all standing around at the front of the dealership killing time on a Tuesday morning. When a really large man walks up and he looks like he is on a mission. “Can I help you sir” one of the salesmen asks. “I NEED TO SEE A MANAGER RIGHT NOW” he replies. The deskman turns around and says “What can I do for you sir?”  He looks like he is shaken like he is angry and about to cry at the same time. “I WAS JUST IN YOUR RESTROOM, AND I SAW ONE OF YOUR SALESMEN. THAT GUY (he points to Steve) USING THE HANDICAPPED RESTROOM STALL” he says.

The manager looks completely confused and replies, “Sorry about that sir, I’ll let the guys know to try and not use that stall, I am sorry if you could not access it.”  This seemed to anger the man even more… “I AM NOT HANDICAPPED, I JUST AM SICK OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU (pointing to Steve again) TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE HANDICAPPED” he said pointing at Steve with intensity. The man lowered his finger and walked away never to be seen again.

The Angry Husband:

I was walking towards the service department with one of the other sales guys when a man walks into the guest lounge. Now this guy was fairly overweight in a really bad fitting purplish colored suit. He looked kind of like he should be lecturing kids on living in an old van down by the river. He is looking all around, spinning on his heel at kind of a frantic pace; he spots me and points towards me. “You’re the guy… YOU’RE THE GUY” he says. I kind of shocked say “Who are you looking for?” he replies “You you’re the guy I saw climbing over the back fence at my house… you’re the guy that HAS BEEN SLEEPING WITH MY WIFE” he is now shouting. I am in complete shock now, never seen this guy, only sleeping with my wife, and no idea who he thinks I am. “Your name is Dave right, I saw the text messages” he says. I say… “Look man my name is Mike and I am not sleeping with anybody’s wife”. The guy’s whole mood changes… “Oh well I am sorry… I am looking for a Dave if you could point me in his direction” he said like he was asking where the drinking fountain was. Now Dave was in the back at his desk but we decided to send him across the street to a rival dealer where we told him Dave was now working.

Kia Nut I:

It was a nice normal slow weekday morning when a customer came from service and wanted to talk to a sales manager. The man was not happy that his nearly 100,000 mile Kia Spectra’s transmission was not working in the way he thought it should. The fact of the matter is that Kia had already backed up the warranty and put a brand new transmission in his car under the 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Now the issue he wanted fixed was that if he runs out to the car early in the morning, and starts it, put the automatic transmission into 1st gear (not drive), the transmission tries to shift to 2nd gear when he is flooring it beyond the speed 1st gear is designed to operate at. But if he lets the car warm up for about five minutes it works fine... yeah kind of a odd problem to have.

I know it is hard to believe that 10 year old Kia with 100,000 miles on it is not as fresh and perfect as it was on day one. But the manager tries to work it out, and finds that Kia motor company has replaced the transmission, and they are not going to be replacing any of the non internal lubricated parts as per the 100,000 mile warranty. So he calls for weeks demanding that he be able to drive his car in 1st gear, as fast as he can without it trying to shift into 2nd. The service staff points out that there is very little chance that he would ever need to do so, and that if he lets the car warm up he can do it all day long.

This serves only to enrage him, and being a fireman he has more free time then most unemployed people. So he launches two websites against the dealership and one aimed at Kia. He then starts writing a blog, he even starts an online radio show to talk about how the dealer is treating him a “paying customer” like crap. The "Paying Customer" line was a joke because he never had purchase a car, serviced a car, or done any business with the dealer before the warranty claim that Kia honored. He demanded that the dealer fix his car or give him a new one, because his 100,000 mile Kia was “like new” other than the 1st gear shifting  issue.

He is getting nowhere fast with our dealership, so he ramps up the efforts, getting on local radio and TV shows and getting consumer advocates to do stories on the dealer. When they interviewed one of our dealership service guys  live on the radio they pointed out that if he let his 10 year old car warm up it worked fine, and that the dealer had offer to install the part that was not covered under warranty for the cost of parts since they had the whole transmission out when they did the warranty repair. The host was shocked because the crazy guy never pointed that little fact out to him.

So to justify his claim he said on the radio “what if I was in the mountains in the snow, and there was an emergency, and I needed to be in 1st gear, and I could not wait five minutes for the car to warm up, my life and my family's life would be in danger because of Kia and this dealership” the radio host then realized he was also dealing with a crazy man.

 He railed on for about 18 months posting you-tube videos, showing him driving in 1st gear, and blog posts, until he went to purchase a car at a Carmax, who he was so happy with and said they had a service department that knew what they were doing… the thing he did not know is that Carmax would drive all its like brand vehicles over to the same dealer he hated for all major service. In the end he ended up fading away.

Kia Nut II:

The first Kia nut never purchased a car from us, but this Kia Nut did and she wanted a Kia Optima. This 40 year old wonder was having her mommy and daddy buy it for her. Why you ask??? It’s because, she was still going to college and had been for the last twenty years. She was just about to get her BA and then go onto Law School. This special breed of stupid was trying to show how much she learned in school by getting the best deal on the car she could.

So after some back and forth we sold the car at invoice minus rebates because it was last year’s model and we wanted it off the lot. She then declared that wanted to see “the real invoice” because “you guys have fake invoices you print out, I learned that in my pre-law class”. The real odd part was she was living on campus at 40….you know that is a creepy dorm! So after five and half hours of back and forth they sign their paperwork at invoice. This is where the real nightmare begins.

First they want me to go over every nut and bolt, they even ask me to climb in the trunk to make sure that the emergency trunk release works. I declined and they all started yelling about what if someone kidnaps their baby girl and she can’t get out because it is a faulty trunk release. Then they demand that I get CD’s and test the CD player, but I need to test it with at least five different CD’s so they know that it really works. Because dealers have a special CD that works but normal CD’s won't, that way we can charge them for repairing the CD player later.

Then they demand that I check all the fluids and tire pressure in front of them. “We bought a car once and the dealer filled the oil with water so we would have to come back a few weeks later and have the engine worked on”….the mom said. Then after all they wanted me to drive around the block once more so they could check for any problems. Everything was a problem, “do you hear that?” she asked… “No that would be the normal sound that the tires make” I replied. “That old game huh, you are going to tell me it’s normal” she replied. So they drove the car back to service and the service manager who had just pulled the plastic off the car a few hours before looked at the crazy family and told them all was all normal.

So the next day I get a call, she is on the side of the freeway, and she is crying. “I have a check engine light, you sold me a lemon, you F@$%ing sold me a lemon”. I ask what she has done and she said she had just gotten gas. I told her to check the gas cap, to see if it was loose because that would trigger a warning light. As it turns out the brain trust had not tightened the gas cap all the way; it was loose and had triggered the check engine light as I told her it could. “I am not driving it you need to send a tow truck” she sobs. I tell her she can call the roadside assistance and they will take her to the nearest dealer, but the car is fine to drive.

So three hours later she calls me back and is all pissed because the tow truck had taken three-plus hours and did not take her to our dealership which was over five hours away. The truck driver towed it to the nearest dealer, who reset the check engine light, and told her all was well. My phone rings again five minutes later, it is her dad, “You owe my daughter an apology for costing her an A in her class because she was late” he says. I point out that she could have driven the car as it was just the gas cap. He cuts me off “that’s what you guys want you want us to drive the car, so that when the engine explodes you can get thousands in warranty work, we are not that dumb. “ I am thinking to myself that "yes...yes you are that dumb."

Another couple of days go by and the car shows up on a flat bed with the keys in it. I call her to see what is going on, she informs me that they don’t want that car, and have purchased a new one, and to just rip up the contract. The car has over 1700 miles on it and scratches all down the side. I point out to miss pre-law that it will be a repo on her record as the financing has already been funded, her down payment check cashed and there is nothing wrong with the car. Her dad who was on speaker phone says “she is going to be a judge one day, so you just watch yourself mister, you speak to her with respect when you discuss the law”….. I suggested she actually go to law school before advising people on legal matters. Turns out dad ended up coming to pick up the car about a month later, I guess the bank said you can take the car or a take a repo on your credit.

The really funny part was she found the first crazy Kia guys blog and posted on there about how she had wished she had found it sooner…..this is why I am out of the retail automotive business.

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