WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND

Culprit Took Keys, Then Dealer's Car Regarding Steve Finlay's column headlined Why Test Drives Can Go Bad (August, 2011) I lost a car once when a guy came in and asked for the keys to a Nissan 280Z so he could sit in it to check out the headroom. He said he used to have an earlier-model Z, but needed to make sure the headroom would work as he wanted a sun roof this time around. He came in just before

Culprit Took Keys, Then Dealer's Car

Regarding Steve Finlay's column headlined “Why Test Drives Can Go Bad” (August, 2011) I lost a car once when a guy came in and asked for the keys to a Nissan 280Z so he could sit in it to check out the headroom. He said he used to have an earlier-model Z, but needed to make sure the headroom would work as he wanted a sun roof this time around. He came in just before closing time on Saturday afternoon. He said he was waiting for his wife who was shopping at the mall across the street.

After he sat in the car, he brought what I thought was the car key back to me. He had substituted another Z key he had stolen from another dealership. After closing, he went to the lot and drove the car away. He took good care of it though. When finally recovered, it was nicely accessorized.

But all of the stories don't have good endings. In Milan, IL, a guy came in for a test drive. The well-trained sales person went along. I believe he was related to the dealer, perhaps a son-in-law. I'm not sure if he took a copy of the driver's license first, but these days that is a must. The salesperson was later found shot in the head.

Growing up in the auto business in the roughest part of Rock Island IL, I always thought I would die in the passenger seat on a demo drive with a popped-up pimp on Saturday morning. I had a few scares.

Over the years, the industry has developed demo drive best practices. The salesperson always should drive first on a pre-determined route. There should be all right-hand turns to eliminate turns against traffic. The course should be different for a minivan than for a Corvette. Consumers are driving unfamiliar vehicles on unfamiliar roadways. We should always remember that.

When I was doing mystery shopping I was appalled at how lax most dealerships are these days. But who am I to talk? When I was a young salesman in 1970, I'd hop in the back seat, crank down a window and light up a smoke.
David Ruggles
Las Vegas, NV

‘Rather Lose Car Than Salesperson’

I'd much rather lose a car than a salesperson!

How often (outside of doing a test drive) have you jumped in a car with a complete stranger?

There is definitely a strong advantage to going on the test drive from a selling point. I just could not imagine how I could live with myself if I demanded 100% demo drives from my salespersons and something terrible happened, (such as) a bad accident or worse.Jason Gudenkauf
Vice President/General Manager

(Dealership name withheld by request)

Glad to See Jim Ziegler in Ward's

I am a friend of Jim Ziegler's. He has consulted at my store and spoken at the Wyoming Automobile Dealers Assn. convention when I was president. I am glad to see him in your magazine. Let him continue to give his views on dealer issues.
Martin Gubbels
Owner/General Manager
Big Sky Ford Lincoln Mercury
Torrington, WY

Import Tariff One Way to Cut U.S. Debt

U.S. auto makers shipping cars to Japan must pay a tariff tax based on MSRP. The more the MSRP, the more the tariff. For example, it would work out to about $1,500 for a Ford Focus shipped to Japan for sale at a Mazda dealership.

A Toyota Corolla unloaded at the Los Angeles port of entry has to pay a U.S. levy of $400, no matter what the MSRP might be. It's a flat rate.

If Washington is really serious about reducing this $14.5 trillion national deficit, making importers pay a U.S. tariff like the Japanese charge would be logical and go a long way towards paying down this debt burden.
Harry Douglas
Host/Car Concerns syndicated radio show
Knoxville, TN

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