Professional Community for Automotive Marketers, Car Dealers, OEM and Suppliers
When my, then girlfriend, now wife Bernadette and I announced to our families that we were going to get married it was met with let’s call it muted approval (concern and disapproval really). First off, we were thousands of miles away from either of our kin, stationed on the island of Guam. Secondly, we were young, 19 and 21. Finally, we hadn’t known each other very long (I proposed on our second date!). We had met in Colorado at Lowry, AFB and I arranged an assignment swap to go to Guam with her otherwise, no wedding. So we called our families from halfway around the globe to tell them we were engaged. I’ll never forget her Aunt Pearl’s reaction, “Is he still white?” She asked in a disappointed tone. You see, we are a racially diverse couple as well, which added to the tension. At any rate, much to Pearl’s chagrin, I was still white. Little did she know that I would become something much worse. I would become…a car-guy!
Several years ago I gave this question deep consideration: What is a car-guy? It came up as I was talking with my General Manager about the career paths of a couple of our salespeople. He made the comment about one of them that “He’s not a car-guy. You know what I mean? Well, you’re a car-guy, you know.” The conversation continued but I didn’t hear another word he said because the phrase “you’re a car-guy”, kept resonating in my head. Was I a car-guy? What did that mean? What is a car-guy? That phrase, to me, had negative connotation. I thought of the old school, slick suited, forked tongued, chain-smoking lot lizard. Uggh! Was I one of them? Well, I knew I wasn’t but did people perceive me to be one of them? I sat down and reflected on my career, how I carried myself, how I treated customers, the way I conducted business and came to the realization that I was, in fact, a car-guy, but not in the stereotypical sense.
A car-guy is a seller of cars as the name implies, however they are much more than that. You see, just because someone has “Sales and Leasing Consultant” or “Sales Manager” printed on their business cards, doesn’t make them a car-guy. Any more than a person putting on a paper hat and going to work at Wendy’s makes them a hamburger. Car-guy is a non-gender specific term; they can be male or female. A car-guy does their job with integrity. They are proud of what they do and how and where they do it. They endure late nights, long hours, and bad food or missed meals. Car-guys show up for work with only “opportunity” before them, no guarantees just the hope of generating an income to support themselves and their family. They withstand harsh treatment from customers, co-workers, managers and the banks. They are considered guilty until proven innocent by their clients when they first meet. Guilty of the sins of those who went before them, guilty of every bad thing that has happened to that customer, their family or their friends. Car-guys work in the most legislated industry in America and, just when we start feeling good about ourselves, we settle in at home with our families, turn on the TV and there’s a hidden camera expose of some dirt-bag loser at a car lot taking advantage of a customer. And we can’t say, “Whew, at least that’s not me or anyone at my store.” Because every one of those shows is an indictment against me and you and our business as a whole. Car-guys sacrifice time with family and friends; give up on hobbies and interests all in the name of providing for ourselves and our loved ones. We leave for work some days before anyone else in the house is awake and get home after they’ve gone to bed. All for the chance of making an income, keep in mind, there’s a distinct possibility of working a full day with zero wages for the effort. But rest assured, a true car-guy can sleep at night. Doing the job with integrity, treating people fairly and earning an honest living; not considering profit to be a four letter word but also, not wanting to make a deal at any cost, by any means necessary. We know where to locate the line between right and wrong. We have a moral compass that does reflect true north.
So, are you a car-guy? I would caution you to give consideration to whom you refer to as a “car-guy”. When you call some people “car-guys”, you may be giving them a compliment they haven’t earned and do not deserve.
For those who are wondering, my wife and I are preparing to celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. Before Aunt Pearl went home to be with the Lord, she was able to accept that her niece, whom she helped raise, was married to a white guy. What I don’t know is if she ever came to grips with me being a car-guy?