Last post on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM
You are in the Sedans
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Lexus GS 430, Acura RL, BMW 5 Series, Volvo S80, Audi A6, Infiniti M35, Infiniti M45, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Cadillac STS, Sedan
May 12, 2005 (7:20 am)
I am struck by some other differences between the German and Japanese "dealer crowd" that have become more evident over the past few weeks.
Since we have been buying almost nothing but Audis since 1977 -- and from the same dealer, same salesrep all along (although the dealer sold out to a "corporation" a couple of years ago) -- and since my wife recently bought a BMW X3 from a "owned by a person" dealership AND since I have now frequented two Infiniti dealerships, I do note a difference in both the dealerships and the customers at the German and Japanese dealerships.
First the epitome of passion -- from the sales reps, service and parts reps and customers -- the BMW store. These folks all drank the Kool-aid. Yet, they aren't automatons. Somehow, even the parts guy (in his white lab coat with the BMW blue and white logo) seems "really into" BMWs, really into cars -- really into making certain that the phone cradle we are ordering is the exact right one for the car. Then the service advisor who takes time to introduce us to the other services advisors, "just in case, I'm not here next Saturday when you come in," seems so keen to offer us a loaner car for a 1/2 hour appointment -- "if you change your mind and need to have a car to use to go shopping, please just let me know, we've got plenty. . .would you like a cup of Starbuck's?" Now this is amazing, for the next guy we meet is the "wash tech" -- his job on Saturday's is to wash and vacuum your car (for free, for life) and he takes such pride in asking us to inspect the car after he finishes, you almost feel guilty when he refuses your tip.
At the Audi store, under new "corporate" ownership, the story -- compared with the BMW experience -- is muted somewhat. Still eager to please but more polite, more standoffish -- somewhat more "restrained." Almost as if they had a little bit of the iRobot syndrom. The cannot violate the three laws of the treatment of Audi customers after all. The differences, in my opinion, are between a "dealer group" and a dealer. The OWNER of the BMW store calls himself "the Service Manager" and can be seen in his white lab coat checking in customers from time to time even though he is now a Munich regular speaker at the factory in Bavaria.
At the Audi store there is no sight of anyone who actually owns the place, just "managers" and "supervisors" (it makes me wonder if anyone there can order take out pizza without permission). But, still, at the Audi store the employees and customers are all abuzz about the new A6 with the full-on ground effects package and the new A8L with the $7,000 custom wheel package and fully tinted windows looking like a modern Batmobile on the showroom floor.
At the two Infiniti dealers, the experience is even more sanitized and less emotional than at the "corporate-like" Audi store. Walk in and the handsome woman behind the semi-cirular bent-wood desk greets you, "welcome to Infiniti, would you care for some bottled water?" More Kool-aid drinkers, for sure -- but this time it is completely proper, darn near sterile. The look is ultra modern, pretty, high tech, devoid of warmth (yet not cold), distant -- almost museum like. The talk is of "the deal" -- some of the cars on the showroom floor even have the "deal" painted on the windshield "G35 with Premium Package $499 down, $499 month, 42 months/12,000 miles" and so forth. The sales people are in suits and one wears a cowboy hat. The German dealership reps looked like they were ready for a round of golf at the nearest private club, in contrast. The Inifiniti reps want to get right to business -- "wanna test drive one of these?" I happened to be standing next to a huge SUV like thing (not the FX) and the salesman didn't even stop to ask what I was interested in. "Let's get down to dickerin'" was the next thing I expected to hear. At Infiniti dealership #2, the greeter was there, also asking about my thirst and the reps wore dress shirts with open collars and blazers (not uniforms, not Infiniti issue, but blazers or sport coats). Again the talk was about the process "the test drive" or "what color would you like to see this in."
I dunno, the experience is different -- I most prefer the BMW experience and least the Infiniti. But perhaps this is more of a function of ownership. The Audi and Infiniti dealerships were "corporate" owned, the BMW store was owned by a guy named "Tom" -- the differences may be totally attributable to this.
I can't say the same about the customers though -- the customers at the Audi and BMW dealerships were "into cars." As I peered into the last remaining 2005 S4 on the showroom floor someone came up to me and struck up a conversation about his (older) S4 and I shared my 1995 S6 experience with him and, well, "we had a moment." Much the same thing at the BMW store -- strangers asked if they could see my wife's X3 becuase they were interested in the Terracotta interior.
I fully expect that the G35 coupe and the M's will (already are) attracting customers who are "into cars" -- at this point, however, the Infiniti showrooms seem to only have folks who are "into cars" in the minority. Of course this is not to claim that one type is superior to the other type -- it is simply meant to indicate my preference and my observations. Your BMW dealership may be sterile and your Infiniti dealership may be full of passionate car people.
#2152 of 10348 Re: Mercedes Customer Service [dakorl]
May 12, 2005 (10:57 am)
While I was replacing my break pads for the seventh time (only 81.5K miles) I started talking to a service guy over at the largest MB dealership in Southern California. Seems that 75% of their service revenue is paid for by MB which means it was warranty work. Technically MB is paying the dealer for this work but we all know who is actually paying for this work - the customer. Looks like MB has to charge $10-15K more for their cars (as compared to the Japanese models) just to cover their warranty repair costs.
#2154 of 10348 Re: merc1 [commofficer]
by kyfdx@Edmunds HOST
May 12, 2005 (12:41 pm)
Match up the salesperson with the like-minded buyer... hmmmm... this must be why I get all the slimy jerks...
#2155 of 10348 Re: merc1 [kyfdx]
May 12, 2005 (12:43 pm)
#2156 of 10348 So far no slimy jerks. . .
May 12, 2005 (1:17 pm)
. . .at any of the dealerships, Audi, Acura, BMW, Infiniti or Mercedes. At the auto show the Lexus guy (showing me the new GS300 AWD) was clearly into cars, into Lexus and very enthusiastic. He could sell for Audi or BMW (based on the dealers I have visited) he was so into cars -- he made a great auto show ambassador, for certain.
Even the Infiniti guys seemed to have a deeper enthusiasm once I didn't immediately start talking price. I actually took two DVD-Audio discs with me to the Infiniti dealer and the salesperson I spoke with actually got in the car with my wife and me and listened to my DVD's and seemed to almost relax and chat about the sound system and the benefits of the M35X -- he also offered that he used to be a BMW salesperson. He seemed not at all in a hurry to return to his post -- and this was the "backup" sales person, since I had already ordered the car from his colleague "the Internet Sales Manager" (whom I have never even met face to face.)
Don't take my observations as any indictment against Japanese LPS sales people -- indeed, I like the sentiment of matching the salesperson and the "like-minded" buyer. I'll bet there are people who would hate our BMW sales rep since she seems to just "gush" about the products she represents (she used to be an Infiniti salesperson, in fact she drives a G35) without dissing any other products. She is the person who is just goo-goo ga-ga about Bimmers.
Just finding the differences "fascinating."
Must be off to the new BMW orientation soiree tonight -- free food.
#2157 of 10348 markcincinnati
May 12, 2005 (1:21 pm)
I think part of the Infiniti "experience" at the dealership can be attributed to Infiniti not having a single fun car before 2003. The G20, I30, and QX4 were just rebadged and slightly restyled versions of the highest trim level of the Nissan version, and the Q45 post the "demotion" to the smaller 4.1L V8 was no longer a driver's car in any sense of the word. While the QX56 and Armada are still a little too close for comfort in the classic Infiniti way, the G, M, and FX are all Infiniti, and real enthusiast cars. If the Infiniti GT-R doesnt get the sales people excited about the car and not just getting you into one so you might buy it, I dont know what will.
#2158 of 10348 Re: Mercedes Customer Service [drtravel]
May 12, 2005 (3:15 pm)
Saw an article sitting in my dentists office Tuesday that had Mecedes rated number 1 of 35 based on "Perceived Prestige" of ownership versus being 32nd out of 35 for "customer satisfaction". Those charts had it behind Daewoos and Isuzus and Chevys etc. Some of those cars don't cost $15k IN TOTAL!!!
#32nd worst out of 35 for Mercedes. Three more spots to plummet and they can "grab the magic ring".
The article should be posted on the desk of every person in that company to see if maybe they could get anybody to care and to treat a customer right.
#2159 of 10348 Re: Image by Brand [cstiles]
May 12, 2005 (3:52 pm)
I do believe I would have to argue with you on categorizing BMW owners as "generally younger."
#2160 of 10348 Re: Mercedes Customer Service [mercedesstinks]
May 12, 2005 (4:11 pm)
My one experience with Mercedes was when I was in the market for my current car. I shopped the E320, A6 & 530i.
The Mercedes dealership didn't give me a positive feeling - arrogance reigned, product knowledge was not impressive and when I discussed "dealing" the salesman looked at me as if I was a chimp reciting Shakespeare. I had a negative opinion before I drove the car.
The Audi dealership was much more knowledgeable but there was a slight sense of "take it or leave it"
The BMW dealership represented THE best car-buying experience I've ever had (much to my surprise). A "car person" sales lady who drove me to an empty parking lot to put the car through its paces as a demonstration before my test drive (man, could she drive!). They were willing to deal and gave me fair value for my trade first attempt. No silly stuff at all.
I owned a Passat at the time and mentioned my experience on the VW board. The responses from others with similar stories suggested that the issues are more corporate than dealer-specific. This seems to confirm many of the previous posts on this board.