The No-Nonsense Decision: Buying a Car in the Modern World
Photography by Daniel Smyth
The stereotypical car-buying process can get pretty complicated.
There’s the decades-old image of the salesperson as pushy, manipulative and dishonest, which can make some customers believe they’re not going to get the best deal right away. Then there’s the negotiating process, the frustrating back-and-forth between customer, salesperson, the finance department, floor manager and the boss – all with seemingly different interests in mind. Customers want to pay as little as possible and salespeople want to make as much as they can, so there’s no way to avoid an adversarial process where everyone is playing everyone, right?
At least, that’s how it was when Zach Glutz began his career in the early 1980s. “Customers wouldn’t leave until they talked to five different managers,” he says. Glutz was trained in the days of the hard-charging dealership experience, where a salesperson would bludgeon the customer with pitch after pitch until they either fled or bought a car. But after joining Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati in 1989, he altered his approach. “People buy from people. It’s all about whether you can make them feel comfortable,” he says. “It does not have to be difficult.”
“When people come in, it’s their prerogative to negotiate, and they should. I would negotiate a loaf of bread if I could,” says Will Jones, a sales associate at Mercedes-Benz of West Chester. “But the key is when they ask if they’re getting the best deal, you have to be able to say either yes or no. I can’t say, ‘Well, let me see,’ and then run back and forth.”
So, has buying a car really changed? At least at Mercedes-Benz, the answer is yes. And the most obvious reason for that is the brand itself. “We built the first car 127 years ago,” says Jones. Since then, Mercedes-Benz has out-innovated and out-engineered its competitors.
“Mercedes-Benz is where the automobile industry all began,” says Glutz. “It has a legacy no one else can claim.”
Part of that legacy includes a series of advancements in vehicle safety. Mercedes-Benz was the first to adopt airbags and seatbelts, and its high-strength low-alloy steel vehicle bodies ensure that legacy will continue. “Everyone has horsepower, everyone has torque, everyone has good looks, but not everyone has safety and that’s what sets us apart,” says Jones. “We have the safest car on the road.”
Mercedes-Benz’s excellence in performance and safety is well known in the car-buying market. Customers that walk into Mercedes-Benz dealerships already understand what they’re going to be getting for their money, a fact that eases the buying experience. “They understand they came to buy a Rolex,” says Jones.
That keeps the back-and-forth negotiating to a minimum. “I know where we need to be on a car. I know what a fair deal is and the managers have enough faith in me to get there,” says Glutz. “I can tell the customer that this is what this car is going for and then ask if they want to do it or not. It does not have to be difficult.”
A “fair deal” is Glutz’s preferred term. “You can always find a better price if you shop hard enough. If you call every dealership in the country, there will always be one person out there desperate enough to cut $100 somewhere,” he says. “But the deal we offer will always be a fair deal because it includes our customer service.”
It also includes relationships with salespeople like Glutz and Jones and with the service departments at Mercedes-Benz of West Chester and Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati, where customers expect and receive country club-like treatment.
That is another reason buying a car at Mercedes-Benz is a simpler and more satisfying experience: relationships.
“I turn a stranger into a friend, and then they trust me before we even start talking about price,” says Jones. “I am in no hurry to push someone. I’m not going to make someone choose just because I have to sell five cars by the end of the day. That’s not how we do things, that’s not what I’m here for. If we both golf, let’s talk about golf. If we both have dogs, let’s talk about our dogs. I want to get to know people and I want them to trust me.”
For Glutz and Jones, creating relationships with their customers is also just good business because it rewards the salesperson in the long term.
“I tell my clients religiously that my goal isn’t to sell you your first car, it’s to sell you every car you’ll ever buy,” says Glutz, who adds that 75 percent of his clients are repeat customers. “I wouldn’t jeopardize your loyalty or word of mouth by trying to gouge you that one time just to get one sale.”
“I don’t want someone to leave and make a phone call to another salesperson trying to get $2,000 less than my offer,” says Jones. “I did that to myself. I shot myself in the foot there. That’s why relationships are important, because I want you to come back to me.”
So, is that old image of the car salesperson really dead? Has the car-buying process completely changed from half a century ago when strenuous negotiating was the only way to get what you wanted? Probably not everywhere. But at Mercedes-Benz of West Chester and Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati, you can be sure they aren’t trying to play you because they’re reasonably sure you aren’t trying to play them. You came to buy a Mercedes-Benz, after all, and that by itself is a no-nonsense decision.
Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati is located at 8727 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236. You can reach them at 513.984.9000, or visit their website at www.mbcincy.com.
Mercedes-Benz of West Chester is located at 5897 Muhlhauser Road, West Chester, OH 45069. You can reach them at 855.753.4334 or visit their website at www.mbwestchester.net.