A close up shows a smiling woman being handed a set of car keys.

How Dealerships Have Changed Over the Years

The next time you set out to buy a new car, truck, or SUV, you might just discover the experience is quite different than what you initially expected. This is especially true if you haven’t paid a visit to a dealership in quite a long time. The reason is that the car-buying experience has changed over the years; some changes have been subtle while other changes have been quite drastic. If you have never visited a dealership, you are in for a big surprise, especially if your idea of the car-buying experience is based on what you have seen in movies and television and what you have heard from others. So don’t be surprised when you walk into your local Ford dealership and you are greeted by a friendly staff member as opposed to a pushy salesman.

The pushy salesman stereotype needs to be put to rest; rather than a hard sell, the staff at a dealership is there to help you through the car-buying process and answer any questions that you might have. Indeed, dealerships have changed over the years, and it is definitely for the better.

A close up shows a customer and salesperson walking up a set of stairs with a car in the background.

Letting Go of Myths and Stereotypes

When you are in the market for a new car, truck, or SUV, you have very limited options; you can either find a private seller or you have to go to a dealership. Even if you are shopping from the comfort of your own home using your laptop, you are still likely going through a dealership. First-time buyers are probably feeling rather uncomfortable about going to a dealership, and understandably so, it’s a tough process. And other people envision a blow-up gorilla scowling at potential customers or the endless, obnoxious flapping of the inflatable air dancer when they think of dealerships.

The inflatable greeters aren’t the only thing about dealerships that make new shoppers nervous; it is the idea of having to deal with a pushy salesperson who insists on showing you cars you have no desire to buy. The idea of the pushy salesperson was once somewhat true, but things have changed.

Step into a dealership now, and you will be greeted by a professional who is very knowledgeable about vehicles and who is eager to answer any questions that you might have.

Another myth is that many people feel that they don’t need to speak with a salesperson when buying a vehicle. You might want to avoid the salesperson while you are pursuing the car lot, but when you spot a car of interest, you will want to talk with a salesperson to learn more about your choice. In addition, salespeople know the car lot like the back of their hand and are a tremendous help if you are searching for something in particular but can’t find it.

There are people who think they need to be at the dealership at the crack of dawn because they fear the car-buying process will take all day. We have news for you; the car-buying process should not take all day. That said, the length of the process depends on several factors, and you have total control over how long the process will take. For example, you can begin your car quest by shopping online, go to your dealership’s website and take a look at what they have to offer and what you are interested in; it will save you time when arriving at the dealership. Also, you can set an appointment with a salesperson, and they will be ready to serve you at a time that is convenient for you.

There is a myth that if you are shopping for an inexpensive sedan, the salesperson will wind up selling you an expensive SUV. You need to understand that salespeople are here to help you by listening to your wants, needs, and budget. They want you to leave the lot with the car you desire and need because they rely heavily upon repeat business, and customers who don’t get what they want aren’t likely to ever return.

A Pandemic and Enlightenment

It has taken many years for a lot of dealerships to make changes that improved how customers view them. Many were slowly progressing by begrudgingly embracing modern technologies and putting buyers first. This slow process would have continued if it wasn’t for the pandemic. That’s right, Covid-19 brought auto dealerships to the 21st century and cemented the idea that customers always come first.

The pandemic shutdowns forced people to do the bulk of their shopping from home, where they remained safe and sound. Dealerships rushed to get their inventory online and set up ways in which buyers could make purchases online. Tools for buying cars online were implemented, making the process easier and more seamless. In addition, car-buying becomes an event with less pressure. Think about it, prices were negotiated online, test drives were conducted alone, without a salesperson sitting right next to you, and even the financing process was all done on the web. This new dynamic benefited all types of new car buyers.

Before the pandemic, dealerships worried that online sales would mean suffering profit margins. If there wasn’t a salesperson sitting next to the customer, they couldn’t upsell buyers with floor mats or extended warranties. As it turned out, online sales have made dealers more profitable than ever. Go figure; it takes a pandemic for some dealerships to realize that a hard sell or upsells don’t have to occur in person.

Multiple out of focus cars are shown from a low angle at a Seatonville Ford Dealership.

The Future of Car Buying

It wasn’t all that long ago when people joked about a car salesperson trying to sell them undercoating and plush floor mats. As technology boomed in the auto industry, floor mats and undercoating has disappeared. Car customers are searching for vehicles that will meet their needs, and they are looking at packages that give them the features they want. Nobody cares about floor mats; they care about the size of the screen on the infotainment system, the number of safety features, and the number of USB ports in the car.

There is a whole new set of key factors dealerships need to know when dealing with a customer, including lifestyle fit, features, and comparison. Lifestyle is important because we use our vehicles in different ways. An adventurist will lean towards an SUV, while a business owner might be in need of a work truck. When a customer steps on the lot, salespeople will need to engage in conversation to see what type of vehicle will fit their lifestyle.

From connectivity and infotainment to comfort and convenience, modern vehicles boast a plethora of features. Technology is a huge selling point for car buyers, which favors them. Back in the day, a customer would drive a car until it conked out after a certain amount of miles. Modern cars have longer lives, but like computers and smartphones, they can become outdated fairly quickly. A vehicle that is five years old is old in terms of its tech features. This means customers are more likely to trade up sooner rather than later.

We can’t predict the future, and nobody knows for sure what dealerships will be like in 10 or 20 years. However, from what we have learned in the past, it looks as though the days of hard sells are coming to an end. This is nice because that means a much more positive experience at the dealership. In fact, the dealership experience had already become much more pleasant, and we are likely to see that continue.