The Lost Art

The editor has seen the good, the bad and the ugly version of the vehicle walkaround.

March 2017, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Tariq Kamal - Also by this author

In my capacity as an auto retail “expert” (to my friends and family, at least), I am occasionally called upon to coach others through a purchase or lease. In the majority of those experiences, the walkaround has been very brief or skipped entirely.

In one case, my friend’s sales professional failed to show for the appointment. We were handed off to another salesperson, who proceeded immediately to the test drive and, at times, appeared to be unaware of which model we were riding in. In another, the salesperson used the walkaround to try to talk the buyer into a bigger, more expensive vehicle. (“In three years, you will not want to be seen in this car.”)

Those are the bad examples. When I bought my current car, I got the walkaround of a lifetime. My sales pro was in no hurry, and he knew everything there was to know about the vehicle. He knew how it compared to each of its classmates, including options, prices, outputs and mileage. He knew what had changed from the prior generation. He had the infotainment system down cold.

I can’t claim the walkaround sealed the deal. I had done my research and worked out the price online. But my salesperson’s love for his product was clear, and his enthusiasm was infectious. I remember thinking that, if I had other appointments, I would have canceled. I wanted to buy this car from this guy.

The walkaround also helped gloss over an earlier misstep. When I first arrived, the unit I had selected was nowhere to be found. The general manager tracked it to a far corner of the lot, where it sat with a dead battery and rusted-out discs. “Doesn’t anyone buy stick shifts anymore?” I asked the GM. “No,” he replied.

The three of us spent about 15 minutes shooting the breeze while they swapped the battery. Following Jim Ziegler’s example, I have never mentioned my work while buying or playing third base. So I kept my cover, but I did detect a couple sideways glances from the GM, like he thought he recognized me. That’s when they pulled the car up out front. Saved by the bell!

We did the walkaround and demo, dropped the car off at the shop, and signed the paperwork while they cleaned it up. My sales pro walked me back to the shop and asked if I could drop him off at the front door. He said the GM wanted to say goodbye. 

We pulled up and the GM and another manager were standing outside. Their smiles were a mile wide. I shook hands with my sales pro and he jumped out.

“You got a good guy here,” I told the GM.

“Oh, I know,” he said. “We know how to train ’em. We read all the magazines.”

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