Why are car dealerships so bad at customer service?

Car dealerships have already given up a great deal of ground. Two decades ago, car dealerships were a source of vital information about cars. People used to go to dealerships to do research. Not any more. Thanks to the internet, customers research vehicles online. Manufacturer websites are decent sources of information about range and specifications (although they very carefully hide the things that are missing from their vehicles). Websites like this one are a valuable source of comparative research and independent buying advice.


Independent research online means many dealers today are in fact disinclined to assist with anything other than a purchase transaction. If you're not buying right now, you might as well be a hologram on the showroom floor - in many dealerships. Dealers really need to wake up - because the internet either is eroding (or has eroded) the dealership business model.

Watch my video on how to test drive a new car >>


Traditional dealership geography-based territories are a joke, as a result of the internet, and information is more available online than it is at a dealership. Geography-based territories are a pre-internet means of engineering a quasi-monopoly for that dealer, for that brand, in that region or territory. However, consumers are served by healthy competition in markets - which is what I exploit using me brokerage team (getting multiple dealers bidding against each other).

Read what others have said about the brokerage process >>


Dealers today compete with each other. A Mazda dealer (or example) in your suburb is routinely competing with a Mazda dealer right across town - and they do not like it. They won't price you up over the phone, and they'll lie, cajole and virtually hold a gun at your head to get that deposit and a signature on a contract before you walk out the door. It's a short-term, losing strategy. What they should do is practice exemplary customer service - treat you like you matter, and being the only ones doing that while you float off, adrift in a sea of assholes. That way, you just might come back.

Watch my video: top 20 tips on how to beat a car dealer >>

If dealerships don't start practising exemplary customer service, they will absolutely go the way of the dinosaurs - just after that fateful meteor impact. Below is one customer's recent dealership experience - across several dealerships and different brands. See what you think, and feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

(Bear in mind that the below is one customer's experience at one dealership - not necessarily representative of the brands mentioned overall.)



Thanks for all of your work and the entertaining and no BS stories you produce. I've found them informative and enjoyable.

I wanted to provide you my car buying researching experience and get your view on Australian car dealerships overall, specifically focussing on their product knowledge and after-sales.

My wife and I are currently in the market for a replacement for our 3 year old VW Amarok and have been scoping out different dealers and the various SUVs on the market.

Specific make and model aside, there is one unbelievable and frankly surprising common factor among all but one dealership - none of them had any idea about the products they were selling and I mean no idea.

I am of the (possibly mistaken) belief that a Ford salesperson should know most things about the Ford cars on the sales floor. I also expect that if I go to a Hyundai dealership, the salesman actually replaces the brochure rather than facilitates the delivery of one to the hands that will potentially deliver $50,000 plus in cash to his.

Below are my (common) experiences:


The "salesman" had no convincing knowledge about powertrain, features, fuel (written on the windscreen!), tow capacity etc etc of the Kia Sorento Platinum we were drooling over. When I asked him about the differences between the last model and this new one, he had no idea. Just before taking the car for a drive, I ask "How do I work the lane keeping, radar cruise etc?"

"I don't know, was his answer". We loved this car by the way.


- My wife and I drove the Everest (we didn't like it) and the "salesman" came along for the ride. As we were driving and upon return to the showroom, I was asking questions about various things such as AdBlue, how to get the spare tyre released, powertrain, fuel, towing, how to work the lane keeping blah blah blah. The "salesman" didn't know about AdBlue and "I don't know" was the answer to the rest of the questions here too.


We are waiting for the Fortuner to be released but looked at the Hilux due to it having the same platform and engine. The salesman clearly didn't want to be there and was leaning all over the car. He actually said "the boss is inside and if he sees someone out here and I'm not here, I'll get in trouble, so do you have any questions?"

"Yes, I do" was my response and he consequently went on to answer none of them as he didn't know a thing about the car. At all. Underbody protection? What? Here's a brochure, goodbye. Really? Oh what a feeling alright.


The guy knew nothing about the Tucson or the Santa Fe and directed me to the brochure and/or internet for every question I had. I asked how much servicing was and he was as surprised as me to find out that Tucson currently has free servicing. A lot of my surprise was tied up in the fact that the "salesman" didn't even know about this massive selling point!


I stood on two different lots for about fifteen minutes each, crawling around their cars. I didn't see one salesperson on either occasion.


I do have to make special mention of Lexus though.

My wife and I stopped at a Lexus dealership and started poking around a couple of their vehicles and a well dressed salesman came to us promptly and asked if he could help us. We gave him our names and told him what we were looking in to.

This fella (I can't remember his name, ironically) knew every single bit of information about each vehicle we asked about and also gave us in depth information about the service department, even offering to show us the workshop if we were interested. On the way out, he farewelled us by name and left me wanting to go back. Well done, Lexus and Whats-yer-name. This is what I expect to experience when I go looking to blow a significant amount of cash on a new car.

Well, John, they are all of the dealerships I've been to so far and as you can see, my experience is underwhelming and frustrating to say the least, bar the Lexus experience.

We haven't got the new car yet and to be honest, I'm not really looking forward to the next round of "I don't knows".

My question to you is this, though; is my experience a common one or is it isolated to the region I was doing the rounds in?

I look forward to your thoughts. Regards, Tai