How often have you heard someone say “I’d rather have a root canal than go to a car dealership?” What is it about buying a car or just entering a dealership parking lot that gives folks sweaty palms and dry mouth?
When asked by men or women to help them purchase a vehicle, the first thing I have them do is to interview the dealership. That’s right! Park, walk in, get a feel for the culture of the facility and then ask the sales manager to match you with the kind of associate (salesperson) you want to work with. Look to see how clean and organized they are and how they display their vehicles. See how often you are approached and how they handle it when you say, “I’m just looking”.
A car is a major purchase, in fact it is the second most expensive item that most families buy, and this process should not be treated lightly. When you purchase a home you pick your realtor, someone you are comfortable with, listens to your needs and wants to know and understand your budget. You trust that person and in most cases continue to recommend new clients to them. Buying a car should be the same.
I don’t normally write about owners of dealerships, General Managers or partners, but I couldn’t help asking for an interview with Coye Pointer, the GM of Airpark Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge RAM and FIAT of Scottsdale. I’ve known Coye over the years enough for casual hellos and polite handshakes. I knew he was well liked by his peers and employees, and I greatly admired his philanthropic outreach.
He is a modest man, almost shy at first, but very committed to his business, an individual who shows up every day or makes himself available 24/7 for his staff. He likes to meet all the customers and thank them personally for purchasing from the dealership. He makes everything about everyone else, not him. He began his career in the car business in 1973 at a dealership in Dallas, Texas. He then moved to Arizona in 1992 to be the General Manager at a GMC/Mazda dealership, and a decade later accepted the position of General Manager at Airpark Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and later FIAT of Scottsdale. He was responsible for making Airpark one of the top dealers for those brands in the western region.
Coye Pointer got in to the automotive industry at a young age through the encouragement and guidance of his uncle when he lived in Texas. He told me he really enjoyed learning how he could actually help people find the right car for their needs and budget. Even after a stint as an Army Ranger, he came back and returned to the car business. I asked, “What do you say when questioned about what you do for a living?” Do you hesitate to say you work at a car dealership? His reply was, “Never!” “I am proud of what I do, I’ve been able to make a nice living, employ good people and watch them and their families grow. I’ve sold cars to families and their children and I like to keep in touch. Most important is that I’ve been blessed to be able to help people.”
I expressed to Coye that he’s considered one of the most generous dealers in town, giving back to the community including causes that would normally not get the attention he provides for them. All he said was, “We are a family at the dealership and we try to help our community whenever we can, it brings joy to everyone involved.” I then asked him, “What is your connection with Alice Cooper? He appears in your commercials and you recently received an award from his foundation?” Coye said, “It’s simple, Alice loves cars, golf and giving back to Arizona… everything I believe in and enjoy. We were introduced years ago and have a deep respect for each other’s professions and causes. Alice and his wife Sheryl Cooper are genuine people who work tirelessly for their Teen Center, Solid Rock. The children are our future and teens need a place where they feel safe and can grow.” Although Coye does not have teens of his own right now he does have two grandchildren who are very important to him and tries to spend as much time with them as possible.
After spending over an hour with Coye Pointer I could understand why he was so well liked. During the hour his door was open to his employees, vendors and customers. People couldn’t walk by his door without waving or saying hello. In fact, an employee stopped by to give him a holiday gift and said “To the best boss I’ve ever had.” Coye’s face turned a little red and gave the young man a hug and a big thank you.
From the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge RAM store I took a short stroll over to FIAT of Scottsdale where I joined the staff for a cup of coffee and donuts. You feel so much at home you want to stay and hang out. During that time a couple purchased a FIAT convertible and the gift for doing so was a signed guitar by Alice Cooper. Nice I thought… great service, nice people, snazzy car to drive home and a signed Fender guitar by the iconic Alice Cooper. Sounds like Coye wanted everyone to have a nice holiday.
I test drive cars for a living. I meet many auto manufacturers, executives and dealer principals. The owners or General Managers set the tone or culture for a dealership. I asked Coye one last question pertaining to employment and sales training. “I see several women are employed by your dealerships, why?” Coye said, “Women generally are excellent sales associates and have the best customer service skills. We work very hard at keeping them on board and have zero tolerance for any out of line behavior or stereotyping. I conduct the sales meetings and strive constantly to educate, inform and enlighten my employees on how to be the best they can be and earn a good living.”
It was nice to sit down with a dealer like Coye Pointer; it was like talking with an old friend with great advice, a sense of humor and a very kind heart. Maybe it’s time we give dealers a chance and eliminate the sweaty palms and dry mouth and have some fun.