There is a term in the car business, “the third baseman”. Defined as a person who is not involved directly in the transaction advising or commented on the process, usually in a negative or derogatory manner.
Yesterday I ran into a “third baseman”. The buyer, a motorhead, in his mid-40s interested in a Challenger SRT. The car has a sticker price of just under $60,000 dollars. $59,945. The only add-on is the California Protection Package for $995. Less the CPP the car is $58950. The mark up on a Challenger is only 8.2%. We paid $54,611. for the SRT.
We drove the car, the buyer loved it. We sat down at my desk. Cash deal. Write a check for the car. I start the process. The “third baseman says “What is the bottom line price?” I looked up and said, “I don’t know I know yet, I have to check the numbers on the car, our invoice from Dodge. Let me get Kevin’s info down and I’ll do that, okay?” The buyer isn’t saying anything at the moment.
Checking the numbers on a car is a process; you run the stock number, pull the invoice and see the pricing. Put it in front of the sales manager. He checks it, and tells me sell it for $56,000. This means we will make less than a grand on the car on the car until the end of the year, when we receive checks from Chrysler on all the units we sell. Those checks are based on the total sales volume of the store, brand and model volume and on our customer satisfaction index. (a 10 point scale where a 10 is an A and a 9 is a D) I go back to my client, thinking this is a very good deal for him.. I sit down and the third baseman says, “He’ll give you $50,000 plus tax and license for the car out the door.” I look at him and said “Impossible”. Then the damned third baseman says, “They have 6 SRTs in Van Nuys and he can buy one there for 50k.” I looked at the buyer and asked, “I thought you were buying the car? I know what the mark up is on a Challenger and we are selling you this one for a few dollars over our cost.”
“Bullshit.” The third baseman said. I didn’t say anything. “We’re going to Van Nuys. You’ve got until we get to the car to make the same deal.” I let them walk.
After they left, I took a walk outside in the 97 degree heat. I wouldn’t have made any money on the deal, but I don’t like to lose and this was a win for my customer if not for me. I talked to the sales manager about it, Mack said, ”You did everything you could. Tough situation.”
Later in the day, Mack called the Van Nuys store. They didn’t sell him a Challenger SRT either. The GSM in Van Nuys said. “The crazy bastard offered us 50k, we can’t sell him a car for almost 5 grand less than we paid for it.”
I’m calling him this afternoon and telling him our deal is valid until 9 tonight.