A Sarasota company finally recognizes that women drive the car-buying market, says Bob Andelman.
Research shows that women influence buying decisions on more than 85 percent of all new car purchases. So why do the dealerships selling the cars treat their biggest market with such disrespect?
Sarasota's Peter Martin realized the power of the female buyer his first day on the job at a Ford dealership in Columbus, Ohio, two decades ago. His very first customers in the door that day were husband-and-wife pig farmers.
"It was a rough experience," Martin recalls. "I tried to sell him a car. No luck. I tried to engage the wife; she wouldn't even look at me. They left. Everybody at the dealership thought it was funny."
The next day, the man returned--alone. He bought the car that he and his wife spent the most time with and paid for it with cash. No sales pitch, no negotiation.
"Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Martin asked. The man nodded his assent. "What made you come back?"
"Son," the pig farmer said wearily, "you're not married, are you?"
"No, I'm not," Martin said.
"You ever heard of the doghouse?" the farmer asked. "Well, it pales next to the pig house."
That was the first insight Martin had into the power women have in the car-buying process. When the pig farmers left the day before, the wife had wanted the car; the husband had not. She made him miserable that night, and the only way he was getting out of the pig house was by buying her the car she wanted.
Martin--along with legions of female car shoppers in this country--believes that few dealerships extend women the respect they deserve. "It's embarrassing for the industry when you see how car dealers treat women: 'Come back with your husband,' 'Let me show you how the vanity mirror works.' It still happens today," Martin says.