It’s a small, exclusive club: new car dealers that passed an undercover test by a consumer watchdog.
Being part of that club takes a commitment to treating customers like family, rather than constantly watching the bottom line, according to Brasso Nissan’s service manager, Ken Morter.
“A lot of dealers are all talk and no walk,” Morter told W5. “This dealer walks the walk. This dealer has always been concerned about customer satisfaction.”
Morter said he’s been working in the industry since the 1970s, and the biggest complement he’s gotten is to hear a customer say, “I trust you.”
That was a rare quality in the survey of Calgary car dealerships by the Automobile Protection Association. W5 tagged along with hidden cameras to see some car dealers employ dubious tactics to make a sale.
In all, 17 out of 20 dealerships failed. Exploring what happened and why so consumers can protect themselves was the main theme of W5’s documentary, “Let’s Make A Deal.”
It’s not easy out there for the consumer, said the APA’s George Iny.
“Buying a new vehicle is complicated. It starts with the ads. They’re difficult to understand, they often have tricks,” he said. “The tricks are designed to lure you in.”
But three dealerships came out of the APA’s survey with flying colours: T&T Honda, Brasso Nissan, and Crowfoot Dodge Chrysler.
T&T actually showed major improvement over the last time it was surveyed, in 2014. The APA concluded it failed then because a Honda Civic was advertised for one price, but the dealer proposed an arrangement that would have cost the consumer about $3000 extra.
That changed in 2017. This time, the APA found nothing concerning.
T&T Honda’s General Manager Navroz Jessani didn’t want to talk about the past. He just told W5, “I’m glad we passed. That’s excellent.”
Crowfoot Dodge Chrysler didn’t return messages by publication time.
Brasso Nissan owner Kirby Soon said he thinks being clear about pricing is the key to trust with customers.
“We’re going to try each and every day to earn the business of our customers by being forthright and transparent,” he said.
Soon said another dealership he owns, Stadium Nissan, failed in 2014, but that the company took steps to correct the problem.
One problem uncovered was that the black Nissan Rogue advertised by the car manufacturer wasn’t available in the dealership. The option presented by the salesperson was the same model, but a different colour, with a $300 paint surcharge. The APA deemed that an extra, unadvertised fee, and failed the dealership.
Soon said several Nissan dealers were caught by that problem, because logistics issues meant not all cars were in stock. They approached Nissan, who promised that if any customer couldn’t find a promised model, Nissan would provide it without any extra charges like freight fees.
Stadium Nissan wasn’t tested by the APA this time, but Soon said he is confident that wouldn’t happen again. And he said he’s happy how Brasso Nissan did in the most recent survey.
“We’re pleased and proud that we’re in the 15% per cent that passed,” Soon said.
Soon said he believed that on the whole dealers in Calgary are good people, pointing to a charity event at the Calgary International Car Show this week called the “Vehicles and Violins Gala.” That event usually raises some $500,000 for Calgary charities, he said.