While my wife and I were searching through Netflix looking to find something to watch, we stumbled across a movie title that caught my attention...Car Dogs. Of course I had to stop and read the description. On the surface its premise is about a Dealer's son who has to hit a sales target in order to get his new store. But in digging deeper, I see it as a battle between the "old way" of selling cars (numbers-focused) vs. the "new way" (personnel-focused). The son runs his team like a leader by caring about his staff but he is torn between caring and being an iron-fisted manager like his dad, who is all about the results.
Let me start by saying that it takes place at the end of the month. We know that this is a "different" time of the month and we have trained the customers to know that as well. Tensions are flaring, deals are being skated and wives are calling at "closing time" to see how long you think it will be before you get off!
My wife was interested in how real the movie would be. She's heard the countless stories that I have shared with her from my 18 years in the industry and I myself also wanted to see if this film would line up with reality. The first 5 minutes set the stage for attracting the attention of those who've never worked in the car business by introducing such lingo as "green pea" and "credit criminal". My initial thoughts were that this movie was going to cater to the negative stereotypes that the public views towards car salespeople.
As the story unfolds, I saw the battle of good vs. evil emerge. And that battle was between the "old way" of running a dealership vs. the "new way". The dad represented the old way. He only cared about the numbers and was callous about the effects that his antics had on his personnel. He didn't mind firing 20-year employees or even playing games with his only son, who was seeking the approval of his dad in order to get his own store. The son, on the other hand, saw his staff as his biggest asset and sought to be a leader to them. What he wanted more than anything was to get his own store so that he could show everyone that there was a better way to run a successful dealership. He could get tough when the lack of sales demanded it but he was more interested in having a team that was loyal to him and his leadership style. He knew that if he got his team to buy into him, he could get them to perform to their fullest potential. Like the typical General Manager, General Sales Manager or Sales Manager, he had to tread the fine line of getting his team to perform while appeasing the desires of the Dealer Principal and Manufacturer. The son battled with his dad, his wife, his team and customers all while trying to do what was best for everyone involved without neglecting his own needs.
One of my major issues I have with this film is the training aspect. Charged with hitting what seemed like an insurmountable number by the end of the day, the top sales guy was training a "green pea". Really? If the character that George Lopez played really needed 4 deals to hit his next bonus level, he would not be sitting at a desk with his feet up training some new guy. If anything, he would've had the new guy fetching cars or greeting customers for him. I agree that many dealerships do not have a real training system for new employees and they do typically have them shadow a top performer. But on the last day of the month with a big sales target to hit personally AND as a store...NOT HAPPENING!
Overall there was a lot of truth to this movie and those of us who have done this for 10-15 years or more have first-hand experience of both the "old way" and this "new way". I really liked the spin that this movie took by looking at it through the eyes of the Dealer's son. This is a pretty accurate depiction of what goes on in the minds of car salespeople as they fight to make a living. Extreme pressures from several sources just comes with the territory but that pressure valve can be released by making a sale. I recommend this as a good entertaining movie for those that have worked in dealerships. For those that haven't, my suggestion is that you watch it with someone who has lived that life!