You know, I get a little sick and tired of poorly behaved members of the media bashing car dealers. They report — or write opinion pieces — as though they have a bone to pick with us, writing sad stories of a poor soul getting mistreated. Suddenly all dealers are labeled as bad apples when that is simply not the case.
Let me tell you something: Dealers and their staff are everyday folk just trying to make a living like everyone else. I’d like to dedicate this month’s column to all those hardworking people.
The Salute to Dealers Award banquet takes place every year during the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention. It celebrates dealer owners who step beyond their showroom doors to make a difference in their communities. According to a yearly survey performed by Ford Motor Co., authorized dealers in the United States contributed more than $110 million and 50,000 hours to charitable causes and nonprofits in 2017.
"To be fair, I know there are plenty of stories on the internet about the nasty behavior of a select few dealers. They’re out there, but that doesn’t mean we should all be painted with the same broad brush just because we retail automobiles — no more than all surgeons, actors, CEOs and church leaders should be labeled as evil just because of a few headlines we’ve seen recently."
And consider this: In the last decade alone, the GM Foundation has provided more than $261 million in grants to American charities, educational organizations, and disaster relief efforts worldwide. The grants are amplified by the passion of General Motors employees through the teamGM Cares volunteer program to support the communities in which they live, work, and thrive. In 2015, 6,280 teamGM Cares employee volunteers donated 53,000 hours of their time with nonprofit organizations across the nation.
Ford and GM are just the tip of the iceberg. Dealers representing every brand in every state give incredible amounts of time, energy, and money to charitable associations within their communities — often going unnoticed by the press.
And as sad as that may sound, it’s really in the right spirit of the way things ought to be done by those who give. After all, if a dealer is looking for public attention for the good deeds he or she is doing locally, then he or she is probably not doing it for the right reason. Supporting worthy causes and charitable giving isn’t meant to be openly rewarded. The very acts themselves are signs of appreciation and thanks for years of support and just a darned good example of how human dealers and their staff can be. These are real people who live, shop and worship alongside their customers. They even cheer their neighbor’s kids at softball games.
To be fair, I know there are plenty of stories on the internet about the nasty behavior of a select few dealers. They’re out there, but that doesn’t mean we should all be painted with the same broad brush just because we retail automobiles — no more than all surgeons, actors, CEOs and church leaders should be labeled as evil just because of a few headlines we’ve seen recently.
So the next time you read about some customer ranting away on their Facebook page about poor treatment from a car dealer, consider all the great things dealers and their employees are doing that go unnoticed.
One example is our former general manager and vice president. He’s a member of Angel Flight Southeast, a group of more than 700 volunteer pilots who utilize their own aircraft, fuel, and time to provide free air transportation to medical facilities for citizens who are financially distressed or otherwise unable to travel by airline.
Angel Flight Southeast also coordinates missions to fly organ transplant candidates, people involved in clinical trials, repetitive treatment, victims of abuse seeking relocation, Ronald McDonald House families, and sick or disabled summer campers, among many others. All told, those pilots average 2,500 missions per year.
If you think that’s just a small thing, then you don’t know much about how expensive emergency airlifts can be. Even short rides of 45 minutes in a helicopter can cost upward of $40,000.
Like you, I’m proud to earn a living in the car business. I consider the dedication of my colleagues who generously donate their time to others a shining example of leadership within their communities. I stand strong with them as their good deeds fly in the face of those selfish and unappreciative people who cavalierly hide behind keyboards bashing us.
My single bit of advice to them is to get out and observe all the good car dealers and their parent manufacturers are doing every single day to improve — and even save — the lives of others without their stories being told. But isn’t that the way it ought to be anyway? Salute!
Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].