(Excuse the long-winded-ness, there is a lot to cover...)
First off, I would like to make everyone aware that I am a Leaf Salesman in the Texas market. This is considered to be in Nissan's Central Region. Next, I would like to thank everyone on this site for educating Leaf consumers and making my job much easier by sharing their experience among the community. (And lastly, I would like to apologize if this is posted in the wrong place, as I am new to the site).
That all being said, I want to make sure that one other thing is clear: I love my job
. We all do. Anyone who sells the Leaf willingly has a love and admiration for the car and knows that it is the future of our industry and is proud to be on the front lines selling these things.
However, I would like to give everyone here an idea of what it is like to be a Leaf Salesman.
For the most part, Leaf Salesmen are the same people that handle internet traffic for any given Nissan dealership. At my particular dealership we have 4 certified Leaf Salesmen, for example. In order to be Leaf certified, we must have a Leaf Sales Staff, a Leaf Service Adviser, a Leaf Technician, and a Leaf-Certified General Manager. As well, the dealerships have spent a lot of money in order to carry the brand and be provided with the latest models and certifications necessary to sell and service the car.
All in all, the process is pretty straightforward. At least at my dealership, the majority of Leaf traffic is internet-based, meaning that we receive an inquiry that reads similarly to "I am interested in a Leaf, please quote me on stock number ABCDE12345." This is where the process begins. A vast majority of these "leads" come in with no phone number and therefore we are forced to correspond via email. Now, there are two sides to that coin -- yes, we cannot "bug" you with phone calls for days and days -- but we also cannot do our job in the most efficient manner if you are truly interested in making a purchase. A reason that many people think that the buying process on these cars is tedious is simply because we are unable to do our jobs -- for the most part I can answer all of your questions about the Leaf in a 10 minute phone call rather than in 30 emails back and forth. We legitimately just want to help.
Our job at this point is to go to our managers and price out our car to you (whether you have chosen to purchase or lease) with all of the rebates and incentives that you are entitled to. If you have reached an efficient salesman who is genuinely interested in earning your business, you will receive a response to your inquiry within 30 minutes of making it. On another car (say maybe an Altima, Pathfinder, Versa, etc), we would price you at about $500 above invoice (depending on your local dealers pay plan set-up, a salesman is making anywhere from $100-$150 commission at that price) on an initial inquiry response. However, on these Leafs we are FORCED to price these cars at least $750 below invoice in order to compete in a market that has made these cars nearly worthless. Within about 30 minutes, this salesman is making what we commonly refer to as a "mini" which is whatever the minimum commission is on a unit. (Normally this is about $50-$100.)
This is how vehicle pricing works (for those of you not familiar):
MSRP -- this is the price that we would like to sell every car for in order to make a good amount of money. It is what Nissan suggests we sell the car for - "the sticker".
Invoice -- this is the cost that Nissan shows the dealer to own the car for.
Holdback -- this is the difference between invoice and what the dealer actually owns the car for (usually about $500). A salesperson does not generally get paid on this.
Now, as a salesperson, if you have a buyer, the email we send out at $750 below invoice elicits a response at some point within the next 24 hours. To be honest with you, this response is normally "I've found a lower price elsewhere. Thanks." (or something along these lines). Which puts us in a tough position -- we do not want to be annoying, but we need to sell cars to make a living. So we persist and proceed to play the haggling game with you over the course of 10-15 emails.
Over these emails we field questions from range on the Leaf to the reason for disposition fees, from mileage caps on a Leaf to exact pricing on an in-home charger. Now, while this is our job and we happily do it, you must understand that this is not the norm with a non-Leaf customer. Normal cars illicit a response like, "Okay, when can I come in and test drive this ________?"
After many hours of explaining and negotiating -- if we are lucky -- we will schedule an appointment to test drive with about 10% of our Leaf "leads". Of those, about half will show up for their appointments. Of those, less than half will buy the car. So for example, if we receive 50 leads per month for Leafs, about 10 will respond to any form of communication we try. Of those 10, we MIGHT get an appointment with 5, and 2-3 will actually show up, leaving 1-2 to buy the car. That is a 2% closing rate. An Altima/Pathfinder/Sentra/etc. lead will close at about 15-20%.
So before you even walk in the door to a dealership a Leaf Salesman has spent three times as much time trying to earn your business as he would on any other car.
Now, once you arrive, it is generally our job and good customer service to have the car fully charged, detailed, and ready for you to drive and maybe purchase. A standard test drive is about 15-20 minutes -- a Leaf test drive is about 35-45 after we have explained every bell and whistle and eased your concern about going fully electric.
So, if all goes well
, you are ready to buy. If I have done my job correctly, you have driven the exact Leaf you want to own, already have an idea of exact pricing due to our emails and you are ready to pull the trigger.
This is where it gets hairy.
After all our our previously mentioned negotiation and deliberation via email, we bring you all of your numbers to sign off on. That is our job. To get you to sign the dotted line. Remember, by this point, the dealer has lost all of our holdback and is generally losing money to get that $199/mo lease payment you asked for and said that Joe's Nissan can do down the street.
(Let me pause here....... A lot of people will tell you that dealers never lose money. You would be both right and wrong. Dealers don't lose money. Salespeople do. Nissan issues dealers money for hitting huge volume goals that are about 120% of the previous year's same month. For instance, if you sold 300 cars in March of 2013, Nissan would pay you a bonus as a dealer if you were to clear 360 units in March of 2014. This is the logic dealers have for selling these Leafs for a loss. But this is not about the dealer. As a salesman, I don't see a dime of the "dealer bonus" I am speaking of, I only get paid on the commission that I can make, and after all the negotiations, it makes no difference to me whether you get $250/mo. or $199/mo., I just have to beg my boss to take your deal hoping that I can at least get the unit out.)
Now, let's say you are one of the select customers that signs up at whatever payment, term, etc and you agree to buy. My job, though I have already spent several hours on this deal, has just begun.
After you sign a buyer's worksheet, it is my job to:
-Get your new car detailed and ready to deliver
-Make sure your Leaf is fully charged
-Go over your Leaf Disclosure Form with you (which is about 1200 words)
-Follow Nissan's strict delivery process in order to make sure you understand the bells and whistles on the Leaf
-Contact an Electric Charger Provider (like eVgo) in order to set up your home charger evaluation and get any promotional keyfobs, chargecards, etc activated.
-If you bought a Leaf equipped with Carwings, contact Nissan and active that telematics system for you.
-Create a Nissan Owner's Portal Log-In and Password for your access
-Program your Leaf with your unique Carwings information
-Complete standard titling paperwork and licensing forms
-Complete any forms that are required by your state or region to receive any additional state rebates for purchasing an electric vehicle
-Obtain proof of employment if you fall under the VPP discount umbrella
-And anything else that may make life easier for you as a Leaf owner down the road
All of this must be completed in a manner that is accurate, but also quickly. Because your part is done. You've won. You got the deal you wanted. Which is absolutely 100% your right as a consumer, but naturally, your first instinct is to hurry up and get in your new Leaf and go home. This is where I have to create a perception that I am going to complete all of this in a timely fashion, which leads me to my next point.
Literally one of the only reason selling cars for Nissan is worth it.
Though I won't dive into grand detail, Nissan surveys all new car customers. On anything from the salesperson to the variety of a dealer's inventory. No matter what it asks, the dealer isn't penalized for your answers, but the salesman is. Anything less than a perfect score can cost us THOUSANDS of dollars. Not the dealer. The individual salesperson. We are paid directly on these survey scores and have to maintain a very high customer satisfaction score in lieu of being paid a TON of money on cars like salespeople were WAY back in the day.
It's like this:
Imagine getting a paycheck on Friday, tearing open the envelope and expecting $5,000 to get all your bills paid and your family to live for the next month and to your shock and panic, it is only $1,500 because Leaf Customer X gave you an "excellent" (6) rating on a survey where 10 is "Truly Exceptional".
So for those of you that have bought a Leaf recently... did you cross paths with a dealer that after an hour of negotiation decided they would NOT sell you a car -- that
is the reason.
So after this paperwork is complete, you go to finance. And we take a deep breath, sit down, take a coffee break, throw your temporary license plates on the back of the vehicle and deliver the car to you hoping that everything is "clean and problem free." We have done all that we can do, your livelihood is in our hands. We wave goodbye to you and watch you drive away with our commission, our survey, and our time.
This is the last way a Leaf Salesman gets paid -- the "spin". Nissan has a training site for us that gives us quick access to all of our proprietary information and helps us to quickly refer to product knowledge as well as participate in contest and communication between dealers. Within this site, there is a program that pays us bonuses after selling Leafs. They are structured as follows:
--If a customer LEASES a Leaf, we can press a button, spin a virtual wheel, and be paid anywhere from $200-$500 (although you can imagine that $200's are far more common than the latter.)
--If a customer PURCHASES a Leaf, we can press a button, spin a virtual wheel, and be paid anywhere from $400-$750. (the same rule applies as above)
So, in total, we are looking at making $300-$500 on every single Leaf deal we close, sometimes a little more. Now, you may be saying to yourself, "$300 for just selling a car???? That's awesome. Easy work!". Wrong. Because while that $300 is nice, it comes right back out of our pocket when your survey gets back and we lose $1200-$2250 that month. (Leaf surveys are almost GUARANTEED to come back with a lower score) Plus, a normal Leaf sale takes at least 2-3 full shifts. In that time, an average salesman can sell 4-5 cars and make $1,000-$2,000. In the time it takes to sell ONE Leaf.
I love the Leaf. I love Leaf customers. I really do. But in the same way you all educate each other about the car, the pricing, and the deals; I want to educate you on our side of the desk and how hard it is to do this job and try to help any way that we can with very little to look forward to. I write all this so that the next time someone from this forum tries to beat up a Leaf salesman at their local dealer for less than $10/month, please try to remember that we are on your side. The next time a survey comes to your inbox, maybe you'll just check all 10's and use the comments' box to vent anything else for the sake of the salesman. We want to help -- but we need help in return.
This is the car of the future. We understand that just like you do. We are just disappointed that this car has gone from having value and loyal customers that understood that you NEVER NEED TO PAY FOR GAS/MAINTENANCE AGAIN and the government gives you $7,500-$8,250 to buy it
to having customers who will only drive it if they can get it for $199 or $149 or $99 or whatever the newest "best deal" is
. Everyone wants the best deal -- me included, but not at the expense or the livelihood of a salesman.