Know your local car sales rep

Chris Cason, Greenwood Chevrolet in Hollister
Cars are in Chris Cason’s blood. His father was in the auto
industry and Cason has always hung around cars, first washing and
polishing them, then doing the detailing and eventually selling
Chris Cason, Greenwood Chevrolet in Hollister

Cars are in Chris Cason’s blood. His father was in the auto industry and Cason has always hung around cars, first washing and polishing them, then doing the detailing and eventually selling them. Today, the 28-year-old is a sales manager at Greenwood Chevrolet in Hollister where 160 beaming, polished American beauties – from Corvettes to Blazers – line the parking lot. The dealership, which has 40 employees, is aware it faces tough competition from larger markets, so when clients saunter through the front doors, Cason and others stress the hometown factor.

“We try to convey that we are different … people don’t always realize they’ll save money in the long-term by buying locally,” he said.

Scoring a deal on the sales lot isn’t the only thing that matters because while the initial selling price is important, making sure the vehicle gets good service and repairs is even more vital, said Cason. That’s because not all dealerships tell clients up front about the costs of servicing a car, much to their surprise several months later.

Another aspect of car sales that’s important to Cason is defying the unsavory reputation car dealers have. “I try to show them that not all ‘car people’ are the same,” he said.

Barry Rodenberg, Courtesy Chevrolet of Morgan Hill

You could say Barry Rodenberg earned his stripes by painting them on cars. That was his job in college, although he wasn’t immediately sure he wanted to graduate to selling cars. Eventually, Rodenberg drifted to a dealership in Menlo Park and worked there for five years until meeting his business partner, John Anderson, who today owns Courtesy Chevrolet in Morgan Hill, where Rodenberg is a general manager.

“There are lots of places (dealerships) that attract people who shouldn’t be there,” he says. “It was important for me to work for a good dealership.”

Rodenberg and his business partner bought six stores around the Bay Area, eventually selling them to Auto Nation in 1998. He took some time off to be with his family, coming back to car sales three years later.

He has been general manager at Courtesy of Morgan Hill since July 2003 and predicts growth of the industry in South County over the next several years. “The housing market is very mature in San Jose, so people are moving to Morgan Hill,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons we are excited about it (opening.)”

Felix Lopez, Tiffany Ford in Hollister

Car salesman Felix Lopez has seen a thing or two in over a decade of pushing metal. That’s insider talk for sales in the auto industry.

Lopez has worked for a San Jose dealership that had seven Mustangs stolen in the course of one day and engines fall out of trucks as they were being driven by potential customers. He’s been in cars with clients who got into accidents while out for a test drive and seen married couples spit insults at each other while attempting to decide what car to buy. Despite it all, he still enjoys the challenge of working with people and finding out what their unique needs are – all in about two minutes. That’s how long the usual car salesperson has to “win a customer’s heart,” he says.

“You gotta grab them in that time because that’s when their first and most lasting impression is made,” said the Hollister resident.

Lopez came to the car business after years of working as a former ground support mechanic for Lockheed Martin. Today, he enjoys chatting with customers at Tiffany Ford in Hollister, where he has worked for the past 10 months.

“I try to remember that the customer is like myself,” he says. “I don’t like to be pushed around and (like being) treated nice.”

Sheila Martin, Gilroy Chevrolet Cadillac

It was 1998 when Sheila Martin found herself a widow and the owner of a car dealership in Hayward, which her late husband had run for years. Her husband’s son wanted the business to stay in the family and Martin was thrown in the world of cars, much to her surprise and hesitation.

“I never knew anything about the car business until then,” says Martin, who today owns Gilroy Chevrolet Cadillac, which has some 400 cars and trucks on its sales lot.

After acquiring the business, Martin took a year-long course through the National Automobile Dealers’ Association, and in 2003, she moved to South County, buying the former Harry Marx dealership.

Today, the business is widely known among locals, where the most popular car is the CTS Cadillac and, of course, the Corvette. She also says the nature of the business is changing, with shady dealerships and business practices pushed out by the reality of the marketplace.

“Before, they would have caricatures of used car sales people with plaid pants and gold chains and that’s just not what it is today,” she said. “Now if you are not honest, you can’t be in business.”

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