The pandemic has killed the car salesperson as we know it

·2 min read
Used cars dealer lot
Used cars are displayed on the sales lot at Marin Acura on July 13, 2021 in Corte Madera, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • The pandemic has transformed jobs across industries - including car salespeople.

  • Sales staff now spend more time fielding online chats than waiting for walk-in customers.

  • With new cars in short supply, haggling is a thing of the past, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The stereotypical car salesperson is a fast talker eager to show you around their lot's many models, offer up a test drive, and negotiate on pricing. Those days may be long gone.

Jobs across industries have been transformed by the pandemic, and there's a new normal for salespeople at car dealerships, too, The Wall Street Journal reports. A shortage of new vehicles and frenzied demand has upended the way they do business.

Salespeople used to spend their days offering test drives to walk-in customers. Now, as car-buying has moved to the web, they spend more time fielding online requests or delivering vehicles to customers who bought their car from the comfort of their couch, The Journal reports.

That means today's sales staff need to be more tech-adept and analytical than before, Mark Rikess, a consultant to dealers, told The Journal.

Salespeople have also had to become pros at educating shoppers about today's absurd car market, The Journal reports. That means explaining to frustrated customers that there's a chip shortage constricting the number of new cars manufacturers can produce.

Haggling on price has become a thing of the past, dealers and salespeople told Insider previously. New cars are selling out before they even hit dealer lots, and they're going for MSRP or higher, they said. That also means that although there are fewer cars to sell, salespeople are earning healthy commissions, the dealers said.

On average, buyers are shelling out $278 above suggested retail price for new cars, according to Edmunds. Before the pandemic, discounts of $2,000-$3,000 were typical.

With used cars in high demand, dealers have also gotten crafty about getting their hands on secondhand vehicles. As inventories started to slow, Cameron Johnson, who runs the Magic City Auto Group's four dealerships in Virginia, had salespeople scour Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and even newspaper classifieds for cars to sell. They'd get $250 for every vehicle they brought in.

Are you a car dealer or salesperson with a story to share about selling vehicles in today's market? Contact this reporter at tlevin@insider.com

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