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In 1990, Chevrolet came out with the most amazing Corvette, the ZR-1. Early in the era of ever increasing horsepower, this four valve per cylinder, 350 cubic inch beauty, was rated at just under 400-horse power. It also had a top speed close to 200 mph. This was one of the few times that GM was able to captivate the entire performance car crowd. This is one car that did not disappoint.
This super car had a MSRP of $50,000. The excitement surrounding the Vet caused the actual price to go up. Most dealerships were getting $20,000 to $50,000 over window for the high demand Corvette. Our Boss Gil told us that he was going to sell the only one that we were going to get to a friend of his. I was disappointed. I had already sold my Uncle Corky three Corvettes in the last six years and he was asking about this one.
I asked Gil if I could sell it to my Uncle instead. Then I asked again and again and again. In a moment of charity he said, “If you can get $10,000 over MSRP, then you can sell it”. I called my Uncle Corky and gave him the good news. When I told him that he could have it and how much it was going to cost, I knew that his annoyance of paying a premium for a car was overcome when he asked, “when can I have it?”
I hurriedly went in and told the Boss that he would take it and Gil’s reply was “don’t expect to get paid on this”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was to excited that I was going to sell my Uncle the only ZR-1. While I was waiting four months for the ZR-1 to arrive, my boss Gill, left to run another dealership that they owned.
During the build process, we were able to make a change. The color white was unavailable. At the last minute we were able to get his built in white. The only factory white ZR-1 built that year was delivered to my Uncle Corky on July of 1990.
My Uncle Corky, had to take it for a test drive. I grabbed a dealer plate and got in the passenger seat of the white Corvette. The sound of that motor was mechanical perfection. With sixteen exhaust valves, the sound is like nothing else. We drove directly to the freeway. After just a few quick miles, my Uncle opened it up a little. We amazingly shot past 150 mph in seconds. We only had the six-speed transmission in fourth gear.
We pulled into the dealership parking lot and my Uncle was smiling. Within minutes, three California Highway Patrol units drove slowly by the lot looking at us. So we went inside to ink up the deal. A man was waiting there for my Uncle. He somehow knew that my Uncle had the only white ZR-1 and offered him $10,000 more than whatever he was paying for the car. That just solidified the deal.
After finishing all of the paperwork, I went thru the delivery process that we had been thru many times before. The sound of that car as it pulled away was sweet.
The next day, the General sales manager called me in and gave me my voucher for the sale. This is the document that tells you how much commission was earned. It was for $500. I decided then and there to take a stand and roll the dice. “No way”, was my response. After a few words between us the GSM went back into the owners office. It took quite a while before he came back out. This time he handed me a voucher for $1,000. I knew that I had to be all in on this one. I’ll just say that I expressed my dissatisfaction with the offer and recommended that he check my pay plan. A good hour went by and I was called into the owner’s office. I had only been in there once before and it wasn’t a good place to frequent. I respected the owner, but knew that I was holding the winning hand. He spent over twenty minutes explaining why I was going to be paid only $1,000. When he finished, I simply repeated that I had a pay plan and would like them to continue to honor it. That ended that days meeting.
I actually had no idea how much was possible to make on that car. In those days the salesman received 30% of the profit above invoice. I was betting that it was a lot.
First thing in the morning, I am called back into the owner’s office. He has a yellow legal pad in front of him. He goes over pages of things and reasons of why that is all that I should be paid. After almost an hour my response was the same; “are you going to honor my pay plan? The General Sales Manager quickly escorted me out of the office. I didn’t think that I could be fired for disputing pay. I had to wait it out. It seemed like a long time before I was handed a final voucher, with the explanation that there was no way that I was ever going to be paid on the $10,000 premium. It was for $2,700.
I stood there and did the math in my head; I was paid 30% so the profit was $9,000. Including the premium it was $19,000. I had traveled from $500 to $2,700. I knew that I would be flushing my career in that store away if I went any further.
I accepted the voucher and said thank you. That sale holds the record for the highest profit and the highest commission ever paid in over 40 years of business. There was one more thing; when the guy offered my Uncle a cool $10,000 more for the car, he knew it was a great deal. My Uncle Corky tipped me a crisp $100 bill before he drove away.
If you go to see my Uncle, you will find that Corvette still in his driveway.
I am thankful, that was the only pay discrepancy I had in the entire 15 years I worked there. I used the $100 bill to take the entire family to Hometown Buffet. Hey, when you have a family that’s how you celebrate.
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