Real Stories From Life at a Dealership

People are the experience


Sierra Motors “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”

CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275


I have been involved in dealership management for over twenty years. Interviews and hiring are one of the things that I do best. But hiring is not a science. I always try to hire for character first. I have been fooled more than once.

The shortest interview I ever did was with my friend Mitch. We were in many of the same classrooms from kindergarten thru high school. We played sports together. We grew up in the same neighborhood, a few streets apart. Mitch walked into the dealership and told me that he wanted to try selling cars. Without hesitation I said yes. He was Salesman of the Year his first year in the business. I guess that I was right on that one.

We needed two lot porters to wash cars. It was a full time job that paid minimum wage. I interviewed fifty applicants in one day. The two guys that I hired, Mark and Hakeem were excellent employees. They both went on to good career jobs.

Hiring a good Team manager is a bit harder. The position is commonly called a closer. The best part of the job is when they get to go in after their salespeople and close deals. That only takes up 10% of their day. Most of the hours they are at work are spent doing a form of adult daycare. Handling the salespeople. They are always up to something.

After reading thru some applications, I called a couple of promising guys in for an interview. Adrian stood out on his application and from the moment he walked into the showroom.


My first impression was that this guy was way too slick. Adrian was a Black man about six feet tall. He looked quite muscular. He wore a designer suit that had been tailored to fit. The shoes looked like they were expensive Italian leather. The watch was a Movado with the diamond at 12 o’clock. He wore is hair in a mid length pony tail. His socks, his tie and his smile were impeccable.

Great eye contact and a firm handshake started the interview. Before I could get very far into asking questions, Adrian was trying to take over the interview. He started telling me how great he was. He was giving me examples of how he had overpowered customers and closed them. He explained how his Martial Arts training translated into being a kick ass leader. I basically stopped interviewing to see how long he might go on gushing about himself.


Everybody knows not to interrupt when I am interviewing. Into the office walks Jerry. He addresses Adrian, “Hey brother is that your Z out front?” I wonder where this is going. Adrian answers, “Yes.” “Sweet ride” and Jerry continues, “Is it the white one?” Adrian starts spewing performance numbers like horsepower and top speed. Jerry interrupts Adrian by saying, “There’s a tow truck taking it away.”

Adrian bolts from my office. I guess the interview has been interrupted. Jerry and I watch from the showroom window as the sharp dressed interviewee confronts the Repo Man. The Z car is already on the hook. Adrian starts yelling at the truck operator to put his car back down. The driver shows some paperwork to Adrian. We don’t think he is going to get his car back. The Repo man tries to walk past Adrian to get to the drivers door. Adrian blocks his path and pushes him back. This particular repo man is very experienced. He has his mace out in an instant. The repo man literally paints Adrian’s face with mace. Adrian steps back in obvious pain.


What we saw next looked like a scene from a Hollywood movie. In his expensive suit, blinded with Mace, wearing Italian Loafers, Adrian executes a flying kick that Jet Li would be more than proud of. It sends the repo man to the ground. Adrian moves in for the kill and suddenly realizes that he is in trouble. Suddenly Adrian turns and runs down the street. His little ponytail and those leather shoes were cutting out.

The tow truck driver got up off of the ground and dusted himself off. He pulled out his cell phone and called in to report an assault. With the shiny fast Z car in tow, he left. I quipped to Jerry, “I wonder if he is going to come back so we can finish the interview?”



September 16, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro | , , , , | 5 Comments


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”

I was suspended from high school my sophomore year for fighting. My son Ryan was also suspended from high school his sophomore year for fighting. I still carry some emotional baggage from that fight. My son does not.


I was in Mr. Buda’s social studies class. Mr. Buda was also one of the freshman football coaches. A lot of athletes took his classes. He did not run the tightest structured class. There was always a lot of milling around during the first ten minutes. The best thing about class was a cute student aide named Brenda. She was a junior.


As a high school athlete, I had weight training twice a day. I came to school early and went to zero period to lift before school. I was all into getting bigger and adding muscle mass. One of the things that were emphasized by our coaches was neck strength. We had an array of machines and the result was we had a bunch of thick-necked guys that were very durable. I think it also saved my life.


There was also a big kid named Dave in Mr. Buda’s class. I didn’t have much interaction with him, but we knew that we didn’t like each other. When Dave was around smaller kids, he was one of those tough guys.

peechee 22

It was my second class of the day. The first thing I noticed, besides seeing Brenda sitting on Mr. Buda’s desk, was that the Adventure Club had left their rafting equipment in this classroom. Stuff like deflated rafts, boat oars and life preservers. I walked to my desk and set my textbook and my PeeChee notebook down. Everybody used a PeeChee.


There was Dave in the back of the class picking on a smaller kid named Keith. I saw him push Keith and act like he was going to hit him. I walked up directly behind Dave and nailed him with a good kidney shot. Dave winced with pain. “You’re pretty tough with small guys,” I told Dave. “Want to see what happens with someone your own size?” I asked. Dave backed up fast with his hands up. I told Keith that if Dave messed with him any more to just tell me.


What I didn’t see was that Dave walked up to the front of the classroom and grabbed a boat oar. As I finished talking to Keith, I turned to walk back to my desk. Dave took a swing at my head with a full size, wooden boat oar. It skimmed across my shoulder and connected with the trapezes muscle at the base of the backside of my neck. The blow sent me over the top of my desk. As I was getting up, I could tell by the look in Dave’s eyes that he could not believe I was unhurt.


I turned and hit Dave with a solid right. Smack! I heard Mr. Buda say very loudly, “Take him outside.” So I did. I grabbed Dave by the collar and threw him out the door. I then hit Dave with a couple of solid shots. He was backing up as far and fast as he could, until he ran into a teacher’s car that was parked near by. I held Dave on the hood and jacked him a couple of times. I then hit him the hardest yet. I heard a loud crack. I thought that it was the sound of David’s jaw breaking. The teacher who owned the car came out of the next classroom. The teacher was upset that I had Dave on his hood. He yelled at us to get off of his car. Dave took advantage of the distraction and beat feet. I didn’t know that he could run so fast. All I saw was the sole of his shoes as he disappeared around the corner.


I went back into class. Upon my entry Mr. Buda told everyone to settle down. He also said, “Take your seat Eric.” That was all that he said. It was class as normal after that.


When the bell rang I picked up my Peechee and went to my next class. It was about twenty minutes into class when my Vice-Principle came to get me. He walked me up to his office, where Dave was already sitting. His face already had noticeable swelling, especially his jaw.


The V.P. asked what happened. I told my version. He then asked Dave. Dave told his side and emphasized the part about me hitting him first. Then the V.P. asked Dave what he was trying to do with the boat oar. Dave answered, “I was trying to take his head off!” At that moment I wanted to beat him again. While every bone in my body said go, I didn’t. I remember gripping my PeeChee folder to keep from moving. Maybe it was out of respect for my VP, maybe something else. To this very moment, I wish that I had hit him again. I am sure that if I ran into David today, I would have to whip his ass just on principal.


We were both suspended. While I was on suspension my Dad made me work at his business, for free. Once I was back at school, I am not saying that David hid every time he saw me, but I do not remember ever coming into contact with him again. And we were in the same school for almost three years.


A lot of things have changed in schools the last twenty-five years, but some things have not. I also think that most of today’s young teachers are an ill prepared lot. My son Ryan was in social studies with a teacher that did not have a very firm grip on the class The teacher had the class arranged so that students sat in groups of four, around a table. My son Ryan is a good-sized kid. The boy sitting across from him was substantially bigger.


Ryan told me that the big kid’s name was Todd. Ryan had never had any direct problems with him, but Todd ran his mouth a lot. Ryan and the boy next to him were working on a project. Ryan had a ruler in his hand. Todd decided that he needed to measure something and says “Gimme that”, as he reached across the table and grabbed the ruler.



Ryan has a very strong grip. Ryan held on firmly to the ruler. The rotund boy then told Ryan that he was going to kick his ass if he didn’t give him the ruler. Ryan and the stout boy both stood up, each holding onto the ruler. As Todd started telling Ryan what he was going to do, Ryan acted. He thru a hard right cross that landed square on his large round face. Big boy Todd let out a howl as blood started flowing freely from his nose.


The teacher did the only thing she could think of, she turned and grabbed the phone to call security. Even though Todd was holding his bloody nose, he was still running his mouth. He was walking towards the teacher, but he was telling Ryan that he was going to get him. Ryan went up to Todd and thru a hard right hand. He hit the big boy in the face while he had his hands cupped around his bloody nose. The force of the blow sprayed the blood in the boy’s hands onto the teacher. She screamed into the phone. The Sheriff Deputy on campus responded along with security.


The high school VP told me that the other boy was a problem at school and had started many such altercations. Ryan was only suspended because of the last punch. It was determined that Ryan had hit him while in a defenseless position. I asked Ryan why he hit him again. He said, “I knew that I was going to have to face him again if I didn’t finish it here.” “He was still threatening me, so I hit him again.” “I’m glad I did” Ryan later told me.


Ryan was right, in that, he never had any trouble with the big boy again. Ryan has had no regret over throwing the second punch. The funny thing is, I do, for not throwing mine.



August 17, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, fighting, oar, peechee, ruler, sierra motors, social studies | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5th Grade Teacher

Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 

A 5th grade teacher from Modesto and his home school teaching wife came to gold country to go canoeing. After seeing smoke from the fire at higher elevations they changed their plans. They stopped at Sierra Motors and bought a new Chevrolet HHR today. The complimented their salesman Bill by saying that he was one of the main reasons for making the purchase.



For a friend in the car business call Bill @ 209.568.6526

Guys like Bill are only at Sierra Motors.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | bill renner, eric prothro, modesto, sierra motors, teacher | , , , , | Leave a comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


My life in the car business started in 1983, when I stopped in to see if my buddy Mikey D. was going out that night. When I walked into the dealership to see him, the first thing he said was, “hey we’re hiring.” My initial response was that I didn’t want to be a car salesman. When Mike asked me why not, I didn’t have an answer, I just didn’t think that I wanted to sell cars.


What little I new of the car business was mostly from partying with Mike. A perfect example had been only a month before. I stopped in Maxdon’s for a drink. I didn’t see anybody that I knew. After my second drink I asked to pay my bill so I could leave. I questioned the bill amount and the bar maid said that the gentleman over there said your were paying his. She pointed to Mike.


Mike invited me along to look for a friend. It was late and we were driving fast. Mike took a turn too fast and we slid, hard into the curb. The car tipped up on two wheels for a second and came back down. Both right side wheels looked bent. We drove to the dealership where Mike worked and left the one we were driving. Mike had keys to another car and away we went. Mike saw somebody that he thought we should catch up with. Way too late, Mike decided that he should have turned and went for it any way. We missed the turn and hit the far side curb with the left front tire. It was now bent under a little.




We went back to the dealership. We got into another car Mike had keys to. Mike told me how fast this one was. Mike took off from the light like a drag racer. He missed a shift and locked the manual transmission in second gear. We have damaged three cars in one night. Mike told me that this had to be the last one, as he didn’t have keys to any others.


I later asked Mike what he did with the damaged cars. He told me that he took each one to a different service advisor, on a different day, with a different story of what a customer had done in the car. No one ever questioned him.


With that as an idea of what car sales are like, I listened to Mike.


Mike gave me a quick sales pitch, “You’ll make a lot of money and you get to dress nice.” He also explained the difference between a job that you shower after work, like a ditch digger and a job that you shower before work, like a businessman. That somehow made sense to me. So I filled out an application. Mike coached me on what to put down. Salary expected. Mike said, “Put down a big number.” So I did. I was working at American National Bank at the time. A big number to me was to double my income. I wrote $25,000 in the salary box.


Next came the interview. I interview with an old-time car guy named Joe Broom. Joe was going to be training a group of new people. Mike told me that I was going to be asked one important question, why do you want to be a car salesman? Mike told to answer it with, “Because I want a career were I can make a lot of money.”




I sat through a boring interview. Joe Broom finally looked me in the eye, leaned forward in his chair and asked me why I wanted to be a car salesman. I looked him straight in the eye and answered matter-of-factly, “Because I want a career where I can make a lot of money.” I would have never said that without being told. Joe responded with a very enthusiastic, “perfect answer.” I got hired.



I went to work at the Bank the next day and gave notice. Trudy Marvin was the person at the bank who told me that I’d be back. When she said that, I thought about people working at the bank. Most of the women working there were just given enough hours so they would not get benefits. I had run into Bill, the Bank assistant branch manager at K-mart last week. He was working there. I asked him what was going on. He explained that he had his third kid on the way and couldn’t afford another on what the bank paid. I knew that I wasn’t coming back.



One of the biggest changes was how I dressed. It was now slacks, collared shirt and leather shoes. I also had to wear a tie every day. I didn’t even know how to tie one. Lucky for me I had a roommate named Joel Burnette. (When your roommate goes by Joel, Joel, the big butt hole, it is hard to say lucky). Joel showed me over and over how to wear a tie. He showed me how to do the knot and how to make the length just right. To this day I think of Joel as I put on my tie. I still do it exactly as he showed me. It is also the way I have taught my son to do his tie.


Mike only worked with me for a couple of months. Mike got himself fired, but he did it with style. He knew that he had messed up bad. When the managers were all together in one office, they called him in. He told them that he had to use the restroom and would be right in. Instead Mike went across the street to another dealership and got hired on the spot. They gave Mike a Cadillac for a demo.


When the managers got tired of waiting in the office to fire Mike, they came outside. Mike was just finishing loading his office into his new demo. The General Sales Manager asked Mike what he was doing. Mike told him that he was just going to come in and tell them that he took another job and was quitting. They were so let down that they did not get to fire Mike.


I went looking for a party and I found a career. That’s the best answer I have when people ask me how I got started selling. The old ways of the car salesman are about gone. That is a good thing. I still talk to Mike once in a while. I recently found Joel on Facebook. I have missed his friendship. We laughed about the tie thing.



It doesn’t really matter how I got into this. What matters is, this is my chosen profession. This is how I have provided for my family. It matters how we treat our customers. We treat them well. I am, after all, your friend in the car business.



August 3, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, joel burnette, sierra motors, three wrecks, trudy marvin | , , , , | Leave a comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


I know that speeding is illegal and unsafe. I say that readily. I just had not integrated those facts into my behavior for the first 25 years in the car business. I always considered 100 miles an hour to be the starting point of driving fast. Starting in 1983, I have gone fast in almost every Chevrolet, Ford, Pontiac, Cadillac, Hyundai, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Chrysler and Dodge car possible. For the record I have never drove fast in a Bentley or a Ferrari. Those were driven at reasonable speeds.



Driving so many different new cars is a direct result of having a career in car sales. Driving them fast is more a matter of personal preference. During the first month that I was selling, I was assigned a dealer license plate and given the keys to my first Demo. It was a 1984 Camaro Berlinetta. It was only the first month in the business and I already had money in my pocket and my first new demo to drive. I knew car sales was for me.


Manufacturers like General Motors would pay Dealerships to use vehicles as demonstrators. It was considered advertising. The dealership’s Owner and family, the department managers and the entire sales department drove new cars as Demos. Everybody had a dealer License plate, with the owner and his wife having plate number 1A and 2A.



The factory money was applied to the cost of the demos. When they were taken out of demo service they could be sold cheaper than new cars. Many car buyers sought out demos to get a lower price. Even though those programs don’t exist any more, a lot of old school shoppers still want to buy a demo.


While the Demos were in use, the odometers couldn’t go over 6,000 miles. They also could not be driven out of state. We had to have the oil changed at 2000 and 5000 miles, which the dealership paid for. Those were the only rules. We were to show the cars, which should increase sales. I was told an old saying; break them in slow, they won’t go: break them in fast they won’t last. Salesmen always chose fast.


Demos meant car guys never had to own their own car, but always drove a new one. We also constantly changed cars, as it never took more than three months to use up the miles. Then you would just get another one. Car after car, I always drove a new one, for twenty-five years. I never had a single one of them for even five months. Many times I’ve had neighbors ask if I was either a drug dealer or rich. And that’s how we start talking of new cars.


There are dangerous consequences to all of these cars. I can’t smell new car smell. To me that is what everything I drive smells like. The bigger problem was that my kids grew up thinking that always having a new car was normal. I don’t think it warped them as much as might have given them the idea that everybody should be driving a new car. Shouldn’t they?


A Ride & Drive is what the factory calls the event where the sales people would get to learn about and drive the newest models. Cadillac put on one of the best every year. They would have all of the competitor’s cars there also, as to compare side by side. We would take these cars out on a test track and drive them hard. Driving a BMW, a Mercedes, a Lexus and a Cadillac at full speed was great fun.



Drag racing at Pomona raceway was an experience. We were all in new Pontiacs. Thirty-six dealerships drag raced new Firebirds and then drove them back to the dealership, where they were sold. It was an elimination event. Because we all had the same cars it was won at the start. I finished forth. I recorded the best reaction time (start) of the day as I was off by only 4/100’s of a second


Hot Laps events were held with pro drivers. A course would be set up that covered the entire Pomona fairgrounds parking lot. A professional would take us on a hot lap in a new car and then we would see how close we could come to their speed and time. The pros would share driving tips like preloading the front-end for better tracking thru a high-speed turn. Drifting into a turn at over 100 mph in a luxury/performance sedan is hard to beat for a real car enthusiast.




In Fontana, California, my son and I had the honor of driving the parade lap at the inaugural NASCAR race. We didn’t go very fast but it was still amazing. Those high-banked turns are over three stories tall. They seemed very steep going slow. I am amazed that the drivers can go into them three wide at speeds approaching 200 mph. We also got to watch Jeff Gordon win that first California 500.



Willow Springs Raceway was in our vicinity. It is one of the premier road courses in the west. General Motors decided that the Chevrolet Corvette Z-06 should set a new track record there. They shipped a Blue Z-06 to our dealership. Chevy people said that it was completely stock. It was just tuned for the racecourse. They also said that this one is really fast. One of the things that I found most interesting about it was that it was plated. It had a manufacturers license plate from Michigan. Number 15. Every one of the thousands of plates that Chevrolet uses are all number 15. That meant it was pretty much untraceable. The other thing was that when they had finished at the raceway, they left it and the keys in my department’s possession for a month.


When an engine puts out over 500 horsepower performance really increases. The Dodge Viper and the Corvette Z-06 both perform like real racecars. Having that much horsepower is a big responsibility. It is almost too much power to be fun. Almost. I enjoy the feeling of being pinned to the seat, while mashing on the throttle. When you are accelerating like that, everything happens fast. Roadhouse Blues had it right; keep you eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.


I had the keys to the Corvette and it was street legal. I drove it thru some of the canyons around where we lived. My pal Shaun called and had tickets to a San Diego Charger Football game. It was time for a road trip. We were on the 15 freeway going south. We were just cruising along. I checked my speed, we were going 138 mph. Have you ever gone on a trip in a car and not been doing anything legal the whole time? I’m not talking a fear and loathing in Las Vegas kind of road trip. Just never under the speed limit.




The very first set of 24” wheels that I ever saw were on my demo Denali. It was all black and chrome and shiny. The company that sold wheels to us always made sure that I had the latest new set. The first place that I went was to Staples Center for a Lakers game. As we were pulling into the parking lot, the attendant waived me out of line. He had me park next to a Porsche and a Massarati. Right in front. Another benefit of a nice looking ride.


When the Demo program ended it was a sad day in the car business. The tax laws changed and demos are now considered income instead of advertising. The Factory no longer has any reason to subsidize the program. They are taxable income. Demos aren’t any cheaper. And I haven’t been over 100 at any time in the last two years. When the latest, greatest Camaro arrived on the lot, I did not drive it. I knew that nothing good would become of it, if I did. I just looked at it.


I enjoy cars. Dealing with people suits me. I love the business that I am in. Even though I am the General Manager of the store, when I meet someone, I still like to say that I sell cars. I just don’t drive like that any more. (wink) I am, as always, your friend in the car business.



August 2, 2009 Posted by | demo, fast, sierra motors. eric prothro, speeding | , , , , | Leave a comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


I don’t get caught off guard very often and that is a good thing. I have seen people try all kinds of maneuvers during a car purchase. Jeff, who was a manager of a local business, reached into his pocket and brought out six 9mm bullets and proceeded to line them up on the table between us. He told me that this was to show me how serious he was about getting a good deal.



Two gangster-looking guys negotiated a deal on an expensive Denali, equipped with a set of 22” wheels. They wore long leather coats, hats over bandanas and dark glasses. When we came to an agreement, they called their associate that was waiting outside in their car. They just said, “Bring it.” A very large man dressed like the others came inside. He had a metal briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He set it on the table and one of the negotiators did the combination. He took out about $50,000 of what looked like about a half million dollars. The big guy walked back out to the car. That one was a cash sale.BusinessMoneyBriefcase2


I sold a car to Jack, who was dressed like pure scooter trash. Jack was close to 70 years old, but looked like his odometer was spun. Jack told me that in his younger days, he was one of the founding members of The Shaggers motorcycle gang. When he told me about how his old lady was forcing him to buy a car. I laughed, but only for a moment. I suddenly felt something sharp in my belly, just above my beltline. I looked down to see that Jack was holding a recently sharpened knife blade. He slowly asked me, “Do you know why it was better to have a short blade with a big handle? I answered “No.” Without ever breaking eye contact he told me “that way it won’t slip out of your hand when it gets bloody.” I sold Jack cars on two separate occasions, each one memorable.victors1


Dr Kamiar was Iranian. He came in to buy a new Cadillac. We had a demonstrator on the floor that was shiny black with all of the trim done in gold. His wife loved it. He was not a very pleasant man, but we came to an agreement. He wrote out a down payment check for $10,000 and signed all of the paperwork. Off they drove in their beautiful Cadillac. A week later Dr. and Mrs. Kamiar were back in the dealership. They had a problem. They had a copy of their contract and their down payment check from their bank. It had gone thru with out any problem, but I was caught by surprise with what followed.


Dr. Kamiar was yelling that we had ripped him off. He was actually saying that we had stolen from him. He was being very boisterous and waved his hands a lot while walking excitedly around the showroom. After asking several times what the problem was he finally showed me his down payment check. He had written in the memo area of the check “for tax and license.”Dr


He proceeded to show me his contract. He pointed out to me that tax and license was about $6,000. He said that he wanted the difference back. I looked the couple over for a moment as if in a poker game not wanting to tip my hand. I had no idea where this was going. I explained to the good doctor that what was written in the memo had no bearing on the check. I showed him were his down payment was disclosed on the contract and the ten places his signature was on the contract.


Then he started in on how he had misunderstood and that we had misled him. I knew that this wasn’t Dr. Kamiar’s first rodeo and he was trying to take me for a ride. I told him that we had not misled him in any way. I also explained that there was not any money due him. He loudly started back about how we had deceived him. I finally just asked, “What do you want from me?” He answered with a very prepared “LoJack, System 5.”


I looked him in the eye for a moment. I realized what I was dealing with, an immoral unethical person that went by the title of doctor. Seizing the moment I put both of my hands in the air like a person under arrest. I shouted out the word “Hostage.” I continued loudly with “I will not be held hostage for a LoJack.” Dr. and Mrs. Kamiar had a completely different expression on their face sitting across from me with my arms up in the air. They looked scared. I stated firmly again, “No Hostage.” “I will not be held hostage for a LoJack.”


The doctor started repeating in a lot lower tone, “no hostage, and no hostage.” I just sat across from them with my arms raised in the air. He and his wife hurriedly stood up and headed for the door. “Never mind” is all that he said as they went hastily out the door to their new Cadillac.



I never sold that doctor another car. I am glad that I never had to deal with him again. I guess the first thing came to my mind was the Iranian hostage crisis. It was a very spur of the moment reaction. I felt lucky it had worked. I didn’t really have a plan B other than just kicking him out.


He was a prominent Doctor who had run for an elected office recently. He had been on the local hospital board. He was clearly a liar, a swindler and a very poor negotiator. I was still just an honest car salesman. Imagine that a guy like him is held in higher esteem than a guy like me simple because of our job titles.


Honesty is the standard here at Sierra Motors. We have our lowest price posted in the window of every vehicle for sale. One low price, plain & simple…always, is how we do business. Our sales peoples are only interested in achieving your complete satisfaction. That is how they get paid. They are not paid on how much that you spend, just on how satisfied you are.


I know that I can’t control the behavior of others, but I can be responsible for my own and that of our employees. That is, as long as you don’t make me put my hands in the air.



July 28, 2009 Posted by | bullets, dr., eric prothro, hostage, sierra motors | , , , , | 4 Comments


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


“You missed the heyday of the car salesman kid”. That’s what I was told by a well-worn veteran, who was still wearing a white belt that matched his shoes. When I started selling, we still had a couple of salespeople that been selling in the 1970’s. With what I saw in them, I don’t think I missed it. For the first few months in the car business I worked on the same floor with some old-style holdovers like Linda Kaye. She was a consistent performer. Consistently selling six cars a month.


Linda’s entire sales process involved a beer bar. Talk about one trick pony. It was back in the days when men shopped for a new car alone. Maybe that’s why they don’t shop alone much anymore. We sure never saw any salespeople taking couples to a bar for a few drinks.



Alcohol consumption is strictly voluntary these days. Some people still drink before shopping for a new car. They probably drink before everything they do. Working with people as much as I do, you see a lot of people who spend a large portion of their life somewhat inebriated.


In the film Glengarry, Glen Ross, Al Pacino’s character is working a customer over while sitting in a bar. He gets the guy plastered. Then takes his check and signs him up. That is the same plan Linda had without the finesse. That movie also had the greatest sales meeting of all time, given by Alec Baldwin.


Linda watched the floor for her ideal customer: A single guy, not looking for a station wagon. She quickly went on a demonstration drive. Her test drive route went down Division Street. She knew a dive bar, just far enough off the road, as to not be seen. If the male customer didn’t buy the first round Linda would start a tab. I am not one to speculate about whether Linda was in this for the male companionship, the free alcohol or actually was trying to make a sale. All I know is that she only occasionally sold more than one car in a week.



Linda would commonly call the sales manager and tell the fish story about the one that got away. The three most common calls for help were: she needed to borrow money to pay the tab, she and the customer were too drunk to drive back to the lot or she wasn’t even coming back to work that day at all. She was finally let go for a combination of missed days and low performance.


I sure don’t miss people like Linda. They are the ones who helped create some of the negative stereotypes we still have to deal with. They are also part of the reason for the success that we are having at Sierra Motors. We have removed the old tactics and replaced them with customer friendly procedures and complete disclosure. What you see is what you get. And you get to see it up front.


The biggest buzz word and benchmark for success of a dealership is C.S.I. or customer satisfaction index. It is a score on how satisfied your customers are with the dealership, the personnel and the procedures. For the entire year, we at Sierra Motors are number one in the entire region. Our three-month score is a perfect 100. That means that 100% of the surveys returned are marked completely satisfied. We are not a perfect dealership, but we are committed to our customers.


It has been quite a journey from the old days to where we are now. One of the things that I learned along the way is simply that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I was wise enough to read the back of the book and know how it all ends up. I also see the current economic situation as an opportunity to capitalize on the inability of others in business to adapt. As always I am your friend in the car business. Call or come by anytime. Experience complete customer satisfaction. Sorry, no beer on the test drive.



July 27, 2009 Posted by | beer, csi, eric prothro, sierra motors, test drive | , , , , | 2 Comments


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


The basic rule of sales: the one who is asking the questions is the one in control of the sale. I find that dialogue is an important part of sales. To get a customer to open up about him or herself is the key to making most sales. So I ask a lot of questions. It’s a lot like Joe Friday used to say: anything that you say can and will be used against you.


Its not that information is used against a customer, when properly applied, its used to sell the right vehicle. Someone might ask for a half-ton truck when they really need a three-quarter ton truck. There might be a model that cost les and does more of what they are looking for. Without asking what is right for somebody, how else would you know? A good salesman should know why somebody wants something, what is its primary use and what he or she likes about it before ever test driving anything.


A good example is a set of simple trade-in questions. What did you like best about it when you bought it? And what would you most like to change? Just the answers from those two questions alone will tell what moved them to buy last time and what they are looking for this time. This is all dependant on one simple factor, getting the customer to talk. I knew nothing of this couple when we went for a drive.

dea badge


The couple that I had on a test drive was nice enough. They weren’t rude or anything, the husband just would not talk. The wife would talk a little, but the husband was clearly the buyer. And no matter what I asked, the only response I got was a grunt. I tried different techniques and a variety of angles. Nothing. All I knew about him was that he was a D.E.A. Agent, formerly from the Midwest. I only learned that because when he got his drivers license out I saw his ID. I could feel that this sale was not very likely to happen. So I took a chance.



There have been few shows in the last twenty-five years that dictated the styles and trends of pop culture like Miami Vice. That show epitomized cool. The great music, like Phil Collins playing as Sonny Crocket drove thru the night in his Ferrari. The pastel color clothes. The beautiful woman. The decadent houses. Don Johnson was the master of wearing stubble on his face as fashion. That show was the eighties.


The test drive had been conducted in almost complete silence when I started my move. “I don’t pretend to know much about what you do for a living” I started. “But I do watch a bit of TV”. “I watch that show Miami Vice a lot and I bet your job is a lot like that”. There was a moment of complete silence, which seemed to last for minutes, before he started pounding on the steering wheel. “That show is complete Bull Sh#t” he actually yelled in response to me. He then proceeded to yell and pound the steering wheel as he informed me what a real DEA Agent did for a living compared to the television version.


I think it was sort of cathartic for him. He told me of starting in the Agency. He said that when they took a guy down with ten pounds of cocaine on Omaha, that they thought that they had crippled the entire drug trade for the mid-west portion of the United States. Then he received a transfer to good old sunny southern California. He informed me that bust here, were measured in tons, not pounds.



When he realized that twenty tons of Cocaine, with a street value in the millions of dollars, was a moderate size bust, he said he started planning to retire. The sheer scale of thing was beyond his imagination. He explained that when that many millions of dollars were involved, anything could happen. Compromises of judgment were possible. And lives were at stake. He didn’t like it.


I almost felt a slight sense of bonding. When he took delivery of his new car, he looked me in the eye and gave me a firm handshake. A simple “Thank you” was all that he said.


I still like to talk to customers here at Sierra Motors. I don’t get people to pound the steering wheel anymore. And I still enjoy a simple thank you at the end of a sale.



July 21, 2009 Posted by | cocaine, drive, eric prothro, miami vice, sierra motors | , , , , | 1 Comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


As General Manager for Sierra Motors, I get a lot of phone calls. It can be customers, vendors, employees, people from GM, advertisers, friends, family or many others. When this caller identified themselves as Sonora Regional Medical Center, they had my full attention.



“We have William here in the emergency room” I was told. “Yes” was my response, but I drew a blank. “Do you know William?” I tried to think of all of the possibilities. She continued, “We need to have a responsible party, before we can treat William”.


We had had thirty guest at our home over the Fourth of July. Before going to work that morning, I accomplished two things; I burnt a CD for every vehicle that was departing. It just fit on an 80-minute disc and contains songs of significance from the weekend. My son Ryan sang a heartfelt and very moving cover of Hurt for his friends. The songs are:


Elton John – Benny and the Jets

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Blink 182 – I Guess This Is Growing Up

Jack Johnson – Better Together

The Who – Reign On Me

Silversun Pickups – Kissing Families

Terry Reid – Faith to Arise

Movie Quotes – Big Lebowski – World of pain

David Bowie – Space Oddity

The Fray – Over My Head

The Honorary Title – Petals

Imogene Heap – Hide and Seek

Mazy Star – Fade Into You

Minus the Bear – I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s

Oasis – Wonderwall (acoustic version)

Rise Against – Dancing For Rain

Verve Pipe – Freshman

Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Green Day – Time of Your Life


I also made sure everyone had my business card. I have all of my contact information on there. 

My work number – 209.984.5272

My fax number – 209.984.1066

My personal cell number – 209.568.6526

My E-mail –


I am probably the only General Manager in the world that does this. I make myself available to friends, family, employees and customers. I have no reason to hide. I wanted everyone that was leaving our house to be able to contact me, should they want or need to. I just couldn’t think of someone named William.


Everyone that was at our house has my card. The Hospital representative asks, “ Do you know William: He was riding a motorcycle”? And then added, “your son’s friend”. “Willie” I said as I remembered our long time friend. I had never heard him called William in the nine years that we had known him. “I’ll be right there,” I said.


I called my wife and told her what had happened to Willie. I told her that I was on my way. Dana said that she and our son Ryan would head directly down the hill and meet us at the Hospital.


When I saw Willie he was on a gurney in the hallway. He had a cervical collar on. Across his broad shoulders, in the shape of a large Butterfly, was some sweet road rash. The back of both arms, both wrist and the palm of each hand quite a few layers of skin missing. They did an Ultrasound to confirm that there wasn’t any internal bleeding.



A collage of factors came into play. Willie made sure that he grabbed one of the Cd’s from the house. He picked a business card at the same time. He decided that it was too hot to wear all of his protective gear. All of the road rash could have been prevented if he had been wearing all of his body armor. Willie did not carry a cell phone. The bag that he normally carried on the back of his bike was overstuffed with his protective clothing. The overstuffed bag broke loose. On the very busy Highway 108, near the Yosemite turn off, the bag lodged in the rear wheel. The rear wheel locked up and Willie started sliding into oncoming traffic.


Willie described the clarity that he had in the moment before impact with the pavement. He threw the bike to the other side and made a leap to the relative safety of the dirt shoulder. He didn’t quite make the Superman style flight and landed on the pavement. After a bounce and a couple of rolls, Willie made it to the shoulder. His protective clothing is what lodged in the rear wheel. The only information Willie was carrying was a business card.


Dana and Ryan took Willie back to our house. My wife became Willies nurse and changed his dressings, as needed for the next couple of days. We took a truck over to the tow yard and brought his bike to our house. When Willie was ready, he rented a truck and drove back to Grover Beach. We never felt put out and were glad that we could be there to help one of our friends.


We received a thank you card from Willies Grandmother. She is that person in Willies life that is always there. What it said moved us.


On the cover is a picture of five Angels. It reads: I always suspected… And on the inside: You were an Angel in disguise. You were there for me when I needed you most. Thanks. It also had a scripture.

5 Angels


Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Psalm 103:21 (NIV)

She thanked us for the special kindness that we had shown Willie and signed it: with a grateful heart, Willie’s Grandma.


Having someone consider our behavior as modeling Gods love is quite a complement. I think that thru friends and family is one of the great ways that God shows his limitless love for us.


The card ended with “I’m praying for God to bless you as you’ve been a blessing to Willie and me.


We are blessed.



July 20, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, medical center, road rash, sierra motors, sonora | , , , , | 1 Comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


The dealership’s Service Manager, calls the phone in my office. He proceeds to tell me that while he was coming in the west entrance, he saw what looked like, someone sleeping in a used Tahoe on our lot.  At the time I was the General Sales Manager of the Auto Group. I felt like this person needed some personal attention. I walked promptly across three acres of pavement and directly up to the Tahoe.


The engine was running. The air conditioning was on. The power seat was adjusted to full recline. The salesman, Morton’s mouth was wide open. In fact, his mouth was positioned as to facilitate the drainage of drool, down to his chin.


“Morton”. “Morton” I repeated a louder. He jumped a little as he recognized me and then sat up. What should I do with Morton, I pondered? It was quickly, very obvious to me. I told him that he just received the one and only free pass that I had left. He’s lucky I remembered.



In the 1980’s Van Conversions were very popular. The dealership always had five to ten of them on the lot at any time. They usually had four bucket seats, a small television and a video player, mood lighting and very cool shag carpeting. They also came with molded in running boards; a lot of funny windows that came with shades and everything inside was padded.


One typically cold, windy, winter day in the desert, the activities of the night before, started to take their toll on me. I had over consumed Beer and Peanuts, while not getting near enough sleep. I was tired. I didn’t feel like talking to any customers. I knew that there was a good chance that I would hurl.


There on the back of the lot, sitting in the sun, was a van conversion, calling my name. The carpet on the floor was soft and warm. There was enough room on the floor between the bucket seats to fit my 6’ 3” self. I quickly went to sleep.


By the time my eyes focused, there was a family of five standing in front of the sliding door. The look on the kids face was priceless. The salesman, Tim, made a joke about how comfortable the van conversion must be. I gathered myself together and exited as gracefully as possible. (Not Possible) Tim never told any of the managers about that incident, but he also never let me forget about it.


When I returned to my office, Kevin, one of my managers, who is also my friend, asked why I didn’t fire the guy on the spot. I just smiled and said that I saw myself in the same spot once. In the car business, it has been said that aging comes with wisdom. But sometimes, aging comes alone. I think I made the wise choice. I also know that I have experienced forgiveness many times.


All of that experience and wisdom is here with me at Sierra Motors. It’s who I am.



July 14, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, sierra motors, van conversion, wisdom | , , , | 2 Comments