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Auto Sales Worker Job Description, Career as an Auto Sales Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training High school and on-the-job training

Salary Median—$18.61 per hour

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Auto sales workers sell new and used automobiles. Some work in used car lots, where they sell vehicles made by many manufacturers. Many work for car dealerships—companies that sell cars made by certain manufacturers. The manager of a dealership, sometimes called the dealer, may work alone or employ one or more sales workers. Sales workers in dealerships typically sell new cars of only one or two makes, along with a variety of used cars.

Dealership sales workers approach and assist potential new customers who come to look at cars in the showroom. Other times they get repeat business from former customers. Some drivers trade in their cars for new models every few years. Sales workers keep lists of their customers and contact them regularly to see if they are ready to make a new purchase.

To sell cars to customers, sales workers find out how much their clients are willing to spend, as well as the size, model, and features they want in a vehicle. Sales workers discuss the cars in the showroom, see which ones interest their customers the most, and then emphasize the features they think will make the car attractive to a particular buyer.

Because vehicles are such a major investment, most car buyers must finance their purchases. Some borrow the full amount of the cost of the car from a bank or other lending institution. The lending institution pays the dealer in full and the customers make monthly payments to the lender until the loan is paid off. Other customers arrange financing through a dealership or a car maker. Auto sales workers must know the details of financing to help their customers make arrangements for loans.

Auto sales workers explain the features of cars to customers and arrange for financing through the dealership. (© Don Mason/Corbis.)

Sales workers must be able to figure the trade-in allowance that can be given on an old car against the price of a new car. When the customer has chosen a car, the sales worker adds up the total sales price (including special accessories and equipment, sales tax, and the license and registration fee), and subtracts rebates, other discounts, and the trade-in allowance. Often the salesperson must negotiate with the customer over the final price of the car. A sales contract is then prepared for the customer's signature. The same method is used in selling used cars.

Individuals and companies that use their cars for business often lease them rather than buy them. In these cases the sales worker prepares the necessary leasing documents.

In large dealerships with many employees, sales workers are supervised by sales managers. Sales managers meet with sales workers to keep them up to date on new features and new models of vehicles. Sales meetings can provide a forum for praising top sales workers, giving suggestions on sales methods, and screening films sent to the dealers by the auto manufacturers.

Education and Training Requirements

Auto sales workers are generally required to have a high school education. Courses in business, English, and public speaking are useful. A basic knowledge of math is important because computing various credit and cost terms is part of the job. Often some college or work experience is an asset because it helps build self-confidence. Employers generally prefer to hire sales workers who know a good deal about cars and automobile technology. In addition, auto sales workers should have an interest in and enjoy working with people.

Beginning auto sales workers receive training on the job. Some automobile manufacturers may require newly hired individuals to undergo a training program that lasts several months. Large dealerships may provide several days of classroom training for newly hired workers. Beginners also learn by observing experienced sales workers.

Automobile manufacturers provide training manuals and other materials that sales workers can study and incorporate into their sales presentations. Sales managers may hold periodic meetings that help train new sales workers. Manufacturers sometimes hold special training programs for sales managers before the introduction of new sales campaigns.

Getting the Job

Anyone interested in becoming an auto sales worker should apply directly to dealerships and used car businesses in the area. Job openings for sales workers are often listed in newspaper want ads and on Internet job sites.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Many successful auto sales workers prefer to remain in selling jobs. They advance by increasing their sales volume. Those who enjoy administrative work may want to become sales managers. They may be promoted to the job of sales manager in the dealership for which they work, or they may go to another dealership that has an opening. Some become auto dealers. Many car manufacturers offer training courses in dealership management.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 269,000 people were employed as auto sales workers in 2004. Employment of auto sales workers was expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. Though some people are turning to the Internet to buy their cars, many others prefer to talk to a salesperson and test drive automobiles before making a purchase.

Working Conditions

The showrooms of automobile dealers are almost always bright and pleasant. Hours are usually irregular because most people shop for cars in the evenings or on weekends or holidays. A fifty-hour workweek is not unusual. Sales workers know that the more time they spend on the job, the more sales and commissions they will make. In addition to working with customers, sales workers are responsible for handling paperwork. They must also keep abreast of new developments in car design and engineering by reading literature provided by the manufacturer.

Earnings and Benefits

Generally, auto sales workers work on commission. This means they earn a percentage of the sale price of each car they sell. Sometimes they receive a small base salary in addition to commissions. Altogether, auto sales workers earned a median income of $18.61 per hour in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some very experienced sales workers earn much more.

Where to Go for More Information

American Automotive Leasing Association
675 N. Washington St., Ste. 410
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-0777

National Automobile Dealers Association
8400 Westpark Dr.
McLean, VA 22102
(703) 821-7000

National Independent Automobile Dealers Association
2521 Brown Blvd.
Arlington, TX 76006
(817) 640-3838

Nearly all automobile dealers offer paid vacations as well as insurance and retirement plans for their full-time employees. In addition, sales workers may receive automobiles for personal use at no cost or at low cost.

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