Editorial: TTAC's Guide to Car Dealer Lingo

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Regular readers will recall that this site’s denizens helped radio personality, car dealer and fellow commentator John Wolfe name his new CBS radio show. In exchange, Wolfe promised that he’d give me a guest shot. And . . . he’s given us permission to rip this glossary of dealer jargon from his “Real Deal” website. While you peruse the perfidy, I’m thinking turnabout is fair play. How about TTAC’s Best and Brightest invent some of its own terms for what car dealers do to us? Yeah, yeah, some dealers, not all dealers. Suggestions below please.

Hole in the Head

This is a sunroof package in an automobile. Also be referred to as a Sun, a Moon, or the Brains Blown Out.

Chicken Walk

Car dealer infomercial where the pitch man paces in front of the inventory. Dealership employees witness the production of the commercial spot and refer to the speaker as doing ‘the chicken walk’ Tom Park and Clay Cooley are professional chicken walkers.

John Wayne or the Duke

This is all about the middle man paying the dealer/manager on the side for cars he normally would not have a shot at, also less than what they usually would bring elsewhere. He is a bad apple

Hand shaker / Bolt Action

This means it is a manual transmission. Also see: Hog Leg

A Horse

The horse is a seasoned vet salesman you can count on selling 25 plus cars month in and month out. These guys can get hired anywhere, anytime

Hog Leg

This is a manual transmission in a truck; the shifter is very long and crooked and comes from the floor. Aka John Holmes Edition

A Package

This is an aftermarket or custom additions to the factory options of an automobile. Body kits, custom wheels and paint would be considered a “package”. Lorinser, Regency, or Saleen are fine example of a package.

Ghetto Package: the distant cousin of “a package”, but with built with less quality material and often in poor taste. Unfortunately half of the ghetto packages stall out in developmental stage and live their lives as half ghetto packages.

Half-Ghetto Package is an incomplete or unfinished ghetto package.

Urban Assault Vehicle

This is a version of the package but is exclusive to a gang member with gang art and colors. The low-rider has many variations, but demands the attention of a much smaller demographic.

Big Bad Bob

This customer is easily defused but can be tricky. He is on a mission for best price, demands he is being treated badly and needs the manager, then demands prices and attempts to confuse the dealer into a bargain. Dealers are prepared for BBB, use kindness skills to kill all of the tension he creates and sell him what he wants.

8:36 or Bill King

This is the customer we have all dealt with or have been at times. He will walk in at 8:36 knowing it is almost closing time and wants to browse through hours of time. The fact that sales staff have already been at the dealership for 13 hours already makes them very anxious to get on or get off ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSO-Uss1h6E).

Japanese Cadillac

Car dealer vernacular for the Lexus or Infiniti brand plate

OTDB

This is a reporting number. Dealers count customers to know exactly their budget spend in advertising per customer. Opportunity To Due Business is also known as a fresh up.

Duck on the Pond

There is always a customer not being helped on the lot, he is a duck on the pond somewhat lost but trying to avoid the pack of salespeople even though he wants to be assisted. Seasoned Vets usually know when one lands.

Fresh Up

This is a customer that has never been to the dealership before or has not yet been helped upon arrival.

Green Peas

Lots of dealers refer to the new guys as Green Peas, Green Horns, or newbie. This means they do not have skills developed quite yet and will not know the product very well. The need for people will create these salesmen faster than you can say fire sale.

Brass Hat Car

This vehicle is what most dealers call a program car; it was a corporate demo or a factory reps demo.

Blind Bid

This is an auto appraisal that is over the phone or a value is placed by the description sight un-seen. Bid is good upon delivery if it matches the description. John Clay Wolfe Blind-Bids all the cars on the Real Deal radio show.

Wholesaler

These individuals are all over the map. They buy from auction and sell to dealers, they buy from dealers and sell at auction, and any combination of the two; including trading with each other. 98% of wholesalers are addicted to gambling, chain smoking, and have a problem with the IRS. Typically the wholesaler has a relative that is in the bail-bonds business. They either look like Magnum PI, Dog the Bounty Hunter, or the $30,000 millionaire.

King Pin Wholesaler

A banker to the wholesaler. The King Pin kept his money, paid his taxes, and finances the transaction of the wholesaler. He makes his money from charging wholesalers a ‘draft fee’ and plays the role as the house. The King Pin rides in the deepest ride, lives in a McMansion, playmate material as a wife, girlfriend or combination of the two. Manheim and Adesa auctions have made drastic attempts to terminate the business model of the king pin.

Seasoned Vet

The rare group of professional salespeople that know exactly how to deal with customers and they have better product knowledge and very high salesmanship skills and ability to sale. They can also be referred to as a Horse.

Ole Car Dog

This is the older grumpier car salesman we all have come to know as very negative from years of up and down sales. They are looking for shortcuts, time off and reasons to complain why the business is so slow. We all know them and they amuse us more than annoy. Smoking is a must for this species.

Oddball Split

Often confused as a billiard term, but in car industry is a closing tactic. You have a difference figure between the price of the car and the counter offer from the customer. Example: sale price is $20,000 and the counter offer $19,000. The salesman says “why don’t we split the difference and just say $19,800.” The customer perks up” that’s not a split, $19,500 is a split.” “Okay so $19,500 and it’s a deal?” This is a perfect trap because 90% of the time the customer wants to split the split: that would be $19,250 which is $250 less than where we placed them. The salesmen simply bump them with the oddball number.

Lot Stretcher

The lot stretcher is a joke often played on the newly hired green peas. A Vet tells the pea in a hurry to go back and get the lot stretcher; we need more room or straightening up the lot. Green Peas always fall for this, the service guys send them to parts, and then back again looking for the lot stretcher. Sometimes they send peas to other dealerships and they will spin circles trying to locate who had it last. They ask what it is and we just tell them to hurry up we are all waiting. Similar to snipe hunting.

Closing Tool

The closing tool is a fictional item associated with the lot stretcher. Newbies are told to find the closing tool, bc they can not use the lot stretcher without the closing tool.

T/O or A Turn

When a car deal needs help from the sales manager he will do what we call a turn over or a T/O to the manager or floor manager. This makes sure all customers are taken care of properly and do not make mistakes and miss a potential car deal.

Tommy Turner

Often times a salesperson will have trouble with a deal and we send in a closer. This can be a floor manager or a seasoned vet. Staff pages on the intercome Tommy Turner meaning “need to send in the closer for a turn.’

Mr. Green

A fictitious dealership employee who’s name is placed in newspaper ads for bad credit customers. “Bad Credit, Divorce, Bankruptcy WE CAN HELP just ask for Mr Green” When the receptionist pages Mr. Green that a code word for request a customer credit application before quoting the price of a car in case the lending bank charges an Americredit.

Americredit

Is a lender that specializes in poor credit customers. When they approve a deal for financing, often their approval is contingient on charging the selling dealer a large fee, sometimes in excess of $3,000, plus Austin as the interest rate.

Austin Rate

Austin is the state capital of Texas, the term Austin Rate is slang for the state cap lending rate, which is 26.26%

The Closer

This is the man always greeting you before you leave. He has selling on his mind and is there to make sure we exhaust every effort in selling you today not tomorrow. He can handle any objection and is very persuasive; some dealers may apply extreme pressure before you leave the lot.

Whistle Pisser

The whistle pisser is a funny name for a funny act. I was selling Lexus and my manager said look at this whistle pisser. He gets out of his Buick, goes over and stands as far away from the window sticker as possible trying to see the MSRP. He then whistles shaking his head and mentally pisses his pants. (Kyle Casey)

A Rabbit

This is a name for the guy bouncing all over the auction lane bidding on his own vehicle. He runs up the bidding and hops right off once it is in the money.

In the Money

Term used when a used car is bought for at or below current market pricing. Also reffered to as ‘on the money’ ‘worth the money’ or ‘stolen’

Blue Sky

The value of a franchised car dealership. Also reffered to simply as ‘Blue’ meaning the good will dollar amount added to the price of an ongoing business. For instance your local Ford dealer sells his business for ten million dollars. 6 million of that is real and hard assets plus 4 million of goodwill or ‘blue’.

Skins

Tires are an important part of the value on many models. The effect on the value on a Corvette for example could be $1500 for a set of new skins.

Trap Trader

This is a rouge move that creates problems on top of problems. The dealer sells off a car he owns well above current market for a value higher than its worth, he does this to exchange with another dealer to do the same and buy their car for more than what it is worth. Typically floorplanning banks/lenders have a days in stock deadline to sell inventory. So trap trading is two dealers trade their problem inventory to one another to start the clock over on the freshly traded unit, but in reality just postponing their financial woes.

Floor or Floorplan

This is the lifeline of a car dealer new or used. A Floor is the credit facility provided by a lender to pay for a dealers stock of automobile inventory. Most lenders charge 2 points over prime as the floor rate of interest. The amount of floor a dealer has dictates how large the business operation can be. A huge auto dealership typically has in excess of 15-20 million on the floor line. A small new car dealer typically carries 2 million, and a small used dealer normally operates around the $250,000 inventory level.

Out of Business

This occurs immediately when a dealer looses their floorplan

Sale Fees

These are fees overlooked by KBB and Edmunds. The auction trade in value does not include all of the reconditioning of a car before it goes to auction and then has hundreds of dollars of sale fees. The average is sale fee is about $250 per car plus reconditioning and transporting to the auction that could be $700 to $1500. The dealer spends more than the book shows you and you will always be surprised on appraised value.

Hand Signals Lock it Up/Slam Down/Cut Heads /Hit the Gas/Smoke em’

The auction is a very loud place with thousands of vehicles running through lanes at a fast pace. Professional buyers have many hand gestures and signals that are used to talk back and forth just like the stock exchange. The auction block and ring man will recognize these buyers and and communicate in return accordingly.

Shoot it in the Head

This term is for a vehicle going to sell for less than ever expected. You may have a unit in stock for months that refuses to sell so you take your loss to a wholesaler or auction sale and “Shoot it in the Head”

Houston we have Problem

The hurricanes from the Gulf Coast bring many issues with vehicles being involved in flood damage. Dealers can tell because the trunks and under the hood you find sand and water marks. The cars never smell right and although the title was not affected by an insurance claim: many still know ‘Houston we have a problem’ Especially the selling dealeship once the customer realizes they purchased a washed title flood car

Re-Entry Burn

You may recognize one of the famous space shuttle like vehicles from the paint on the hood and roof appearing to be burned right off.

Exercise Package or Richard Simmons

This is the extreme entry model car also know as, the exercise package. The name comes from manually shifting forward and back, in and out the clutch, rolling the windows up and down, and reaching over to lock the passenger side. Quite a workout.

Katrina Edition

This is a full blown flood car with a soon to be bad title. The insurance claim brands the title flood or reconditioned salvage and the next registrant will get a dirty salvage title.

Gay Nice

Men that live an alternative lifestyle typically have the nicest, cleanest used cars on the market. Dealer to dealer conversation: “If it’s Gay nice, then I’ll pay $500 more”

Gray Guts

The car has gray interior so it is known as gray guts, same goes for black red, tan, etc…

Ride for Five

This is the 60 month lease (five years), also known as a roach motel because once you sign up on the ride for five, you cannot get out.

Draft

This is similar to a check printed on the outside of a white envelope. This is traditionally the financial instrument used in a dealer to dealer auto transaction. Similar to an oil/gas draft.

ACV

This means the actual cash value for your trade. The dealer over allows $10,000 but the ACV may be only $8,500. The ACV is the real value. Always refer to this figure because the reality of the car deal is in the ACV

Overallow

The difference between ACV and trade allowance on the contract in a car deal.

The Road Show

Is a staffed event sale, staged liquidation sale, tent sale, or mailer sale and has his own hit team to sell them. Typically leave a huge wake. He sends out a mass direct mailer just days before arrival to lure customers to the dealership, and charges the dealer 25% of the gross profit. Sometimes roadshow sales work and create many additional sales the dealer typically would not have without the promotion. Unfortunately, too often he leaves the dealer asking themselves “why we did this again.” We call it the road show.

The Hit Team

The auto business has an unfortunate way of bringing bad habits to the dinner table. The hit team or squad is a traveling circus of salespeople we will hire for big events that we know we need extra salesman because of the huge turnout of customers. They sell many cars and make people angry including the hosting dealership’s salespeople and customers. Very similar to gypsies; they leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and 9 times out of 10 have a substance abuse problem. It is not uncommon for a member of a hit team to borrow money from customers or dealership staff members with a promise of immediate payback, never to be heard from again. Hit team members are the always the stereotypical silver tongued devil salesmen.

Rats Roaches and Bandits

Customers credit fall into several categories. One of them is being a Rat, or a Roach and that means you will have trouble getting financed and may need a co-signer and an unusual amount of cash down. ie “that guy was such a bandit he’d need a co-signer to pay cash”

Rocket Ship

If your credit score is over 750, you are known as a Rocket Ship, ready for immediate take off

Buried

When you owe much more on a car than it is worth, and you can not trade out until you pay down your loan. Dealers can get buried in their inventory, just as customers get buried in their car loan. This occurs more often in a trap trade scenario for both dealers and consumers.

Trade Difference

When you take the sale price and subtract the trade in value, you will have a trade difference. This is a way to negotiate but usually confuses customers. This figure does not include your payoff or T.T.&L.

Pencil

Is the written offer brought out from the managers office to the customer. Salespeople hear customers always saying “tell him to sharpen his pencil”. It’s called a pencil (versus a pen) because it is not a firm figure and can be erased and refigured.

Demo

Dealers call this the test drive, they also call the cars they drive home demos: usually only the managers get to drive inventory home and this would be considered a demo. When a salesperson is landing a customer on the demo, too often they retreat to fibbing and claim “this demo was driven by the dealer wife, it was Mrs. Dealers personal car”

De-Horse Em’

This is when you are very close to your buying a car, there may be one thing needed such as show the wife or check with your bank. The dealer encourages you to take the new car overnight and keep the trade tucked away in back of the dealership. De horsing prevent the customer from effectively shopping another dealership because the customer is without their trade in.

Kick the Trade

When you come to a deal and there is no way to roll in the negative equity of the trade because you are so buried, the Hail Mary closing tool is to convience the customer to let trade-in repo and do the deal without it. Ugly but desperate customers and hyper aggressive dealers can cause this occurance.

Jumping the Trade

This occurs when customer gets so confused in the numbers, that the dealer literally trades for the customers car with at a zero value. I have seen deals where trades are jumped with values upto ten thousand dollars.

TT&L

Tax, Title, and License of the car you’re buying.

The Ring man

The auction has auctioneers calling the numbers out; helping him with bidders down below in the lane you have the ring man. He corrals all the confusion into bids for the auctioneer. He is a very important part of the buying and selling and will know who is in or out with signals.

On the Block

The auction is in a warehouse with lanes running through one side to the other. The cars come in and stoop in front of a raised platform where the auctioneers and sellers will be watching the lanes activity. This is the auction block.

WAC

You will see this posted with any advertised payment or interest rate. An acronym for “With Approved Credit”.

Tent Sale

The circus looking tents we place out in the parking lot to create a sense of excitement draws in crowds. I think if people would stop falling for this, dealers would stop doing it .

Slasher Sale

This is a fun sale and is not often used anymore. The prices will be placed on the windshields of all of the cars, then discount them on the windshield slashing the price lower and lower using a loud megaphone and it feels similar to an auction. Someone will raise there hand and buy the slashed price vehicle and pay the typical retail price in all the excitement

Fire Sale

When a dealer gets the news he is out of business, or the banks floor plan is full you will find a fire sale meaning everything is going, going, gone regardless of price or profit.

Smoking the Log

The log is an important part of keeping track of daily business and the pace outcome of the months profits and activity. There are a few weak managers that like to put deals that are not complete or not even real on the sales log to look better to the upper management. This is called Smoking the Log.

Accepting All Applications

You will see this advertised and it will sound like everyone will be approved. All it really means is we will accept your application for credit.

Re-Tread

Back in the days when tires had no tread left they would cut into the rubber and glue new tread back on the casing. Truckers still use these today. We call old car dogs re-treads because they leave and come back, again and again. Turnover is high because of inconsistent business and thus becomes a wheel of roaming salesman.

Pink Title Blue Title Brown Title

The color of a Texas title will be blue. The brown title will be a duplicate and is a good as the blue just reprinted. We always double check the brown titles for payoffs and liens they may have a loan placed against blue title. The pink title will be salvage. The green title usually is a re-conditioned salvage title or repaired wreckage.

Saab Story

The owners of a Saab will always have a sob story about the payoff being so high compared to the trade value. The lease was the Saab’s only way of keeping customers coming back, now they will have to figure out how to keep brand loyalty without the famous lease payment and security blanket of guaranteed lease end value.

Weasel Piss

The greasy shine placed on your tires after a dealer details your car is called weasel piss. You do not want to get it on you. Armor all is not the same this is the industrial grade.

Mop and Glow

This is the incredible new age wax that will protect your paint and interior, for the low, low price of $595. We also refer to this as snake oil. You buy a warranty with it so it does have some value. Many import dealers include this like it or not, pay up.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Mor2bz Mor2bz on Aug 17, 2009

    thanks Robert I recently checked out a Mazda 3 and asked the young aalesman "if he had a stripper". The guy thought I was talking about a woman who takes her clothing off for a living.

  • Ott Ott on Aug 19, 2009

    Buyers are liars is absolutely right! As a used car salesperson, I particularly enjoy bursting a customer's bubble when he tells you that dealership so-and-so has the same car for $2000 less, so we should sell him our car for that price. He neglected to mention that their car is a base model, with 30000 more miles, and one year older. Busted! Another favourite: "My credit is fine." Yeah, right. Anyway, here's a few more terms for the list: Lot Lizard: Time waster, usually shows up once every 2 weeks just to see what you've got. Lot Rot: What happens to a car's brakes, battery and general condition from not being driven regularly. The Be-back Bus: when customers leave to consider whether or not they should buy, they are said to have been put on the be-back bus. Mechanical Asshole: Most trade-ins. D-lane special: A rough trade-in, that will probably be sent directly to the auction, and run in the D lane (A=good, D=bad.) A buck twenty-five on the clock: 125000km (or miles) on the odometer. Great article, awesome site!

  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
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