How Salespeople Stereotype New Car Buyers

Bozi Tatarevic
by Bozi Tatarevic
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how salespeople stereotype new car buyers

The r/askcarsales subreddit is a great source of information about car buying and the inner workings of dealerships. Flaired users are verified to be actual salespeople, which makes for highly qualified car buying advice. They’ve helped a great number of people save money and help calm the adversarial nature of the buyer-seller relationship.

Buying a car is a big decision. We all like to think that we are unique in the choices we make and how we go about negotiating a sale, but buyer stereotypes do exist. When one subreddit user posted a question about typical buyers for each brand, many of the salespeople jumped in to offer their opinion on the type of buyer that shops each brand. Some of the opinions might cross into racial profiling territory, but many are just hard truths about the customer base each brand has built up.

The first portion of the discussion focuses on cultural stereotypes and how each type of buyer negotiates. One verified salesperson mentions that Indian people like to negotiate, stating that “Indians will beat you to death.” He adds that he doesn’t take Indian customers, claiming that the negotiations take hours. This almost certainly constitutes racial profiling, and while it isn’t as brash as the incident where an Indian man was accused of trying to buy a vehicle for the Taliban, it could very easily get the salesperson and the dealer in trouble.

Cultural stereotypes and profiling continues throughout the thread. It is mentioned that Mexican buyers tend to skip over talking about the payment and negotiate instead on the total purchase price. (This method is actually the smartest way to go about purchasing a car, as it allows you to see the whole picture and not get caught up in four square type games.)

This second poster also mentions that Indian buyers tend to be hard negotiators but takes a lighter approach, mentioning they are likely to bring friends to spectate the negotiation. On the religious front, the poster states that some Muslim buyers are against paying interest but wants them to explain how they hold credit cards and home loans. Another user chimes in and states that some of his Muslim buyers do pay all of the interest up front in order to match their beliefs, but also states that many use their religion as a negotiation tool.

More salespeople then offer their own personal anecdotes, stating that certain cultures do negotiate harder than others and that their tactics are easy to identify. They mention the frequent statement of “What is the last price?”, which I have often heard from my own countrymen. (They may not be too far off on that front.)

The posts take on a less cultural note as they move on to SUV and minivan buyers, stating that many buyers are afraid to buy a minivan because they don’t want the “soccer mom” image. So, they end up in a less functional minivan that vaguely resembles an SUV. One poster states that men are often the ones who push for the minivan, since they can see the function and practicality of it.

When the thread dips into specific brands, Subaru buyers are at the top of the list. One of the first Subaru-friendly groups mentioned is engineers. A couple of the posters state that it isn’t hard to spot the engineers, as they often show up with a clipboard and tape measure to look at the vehicles on the lot. Environmentalists and astrologists are also big Subaru shoppers, as salespeople have experienced everything from do-it-yourself solar panels on Foresters to buyers who refuse to complete a purchase because Mercury was retrograde.

One user does mention that Subaru knows their buyers and has an official factory method with which to signal your sexual orientation (along with your occupation and favorite outdoor activities). A set of badges is available from their Badge of Ownership website.

The last part of the discussion centers on negotiation and states that potential Subaru buyers are likely to contact every dealer within 1,000 miles in order to save $500. As a Subaru owner, this is about the only stereotype that fits me — I contacted dealers as far as 1,500 miles away, which ultimately helped me save about $2,000 on the purchase of my WRX. The rest of the stereotypes fit somewhat with mainstream opinion — that teachers, engineers, and driving instructors who enjoy outdoor activities are also common Subaru buyers.

The Ford Mustang GT gets a mention as being a magnet for 18-year-olds with no credit and part time jobs (or carry provisional licenses). The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is mentioned in the same breath as being attractive to the teenage crowd. Mustangs are mentioned again further down the thread: many salespeople say they are aware of foreign students who come in with no social security number and are likely to pay full MSRP (as they plan to export them to China or other markets lacking that model or trim).

The board’s Porsche guru chimed in with a fairly detailed breakdown of the buyers he sees at his store. Surprisingly, he states that about 40 percent of Porsche buyers are enthusiasts who want one of the best-driving cars on the planet, and buy the car solely to enjoy it, be it on the occasional track day or a nice Sunday drive. Another 40 percent are there just for the status —their main concern is with the car’s badge and the prestige that comes with it. The remainder are on opposite ends of the spectrum, with 10 percent going to true motorsport drivers (who likely hold a racing license and strip out and cage the cars as soon as they leave the dealer) and the other 10 percent being investors who buy rare models to flip or export to other countries.

One Fiesta owner then chimes in and states that he owns a Lime Squeeze Fiesta sedan, asking the dealers to stereotype him. One of the dealers correctly guesses that he is fresh out of college and a first time buyer, while another takes a stab at his lifestyle and states that he probably owns a musical instrument, voted Obama, has a dog, and had probably smoked hookah in the last six months. TTAC’s own Fiesta owners fall into at least one of those categories, but I’ll leave you to guess who matches up where.

Another user pops into the thread with a seemingly random list of cars that includes a Focus wagon, Subaru Forester, Fiat 500, and a Honda Fit. One responder is able to correctly guess that she like small cars with good handling, a small turning radius, and fuel efficiency, that she lives in a big city with limited parking, has a small pet, and enjoys the outdoors and cycling. The only misses are the gender and the possibility of working in food service.

An owner of various Isuzu and Geo products, along with a few domestic trucks and a Fiesta ST, asks the salespeople to stereotype him as well. The responders guess that the inquirer likely owns a shirt with no sleeves and is a fireworks enthusiast who has at least one car on blocks in their driveway. The inquirer confirms that they do have a car on blocks, but it’s sitting in their garage, not the driveway.

Finally, the discussion turns to the Hyundai Veloster. While some may see it as an attempt to tap the youth market, many of the salespeople claim that it belongs to a weird niche that attracts buyers in their 40s that enjoy Hawaiian shirts and are looking spice up their commute. A couple of people chime in and state that they have seen such buyers — their workmates and family — stating that it helps them cling to their last ounce of youth.

Whether you see these statements as racial profiling or hard truths about how the car marketplace works, it appears that quite often we are not the unique snowflakes we believe ourselves to be when buying a car. Our cultures and communities often dictate how we approach a car-buying transaction, while marketing campaigns often push us to select vehicles that fit our lifestyle.

[Image: Faris/ Flickr]

Bozi Tatarevic
Bozi Tatarevic

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  • FreedMike FreedMike on Sep 09, 2016

    "On the religious front, the poster states that some Muslim buyers are against paying interest but wants them to explain how they hold credit cards and home loans. Another user chimes in and states that some of his Muslim buyers do pay all of the interest up front in order to match their beliefs, but also states that many use their religion as a negotiation tool." I suppose I, as a Jew, could complain about not being able to shop at Target on Christmas Day, and I suppose Jews could complain that my family keeps their restaurant open during the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, when you're not supposed to be doing any kind of work or exchanging money). I suppose Catholics could go car shopping during Lent and complain that the complimentary barbecue doesn't include fish, and Hindus could complain that there's burgers on the grill. And on and on. Some folks will complain about anything, I guess.

  • CriticalMass CriticalMass on Sep 09, 2016

    In the mid-90's I was briefly a Lexus rep. and I mined a rich vein of Indian doctors. They were not hard to deal with in general but their wives! If m'lady showed up with the children and or a friend, usually both, you could be certain you were in for the Seige of Leningrad. Hours, and they WOULD NOT LEAVE! You didn't want to offend (just normal courtesy plus the vein was not played out) and I was invariably as polite as I could be but on a couple of occasions I simply stated that we were not going to be able to agree, excused myself and did not return. They were still sitting in my office over an hour later. That's persistence!

  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.
  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
  • Jeff The car itself is in really good shape and it is worth the money. It has lots of life left in it and can easily go over 200k.
  • IBx1 Awww my first comment got deletedTake your “millennial anti theft device” trope and wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones keeping manuals around.
  • ToolGuy "Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC; Mercedes-Benz"• I bet I can tell you which is which.