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Car dealerships are remarkably stable businesses (Getty... Car dealerships are remarkably stable businesses (Getty Images).
It is not uncommon for someone who has been laid off from a job and disconnected from a career to go get their real estate license in the hopes of a second career selling houses. But we rarely hear about people making a second career out of selling cars.

The fact that car sellers have a bad reputation--ranking in popularity close to Congress-- with the public has a lot to do with it. But there are plenty of reputable dealers who are looking for a few good men, and especially women, to help capitalize on a surge in car buying in the U.S. "A very good living can be made selling cars, but I think it is a misunderstood profession in a lot of ways," says Brooks O'Hara, vice president of Group1 Automotive, a Houston-based company that owns and operates 142 auto dealerships and 36 collision repair centers, making it the fourth largest operator in auto retailing.

Back in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the business of making and selling cars was in free-fall. General Motors and Chrysler had gone through bankruptcies. Industry sales had tanked from a high of about 17 million vehicles a year to about 10 million in 2009. But consumer demand is back, and sales are projected to be about 15 million in sales in 2013.

Car dealerships are remarkably stable businesses. Most of the revenue and profit is actually made from selling used cars, servicing cars and fees from financing. Only about 20% comes from selling new cars, but that business is critical to keeping a dealership humming and flowing.

Careerbuilder.com currently lists 60 jobs in sales from Group 1 out of more than 10,000 for various companies advertising for auto sales.

TOP 5Most Popular Vehicles On AOL Autos
What can someone expect in terms of compensation, hours and advancement in car sales? Here is the breakdown, according to O'Hara:

- People starting out who figure to rely mostly on store walk-in traffic are going to find it a tough grind. Hourly pay will be minimum wage or a bit better depending on the store. The real money is in commission. Working on commission, O'Hara says, is the toughest thing for second-career people with advanced degrees to get used to.

- Expect a five or six day work week, and about 55 hours a week to start out. In some states, dealerships are closed on Sundays. At many dealerships, sales staff rotate weekends so the same people aren't always stuck working Saturdays. In some states, where dealerships are open on both weekend days, many work as many weekends as they can, and take two days off during the week. "The fact is most of the business transacts on the weekends," says O'Hara. That is one of the facts of the business that has long made it a challenge to retain women in dealerships.

- Every dealership has a person or people dedicated to following sales leads that come from the Internet, especially from online shopping sites like AOL Autos. Some people, says O'Hara, live off their phone and like that end of the business. Others are more comfortable working leads in person. Social media is becoming increasingly important to vehicle sellers, and those who are comfortable in that space use it as a tool to stay in touch with customers they have helped for years.

- What kind of money can a top earner expect? O'Hara points to a seller he knows who makes about $300,000 a year selling about 215 cars a year. How does he manage it? He has a Rolodex of customers he keeps track of, and he takes such good care of them that even though his principal business is selling BMWs, his customers go to him for any car they want to buy and he makes it happen with a salesperson at another dealership with whom he splits a commission.

- How is the business for women? It can be terribly lucrative. Laurie Moses, who works at Suburban Ford in Waterford Township, Mich. (not a Group 1 dealership) was named top seller for Ford Motor Co. for 2012. She sold 559 vehicles last year. The 36-year old has been at it since 1996. The early days of selling cars wasn't easy, she said. "It was more difficult when I didn't have (regular clients). I had to prove I knew as much as the man who sat next to me," she said. Her experience pays off. "Now the trust is there and customers know I know what I'm talking about," Moses said. For a person considering vehicle sales as a career, Moses advises not giving up. "It's tough. There is a lot of rejection. I see a lot of people give up and go do something else but they will never get to where I'm at (by quitting)," she said. "You have to have a good attitude."

- Is there a type of person who is best suited to selling cars? Group 1's O'Hara says he has seen a lot of overlap between people in the mortgage banking field cross over when the housing market went soft a few years ago. But he has also seen teachers, salespeople in other fields and even managers in other industries who got tired of managing other people and just want to manage themselves. It may sound obvious, he says, but you have to want to work with people and be willing to talk all day. The ability to network is key to success. And you have to be adept at managing a database of people--that's where your livelihood is going to come from. And when you take care of customers the right way, they tend to want to share the experience with their family and friends, and that's how success in the business is born.

- Advancement? Many people want to stay sellers and control their own income. But it generally takes ten years of successful selling to be considered for a position such as general manager of a dealership.

- The future? For all the talk of a greater penetration of mass transit, light rail, and the like, the U.S. is still a country that gets around on cars. The auto industry is expected to stay very stable for the next decade, selling between 15 million and 17 million new vehicles a year. And then there are additional 40 million or so used cars that get sold, as was the case last year.

Associated Press contributed reporting


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      newcars
      • 2 Years Ago
      Been doing it for 26 years, I make great money and I work my butt off for every penny I make. I never tell anybody (but my accountant) what I make, its none of your business but its very good. Its not easy money and working comm scares the hell out of most people, could you live without knowing what you were going to make next month? I like it because I know that its up to me to make my paycheck what I want. BTW making that much off that few cars? Somebody is smoking some good stuff..... maybe 200k but thats max.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am a sales trainer for a large automotive group. I sold cars for a number of years and moved up. Although I think $300,000 is a bit exaggerated for 215 cars, that is about 18 cars a month, you can make great money. Most people who put down our business couldn't do it if they wanted to to it. We work weekends, holidays, nights, and sometimes 7 days a week. The job is very similar to real estate sales. When you have an appointment, or when it is busy, you want to work to make the money. All sales jobs are money driven. If money is not an inspiration for you than choose a different profession. I agree with most comments here, the auto business does have its salespeople who believe they are "water walkers" and yes women can achieve really well. We are perceived by the public as a lower life form but that is something we get used to hearing. When payday rolls around, all your hard work and time comes through. A six figure salary is very achievable. On 215 cars, a realistic number is around $120k to 150k, possibly $175 but not $300k. I would encourage all salespeople to give it a try. You will like it. Especially payday!!
      gjterranov
      • 2 Years Ago
      Interesting that the "top salesman" mentioned made $300,000 by selling 215 cars. That's almost $1,500 per car!
        jambrozio
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gjterranov
        Sounds like a lot, but I guess it could be possible. He's selling BMW's and probably doing lots of leasing where it's easier to make a good gross. I knew a guy that sold at a Porsche, BMW, Mercedes dealership and $5-10k grosses were pretty common with a few in the $15-20k range. I also knew Toyota salesmen that were making $17- 30k in the hay day of Toyota. A time when they were selling while still on the transporter. But those guys were all previous closers working the line.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gjterranov
        that group one guy is full oshirtz get it the national average is 47500 avg work week 5 days and 48 hours a week..Heck bankers work that much...Ive been in this business 26 years and have a masters in business and love managing Dealerships...The long ago cutthroat crook sales person are few and far between...
        George Spalding
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gjterranov
        See my post above about salesmen PADDING their income. At the end of the year, most of them are BROKE again except for the smart ones.
      chucki42
      • 2 Years Ago
      I sold cars when i got laid off. big hint...sell vehicles that sell. i sold mitsibishi. all sorts of folks come through the door. alot of bankrupt folks. liars. you name it. if a person comes in prepared they get the best deal. i really loved the young ones who had zero, nada credit and expected us to cater to them. the managers were total douchbags. it is a cut throat business.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The auto sales business is huge and will continue to be huge. Plenty of money to be made there. In my book "Becoming an automotive sales Professional" I lay out that the only requirement that is needed is a professional attitude, good product knowledge, and enthusiasm. Most seasoned sales people make more money than lawyers or doctors.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Chloe. if you, thought Melvin`s rep0rt is good... last saturday I got a top of the range Citroën DS from bringing in $9894 this-last/five weeks and-in excess of, $10k last-month. this is definitely the most-comfortable job I have ever had. I began this 3 months ago and pretty much immediately started to make minimum $71 p/h. I work through this website,........ ZOO80.COM
      magus47
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is the job you want if you simply are NOT crooked enough to be a lawyer or politician.
        jet202
        • 2 Years Ago
        @magus47
        Hey I am a lawyer and represent the car dealers association, what are you trying to say, lol
      bigv3999
      • 2 Years Ago
      ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
      • 2 Years Ago
      Car "dealers"? My stepfather was one of these. "Right stuff?" Allow me to enumerate: 1-10 LIAR...shies so far from the truth, he wouldn't know the truth if it *****ed him. 11-20...AVARITE...total lack of regard for the safety of others, as long as you have MONEY. Mammon, being more important than humanity, is served first. 21- infinity...HYPOCRITE, blowhard, unfeeling, sub-human. Would you buy a car from this man...? Ignoramus, when ignorance served him, world's smartest man when you didn't know better. Thief, distorter of truth, ANYTHING for a buck. Please stop lionizing vampires. "Car dealer" and "Drug dealer" should be considered one and the same. Neither cares about any facet of you but your money. They are NOT noble creatures, just GREEDY.
      pineway259
      • 2 Years Ago
      After 45 years of buying cars, I've yet to meet a trustworthy car salesman.. They'll say anything to make a sale and always try to get you to take whatever they have on he lot. God forbid if you want certain equipment on the model you want.. No deals on anything, then the dealer puts on $1000 in unnecessary dealer addons and dealer fees then cry they aren't making anymoney on the car.
      George Spalding
      • 2 Years Ago
      I was in the Car Business for several years. MOST car salespeople have quite a high OPINION of themselves. They are the best SALESMAN, the best LOVER, the best DRIVER, the best GOLFER, and they exaggerate their income by at least DOUBLE what it REALLY is.
      David Ferraez
      • 1 Year Ago
      The car industry is evolving into a great place for honest, ethical, and hard working sales people.........it is the new frontier of salesmanship. Most of the old, crooked, criminal, unethical is gone...........manufacturers and customers will not put up with it. Most of the fighting over price is gone.......most vehicles have small margins to make it easier to buy. We have came a long way and yes still a ways to go..........but this is an evolving opportunity for good people with a good work ethic. If you enjoy people........look into it. df
        • 1 Year Ago
        @David Ferraez
        Where? With whom? I was part of the new Image, the new frontier and I was about to make it breakthrough and then almost without warning they fired Mgrs. half fired Mgrs. installed some bird-dogging duplicitous weasel prick that re-imaged the entire environment back to the default settings of Car-Dealer from Hell and ****** up everything.
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