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'Car Lot Cowboy' dishes tough love, advice to dealerships

December 23, 2011
There are a lot of badly run car dealerships out there, according to Tom Stuker, the self-proclaimed dealer “doctor.”
Stuker is a consultant from Bloomingdale who travels around the country helping dealers improve their business.
He just wrapped up filming a series for Spike TV called “Car Lot Cowboy” that will debut early next year. In a cross between “Supernanny” and “Kitchen Nightmares,” the reality show follows Stuker and his team as they work to turn around sales at beleaguered dealerships across the country, dishing out some tough love and advice.
Stuker said the date for the premiere is still being determined. The episodes shot to date feature both new and used dealerships in New Jersey, Florida, New Orleans, South Carolina and California, who sell a variety of brands.
One hourlong episode features a Chrysler dealer who rebuilt in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and runs a food bank to help the community. Another dealer Stuker tries to help prefers attractive but untrained women in the showroom over knowledgeable sales staff.
With his signature black cowboy hat and boots, Stuker said he has helped about 15,000 dealerships in his career.
“The industry is as screwed up as when I was a salesman,” said the man who started selling cars as a single 20-year-old in Rockford in 1975.
He learned quickly that “you need to think like a salesperson but don’t sound like one.”
Over his career he has seen common problems at struggling dealerships boil down to poor hiring practices which fail to get strong sales staff; limited training including when sales staff are promoted to management but lack business skills; and accountability.
Most dealerships don’t have complete logs of all their showroom traffic or data on their demonstration or closing rates, Stuker said.
With some guidance, “I could teach a monkey to sell 12 cars a month,” Stuker said.