Why Is Turnover So High In Car Sales?

A car salesman with a customer at a Ford dealership in Downers Grove, Illinois. Image: Getty
A car salesman with a customer at a Ford dealership in Downers Grove, Illinois. Image: Getty

According to Automotive News, the average annual turnover for sales people in the auto business is 67 percent. Which is a lot! It’s also not the kind of line of work job seekers are interested in, according to a new survey—only about a quarter of them interested in the industry would also be interested in selling jobs at a dealership.


The survey, taken by a research firm called Cox Automotive, polled 800 job seekers and is reflective of a job whose reputation has suffered for decades.

But it’s more than that. From Automotive News:

“If you’re a dealer, you think, ‘Why would I want to invest in people if they’re going to quit?’” said [Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence for Cox Automotive]. “But they quit because of a lack of training. So it’s a case of the chicken or the egg.”

Of the 800 job seekers surveyed, 5 percent said they’d be interested in working in the automotive industry, but of that, only a quarter said they would want to work in a dealership, Helms said.

“But when you start talking about other roles in a dealership besides sales, interest increased. It went from a quarter to about a third,” Helms said.

For women, that interest rose to 28 percent from 18 percent when considering jobs other than sales. For millennials, it rose to 38 percent from 31 percent, said Helms.

One turnoff to sales jobs is the pay structure, with 37 percent of those surveyed equating a commission pay plan with a sales role, Helms said. Another is that 31 percent of job seekers don’t believe they’re qualified or have the necessary skills for a sales job.

There’s also the hours, which tend to be long, and management, which, perhaps in part because of the high turnover, isn’t always very forgiving. If you work in car sales, or have worked in car sales, let us know in the comments: How was your last experience? Did you sell new cars or old cars? What was your best experience on the job? And what was your worst?

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.


Porschebago Redux, formerly Mini Mid-life Crisis

Former car salescritter here, eventually became an F&I guy, sales manager, and GSM. What follows should be considered well-informed opinion...

Car sales is no way to live a life, and it is a terrible career. The hours are ceaseless, the pay unforgivably low, and you are effectively a disposable layer of deniability between the dealer principal and the public. In other words, if something goes wrong (and it always does), you can be cast off indiscriminately by the organization. The place next door will probably hire you immediately is that happens.

Weather will never be small talk with you and your fellow salespeople. It will generally be too hot, too cold, or too wet outside. When the time comes to “shuffle the lot,” or rotate and straighten the inventory, many of your compatriots will conveniently disappear. Your coworkers, by the way, will be the proud owners of multiple failed marriages and relationships, and many of them will suffer from a string of unfortunate financial decisions. I have seen many people fall victim to drug abuse, alcohol problems, and gambling problems. One dude memorably spent $4k on scratch-off tickets in a weekend.

Management will make you feel as if your customer’s credit problems are your fault. If someone lacks the ability or willingness to buy today, you will be berated for being “weak.”

Here is perhaps the most sobering thought about car sales as a career: everyone in the profession can be replaced by a well-crafted web interface.

Have I made myself adequately clear?