Author's Tom Santospago sample of

of "The Little Book Of Broken Car Thoughts"




My name is Tom Santospago, and I have been in the car business for 30 years now. I think I was born to sell cars. I seem to have a gift that few have when it comes to running automobile dealerships. I can walk into any underperforming dealership and in minutes, in my head, I can outline everything that needs to be done in order to turn the ship around 180 degrees. My second gift is the power to motivate and lead people. I can look into an employee’s eyes and read them like an old, high-school textbook. Last but not least, I have a knack for finding ways to get people through the door in service, parts and most of all, sales; And at the same time, build a real brand that sets the dealer apart from the big boys. I truly believe the following: Never sell your soul for a deal. Your best employees are begging to be led, and they are your best asset. Once you embrace change you will moving forward and have the ability to see things with a new set of eyes. Some dealers of whom I have turned around say, “It feels like a whole new dealership," and this was done with most of the same people, budget, and inventory. “This was in front of me the whole time and I never saw it.” I’m writing this book to give dealership owners and other dealership employees an understanding about how the job gets done. Most dealerships that are underperforming are doing so not from the car line they sell, not from the location they’re in, not from their employees, not even the advertising. In fact, there’s only one reason, and that reason is fear. The word fear may sound funny to a dealer that’s been in business for thirty years or more, but ask yourself a few questions. If your store is not performing, do you know why? If so, why haven’t you made the changes? Do you fear losing employees? I had a dealer who sits in a premium franchise tell me the other day that he can’t make any changes because he would lose his staff who has been with him for over 20 years. Here is a list of what I call “Broken thoughts”:



  • We cannot compete with the big mega dealers.

  • I cannot afford to pay good people to work here.

  • We can never generate the floor traffic in this market to have any kind of volume.

  • Customers pay cash in this dealership, or use their own bank so we can’t make money in finance. Besides, our warrantees cost too much, and they don’t have the time to wait for a finance manager.

  • Our sales people like to close their own deals

  • Our customers don’t want to see  lease or finance figures, they just want the bottom line. 

  • The sales staff won’t like doing it that way, we will lose them if we try to change the selling process.


 Parts & Service:


  • The Service Manager has been here for years, and he cannot see us competing with the quick lubes. There's no way we can make any money doing quick Service at the price is quick lubes charge.

  • We don’t have a true system for our Service Advisors but we really don’t need one, my guy knows what to do.

  • We let our advisers make all of our service appointments; they know how to fill the schedule. 

  • We can’t find good techs that want to work here unless we over pay them.

  • We can’t grow our own techs from scratch, and if we did someone would steal them once they got good. 


The list goes on and on with all these misconceptions of “why this will never work," and instead of realizing it’s just fear of change that’s stopping us from the growth we so badly need.


Perfect example of fear of change reminds me of a small store that was operating for years as a small, low-volume store. They made money; they watched every expense, they never let anyone make any real decisions other than the owners who seem to spend most of their time in their office in front of a computer. The dealership was purchased and I was given the task to run it for the new owners of the dealership. This dealership was on somewhat of a busy road, but the population of this town and the surrounding area was much less in comparison to the large city dealers I had worked for prior. The story is almost always the same in every dealership that needs a 180-degree flip. Good people, good owners, and a parts and service business that’s been plugging along for years. The thought process is also the same, “We are doing a great job for what’s in our market”.  


Not to get into too much detail at this time on the steps to fix your dealership, but to talk about the outcome of change.  We take the same team; move the right people around that best fit their skills and all agree on the plan moving forward. The ones that embrace the new team plan quickly see strong results. The ones that live in fear of change go down two different paths; Some see the entire staff do well and grow, so much so, that they move over to the positive side.  And others take the easy path of this can’t work here so I’m leaving. Funny thing about the ones who leave; six months later they come back into my office telling me that they can’t believe how successful we have become and would love to come back if we had a spot for them. In some cases I do rehire them and find them to be some of my best employees and team players. 



The next kind of funny conversation comes from the old owner when they visit their old dealership. They talk with some of their people that have worked for them for twenty years to see how thing are going. They always grab me after they talk to their former employees and pull me aside and ask me the same questions almost every time; How did you do it so quickly? How did you motivate this person or that person, I never would have guessed that! The former dealer principles are like little children who just opened their gift for Christmas, but they can’t keep it because it’s not their’s to keep anymore. They can’t believe that the bar was set; a plan was put into process and surprise success! In some cases we would sell more cars in 3 months than the previous dealer would in a full year. In one case that comes to mind, the dealer would gross about one hundred and fifty-thousand a month  between new, used, and finance department. Three months later we would be in the five hundred thousands, a year later we would be at eight hundred thousand a month. Not to mention what happen to the parts and service department. 



So the billion dollar question is “how do I change my store”?



"Get this book and you will lose the fear"

Author, Tom Santospago CEO of Dealership 180