It's Better To Work For A Dealer Than For The ManufacturerS

As you might imagine, I get a lot of e-mails. Tens of e-mails. Maybe even dozens. It's very flattering, really: people from all over the country, all over the world, take time out of their busy schedules to write me long, thoughtfully-worded notes about how much of an asshole I am.

No, that's not what really happens. Sure, I get the occasional nasty letter. But usually, I get very nice e-mails from very nice readers who say very nice things about my writing. This makes me extremely happy, and I typically beam with pride, and excitement, and glee, and then I save the e-mail in a special folder where I will completely forget to reply to it. This, I have discovered, is the easiest way to really piss off some of my biggest fans.

But I also get a good chunk of e-mails devoted to an entirely different topic: employment. Not employment as a writer, of course. Nobody wants to do that. I'm talking about employment at my former company, Porsche Cars North America, who once hired me under the same philosophy that created the 924: They can't all be great!

Now, before I go any further, I should say that I always do my best to help these people. After all, it was once my dream to work at Porsche, and I certainly wouldn't want to deprive anyone else of the same experiences I've had, except maybe the part about hitting that tree with a 911. So I always pass along resumes. And I sometimes even e-mail former co-workers, who typically reply with nice, cheerful notes about how legal counsel forbids them to interact with me. It's important to keep up relationships, you know.

But when people ask about employment at Porsche, or any automaker, I always want to tell them the same thing: you don't want to work for a car company. You want to work at the dealer.

To help explain why, it's important to say a few words about my time at Porsche. When I tell someone that I once worked there, you can just see their eyes light up with excitement. It's as if I've announced that I am, in fact, the man at Chipotle in charge of giving away a lifetime supply of free burritos, and you've just won it, and also would you like this million dollars I just found on the street?

I get the feeling this reaction mainly comes because people think my job consisted of showing up for work and spending the day driving Caymans around a racetrack. And then, at the end of the day, I'd call up the Germans and say: "Sorry boys! She's not done yet!" Then I'd walk out to the garage where I left my Panamera Turbo company car, except I couldn't find it, so I'd just take a 911 GT2 instead.

But that wasn't what I did. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't what any of my co-workers did, either. Instead, we primarily sat in a large, nondescript office building, on a large, nondescript floor, in large, nondescript cubicles, arguing with each other about politics. Stop me if this sounds like your office.

The reason it sounds a lot like your office is because it is a lot like your office. Except occasionally there would be fights about whether it's acceptable to leave your spoiler up all the time.

So working for the manufacturer isn't that exciting. But why is the dealer such a good place to be?

First off, it's important to mention that I'm talking about working for a good dealer. I am not talking about some sleazy, low-brow operation,where the motto is something like: "If another dealer beats our deal, we'll beat his wife!" I mean a dealer with good ownership, good sales practices, and a good, exciting, enjoyable brand. These are the places you want to work. And here's why.

For starters, they have free donuts. And sometimes cookies. At Porsche, we never had any donuts. Or cookies. The best you could hope for was cake when it was someone's birthday. What would happen is we would all gather around the cake, excitedly thinking of frosting, and sugar, and free food, and then we would wait for someone else to cut it up and hand out slices, at which point we would briefly sing happy birthday and then immediately return to our desks, where we would a) eat, and b) argue about politics.

Another huge advantage dealers have over the manufacturer is that jobs are easier to come by. I know this because I applied to work for every single automaker in the entire world, even small-time, barely-existent mom-and-pop operations like Mosler, and Rossion, and Noble, and Mitsubishi. No one was hiring. The exception to this was Chrysler. When you applied to work at Chrysler, you got the feeling they would take anyone, including college dropouts, high school dropouts, well-trained mice, etc. Interestingly, that's also a list of the people they'll finance.

There are other huge benefits to working at a dealer. For instance: you get to spend time around the cars. This was not the case at the manufacturer. Oh, sure, we knew there were cars. But we didn't see any of them. Sometimes we would go on the configurator, and dream about which one we'd own if we were filthy rich. But we knew that wasn't going to happen, given that we worked for a car company, so instead we ate away our sorrows with birthday cake.

Now, I don't mean to make dealership work seem especially glamorous, because it isn't. Pay can be spotty. Hours can be long. You have to hang those triangular, multi-colored flags everywhere. And sometimes, especially on the last day of the month, you find yourself saying things like: "You look like a nice couple, so here's what I'm going to do."

Maybe the worst part is the massive social stigma about working for a car dealership. Tell anyone you work for a car dealer, and they'll give you this look, as if to say: What? There weren't any opportunities in a better career? Like dealing drugs? This happens with everyone. You could be talking to an unemployed artist whose primary medium is his own saliva, and once you tell him you work for a car dealer, even he will sneer as though you might as well be pond scum.

But personally, I would take dealership work over manufacturer work all day long. You get to experience the cars. You get to interact with people, actual customers, folks who are just as excited as you about their new vehicle. And as I sit here, alone, writing this column, that sounds pretty good right about now. That, and free donuts. I'd even settle for some birthday cake.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.