RICK KRANZ

How nuns brought good fortune to the Skylark King

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Earlier this month I made a request.

I asked for lighthearted tales from the floor of this nation’s car and truck dealers that I can share with Automotive News readers. The stories must be true.

Robert Peerman of Austin, Texas, responded with a tale about several nuns, disinterested salespeople and the good fortune the nuns brought him. Here’s his account:

I was a salesman at Covert Buick in 1989, a dealership in Austin, Texas.

The dealership was running a newspaper ad for a $9,995 Skylark.

One day a nun walks in and heads straight for the Skylark in the showroom. None of the other salespersons helped her because you know nuns “don’t have money” and the Skylark special only paid $50.

Being the new guy, I finally went over to see if I could help. The nun was looking at the newspaper ad and back at the car. She saw me coming and blurted out, “Is this the car in the ad?”

I thought she was going to pass out, she looked so nervous.

“Yes ma’am,” I said.

She asked if it came in other colors. I took her out to the lot and showed her a sea of different colors.

“These are all $9,995?,” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” I responded.

She looked like a little kid at Christmas.

“I’ll take the red one,” she gushed.

So we went back to my office to write it up. I tried to add paint sealant and rustproofing but she would have none of it.

“Young man, I can only spend $9,995,” she said.

I still feel bad to this day about trying to bump the price with the paint sealant. She signed the contract and I took her to finance thinking as we walked over that she would never qualify. I could see the other sales guys were snickering about my big sale.

I went to the Coke machine thinking she would be out in 30-45 minutes as the finance guy desperately tried to get her financed.

The finance manager came out five minutes later with her and said, “Put her in the car now.”

I spit out my Coke and ran to get her car ready. She was beaming and had this grin I still remember today. She was so proud of that darn car. She drove off after our delivery introduction, and I kept thinking that was the fastest run through finance I had ever seen. I had my 50 bucks and felt good seeing how excited she was in her new car.

Two days later another nun shows up and asks for me.

“Sister Theresa said I needed to see you about the Skylark. Do you have a blue one?”

I looked around thinking this must be one of those “gotcha” TV shows. Sure enough I put the second nun in a car in about 15 minutes. A week later the third, in about seven minutes. Once they signed the contract I handed them the keys and off they went.

It turned out the Diocese of Austin was equipping these nuns with cars for a Catholic outreach program in South Texas. So much for worrying about financing.

By now I am pumped about these Skylarks and start seeing them as a great value, and selling them like crazy. The other salesmen started calling me the Skylark King and laughed at all the work I was doing for such measly commissions.

Here is the good part. It just so happened that Buick was having a national sales event at the time and the salesman that sold the most Skylarks that month received a new loaded Skylark.

However, we didn’t know about the sales contest until the last two weeks of the program. The sales managers didn’t tell us anything about it earlier.

Then, all of a sudden, I showed up on Buick’s radar. The sales manager, kind of the last week or so of the contest, said, “Hey, you are in the running, between you and a guy in Arizona, to sell the most Skylarks for the month.”

The winner? Yep, it was me. In all, that month I sold about 15 Skylarks.

Buick’s regional marketing guy came down and presented me with the car. I tried to get the nuns to come for the photo shoot but they were off doing their mission.

The moral of the story -- never underestimate the power of nuns.

Got an interesting story to tell? The story can be about a recent experience or something decades old. The stories must be true, and I will include the contributor's name with each tale. Contact me at 313-446-0360 or rkranz@crain.com.

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