By "this way," Miller means more like the Apple way. Apple Inc. doesn't sell cars (not yet, anyway), but to Miller, the maker of the iPhone and retailing giant is as much of a rival as the dealership down the road.
"We think we compete with the Apple Store" for customers' time, Miller said.
Miller's project has been driven by a quest to offer an Apple-like retail experience to his tech-savvy customers, many of whom are coming into the showroom after a day working at the nearby headquarters of Amazon.com.
At an Apple Store, for example, customers often do an entire transaction with a single salesperson, who answers questions and rings up customers on the spot when they're ready to buy.
Same goes for Miller's stores. When customers walk into the new showrooms at Honda of Seattle and Toyota of Seattle, they'll be greeted with a touch screen bearing the names and pictures of all the salespeople. Rather than being snared by a salesperson in pursuit of a sale, the customer will get to choose the one he or she will do business with.
What's more, the dealerships have no F&I managers. Salespeople handle the loans. Learning to do that isn't easy, so Miller and Mohammadi have hired contractors to do some paperwork and walk the salespeople through the process.
Prices are fixed, and so are interest rates. Customers who need financing can refer to a chart on the wall, tracing their finger from their credit score to the amount of the loan.
This provides transparency, Miller said, and it avoids any hint of discrimination in lending, a target of scrutiny by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"It just completely takes it off the table," Miller said. "There can't be any discrimination. There's the rate."
With a new set of employees and better training in place, sales have nearly returned to previous levels.
Mohammadi said morale is improving. Pay for salespeople had suffered over the past few decades because of shrinking new-vehicle profit margins, creating tension with better-paid F&I managers. With their new structure, Mohammadi and Miller hope that by giving salespeople more responsibility, they can pay larger salaries, boost retention and get their people focused on customers instead of commissions.
"We ask people to work rain or shine 50 or 60 hours a week and some of them make minimum wage," Mohammadi said, referring to practices at some other dealerships. "It's appalling. These people work their hearts out, and at the end of the month we don't even say thank you. No wonder they're leaving us."