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Jeep dealership on Long Island illustrates corporate pressures

A red Jeep Grand Cherokee causes controversy at

A red Jeep Grand Cherokee causes controversy at the Town and Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram dealership in Levittown that was profiled on a recent NPR radio episode of ''This American Life.'' (Credit: Chrysler Group LLC)

For all the automobile knowledge car enthusiasts possess – from engine types, to design elements and interior luxuries – there’s one aspect of a vehicle’s life that remains mysterious to most: how they get sold.

But a report last week by National Public Radio’s '‘This American Life’' program sheds new light on the sales process by shadowing a Long Island Jeep dealership, and each of its salespeople, for the month of October.

Perhaps the most surprising lesson from the Long Island-centric piece is that dealerships don’t profit nearly as much as you probably think they do.


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The hour-long program focuses exclusively on Town and Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram in Levittown and its 129-unit sales goal for the month. As the program explains, the goal is set at the corporate level and can vary wildly from month to month.

The reward for achieving the sales goal can be as much as $85,000 and often separates a profitable month from one that ends in the red, especially since dealerships often slash prices below cost in an effort to meet that goal.

Within the dealership, each salesperson also has an individual goal and often deceives customers and managers on price in order to close a pending sale.

“So to summarize, the managers and the salespeople are playing each other,” Ira Glass, the program’s producer, explained. “The customer's playing them both. Each dealership is playing the other dealerships, and the manufacturer is playing all the dealerships with its quotas and its incentives. Chrysler sold 140,083 cars and trucks in October. That is what it took to sell one of them.”

While the story is captivating for the cast of characters employed at the Levittown dealership, it’s more than just a human interest piece. It’s a look into the last step of producing cars, and how they get from the factory into a customer’s driveway.

Find the program here, and take your newfound expertise to Newsday Cars to shop for a car of your own. 

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