Let school put you in the driver's seat

July 01, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

The Howard County School of Technology is opening up a used car dealership in the fall to give students some hands-on experience.

Fast-talking used car salesmen need not apply.

"The focus is not so much on becoming a great salesperson, but on understanding the process that goes on for the sale," said John Myers, career and technology supervisor for county schools.

And buyers need not haggle. "What we will do is have an advertised price and that will be the price," he says.

The vocational school's dealership would be the first in Howard County, where students for years have had in-class training in automotive repair but no on-the-job experience in preparing and reconditioning a car for retail -- skills they need when they enter the work force.

"The dealerships are interested in this," Mr. Myers said. "They're always looking for qualified people to work in their company."

Mr. Myers believes the nonprofit dealership will sell around 12 cars the first year, most likely to high-schoolers who tend to buy used cars their first time around. Cars would probably cost less than $5,000 each, he said.

The public is also invited to buy cars and may request certain models or makes, although Mr. Myers makes no guarantees the dealership will be able to get them.

The dealership will get the bulk of their cars through dealer auctions. The school will purchase the cars until a revolving fund can be set up. Parents and others are encouraged to donate cars for repair and resale, Mr. Myers said.

A board of directors made up of business executives will help oversee the dealership.

Elkridge National Bank, for example, will teach students about car loans, and the accounting firm Stewart Waddell Co. will show students management and record-keeping. Acura West will bring in students to teach them how a dealership runs.

The program will mirror a similar one in Montgomery County, where a student-operated car dealership has existed for 16 years, making a profit of $58,000 last year.

The dealership will not be the first student-run business in the county -- a construction company operated by the vocational school for 21 years has given hundreds of students hands-on experience, and has made more than $320,000 in profit over that time.

The dealership is expected to involve many who attend the school. Auto repair students will get the chance to recondition and work on cars to ensure they pass state inspections, while marketing students will work on their writing skills to come up with brochures to promote the dealership. Print shop students will create the brochures, and information systems students will be in charge of keeping records of transactions.

"Students are excited," said Mr. Myers. "They know it's coming."

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