DaimlerChrysler holds a tent sale

Marketing: Prospective car buyers have their pick of about 1,100 DaimlerChrysler vehicles during a four-day sales event at Camden Yards.

June 12, 1999|By Rachel Sams | Rachel Sams,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

There's barely room to move between the cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles that line the parking lot at Camden Yards. But these vehicles don't belong to Orioles fans trying to squeeze in at the last minute on game night.

Every one of the new gleaming hunks of metal belongs to a Baltimore-area car dealership affiliated with DaimlerChrysler AG, and every one of them is for sale.

Approximately 1,100 vehicles from 25 car dealerships under the umbrella of DaimlerChrysler are in the Camden Yards parking lot for a four-day "tent" sale that ends today.

In many ways, a tent sale is an expensive and labor-intensive event.

According to Patrick Mulligan, operations manager for AMPCO System Parking, which operates the parking lot at Camden Yards, DaimlerChrysler is paying $15,000 to rent portions of the parking lot space for seven days. In addition, cars have to be moved from the dealerships to downtown Baltimore.

Then there are the prospective customers, many of whom have to make a special trip into the city, which includes fighting downtown traffic.

So what makes a tent sale worthwhile for the dealers -- and for the customer?

According to Steve Wagner, district manager for DaimlerChrysler's Washington zone office, having a wider variety of inventory than any car dealership could offer makes life easier for both the customer and the dealer.

"Most dealerships have 150 to 200 vehicles to sell from," he said. "Now that we have 1,100, we don't run into the situation so often that we don't have the car customers need."

As summer heats up, so do car sales. Wagner says dealerships tend to sell more cars in the summer months, which often depletes inventory at the dealership.

"In the summer season, the more selection you can have, the better off you are," he said. "By getting everything in one place, we make shopping easier for the customer."

Salespeople at the tent sale came from participating dealerships.

Many work all four days, from the sale's opening at 10 a.m. to its closing at 10 p.m.

"This is an opportunity to get together with other salespeople and customers," said Lance Delaney of Antwerpen Dodge Ltd. in Randallstown. "There's a lot of excitement."

DaimlerChrysler hopes to sell 500 to 600 of the Dodges, Chryslers, Plymouths and Jeeps offered at the event, Wagner said.

Another reason dealers hold tent sales, Wagner said, is to get "conquest sales" -- customers who might not normally look at a Dodge or Chrysler. Stacy Parks of Dundalk, who traded in her Ford truck for a 1999 Dodge Ram at the tent sale Wednesday, is a textbook example of a conquest sale customer. "I'm used to buying Ford trucks, but I was looking at the new Dodge Rams and liked them a lot better than the Fords," Parks said.

She works at a nearby warehouse and had come over to look at trucks on her lunch break, then returned with her husband in the evening to make her purchase.

Parks said coming to the tent sale was definitely worthwhile for her.

Her deal was "very fair," she said; she paid about $30,000 for her new truck and got her old truck paid off as well.

Other potential customers were more skeptical than Parks. Ron Howard of Baltimore came to the sale with his fiancee, who was looking for a new car.

"It's like a shark pit," he said of the event. "There are like 300 car sales representatives right at the front gate. They probably scare off a lot of people the way they've got it set up."

Bill Holland of Catonsville, who was negotiating with saleswoman Carolyn Seifert on a Cherokee Limited, disagreed.

"This is pretty unique," he said. "I feel a lot more comfortable than I usually do in a [dealership] setting. The place is very friendly."

Pub Date: 6/12/99

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