The Opel dealer network in Germany is marked by long-standing tradition and loyalty. Opel Post introduces long-term, notable dealerships through the ‘Opel for ever’ series.
They say that the car business will change more in the next five years than in the last 50. If that is so, Opel sales consultant, Georg Pelz may well become one of the few to have experienced the whole transformation “live” from his workplace.
Seventy-seven-year-old Pelz has worked in the car industry for more than 50 years, 42 of them as a salesman at Auto Jacob in Opel’s hometown, Rüsselsheim. His desk at the Opel dealership is strewn with paper work (“So much bureaucracy these days”), an open pack of strong cigarettes (from the German brand famous for its cartoon adverts featuring an angry little man) and an Oscar-like figure for “bester Opa der Welt” (the best grandpa in the world).
“I was always
an Opel man.”
“I’ve always been an Opel man”, he says in his quiet, hoarse voice; and adds with a wry smile, “I’ll die an Opel man too.”
He grew up with his brothers and sister on their parents’ farm, where he sharpened his talents by selling not cars, but fruit and vegetables. After the business was taken over by his elder brother, Pelz worked for a few years on the Opel assembly line in Rüsselsheim. His career as car salesman followed a tour of duty in the German army.
“You need a strong wife
to watch your back.
And listen to the grass grow.”
Since then he reckons he has sold more than 25,000 cars, which probably makes Pelz Opel’s most senior if not successful salesman. “Each car sold was an Opel, all of them at Auto Jacob.”
Recipe for success with two main ingredients
And the secret of his success, for which he has won countless awards? Pelz belongs to the old school of car salesmen: “You need a strong wife at home, who watches your back. And you need to hear the grass grow,” he replies. “You have to sell the buyer the right car.”
“You must get to know the customer by engaging them in conversation. For example, if I find out that grandma is going to be among the passengers, I would never suggest a car that’s not particularly easy to get in and out of. I would recommend a car with higher seating, like the Crossland X.”
The strategy – like PACE! – obviously works. Customers have been known to travel thousands of kilometres across Europe to buy an Opel from “der Pelze-Schorsch”, as he is known locally. They also appreciate that they can reach him at all times, even in the evenings, just like it says on his business card: “Available any time” (except for a two-hour break for lunch and a nap at midday, which he never misses and is part of “concept for his success”).
No salary, but commission
Pelz is one of the first to start work at Auto Jacob in the morning and usually the last to leave in the evening. Six days a week. Would he recommend a young person to
learn the trade? “Nobody can teach you how to become a good salesman”, he replies. “If you want to be successful, you need to have it in your genes.”
And with all his experience and “seniority”, when Opel brings out a new model or a new technology, he doesn’t go to every training session, either: “To me it’s almost painful what you hear there sometimes”, he chuckles.
“Men like me are a dying breed anyway”, adds Pelz, who receives no salary and has always earned his living from the sales commission. To be successful in future, he believes the profession will need to do things differently.
“To be successful,
you need it
in your genes.”
“I’m sure I’ll soon be s
elling electric cars!”
“If I were 20 years younger, I would set myself up at a big supermarket and sell cars there. Nowadays you don’t need a showroom full of cars, what you need is a computer with a good configurator”, he says, pointing at the monitor on his desk.
Or he would get a van, the new Zafira Life for example, and turn it into a mobile sales consultancy.
“Then I’d drive from town to town and sell cars right in front of people’s houses. Everyone would know, here comes ‘der Pelze-Schorsch’!”
He would show all the options on the computer screen, whole families would be part of the deal – grandma and grandpa included. “You always need to do something that the competition doesn’t”, he adds with a wink.
Despite his “vintage”, Pelz (who used to sell around 800 cars a year at the peak of his career) has no plans for “early” retirement. “I love the job too much”, he admits, “and besides, what else would I do?”
Georg Pelz is also certain of a bright future for Opel. “It’s a strong brand with great cars. I also think the company is
adapting the right way to the changes in the market, such as electrification. I have no doubt that Opel will achieve its goals for the turnaround. And I’m sure that I’ll still be here selling electric cars, too!”