'Car Lot Rescue' premiere: Auto dealership 'doctor' Tom Stuker diagnoses sales issues

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Auto dealership "doctor" Tom Stuker takes a medical approach while helping struggling entrepreneurs. Stuker, the outspoken star of Spike TV's new unscripted series "Car Lot Rescue," says he does a lot of things that other trainers don't do.

"We literally do a whole day of assessment," Stuker said when sitting down for a face-to-face interview. "A car dealer will call [a trainer] up and say, 'I need help in this area and this area.' The trainer gets going at 8 o'clock on a Monday morning, and it's all train, train, train. But that doesn't necessarily solve the problems."

Taking a short break from filming, Stuker said that he and Roe Hubbard, CEO of Members Only Automotive, initially make assessments of struggling dealerships.

"The first thing I do is sit down with the owner or general manager or both. I say 'Tell me about your dealership; tell me about your managers. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Tell me about your salespeople, their strengths and weaknesses,'" he explained.

Shot over a few days in December 2011, this particular episode takes place on the lot of SC Motors in Fullerton, California. Eddie, the dealer, has a business filled with high-performance vehicles and an underperforming staff.

"Here is a dealer with a problem with customer service. They have a bad reputation," Stuker continued. "Online, they are getting beat up left and right. They have a real bad reputation. We need to turn that around."

When talking with Stuker, the dealer felt that the only problem he had was bad customer service.

"Typically, when I go in there to solve one problem, a lot of other problems pop up. Roe and I went in there the first day. I was in there for 15 minutes and found a legal pad full of issues -- a million different issues with this place. All of those issues, they are what causes bad customer service," he said.

SC Motors caters to a very young clientele. As Stuker points out, their marketplace is not 45-year-old males or soccer moms. The dealer has a good niche in the market, but the "doctor" says his hiring practices are bizarre.

"Two of his guys are pizza boys. These guys are making $50,000 a year instead of eight dollars an hour, and they are probably so over the top with [that money]: 'I have no training, I don't know what I'm doing, but in spite of myself, I make $50,000.' They don't care about customer service because they went from delivering pizza to [SC Motors] with no training, no supervision, no accountability," Stuker explained.

With youth comes the possibility of a lack of maturity. Footage shot for the premiere, for instance, shows two salespeople brawling on the lot. During filming, one salesman even failed to show up for work because he had been involved in a drug bust.

Stuker points out that many dealers are afraid to discipline their staff, but managers and owners must demand respect. Stuker doesn't advocate humiliating a staff member, but he will put them to work twirling a sign by the road or washing cars.

"They are still performing a function for the dealership. That lets them know that this [behavior] is unacceptable. When I managed people, I would send them home for three days. If you send a salesman home that works all the hours they do, that's like they won a sales contest. That's a prize, not a punishment. Three days is a punishment because by the third day, they are begging to come back," he said.

"Car Lot Rescue" debuts Sunday, 2/10 at 10 PM ET on Spike TV.

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