Friday, June 02, 2023

The Car Buyers’ Bill of Rights


My regular readers know that I’m a car dealer and that, for many years, I’ve required all my employees to follow the Earl Stewart Code. This has served my customers, employees, and my business very well. Not only do we feel better about what we do for a living, but we’ve found that our customers like it so much that they come back repeatedly to do business with us. For the purposes of this article, I’m renaming “The Earl Stewart Code”, “The Car Buyers’ Bill of Rights”. Try showing this to your car dealer and find out what he thinks.  


(1) Do whatever the customer asks if they believe they’re right. If the customer believes they're right, and you don’t take the action they ask, that angry customer will tell dozens of others, and they will probably believe the customer. This is a domino effect that will ultimately cost the dealership more in lost business than the cost of satisfying the customer immediately 


(2) Do what is right for the customer even if you don’t have to. Do what is right for the customer whether or not it’s required by law or contract. Choose the path that is, not only legal, but ethical and moral.  


(3) If your supervisor isn’t available, do what is right for the customer. Nothing frustrates a customer more than not being able to bring their complaint to someone who can take the required action. Your supervisor should empower you to act when they can’t 


(4) Always answer all phone calls, emails, texts, and letters ASAP. There’s not much that frustrates anyone more than when they don’t, in a reasonable amount of time, receive a return call, text, or email. If you’re too busy, at least let the customer know that you understand their complaint and will act ASAP.  


(5) Customers must always be treated with respect and courtesy. You can do everything else right with a customer, but if you show any signs of discourtesy, impatience, or lack of respect, you’ll lose that customer. 


(6) ALWAYS tell the customer the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If you make a mistake, your company will likely give you a second chance, but NOT for being dishonest.   


(7) Your first loyalty is to the customer, not your dealership or the manufacturer. If your company or their manufacturer suggests that you act in some fashion that you know isn’t right and in the best interest of the customer, ignore your company or manufacturer and do what is right for the customer. You might also have to find a different company to work for, but that’s a good thing in the long run 


(8) Personally, take ownership of a customer’s problem. Even if satisfying a customer means that action must be taken by others or even another department from yours, you owe it to the customer to be sure they're happy in the end.  


(9) Promise your customer less that you deliver. Under-promising and over-delivering is a sure way to keep a customer and have that customer send you more customers.  


(10) Trust your customer as much as you hope they will trust you and your dealership. Trusting someone you don’t know can be dangerous, and you will occasionally be taken advantage of. But customers can sense that you trust them and that will inspire them to reciprocate.  

Friday, May 19, 2023

Total Self Driving Tesla’s Are Not Safe to Drive Today


As my regular readers may know, my wife Nancy and I drive a 2021 Tesla Plaid. One reason we do is its TSD, total self-driving, beta software. It took us about a year before Tesla would allow us to activate the TSD software that we’d already paid for. This happened about six months ago, and we anxiously tested it out. We both agreed that it wasn’t safe to drive after experiencing many occasions when we had to override the autonomous function, such as the vehicle stopping suddenly in heavy traffic. We’ve had several software updates and each time we tried out the TSD function again but were disappointed each time.

Last Monday Elon Musk was interviewed live by David Faber on CNBC, and we watched and listened to this interview, which was extremely interesting and informative. This is the link to the interview, and I highly recommend that you listen to it:

However, during the interview Elon Musk led listeners to believe that the software for fully autonomous Tesla’s was perfected to the point that they are “safer than vehicles with human drivers”. He pointed out statistical comparisons with TSD Tesla’s vs. all other vehicles. He even told David Faber (the interviewer) that he (Elon) had personally driven a TSD Tesla in San Francisco for 3 days with never once having to override the fully autonomous function.

Our Tesla Plaid had just downloaded another autonomous software update and Nancy and I decided to “take it out for an autonomous spin” and drive from Jupiter, FL to Stuart, FL along U.S. 1, about a 20-mile trip. We chose this stretch of road because it’s not heavily traveled and clearly easier driving than within San Francisco. Everything went fine for about 10 miles. As we approached the town of Stuart, driving north on U.S. 1 on a 4-lane divided highway, a car driving toward us on the inside lane of the southbound divided highway was attempting to turn East, apparently to make a U-turn and drive back north, the same direction we were traveling, fully autonomously. This driver was stopped at the break in the divided highway with his left turn signal on. Nancy and I were in our outside passing lane traveling toward him. The speed limit in this stretch of highway is 50 mph and we were traveling at that exact speed. The traffic as we approached the city of Stuart was moderate to heavy. Our Tesla Plaid suddenly braked, and I had to immediately override the autonomous function to accelerate and avoid a read-end collision. For whatever reason, our Tesla’s TSD software was trying to avoid a collision from the car that was waiting to make a legal U turn with his turn signal on. Had I not overridden this, we would very likely have been rear-ended by the vehicle behind us, traveling at 50 mph.

I’m a big fan of Elon Musk and believe that he’s up there with all the creative geniuses in history. I also believe that, with the help of A.I., Tesla TSD software will become safer to drive our cars than we can. In his interview, he told David Faber that this would be this year, but he’s said that before.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Grading Car Dealers on the “Curve”

 Grading Car Dealers on the Curve 

Who Are the Most Honest Prisoners in Sing Sing?  

Every Saturday morning from 8 am to 10 am EST, you can listen to or stream Earl Stewart on Cars. This is a consumer advocate, live talk show that Nancy Stewart (my wife and co-host) and I have been doing for about 20 years. You can access our show at,, www.StreamEarlOnCars, or listen to us on any True Oldies Radio Station in South Florida.  

The highlight of Earl Stewart on Cars is our mystery shopping report. Every week we dispatch a secret shopper/undercover agent to a different car dealership…mostly in Florida, but also as far away as Pennsylvania and Tennessee. This person pretends to be a buyer for a new or used car and goes through the same process that most car buyers do, responding to an advertisement and trying to get the best price. We report the actual experience of our mystery shopper exactly as it happened, identifying the real names of the car dealerships, salespeople, and managers. We don’t pull any punches, and nothing is censored. If a federal or state law is broken, we say so. If a salesperson or manager lies to our mystery shopper, we report it exactly as it happened. Of course, we are more than happy to report on the good, honest, and ethical car dealers we, unfortunately rarely, encounter.  

Skeptics reading this will likely be thinking, how do I know YOU’RE not lying about other car dealers just to make your show more interesting or bad-mouth your competition. (I own and operate a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, FL.) I will answer the skeptics with this fact. In the over 20 years that I have sent mystery shoppers to car dealerships every week, I have never been sued by another car dealer or employee of a car dealership 

If you do not already know this, ask a lawyer what the only perfect defense against libel and slander is. He will answer, THE TRUTH. Car dealers cannot find a lawyer to sue me because they know they cannot win, not to mention that the publicity from the trial would seriously damage their reputation and business.  

You can read my archived mystery shopping reports at When you look at the two lists of dealers, recommended and not recommended, you will notice that there are some very low letter grades on quite a few on the recommended list…even D and D-. Most of you are familiar with “grading on the curve.” Grading on the curve dictates that the smartest students get A’s and the least smart get F’s. Most students fall between and receive C’s. To me, the flaw in this system is that the smartest student in one group may be the dumbest in another group. As the old joke goes, “He’s the most honest inmate in Sing Sing 

After every mystery shopping report that I read on Earl Stewart on Cars, I ask those viewing and listening to please score this dealership with an A, B, C, D, or F based on their honesty, ethics, and transparency. Nancy and I, as well as Stu Stewart and Rick Kearney, also vote. I remind everyone that we grade ON THE CURVE. We would rather not grade on the curve, but because the average car dealer’s advertising and sales practices are so poor, that we’d have virtually no car dealers to post on our “Recommend Dealer List.”  

Sadly, the reason for this is that our regulators and law makers are wont to ignore dishonest and unethical car dealers. This is because car dealers and car manufacturers, through their Political Action Committees, lobbyists, and trade associations, are instrumental in the elections of politicians and the appointments of regulators. A state attorney general cannot get elected without the support of Big Auto.