Prestige Subaru’s Holly Ogle Talks Shop
By: Kristin MacLeod
If Asheville has a signature car it is, arguably, the Subaru. Prestige Subaru on Tunnel Road is Asheville’s local dealership. It is the top dealership in the Southeast. Only seven days into the month of September, they have sold 25 brand new Subarus. The dealership has renamed our fair city “Subieville,” and their website features pics of all the newest Subarus in varying Asheville locales: the Outback in Fairview, the Impreza WRX in the River Arts District, the Tribeca SUV at the Grove Park. It is a fact that 95% of all Subarus manufactured in the past ten years are still on the road; however, these 2011 models aren’t your hippie grandma’s boxy station wagon.
“If I had a nickel for every time I saw one on the road,” muses Holly Ogle, the newest and only female member of Prestige’s sales team.
That’d be quite a piggy bank full of nickels because Subarus in transit can be seen all over the place, mud-spattered doors, dogs in tow, child car seats, kayaks, and/or bikes optional.
Why is Asheville in particular so devoted to this brand?
“I think it is because of the active lifestyle the cars represent,” Holly says. “I think Subarus appeal to many of the people of this area because of the biking, the hiking, the winter weather.” She continues because she is, after all, a salesperson, “The technology really is state-of-the-art, and they’re really safe cars.”
“And,” she adds, “They are an eco-friendly choice.”
Subarus are a more environmentally conscious choice. The newer models are all Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles and all adhere to the state of California’s strict emission standards. The manufacturing plant, located in Indiana, strives to be a “zero landfill” plant, meaning 99% of all waste is recycled or turned into electricity. Subaru of Indiana is also the first automotive assembly facility to be designated as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Over 800 acres serve as a habitat for birds and animals.
“Business is good,” Holly says. “People are definitely buying.”
Despite the economy, Ashevillians and people from the surrounding states of South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee all see Subarus as a worthwhile investment.
There is an air of purposefulness and professionalism at the dealership. It is certainly not without customers. The waiting room is nearly full and people mill about the lots checking out the shiny new vehicles.
Holly is probably the farthest thing from the stereotypical caricature of a car salesperson. She is certainly not some slicked-back wheeler and dealer with loads of chest hair and mirrored sunglasses. She is a woman, and, while women are not unheard of in this business, they are on the rare side.
Holly, who originally hails from Wilmington, North Carolina, is petite and slight, clad in a black sweater, black and white floral skirt and simple silver jewelry. She is a picture of easy elegance. She has clear blue eyes and a warm smile. She is natural, laid back, and easy to talk to. She describes her selling style thusly: “I enjoy the satisfaction of helping people find what they want. I try to have a straight-forward approach, and people seem to appreciate it.”
Sociologist Helene Lawson, intrigued by female car salespeople, decided to study 49 women in the field from 1987-1999. Her resulting book, Ladies on the Lot: Women Car Sales and the Pursuit of the American Dream, paints a hardly flattering picture: sexism, lack of opportunity for advancement, and a cutthroat competiveness in the male-dominated workplace.
“I don’t want to paint a picture that it is easy,” Holly says, of working in a male dominated field. With a background in mainly real estate, Holly is not new to sales, but she is new to selling cars. “This is still a competitive environment,” she adds, “But the guys are all helpful.” Still, she adds, “We’re all here to make a living.”
Here are some interesting statistics gleaned from the website of Rexanne Smith of Crown Nissan in Hoover Alabama:
*Between 70-80% of all purchase decisions are made by women
*Women themselves buy half of all new cars sold in the US
It is clear through these statistics that women have the buying power. Smith, who calls herself “The Queen of Cars,” currently defies the norm in the business—she is a woman working at the management level. “The Queen of Cars” asks this question: “Why do so many people and businesses not give women the attention they deserve?” She also notes her continual amazement “at how female AND male shoppers respond to the female salesperson, as well as females at the management level.” The response is a positive one. Similarly, in Ladies on the Lot, Helene Lawson suggests that female sellers are less aggressive and more nurturing than their male counterparts. The “relational” approaches they bring to the floor, Lawson believes, are a positive influence on the business.
Holly’s input is this: “When people come into the showroom, they need to see friendly faces. It doesn’t need to be so intense!”
Do women buyers seem to prefer working with a woman dealer?
“Some do,” Holly says, but she also points out that some male clients may also ask to work with a woman.
“You can’t force anything,” Holly says plainly. She does add that if she is working with a couple she always includes both parties in all conversation and transactions. It isn’t entirely unusual for her clients to thank her, and some people have even initiated a hug.
Holly, herself a single gal, has some advice for women looking to buy a car. “Do your research,” she says. “Get a feel for the pricing on the car you want. Come with confidence, but also know that if the inventory is low—it’s a supply-and-demand thing.”
Her advice for the ladies when it comes to car repairs: “Ask questions,” she says. “If it is a problem with the belt, I always ask things like ‘Can I see the belt? Where is it worn? What exactly does this do?’ Really, it is all about educating yourself.”
Still new at the gig, Holly is only 2 months into her career as Subaru saleswoman, but she has already sold 11 cars. “Women in the car business need to have thick skin, an excellent sense of humor, a backbone, and some gumption,” Holly says firmly. Wouldn’t we all, male or female, do better in whatever our profession with all of those things?