3 Things I can’t Stand about “God, Guns and Automobiles”

Only July 8th, the History Channel premiered a show called “God, Guns and Automobiles”, which revolves around the Max Motors car dealership and the brothers who co-own it: Mark Muller and Erich “Mancow” Muller. The show focuses on how the dealership is managed, and in particular, how Mark Muller uses his willingness to be outrageous to run his business.

It makes for good TV, much like some of the other business-centered shows the History Channel runs, like Pawn Stars or American Restoration. But as an employee at an *actual* car dealership – not an overblown extension of one man’s personality, like Max Motors is portrayed in the show – there are a couple things that get under my skin. The show makes car dealers look like jerks, and makes the car sales business look like a circus.

First off, though, I should say that these opinions in this review, for better or worse, are entirely my own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Ken Wilson Ford or anyone else here at the dealership.

#1 – He blatantly ignores his customer’s wishes.

In the first five minutes of the pilot, Dan, an old customer and friend of Mark’s, comes in asking about a hybrid. He is seeking an extended range vehicle, and he wants to buy a car that he can feel good about. When he tells Mark he wants a hybrid, Mark just laughs in his face, and launches into a speech about how he can either buy an electric car for $40,000 or a normal car for a lot less. Dan stops him and says, “It’s not about the money with me. I want to feel good about the planet.” Mark responds by lecturing him on how people don’t make eco-friendly decisions because they want to feel good, they do it because its cheap, like burning wood in your home for heat instead of fossil fuels. He then takes Dan out to take a test drive in an enormous truck.

Mark says that he is just “giving him information so he can make the right decision, and buying an electric vehicle is not the right decision”. This bugs me.

First off, he laughs in his customer’s face. Beyond being a terrible sales tactic, its downright rude. Your customers are the people that pay your salary and keep your business afloat, and laughing in their face before you even give them the time of day to explain why they want what they do – that’s inconsiderate and rude.

Second, he blatantly ignores what Dan asked for. Even if he didn’t have any hybrids in, Mark could have at least heard what Dan had to say, and then found whatever he had in inventory that would have best fit his wishes – maybe a small sedan, or even a small SUV. Instead, Mark puts him in an enormous truck – the opposite of what he asked for – because Mark decided what Dan really wanted.

We live in the age of the informed consumer – it’s no problem at all to get on the internet, do a little research, and find exactly the kind of car you want. Now sometimes, you can’t find all the answers online, and at that point, it is helpful to go to a car dealership and talk to someone. After all, these people are around cars all day long, and can see more clearly what is and is not a desirable feature on a car.

But to just decide that Dan didn’t want a hybrid, that he didn’t even want a small or fuel-efficient car – that’s just appalling. Sure, it might make for good TV, but it makes Mark Muller look like a jerk who doesn’t really care about his customers, and by extension, it makes car salespeople in general look bad.

#2 – Mark Muller is a bully.

As if that story can’t get any worse, Mark does take Dan on a “test drive” in a truck, but it hardly counts as a test drive. Instead, Mark takes him four-wheeling in a field next to the dealership (presumably owned by Mark). As Mark is driving like a maniac through the mud, Dan is clearly uncomfortable and gets increasingly exacerbated. He yells at Mark to slow down and let him out, and that it’s not fun or funny to him. Mark, again, ignores his wishes, and just continues doing what he’s doing. When he finally does come to a stop, Dan jumps out of the truck and starts walking off (and Mark laughs hysterically at him). Mark keeps spinning the truck through the mud, and actually tries to spray both Dan and the camera crew with mud.

Between the way Mark verbally thrashed Dan around in his office, or the way he made Dan come along for a ride Dan really didn’t want to take, Mark has all the makings (and dignity) of a middle-school bully. What I find hilarious (and sad) about it is that in the beginning of the show, he said that things in small-town America are different, that people (like himself) “take care of one another”. Mark Muller, at least the way he’s portrayed in this show, wouldn’t know “taking care of one another” if it came up and slapped him in the face.

The Max Motors website (www.maxmotors.com) talks about his “dedication to customer satisfaction”. I don’t think Dan walked away as a satisfied customer. Mark actually said “I don’t know if I got to sell Dan a car, but that’s ok because I got to scare the living bejesus out of him!”

What bugs me here is that words are cheap, and reputations are difficult to build. I feel that Ken Wilson Ford has done a lot of hard work building a reputation as a trustworthy and fair dealership that truly does care about customer satisfaction. By having this sort of display on national TV, it gives the impression that car dealers will say whatever they need to in order to sell a car – and I’m sure some of them will – but TV paints with a broad brush, and it means that dealers who really try to take care of their customers get lumped in the same category with all the rest.

#3 – The first ten minutes of the pilot episode are totally different from the rest of the show.

All of this drama between Dan and Mark happen in the first ten minutes of the pilot episode. After this, though, the show is completely different.

Mark is shown actually being nice to customers – working with them to take in unconventional things like tractors or goats as trade-ins for cars (we’ve taken things like tractors, old farm equipment, travel trailers – it’s not uncommon). Mark is shown taking care of his employees – like the one who has a drinking problem, using alcohol to manage pain from old bullfighting injuries. Mark is shown being a good manager – he motivates them by promising something they are really looking forward to (blowing up an old car!), as opposed to just some useless pat-on-the-back like most employee motivation strategies end up being.

Most of the show, though, ends up revolving around the relationship between Mark and his brother Erich “Mancow” Muller. Erich is a radio DJ from Chicago, and seems to be filling the role of over-confident urbanite; He doesn’t really understand how the business is run because he can’t really connect to the people of rural Missouri.

Despite being a show about a car dealership, it seems like 80% of the show is just about the outrageous character of Mark Muller, and his brother, the straight-and-narrow city slicker. The second episode barely touched on car sales at all, focusing instead on repossessing cars and bullfighting. For the record, most car dealers don’t do repossessions. The reason that it’s featured in this show is because they have a parallel financing business, so that customers can finance their car on-site, instead of having to go to a bank for a loan.

Moral of the story: Max Motors, as portrayed in “God, Guns and Automobiles”, is not a typical car dealership.

But it does make for great TV. If you like other History Channel shows like Pawn Stars, American Restoration, or Counting Cars, you should give God, Guns and Automobiles a try. Just please, please, don’t associate that first ten minutes of the pilot with anything that happens here in the real world. I promise, if you come to take a test drive of a car at Ken Wilson Ford, we will not attempt to spray you with mud.

Here’s another good review of God, Guns and Automobiles, from a non-car-dealership-employee standpoint:

God, Guns and Automobiles Review… Give me Kardashians Any Day.

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15 thoughts on “3 Things I can’t Stand about “God, Guns and Automobiles”

  1. I have to agree, but I find most “reality” tv shows are so far from reality they are cartoonish. I won’t be watching this one either. We bought a car from Ken Wilson Ford and never once got muddy.

  2. I think the first ten minutes of the show was his explaination of how a normal car dealership would treat you. Like The other dealerships wouldnt care about you even if you were a loyal customer. I think he was trying to say when you come here we will take care of you and not totally do the opposite of what you asked for. Then the remainder of the show was him showing you how he will. I am sure that when you go to a car dealership and they will always try to sell the best deal they can for both parties. That is unless you go to one of them places like Oak motors or J.D. Byryder where they sell 3,000 dollar cars for 13,000 and then charge 21.99% interest on top of that and say they are helping you by trying to help you rebuild your credit and then slap you in face with a 400 dollar a month car payment. On a car you are already over paying for .

    • I didn’t get the impression that he was trying to demonstrate how a “normal” dealership (i.e. one that doesn’t respect its customers) would have treated Dan. It seems to me like those first ten minutes are really just there because it makes good TV, and as a pilot episode of a reality TV show, viewers expect drama above and beyond their day-to-day experiences. I don’t want to make the accusation that it was staged, but I’ll say this: It wouldn’t surprise me if the producers later admit that Mark and Dan’s interaction was somewhat fabricated.

      In any case, I can’t speak for how other dealerships treat their customers, but I know that historically, car salespeople have gotten a bad rap – there seems to be the expectation that salesmen are out to disrespect and rip off their customers. That’s so opposite from the way that we strive to treat our customers at Ken Wilson Ford that its disappointing for me to see negative and inaccurate stereotypes playing out the way they did in the first ten minutes of this show. It takes a lot of time and hard work to earn someone’s trust, and we are proud of the mutually respectful relationships that we’ve built over the years.

      • I grew up in the “Mom and Pop” automobile business in a small Western town many, many years ago. My father started in the business as a salesman for the then World’s largest Packard dealership on the West Coast and then returned to his “hometown” roots and became a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer with a hometown friend at age 28. During the Depression they traded cars for cattle, goats, and other livestock to have food on the table and share the hardships of the era with other local people who developed a strong bond based on mutual respect. As a youngster, I started in the shop washing cars, windows, and moved up to “grease monkey” before I sold my first new car at age 16. “Customer Support” including going with my father in a Jeep with snowplow and hand shovels to clear driveways and walks in -20 degree weather with 3 feet of snow on the ground.

        The “Mom and Pop” dealership era started to disappear in the 1950′s with the influx of “California hype and type” sales and financing techniques and the enthusiastic support of manufacturers at significantly increased production volume.

        Max Motors, the former consulting business principal, and the buffoon’s he surrounds himself with represent the worst impression of small businesses that survive on customer goodwill, word of mouth advertising, and continuous strive for improvement and survival.

        I am surprised that Ford, GM, and Chrysler want a franchise holder and business portrayed in the manner that this “hopefully short-lived” series reflects of a total lack of professionalism and realistic human interaction…is this “all” they mean by “reality” TV? I can only sympathize with the nearby town dealers who have to be painted with this “brush”.

        P.S. And yes, I even occasionally watch “Walking Dead” and “Mad Men” but my favorite of that type is “Breaking Bad”.

  3. Your a moron dude thats all I can say. You made me laugh though thats for sure. You look like a little queer to, sounds like you need to lighten up because your one tightly wound up dude. lol

    • Before joining the car business, I worked in four-star hotels. My concept of what constitutes decent customer service comes from that mindset, and I have strong opinions of how customers should be treated. It might make me sound a little tightly wound, but that doesn’t bother me.

  4. You sure you watched the same show I did? it explained that Dan and Mark have been close friends for over 20 years. I didn’t get the impression that they treat their customers like that, just the one’s they’ve known for decades. I suspect if you have a customer you’ve known for decades and consider a close friend then you can take them mudding and be just a bit more honest with them than you would someone walking onto the showroom the first time and based on their sales numbers I would say they treat their customers just fine.

    • I definitely got the impression (after the first 10 minutes of the show) that Mark Muller is a perfectly nice guy who actually does respect his customers. That interaction between Dan and Mark seems like it was put there just because it makes for good TV.

      Even if they are good friends, it still strikes me as rude to treat him that way. After all, the reason he came in was to take a look at a new car. Even if they are friends, on that day, Dan was Mark’s customer, and he should have the common courtesy to respect that.

      Also, it might just be me, but I generally don’t try to spray my friends in mud, particularly if they’re wearing nice-looking clothes.

  5. I don’t live too far from this dealership. It’s actually very small and they do not negotiate nearly as well as they portray on TV. They mostly sell to the locals. You can find much better selection and deals on vehicles in Belton / Harrisonville just south of KC or in Independence on KC’s east side.

    • That’s an interesting and useful perspective to provide – these reality TV shows are so far removed from most people’s actual lives that its hard to tell what’s real and what’s just “good TV”.

  6. Where are the mechanics I’ll bet they aren’t ass’es !

    • That’s a good point! Mechanics, and service departments in general, are really the foundation of the auto industry, and have a lot more interaction with customers than the sales team.

      After all, you might buy a car only once every couple of years, but you bring it in for maintenance or service at least every couple of months!

  7. This show stinks. I cannot belive the HX channel every air it.

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