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MORE THAN JUST A CAR BROKER

One former car dealer takes the fear out of buying a car.
By Ingrid Truemper |

FEEL AT A DISADVANTAGE WITH THOSE smooth-talking salespeople at car dealerships? Need a trusted ally? Former car dealer Becky Hettich will champion your cause, provide moral support, and cut you a great deal, all for a mere 300 bucks.

Wheeling and dealing runs in Hettich’s veins: Her father was Ken Pruitt, owner of Ken Pruitt Buick. When he died in 1986, she took the helm of the dealership. In 1995, when she decided it was time to move on and ;ell the business, Hettich retired to what she thought was going to be a relaxing life in the Park Cities. Fate decreed differently.

“Hearing that I had retired, many of my women friends began calling me, asking for help in purchasing their cars,” says Hettich. “They felt incredibly intimidated by the hard sell of car dealerships. Pretty soon, so many of my friends were asking me to buy their cars for them that I put together a focus group of women to research the market. Every single one of those women said they would pay for a reliable car-buying service.”

Last year witnessed the birth of HPM Inc., a unique car-buying service initially targeted at women that has grown to cover a diverse client base. “I get all kinds, from busy corporate types to housewives,” Hettich explains.

Hettich emphasizes that she receives no money from the car dealer for her pains. Her $300 fee includes an initial consultation, research work, transportation to and from the dealerships, all negotiations with the dealer, and delivery of the vehicle. The typical client goes for about three test drives before finding the right car, says Hettich, who does business with 22 dealerships in the Dallas area.

Because a dealer who has been bargained down on a new car is not likely to offer a good price on a trade-in, Hettich recently acquired an associate, Pete Conley, owner of P.C. Auto Concepts. Conley purchases trade-ins at wholesale prices for his dealership. “When clients have a car they wish to trade in, Pete gives them a bank draft good for 10 days of his price estimate,” Hettich says. “If, after 10 days of getting dealers’ appraisals, he’s still the highest bidder, we use P.C. for the trade-in.”

While prices of some luxury cars tend to remain inflexible, Hettich cites other examples to show that her expertise can save her clients thousands of dollars. She recently bought a Lincoln Town Car with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $42,210 for $35,251; a Ford Ranger XLT with an MSRP of $15,230 went for $13,046. However. Hettich stresses that she does not discriminate between customers of differing financial status. “They get the same service whether they are in the market for a Mercedes or a Ford Explorer,” she explains. “By the way, I get those Explorers at invoice.”

Once a dealer, always a dealer.

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