- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Akintunde Adeyinka doesn't have a spiel. He is not a back-slapper who will ask you your golf handicap. He looks sharp, and reassuring, in his pressed blue shirt, twill pants and neatly knotted tie.
He doesn't fit the American stereotype of a used-car salesman: a polyester-clad peddler with a deal for you, and you alone, on a 1990 Honda Accord (and you can put this in the bank) that will go another 50,000, minimum, because you, sir, are looking at a vehicle that hasn't missed an oil change since it left the pier at Yokohama.
Mr. Adeyinka, 44, is a salesman at Chevy Chase Buick-Hyundai.
"I have been blessed with a talent that lets me bond with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures," Mr. Adeyinka, says in a deep voice that betrays only a hint of his Nigerian heritage. "I invariably earn their trust. "
As the dealership's floor manager a combination salesman and quarterback Mr. Adeyinka is responsible for smoothing out the rough spots in the sales process, a job as varied as it is hectic.
"I cannot have a set routine as long as I have these two jobs," he says with a smile.
Ideally, he would be following up every potential sales lead with a phone call and checking to see if the rest of the staff needs help. But he also has to scare up a catalog for Debbie Rowan, a jewelry store employee in the District who swings through the store in the afternoon, and help out a woman who had wedged her car into a tight space on the lot.
He also has to break the news to Ali Abaza, a client from Springfield, that the Buick Regal Mr. Abaza had planned to pick up has suffered a bit of exterior damage. Mr. Abaza will have to return in two days, but seems happy that the dealership is paying attention to the details.
"Oftentimes the mentality is just to get the car out the door," Mr. Adeyinka says.
Stephen Keidaish, the sales manager at the dealership, laments that salesmen of used automobiles still find themselves at the bottom of the heap, a few notches higher in the public esteem than, say, journalists. The salesmen, so the story goes, are angling to clear your check before the clunker rolls off the lot.
"Most people know generations of horror stories about car salesmen," Mr. Keidaish says.
In fact, according to Mr. Keidaish, years of distress in Detroit led American car manufacturers to whip their customer service into shape, and try to rescue the waning loyalty customers had felt for their Buicks, Cadillacs and Chevrolets. The era of "checkered coats and white belts," he adds, is over.
The Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) is now the gauge by which automakers check up on their salesmen. This research, often done over the heads of dealerships, forced changes in how salesmen operated and continues to do so today.
Mr. Adeyinka, known as "Ak" to his colleagues, is experienced enough, but hardly seems one of the salesmen of old.
A native of Nigeria, he attended high school in Belfast before heading to Howard University in the District when he was 21. But in 1986, an economic crisis in Nigeria cut the income of Mr. Adeyinka's parents, who were also bankrolling the education of his two younger sisters in England.
The big brother, then a student of African-American studies, had to get a job.
After taking inventory of his own talents, Mr. Adeyinka settled on sales. He recalls vividly that his father, a manager with now-defunct Gulf Oil in Nigeria, had entertained extensively at the family home, and had always admired his mother's quiet, empathetic side.
"I figured I had an innate talent for working with people," he says.
This conviction led Mr. Adeyinka to a job in car sales, and on a winding path through a half dozen car dealerships in the Washington area, from College Park to Tysons Corner to Alexandria to the District. There were highs and there were lows.
One of the lows came in 1991, when Mr. Adeyinka went to work selling Audis, BMWs and Porsches. The muckrakers at "60 Minutes" had just run a story about sudden-acceleration problems in Audis, Porsches were mightily expensive due to a new luxury tax, and upstart Japanese luxury cars were giving BMW headaches in the United States.
"My timing there was just not right," he recalls.
One of the highs involved learning the used-car business. Unlike new cars, salesmen must contend with the age of the car, and the mileage, and how these factors affect the financing of a car. He cut his teeth on this side of the business at Pohanka Used Cars in Marlow Heights.
"You're walking a fine tightrope across a very long span," he says.
In one of those jobs, he met Mr. Keidaish, and landed at Chevy Chase Buick and Hyundai despite the name, it lies just inside the District line only a few weeks ago.


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