Watson’s Auto Wholesale finds its place on the East Side of KC

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Vernon Rose has bought so many cars from Watson’s Auto Wholesale that he can’t even count them all.

He’s a car guy, who doesn’t keep a ride too long before replacing it with something different. Rose, an HVAC technician who lives in Northland, comes to Watson because of the fair prices and reliability of the cars.

He once bought a Mercedes on the small plot of Prospect Avenue which started having problems six months later. A mechanic diagnosed a bad transmission that would require thousands of repairs. Rose brought the car back to the field, where owner Marcus Watson has been selling cars since 2004.

He said to me, ‘Hey man, choose something else,’ Rose said. ‘It’s that simple. And it was a car as is. I can’t avoid dealing with him at because of truthfulness and frankness. “

Rose has previously bought cars from major dealerships, those with billboards and TV commercials. He recalled an experience that left him with a bad taste in his mouth: the seller was moving so fast he was confused about the actual terms of the deal. What he thought was a four-year funding agreement was actually five years.

He never had to worry about these kinds of issues at Watson, where prices are set below Kelley Blue Book values ​​and negotiations are hassle-free.

“Marcus is very frank,” he said. “No games. No surprises. Everything is explained.

Watson says he’s built a niche primarily serving minority buyers who don’t always feel comfortable with other dealers. Before getting into the business, sellers from other lots tried to push it towards lower end cars, even when considering other more expensive models.

“They would want to give me what they thought I should be driving, what they thought I should be in,” Watson said. “I receive a lot of clients who tell me the same thing. They will come here and see a car they didn’t think they could afford.

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As Reverend Clifford Jackson examines a Cadillac Escalade, Marcus Watson describes its features. Jackson is a regular customer of Watson’s Auto Wholesale, 6740 Prospect Ave. Jill Toyoshiba [email protected]

A passion for cars

A native of Raytown, Watson began selling cars as a freshman at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

His mentor, longtime East Side car salesman William Ruffin, took him to wholesale car auctions, closed to the general public, to find cars. Ruffin gave him copies of the Kelley Blue Book, which established benchmarks for used car prices. He showed her how to inspect auction cars and find the ones with potential.

He would come back to Kansas City regularly to go to auctions, picking up a car or two. In Saint-Joseph, he bring those cars in parking lots around campus and display sales signs on windshields.

After first selling a 1986 Pontiac Firebird, Watson estimates that he sold around 30 used cars during his three years in Missouri Western. He was earning about $ 400 to $ 500 per car, enough to cover college expenses.

Watson left school to start working for AT&T in their call center at Lee’s Summit. But his post there was cut in a mass layoff, forcing him to make a change.

It didn’t take long for him to find his way back to the cars.

Watson found abandoned land on 68th and Prospect, not far from Research Medical Center. The owner agreed to lease the land to him and eventually agreed to sell it.

Since it opened in 2004, the auto industry, like so many others, has been transformed by the Internet. There are many websites that make it easy to compare the prices and specifics of used cars between multiple dealerships.

Watson publishes its inventory online and on Facebook, which attracts some customers. But he said most of his sales come from walk-in customers, repeat buyers and customer referrals.

“Used car dealers have a bad reputation,” he said. “But I’m doing my best to be fair.”

Watson’s three-employee team rack up around $ 3 million in sales per year, he said.

“I’m on about 30 cars a month,” Waton said. “Being a small group like that feels really good. “

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Marcus Watson, left, shows customer Javier Martinez vehicles for sale at his car dealership, Watson’s Auto Wholesale. Watson sells a variety of used cars but specializes in luxury models and says his business has grown. Jill Toyoshiba [email protected]

The lot on Prospect

The parking lot would be easy to miss, except for the bright yellow house turned into an office at the back of the parking lot.

Its inventory of around 30 to 40 cars is tight. There is a wide variety of styles and prices, although it specializes in luxury brands. Recently, he said the stock ranged from $ 4,000 to almost $ 50,000.

Watson regularly visits the I-70 auto auction in Topeka to have the inventory changed. But he still knows the numbers of every vehicle in the field.

That gray Volkswagen over there?

It has 150,000 miles and its price is $ 4,900.

The 2020 Denali across the lot has around 60,000 miles and is priced at around $ 49,000.

“Which is way short of the book,” he said. “The book costs $ 57,000. “

A few years ago, he decided to expand by opening another lot on the so-called Miracle Mile on Independence’s Noland Road, which is home to lots of big names like Cable Dahmer Chevrolet and Metro Ford.

But sales were nothing like Prospect’s and he quickly closed that outpost to focus on the East Side lot. Since then, he has bought plots nearby and hopes to one day expand to occupy an entire block on Prospect.

“Fortunately, I just found a niche here in my area and it went well,” Watson said. “Of course, with used cars, you can’t please everyone. It is almost impossible. But in 18 years, I’ve probably had two or three bad reviews.

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After Javier Martinez, right, looks at a few cars at Watson’s Auto Wholesale, owner Marcus Watson helps him find financing. Watson regularly helps customers find the best way to pay for their cars. When their credit rating goes up, they can improve their car. Jill Toyoshiba [email protected]

Watson does a lot of cash transactions. For funded transactions, it relies on external lenders, including those who offer subprime loans, who charge a higher interest rate to borrowers with poor or limited credit history.

Some of those interest rates can reach 21%, Watson said, especially if buyers have recently experienced credit failure events like bankruptcy or foreclosure.

While these rates may match credit card interest rates for some buyers, Watson said he tries to advise people to make wise decisions. For some, that may mean paying a high interest car bill for a year to establish a good payment history, then trying to refinance. For others, it might mean buying something cheaper than they initially envisioned.

“He gave me the game plan on how to do it,” said Paul Sowell, who came to Watson in May with a poor credit history.

Sowell, who drives a forklift at a local soda warehouse, said his credit was damaged by poor financial decisions from his youth. He couldn’t remember the exact interest rate he got when he bought his 2007 Cadillac Escalade, but said Watson went out of his way to find the best deal for him.

“He did his best, especially with my credit where he was,” he said. “I can’t be mad at all about that. My payout rate is wonderful. I expected and was prepared to pay more.

When Sowell arrived on the field, he immediately spotted an Escalade. But Watson urged him to wait for another model he had in the retail store.

“He was really trying to be careful,” he said. “He knew my taste, my flavor.”

Sowell considers all used cars a gamble, whether bought in a small batch like Watson’s or one of the giant dealerships.

“For me, it all depends on who you can trust with your money,” he said. “I just trust him.”

Kansas City Star Stories

Kevin Hardy covers the affairs of the Kansas City Star. He previously covered business and politics at the Des Moines Register. He also worked for newspapers in Kansas and Tennessee. He graduated from the University of Kansas

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