Selling automobiles is not an activity for the faint of heart. Profit margins are thin as the fabric on a Fredricks of Hollywood negligée, clients are few and far between, and keeping the customers, manufacturers, financiers, and employees happy is more than a full-time job. As a result, just about any kind of promotion you can think up that works is a big honkin’ deal. So you’d think that when you’re a dealer that comes up with an idea that sells cars, the banks, the manufacturers, and the “creating jobs is job #1” Federal government would be thrilled. And you’d be wrong, when that idea involves guns.

Mark Muller is the owner of Max Motors, a new car dealership in Butler, Missouri. He sells American cars – Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Jeep, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Back in July of ’09, Muller was interviewed on CNN about his Annual Great Guns and Gas Give-Away, where every new car sold came with a voucher toward the purchase of an AK-47.

I know a thing or two about automobile marketing. For longer than I care to remember, I wrote, directed, and edited TV spots for a chain of local car dealers, new and used. Lets just say that doing car promotions is to advertising and marketing what ambulance-chasing is to practicing law. Good promotions are hard to come by. Particularly ones that don’t cost more than they’re worth. Fundamentally, car dealers have somewhere between $200 and $400 per car, to spend on advertising/promotions. That includes TV time, newspaper ads, et cetera. The best promotions are ones that get people in the door, but they rarely actually redeem, i.e., a coupon. Coupons are great – they cost next-to-nothing if the customer doesn’t bother to redeem it, and the cost of redemption is built-in to the sale price of the car.

Max Motors AK-47 promotion is just about perfect – high profile, and easy to administer. That is, until CNN came a-callin.’ That’s when the fecal matter impacted upon the oscillating, rotating device for moving large volumes of air.

Within three days of the story airing on CNN, the dealership got a visit from those conscientious folks over at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – better known as the ATF.

The ATF swooped in on the dealership while Muller was out, demanding to talk to the person in charge and to see the guns. The ATF agents refused to believe there were no guns – just vouchers. The next day, Muller was “invited” to come down to a meeting and was instructed to bring all his personal guns. Muller wisely held his ground, insisting on a little thing called “due process.”

Muller reports that the ATF folks were very polite, but would not back down, even though he explained that NO guns were being given away – only vouchers towards the purchase of a gun. When he asked the lady at the ATF, “Don’t you have something better to do?” she explained, “Let me tell you how important this is, the White House started their morning with a briefing on you. We got a call from Washington, D.C. this morning. They wanted you checked out.” So I suppose, the answer to Muller’s question was “No, they DON’T have anything better to do. Muller was also threatened with a raid on his home, to audit his personal firearms. (To date, the raid has not taken place.)

You’d think pressure from D.C. would be enough. But nooooo – Muller’s three-year relationship with the First National Bank of Kansas was terminated immediately. “Never send us more paperwork: You’re done,” they said. “What you’re doing is irresponsible – and we don’t ever want to do business with anyone like you ever again.”

His insurance was cancelled by an agent in Harrisonville, not only for Max Motors, but for unrelated businesses that Muller owns. And let’s not forget the fine folks in state government. The Missouri Department of Revenue tried to shut down Max Motors over some petty regulations. When Muller quizzed the agent as to if their attention to his business was related to the gun promo, the agent smiled and said, “WHAT promotion?”

Not enough persecution for you? How about Government Motors General Motors? Citing the attack on a Jewish Community Center in California by right-wing extremists, GM demanded Max Motors cease and desist the promotion immediately, or lose his Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealerships.

Muller asked to see the letter, signed by then-GM senior advisor Bob Lutz. The rep refused to hand him the letter, but finally consented to allow Muller to read it. Muller refused to back down. He lost his Cadillac dealership. Apparently, seeing that the world did not come to an end, and the strong-arm tactics didn’t work, GM is giving Cadillac back to him.

This October, Muller plans to run the promotion again. He’s running it this time through his Ford dealership, but will advertise it in the newspaper that covers his Chevy dealership. Should GM complain, he plans to point out that they have no control over his business with Ford.

So let’s recap: a dealer comes up with a popular promotion, involving vouchers for AK-47s. The ATF, State Dept. of Revenue,  a bank, an insurance agency, and an automobile manufacturer ALL tried to bully Muller or punish him for having the audacity to use a gun (an AK-47, no less) to promote car sales. At a time where jobs are hard to come by and car sales even harder, you’d think offering a voucher for a legal product would be A-okay by the Nanny State. But when the “guns = bad” meme is a constant drumbeat in the media, and ideology trumps common sense, the only thing you can count on is that Max Motors is in the government’s crosshairs.

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39 Responses to Guns n’ Gas Guzzlers Don’t Mix…If You’re Livin’ Large in the Nanny State

  1. Max should open a branch on the border with Mexico, the ATF would be his best customer. Silverados and AKs gives you Fast and Furious.

  2. I love this guy’s promotion. If I lived there, I would not only buy my cars from him, but would encourage everyone I knew to do the same. I will be sending a link to this article to my little group of misfits.

    I remember when this was in the news. I was wondering how he would be handling the guns and then in an interview I heard him say he was giving vouchers for the gun purchase and it became clear. Brilliant marketing scheme.

  3. what a great PR move he didn’t think that this was going to fly under the radar when he did it did he? now he’s a local hit…

  4. My FFL is running a promotion. If you buy an AK, you get a free Chevy. So far, he’s sold a lot of AKs, but nobody wants the Chevy.

  5. What a fascinating story! The Obama Politburo really went after this guy. I guess they were concerned about other businesses becoming motivated to do something similar. It is funny that neither weapon in the photo is an AK47. BTW, Max Motors has a second location in Nevada.

    • I called down there to their Nevada store and they told me General Motors won’t let them run the promotion down there (it’s a GM franchise Store). You have to purchase from their Ford Store to get the AK-47. Government Motors don’t want us folks armed.

  6. and it is Bob Lutz, not Luntz, and he is a cigar chompin’, no bullshit takin’ ex-Marine. He has guns, thinks global warming is a “crock of shit” and wouldn’t put up with this crap. Trust me, having worked at Gov’t Motors before they went under, this “letter” never crossed his desk. Hell, it would be worth Max Motors sending a letter to Lutz calling him out for this wimpy letter and watching heads roll.

    • I merely reported on the data I’d read a couple of places online. I know Lutz only by reputation, but if he’s anything like you say, I’d have to agree someone put his name on the letter with his permission or knowledge.

      • when there was a customer issue a few years back, the warranty center gave the customer the run-a-round. Since I was an executive, I ordered them to fix the problem, even if it wasn’t covered (long story). They bitched about it, and Lutz told them to STFU and damn right thing to do. He is a ballsy guy.

        • Wish you’d been working for GM when I owned a brand-new 1980 Chevy Citation. Hit any kind of bump and the (plastic) heater core would crack. In order to fix it, you had to PULL THE ENGINE. It was an obvious design flaw. I had three of them go bad. Only one was due to me avoiding a collision. The other two were just “regular wear and tear.” NONE of them were covered by warranty, and although I howled to the zone office, they stonewalled me just like the dealership did.

          It’s one of the reasons I don’t drive GM products any more.

        • mine is because of how the did the Saturn brand, disgraceful. I will drive my 06 ion into the ground then look elsewhere.

    • “ex-Marine.”

      There only way for one to cease being a marine is a dishonorable discharge. Otherwise, Marines fall into two categories: Active duty, and former active duty.

  7. Why fear terrorist threats when we have the ATF and Big Brother right here at home trying to force us WHAT to think rather than HOW to think. Pass the vomit bag, please. I served my country for 22 years in the military and this is how our country has gone??? Shameful. I love the American system but fear my government….

  8. I love it when self appointed “smarter-than-thou” individuals try to decide what’s offensive on other people’s behalf. I am Jewish. I am a gun owner. I drive Chevy trucks: my first car was a ’95 Suburban, my second was a 2003 Silverado Z71, and god and the Democrats willing, my next will be a Silverado with the 6.2L Vortec Max. I wish I lived in Kansas for my next truck. Don’t need (or want) an AK, but I wouldn’t mind using the voucher towards the purchase of a Ruger P95.

  9. “Let me tell you how important this is, the White House started their morning with a briefing on you. We got a call from Washington, D.C. this morning. They wanted you checked out.”
    Maybe Todd Jones and Eric Holder do not know what is going on because Obama is micromanaging the local ATF offices. Or, maybe these were rogue agents acting on their own in some sort of botched operation?

  10. I have half a mind to buy a car from the guy just on general principle. Rare is the small business owner who, when threatened in such a fashion, will place his toes on the line and extend his middle appendage.

  11. I’d love to buy a car from this guy just to show him that people care. I wish our local dealerships would run a promo like this, because I’ll be needing a new car soon.

  12. This guy has my vote.I just bought a new Jeep Liberty and had i known about this guy before he would have 1 more unit sold.I would have flown there to pick the veichle up. My wife and i are NRA recruiters and hurray for Mark Muller. You got my vote.

  13. Mad Max Motors would be a great name for a business that offers a short barreled shotgun and a dingo dog with the purchase of every vehicle.

  14. It’d almost be worth the trip out there to purchase from him just to show a little support, if I was in the market for a vehicle

  15. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for this entire yarn. Come on, people. Where are your critical reading skills? Note that the entire story rests solely on the word of the car dealer. No corroboration was obtained for any of it. There are no quotes from the bank, the insurance agency, the state internal revenue, GM, etc. There is no indication that they were even contacted for comment — job one in any legitimate news story.

    Bob Lutz? The White House? Really? The White House? It’s a tall tale, people. Have you never set foot in a car dealership?

    • It’s not true because you are doubtful and don’t want it to be true? Maybe it ain’t but you have to call a few men liars to make that claim.

      • No, just one. That’s what raises a giant red flag with this story. There is no indication that the writer who did the original piece (on which this blog item is based) talked to anyone but Muller. Obviously, in order to get a solid story the writer needed to get statements from at least one of these parties: the bank, the insurance agency, the state internal revenue, or GM. There is no mention that he even tried. It’s reasonable to assume that the story contains some factual elements but for all the reporter knows, Muller could have made up the whole thing from scratch.

        Meanwhile, the references to Bob Lutz and the White House should raise two more large red flags for the objective reader. These are both highly implausible details– the trademark embellishments of the classic tall tale.

    • What, precisely, are you implying?

      I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I often go out of my way to avoid consumption of mainstream journalism. That said, the story of the car dealer giving away free AKs with purchase of a new car is something I have heard more times than I can count over the last month or two.

      So, are you saying that the *entire* story is BS, or just portions of it, and if so, what portions specifically?

  16. Everyone is missing the point… The real reason they are hassling him is because he is using promoting foreign manufacturers. When in fact he should be supporting good old American jobs with vouchers for MSR (aka AR-15) (Sarcasm off…) Now if only my local auto dealers would match him. Maybe I could get a voucher for an AR-10 when I go to get my next vehicle.

    Dave

    • FYI, the AK’s are made in the US (ioinc.us), but they’ll let you go with an AR if you want. I made the same comment when I called and they told me they picked the AK because more people are familiar with the name, but they were VERY insistent that they were American Made Only.

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