Women in the Auto World: Marie Million

As you know, it's hard for women to stand out and make a name for themselves in the male-dominated auto industry. In France, the situation is slowly but surely evolving. In the Lyon area where she sells luxury cars to corporate head honchos, Marie Million's life is full of small misfortunes and big, happy endings.

AutoVenus (AV): How tough is it to be a woman in such a masculine world?

Marie Million (MM): Working hard and being professional about it is the key. While I have to showcase my technical knowledge every time I meet a colleague or a customer for the first time ("You really know turbos, ma'am?"), I'm great at interacting with people and making them feel comfortable enough to trust me.

AV: These are typical qualities of a woman...

MM: Of course. And when I said that I have to showcase my technical knowledge, I mean it's almost as if people are asking me to pop up the hood, dismantle the engine, and name its every part! My job is to sell vehicle fleets to company bosses, as well as F&I products, warranties, and maintenance programs. I have to make sure the equipment meets their specific needs.

AV: So you must know the catalogs of the different makes like the back of your hand?

MM: It's easy when you get to work around some really nice cars. I often recommend the Toyota Yaris to city fleet managers. For others, it's all about comfort and capability, so I point them to Land Rover. We also have some exceptional cars from Lexus and Jaguar. It's quite a fun game! Each month, I always manage to reach my goals with the five makes we represent.

AV: How did you wind up here at just 23 years old?

MM: By chance, actually. I was selling TVs in a superstore near Paris when a customer gave me his business card and said: "I work for a Renault dealer, and I'd like to have you on my sales team." I went over there, and I liked the experience. I knew nothing about cars, but after some quick training, I was already closing sales! A few months later, I got a foothold in SIVAM/Automotion working for Subaru. Soon enough, I was offered a fantastic job within the company, right here in Lyon.

AV: Sales, financing, marketing... So you're some sort of jack-of-all-trades?

MM: Selling cars isn't what it used to be, you know. There's no more smooth talking. When I meet a company president, I have access to their balance sheets, and I can adjust my offer accordingly. Then, it's all about finding the right equipment for the fleet drivers. I can start with a more sensible and functional vehicle, then add some luxurious amenities or even a hybrid powertrain. That's the beauty of having all these great brands under one roof. I also love to interact with customers, and when I help set up model launches, I get to display my marketing skills.

AV: It all sounds like a lot!

MM: Well, I can work up to 50 hours a week at times (unlike some of my colleagues who work a regular, 35-hour week). Truth be told, I don't make a whole lot of money by the hour: I earn a fixed minimum wage, plus a sales commission on each delivery, not to mention a performance bonus at the end of the month. However, things will change pretty soon for me, with an opportunity to become key account manager.

AV: At the end of the day, are you happy?

MM: I'm privileged to have very humane and considerate superiors who help me build the career I want. I'm happy to work with them; they put their faith in me and gave me big responsibilities, which makes me feel valued. It's great to work for a company that focuses on people and not just numbers!

Marie beside a Lexus RX450h

Photo: Anne-Chantal Pauwels