Working week: Ezra Benjamin of Zvi Cars

If a person is a new immigrant, not fluent in Hebrew, horror stories are not uncommon.

Ezra Benjamin 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ezra Benjamin 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Job description: ZviCars is a full-service car sales business.
Title: Partner with Zvi Dorn in ZviCars.
Age: 42.
Marital Status: Married to Harriet, three children
If a customer needs a car, we find a vehicle that matches his needs. We check it, negotiate the best price, walk the customer through the entire bureaucracy, including financing and insurance. Start to finish, we put our customers into the car they want quickly and within budget.
How did you get into this? I was taken for a ride with a used car myself – taken to the cleaners, as a matter of fact, as were a number of my friends. If a person is a new immigrant, not fluent in Hebrew, horror stories are not uncommon. I was a graphic artist but had always loved cars and followed the industry. It occurred to me that if someone was honest and dependable and gave good service, this was a business opportunity.
I started out on my own, but then two years ago joined Zvi, who’d been in the business for over 20 years. Since then, we’ve been selling cars to happy customers all over Israel.
Aliya: From London in 2007 Education: Learned in Or Someach Yeshiva, studied graphic design, video production and filmmaking but never went to university.
First job: At 13, helping a builder. I carried bricks and peeled wallpaper.
Worst job: Doing mindnumbing work in a jewelry company. You put the gold in the machine; the machine goes “Zip!” You take it out, put in more gold and do it again. I couldn’t handle it – I wanted to be doing something that made the world a better place.
Who are your clients? English speakers. We don’t even advertise to anyone else. Our normal client is someone who’s struggling to find a car within his budget.
Someone will tell me he’s looking for a minivan but has only NIS 70,000 to spend. I’ll look around, call this dealer, check out that advertisement. In a very short time, I usually find a good car for a client, one that checks out mechanically and is a good buy. I love this business – I love helping people, and I love shopping. It all goes together.

What do you drive? A used Volvo. My problem was that I love cars and if I could, I’d buy everything I liked. So we made a rule: We don’t buy cars. When someone comes looking for a car, I don’t have a used car lot. I can’t say, “Here, buy mine!” Instead, I show them what’s available on the market, from dealers I know to be trustworthy, then let the client choose. It lets us find the best deal for the customer.
Israel’s status car? Probably isn’t one. Most people just want to go from A to Z without getting to know their mechanic very well.
High moment: Helping people out of a jam. Sometimes a new immigrant, who’s inexperienced in the industry, buys a used car, spending every shekel he has on it. Three days later, the car is making funny noises, and he finds out that his car is actually parts of two damaged cars welded together.
It’s worthless – and, worse yet, unsafe. So he comes to me with almost no money left. We find him a car, arrange the financing, whatever it takes. Or the woman who’d been told she’d paid the full price for an imported car, then got a bill for NIS 65,000 from customs. She’d been cheated. Helping someone who’s suffered like that feels good.
Low moment: I sometimes feel like I’m walking a tightrope. Everyone dislikes a car salesman; it’s worse than being a politician. But sometimes I make a mistake, too.
One time I relied on bad directions and arrived an hour late and really got chewed out. I do the best I can, but I’m a sensitive guy, too. It hurts.
Controversial? We say we’re the only honest used car salesmen in Israel, which tends to be controversial among other salesmen. Actually, we work with several others who are fine people, 100% straight. We love them.
Perks? It’s a beautiful thing to help someone live in Israel, whatever part you play. When a mother gets a car, meaning she won’t have to walk her kids up the hill to school every day, that’s a fun thing to do.
Biggest accomplishment? Staying happy. It’s not easy to stay happy, to stay in love, to keep those things as a top priority.
Dream? To become a household name. When someone wants a safe car without getting ripped off, they’d know to call ZviCars.