June 24, 2007

And Echoes With the Sounds of Salesmen (Car Buying Lesson Number One)

The first lesson of car buying is: salesmen lie. That this is no newsflash proves the point. Now, I'm sure that most car salesmen are well-intended folks who are just trying to put food on the table. I also understand that most of them don't make much money on each car they sell. But why is it that, for everyone else (randy Presidents, obsequious Vice Presidential chiefs of staff, alcohol-addled heiresses), lying is a punishable offense, yet for salesmen, lying is rewarded?

Case in point: I'm test-driving a certain Teutonic titan yesterday, with the salesman in the passenger seat beside me. He mentions that one of his customers just returned an even nicer car after only one month and a thousand miles because the customer is being "relocated." He says the car is like new. Beeeep! Lie number one. It's a demo model. We all know how prospective customers abuse those demo models during test drives, just the way the salesman is encouraging me to do that very moment. Then, when I ask the salesman how many thousands less the "returned" car is selling for, he says it's worth even more money than a new car, because the dealership has given it "Certified Pre-Owned" status which includes a longer warranty and an extensive "reconditioning" that adds $3,500 to the price of the car. Brrrnnnggg! Lie number two. "Like new" cars that are one month old with a thousand miles don't need extensive reconditioning. When I point this out to the salesman, I get The Tell. The way to tell that a salesman is lying is simply to push back with a factual retort and watch what happens. He will move his lips, and a stream of words will emerge, but they will make no sense. Because he has no answer.

A few minutes later, I complain to the salesman that, as some magazine and online automobile reviewers have pointed out, the car hesitates annoyingly from a dead stop. His reply? "That's deliberate." Gonnnnggg! Lie number three. When I ask him why a car maker would want its cars to hesitate, then lurch forward when the driver hits the accelerator, he again gives me The Tell -- a mealy-mouthed answer that I cannot decipher.

A few minutes later, his supervisor, the Assistant Sales Manager, tells me lie number four. He says that his dealership would offer me the Edmunds True Market Value (TMV) Price. At the Edmunds.com web site, it is explained in boldface type that "Whenever there is an advertising fee, we take it into account when calculating TMV." These advertising fees are often referred to as DAG or MAKO (both of which are acronyms, I believe). However, when the manager writes out an offer for me, he puts down extra fees on top of the Edmunds TMV price, and mentions that he was adding a "MAK fee." Zzzzzaaaapppp! That means that he was trying to charge me twice for the same fee.
Eventually, I lost count of the lies, and pulled away in the car in which I had arrived -- a shiny, like-new model that I have only driven to church on Sundays.


At 2:15 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

I've concluded that the only way to buy a car is to go in with all the info about what the dealer is paying for the car and offer $x over ($100/$500 whatever you can get by with) with the statement that you do not wish to negotiate. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. Sometimes they are desperate (around the end of the year) to make their quotas and they jump at just about anything. There is positively nothing worse than a slimy car salesman who directs all comments to a woman's husband and calls the woman things like "the little lady" or even worse. I want in alone to buy my 1991 Honda and got exactly what I wanted ($100 markup) on my lunch hour. How's that?

At 10:37 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

It's great if you're paying cash for the car If you're financing or leasing, it presents more opportunities for sneaky stuff by the salesman and his manager. Since I wrote this post, I found one more lie that the manager told me: he said that the best financing rate for my car was 5.99% Frrrzzappppp! When I checked Edmunds, it indicated that dealers were being offered a rate of between 1.9% and 3.9%, depending on the length of the loan, was being offered. So the dealer could buy the financing at the lower rate and jack it up when "selling" the rate to me, thus earning more hidden profit. As you say, one needs to go in with all the info. as to what the dealer is paying, in every respect, to avoid these lies.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger HomeImprovementNinja said...

I'm surprised your thinking of getting rid of your kickass beamer.

Is that car considered less cool on the left coast?

At 10:55 AM, Blogger sunchaser said...

It's even worse if you're not a Caucasian male. According to a study done in the 90s of Chicago dealerships done by law professor. Ian Ayres the markup was as follows: $725 white men, $935 white women, $1195 black women, and $1687 black men (from "Blink")

At 12:30 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Ninja, I have kept my car a year longer than originally planned, and now the factory warranty has run out. The dealership is asking thousands for an extended warranty. Owning a German car out of warranty is like going hunting with Dick Cheney. As far as the cool factor, that's a game that is impossible to win on the left coast, where I have seen the largest concentration of super expensive super exotics anywhere.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Sunchaser, I knew a guy who owned a car dealership. He said that his favorite customers were black men, who never asked to negotiate price. His second favorite customers were women, who he said negotiated only a bit, timidly. I asked him, what about white male Jewish lawyers? He said, "I won't sell to them!"


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