In Part I, I related my story of being fooled into thinking I had won $5,000 in a contest being run by a local Honda dealer. Here I will relate to you what I experienced when I went to my local Nissan dealer to purchase my 2012 Nissan Leaf at the end of its lease.
I received a letter in the mail from Nissan offering to take $10,500 off of my lease residual and to waive the $395 lease return fee if I would buy my Leaf. This put my sales price right at $4500 before tax, tag, title and dealer fees. I like my Leaf and it has been very reliable and has more than paid for itself in gas and maintenance savings. I also think that it will eventually qualify for a new battery under warranty.
I went in on a Sunday afternoon with my 12 year old son. Before going in, I decided to take a look at the used cars they had on the lot just to see what they had. This particular Nissan dealer doesn’t usually have much to look. They also, frustratingly, do not publish their prices on their website. It just says “Call For Price”.
However, on this day, they had a beautiful 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost with the performance package and the premium package with navigation. And, it was a manual.
When I went into the showroom, I was greeted by a very young salesman. I told him that I was there to purchase my Leaf and showed him the letter. He said he could help me with that and led me to a cubicle. He asked me if there was any chance I might be interested in anything else. I told him that I was curious what they were asking for the EcoBoost. The salesman asked me to wait a moment while he went and asked. I immediately knew this was not going to be fun. That little voice inside my head said, “Buy the Leaf and get out”.
While he was gone, I decided to quickly look the mustang up on Kelley Blue Book (KBB). I didn’t know exactly what options it had, so I decided to just deck it out. KBB came back with an average price of $24,678. The salesman returned and stated $29,000. I showed him the KBB price and told him that $29,000 is way out of line - not even close. We were doing the dance now. He excused himself and came back a couple of minutes later. The price was now $27,000. I told him that if I bought the car, there was no way I would pay more than the $24,678 KBB price. Let’s get on with the Leaf.
I then noticed an older gentleman lurking nearby. He immediately came over and said that he could probably get closer to the KBB number. Why don’t we take the car for a test drive. Fine. I figured I had nothing better to do and now was my chance to drive an EcoBoost Mustang with the performance pack and a manual. The young salesman came along.
I liked the car a lot except that someone had stolen the shift knob, so it wasn’t as much fun as it could have been. When we got back, we went inside and began the dance again. As I mentioned, my son was with me. I didn’t have a father growing up, so I don’t have the story of where my father could have bought the Corvette, but chose the Family Truckster instead. Still, I know these stories exist, so I was thinking, hey, maybe I can be the cool dad.
The price was now $26,000, and the little voice was getting pretty agitated - “buy the Leaf”. At this point, the older sales manager type says - why don’t you take it overnight. Hmmm - the use of a Mustang with no obligation for 24hrs. That might be fun. Ok, what the hell. The little voice is fuming the whole way home.
On the way home, I do begin to notice little things - like how the steering wheel wasn’t true, and there was some wear and tear and of course, the lack of a shift knob was highly annoying. I also notice how big this thing is. At home, my wife was nonplussed. She gets along well with the little voice. But, she is good about these things and even took the mustang for a spin around the block. As is often the case in these situations it was do what you want.
I decided that I had better get a little more serous about researching this car and its price. I hopped on CarGurus to see what dealers were asking. I searched for 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoosts within 50 miles. And lo and behold, what comes up but the very mustang sitting in my driveway. It is at the same Nissan dealership, and now there is a price - $23,900. WTF?!?!?
I immediately called the dealer and asked for the salesman. The receptionist said he was busy, but I could leave him a voicemail. On the voicemail, I told him I was bringing the car back and I wanted to buy my Leaf. I was done. The little voice was doing cartwheels.
When I returned, they asked me why I decided not to keep the car for the test drive. I simply said that it wasn’t for me. They couldn’t see it, but the little voice was giving them the finger. I didn’t mention CarGurus as I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could.
Now I know some of you work for dealerships and may even be salesmen. I know there are those who think this behavior is fine - survival of the fittest and all that. But, it doesn’t work for me and I venture to say that it doesn’t work for the majority of people.
I have bought cars at CarMax and do not recall being treated this way. I applaud Tesla for challenging the franchised dealer business model for new cars. I am intrigued by Carvana (love their commercial) and in Italy, Amazon is now selling new Fiat Chrysler cars online. I don’t know if these new distribution models will force the traditional dealers to be more honest. They may even become less honest as they descend further into the abyss of low credit/no credit with higher margins and risk. Either way, I think things will change.
The only thing that I do know for sure is that there are two franchised dealers in my area that will never get (another) dime of my money or second of my time.