A couple years ago, I was on the hunt for a Bolt EV. The local dealer’s website said they just got one in, and it had been listed as “in transit” the day before. So, I called to verify, and was told that they had just got it in. Awesome! They even said nobody was looking at it, so if I hurried down it shouldn’t be a problem.
So, I got myself cleaned up (as a remote worker, that doesn’t always happen early in the day) and ran down there. But, when I got there, I was told that the car had just sold and was gone.
To me, this didn’t really add up. If nobody was looking at it, and I got down there pretty quickly, there really wasn’t time for a sale to occur. As we all know, it usually takes hours to buy a car, even if you pay cash.
But, a recent post on Twitter (the website that now identifies as X) shows us that this is often done on purpose.
This is way more common than you think.
“Yes, it’s available” does not mean the car is guaranteed to be sitting at the dealer and able to be sold. pic.twitter.com/irgVF45S9a
— CarSalesGuy (@carsales_guy) January 30, 2024
It turns out that many dealers tell everyone on the phone to tell potential customers that the car is there, even if it isn’t. Why? Because they want to get you in the door.
In my case, it wasn’t long before they told me they had something else for me to look at. When I was unimpressed with the idea of picking up a big, ugly Silverado (I don’t hate pickups, but the newest Chevy trucks are bulky and ugly, as are most newer pickups), they tried to get me to look at some little crossovers that get 25 MPG. Ummm, no.
Finally, they took me to the back of the lot where some Bolts and EUVs were sitting awaiting batteries. For the low, low price of just $10,000 over MSRP, one could be mine! (This was in 2022) The batteries should be here in a few months! Just give us $2000 to hold it…
Yeah, no way.
But, that’s the strategy behind lying about the availability of vehicles. If they can get someone in the mood to buy a vehicle to come in, the chances of making a sale anyway are greater than zero. Many buyers aren’t committed to a particular model. Many don’t know very much about cars. Some people just want the excitement of something new.
This Is Backfiring, Though
But, there’s a downside to this that these dealers don’t consider: lost trust.
In my case, I went elsewhere and found my Bolt EUV. I got a much better price, the vehicle was actually available, and they didn’t try to play any games with GM rebates or the rideshare driver discount. I’ve been very happy with the car since. But, I’m never setting foot in the first dealer again. They wasted my time, and then insulted me with games.
Eventually, a dealer will do that to enough people in town and it will become a problem.
Or, worse, the reputation of dealers in general goes down. As we’ve seen, new EV manufacturers just aren’t playing the game, no matter how much political power the dealer lobby has at the state level. And, despite all that, companies like Tesla and Rivian are winning the battle because dealers have pissed off enough customers that they’re simply done with them. Having a state legislature bought and paid for proved to not be enough.
If car dealers don’t start finding ways to play nicer, they’re going to go away completely. And, that’s before we consider the problems that plague used car lots.
Featured image: Harry Wormwood, a crooked car dealer played by Danny DeVito in the 1996 movie Matilda.
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