By on July 21, 2009

Vijay Ravindran at the WaPo’s Achenblog details his own descent into Camaro buying hell:

“I wanted a Chevy Camaro.

I’d never really liked American sports cars before. But the 2010 Camaro — a revival Chevrolet has been talking up since 2006 — is so much more sleek than your typical muscle car. And since my BMW 330 started showing its age (nine) around the same time that the death of the U.S. auto industry hit the headlines, I thought: Why not do a little something to help?”

“So, after seeing a newspaper ad promoting Camaros at a local Chevy dealer, I called and left a voicemail saying I was interested in a test drive.

I never heard back.

I was shocked. Here I was, ready to buy, while GM was in financial straits. I thought they’d be all over me. Turns out it’s not so easy to obtain a piece of the American dream.”

Needless to say, the story doesn’t end here. Ravindran tries several dealerships and gets treated like, well, crap. Which begs the question: if a halo car brings people into the dealerships only to be disappointed, what’s the point?

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74 Comments on “May I Please Buy A Camaro Now?...”


  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    He should consider himself lucky. If it’s that much trouble to buy the damn car, think what he’ll go through when he has to have it repaired under warranty.

    And dealers wonder why consumers hate them, and why there is little sympathy for those who have lost their franchises…

  • avatar
    postman

    Companies exist to make money. They used to do this by selling a product. Lately they have found a more profitable source of revenue: the
    U. S. Treasury. So they aren’t in a hurry to return your phone calls. They’re all in Washington lobbying for, and getting, gazillions of dollars.

  • avatar
    petrolhead85

    Vijay should consider himself lucky, he escaped Camaro buying hell before falling further into Camaro owning hell. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the car, but I’d sure as hell think twice about buying one of the first-year cars with all the problems that have been reported so far.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    Don’t feel bad man – I went to a dealer driving a Dodge Charger with Hemi decals all over it hoping to check out a new Camaro and see what all the fuss was about… and my car is starting to have these pesky MOPAR electrical problems.

    I haven’t heard back from the dealer either. Technically you could make the argument that you’re just in purgatory – not Hell. You don’t enter a Circle of Hell until a dealer wants to to become your consort with the objective of taking your money.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Vijay should send his story to Mr.Obama, some heads will roll then….He’s the supreme CEO/chairman/executor no?

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Since the story is in Obama’s local newspaper, I guess you can rest easy, someone at the WH will probably notice.

    Read the comments to Ravindran’s article …

  • avatar

    It’s possible that many of the good car salespeople have moved to greener pastures because of carmeggedon, leaving the dregs behind.

    I wonder if direct sales from the manufacturers (which I understand has legal obstacles in this country) would be better. It seems to me that there’d be more accountability and more uniform standards.

  • avatar
    Campisi

    If the car is selling well enough and the supply is still tight, the dealers probably won’t take him seriously until he actually visits a showroom.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Stein X Leikanger

    Read the comments to Ravindran’s article …

    There’s a madness that’s hard to touch in some of them.

    @ Ronnie Schreiber

    I wonder if direct sales from the manufacturers …. would be better. It seems to me that there’d be more accountability and more uniform standards.

    Manufacturers would love nothing more than build-to-order what ever way it is delivered (internet shopping, mail-order catalogue, dealers). It might be the only thing that makes the industry profitable again (in the USA at least).

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I really don’t think this is limited to the car industry.

    My wife and I bought a new house. She wants new cabinets. We ripped out the old ones & went shopping.

    Home Depot only carries the absolute lowest quality ones in stock. ANYTHING ELSE must be special ordered.

    I left home depot & went to Menards. Same thing, but they had 4 choices vs 2. Six weeks for me to get the cabinets. “Custom”.

    We ripped out the bathroom. My wife wanted a specific vanity with granite countertop, NOT on sale, at $400. We checked 2 home depots & a single lowes TWICE. “They should be in but we don’t have any. Don’t know when they are coming in. They should be here but the computer doesn’t show any.”

    I went to Lowes to buy new appliances. First trip I was there 2 hours looking and talking with the salesman. I finally pick out the fridge, and he says they don’t have any in stock and can’t get soon. I pick a 2nd one and they don’t have any. I give up. I come back a week later AFTER the sale, and I talk with the manager. I pick yet another fridge, and they don’t have any……..”Computer says 30 days”. All I want to do is buy something and go home with it. Like every other retail store. We find out from the manager that whirpool is out and needs to start production. They MAY start production of that model in 6 weeks (30 BUSINESS days). He says he’ll call me again on Thursday.

    I shop online @ sears & find a sale. Delivery is in 2 days. If it’s not delivered, then I’m going to cancel.

    Want to know why there is no economic recovery? NOBODY CAN SELL ME ANYTHING.

  • avatar
    findude

    I had a similar experience with a Ford dealership a couple of months ago. I was looking at a Ford Fusion as a purchase probably about 3-4 months ahead of my visit. They were reasonably friendly in a stereotypically sleazy car-salesperson sort of way. But, at no point did anybody ever try to sell me a car. They pitched financing. They talked about rebates (money on the hood). They told me if I couldn’t make payments because I lost my job, there was coverage for that (I’m a cash buyer). This place had four long rows of Fusions in every configuration and color you could imagine, probably 60+ cars. They never tried to sell me a car. Seriously, they never tried to sell me a car. I had spent about 40 minutes on the Internet researching the Fusion, and I knew MUCH more about them than anybody I met at the dealer. They put all their effort into extracting personal information about my financial situation and possible trade in–stuff they need to know to put me at a further disadvantage at negotiation time. Great, give them info for them to use their thumbscrews on me while not getting any information about the product in consideration.

    Why should I buy anything from them?

    I’ve decided my next purchase will be a private party sale used car. I’d love to buy a new car from a dealer, but there is simply no value added to be experienced when shopping there.

    It’s time to move on from the dealer-based car sales model. Maybe I’ll give it one more try with getting on-line quotes and finding the best deal first. Then I’ll do the test drive and walk away if I’m not interested in the product.

  • avatar
    John R

    I’m sure if I put up the same effort to check out a Genesis, coupe or sedan, I’d be test driving one this afternoon.

    This is pathetic.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    So, is anybody still wondering why it’s necessary to cull weak dealerships, like they do everywhere else on the planet?

  • avatar
    brettc

    Robstar:

    If you need things like cabinets and appliances and the big box stores are turning out to be useless, try some independent family owned businesses. We bought our kitchen cabinets from a small Homecrest cabinet dealer. He sat down with us and designed our kitchen and priced it all out for us. Delivered everything for free too. Same thing when we needed a dishwasher. Used a local appliance place, and they actually wanted our business! Crazy concepts.

  • avatar
    walksatnight

    Well. Maybe he could bait and switch the dealer. Call and leave a message stating that he is interested in a Suburban. Bet you he’ll get plenty of calls back from desperate sales critters. Of course that will probably be the end of the line for the time being. Surely you would hope they would at least work with him and at least try and order a vehicle. Then he could wait 9 months only to have to order cancelled like the Challenger fans.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    Maybe my standards have been systematically lowered because I lived in the UK before moving to the USA eight years ago, but whether it’s buying appliances, furniture, cars and going out to eat I can barely recall any bad experiences.

    Having visited UK car dealerships where the service is truly atrocious, I found that the Lexus, Ford and Chrysler dealers in the Chicago suburbs – at least the ones I used – seemed to bend over backwards to be helpful and get my business.

  • avatar
    TomH

    Don’t tell us about your problems trying to buy a Camaro, Tell Fritz! I’d suggest you tell Maximum Bob, as he is responsible for cuddling up to customers, but he doesn’t have a stellar track record for listening.

    Good luck!

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yeah..not returning calls isn’t the way to run
    a buisness. I woudn’t bother wasting anymore time
    with that dealer.

    If I wanted a Camaro that much,I’d find another
    dealer. Lay your cards on the table. Mr salesman
    “I want to buy a standard shift Camaro” Find me one for a test drive.

    E mails and voice mails should be answered, agreed.However if you want to taken seriously
    face to face works a lot better. A commision
    salesman has no time for tire kickers.

    Camaro’s are in short supply. The plant is
    running 6 days a week. Contrary to popular
    opinion, assemblers and management are busting
    thier ass,to insure that defects are contained.
    GM Canada and the CAW have all thier chips on
    the table,with the Camaro. All of us,active and
    retired,know whats at stake.

    Slapping the Camaro together,to make dealers
    happy,just ain’t gonn’a happen

  • avatar
    dwford

    You are not going to get much attention when you shop for hot or rare cars. The Chevy salesman handling your emails knows he doesn’t have the car, knows he can’t get it from the factory (anytime soon) or from another dealer. There is no point in courting your business when he will never have what you want.

    I still have people emailing me asking for 2008 Hyundai Veracruz’s (they have huge rebates). I can’t get one swapped in – I have tried many times, and the 2009′s only have a $1000 rebate. I just tell them like it is and get it over with. Of course, they never come to look at an 09.

    People who want Camaros, Mustangs, etc won’t just buy what’s on the lot, they want and think they can get some oddball combination of options and go from dealer to dealer getting told no. They get frustrated by the “poor” dealer service when the dealer just can’t get exactly what they want.

    If the writer had emailed in asking about a car they had on the lot, I am sure they’d be all over him.

    This episode points to the need to trim the dealer ranks. With fewer dealers, each remaining store would have a better selection, meaning less hunting around on the part of the customer.

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    I had a similar experience with a Ford dealership a couple of months ago. I was looking at a Ford Fusion as a purchase probably about 3-4 months ahead of my visit. They were reasonably friendly in a stereotypically sleazy car-salesperson sort of way. But, at no point did anybody ever try to sell me a car. They pitched financing.

    I went to a VW dealer about 6 weeks ago to take a look at TDIs and some used stuff on the lot. Salesman was nice until we got inside. Overall, it felt more of a pitch for financing and since I wasn’t ready to just sign and take a new car, I was treated like crap.

    I told the guy from the start that I would not be buying today and he brings me a sheet for a trade-in appraisal that’s the contract for trading in. So I changed a line and initialed saying I only wanted an appraisal and I wasn’t buying right now. Then 3-4 trips back to the finance guy. They didn’t care what car it was, they just wanted me to get financing through them. Ugh.

    Won’t be buying from them in the future if I do decide to get a TDI. In fact, my most likely new car purchase will be all done online as I know what cars I want. I don’t need to physically be there to haggle. It would be so nice to have direct buy or online buying.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    walksatnight: “Well. Maybe he could bait and switch the dealer. Call and leave a message stating that he is interested in a Suburban.”Additionally, he could have said he wanted to finance through the dealership and buy ‘today’. I’ve read that immediately saying the magic words “I want to buy today” (and often) really gets the undivided attention of car dealership personnel. Man, imagine a salesman with the prospect of selling a slow-selling, high-profit, full-size SUV. The phone would have been ringing off the hook with salespeople trying to get hold of the guy.

    While domestic dealerships are largely populated with sleazeballs, consider the other side of the coin. A car salesman’s greatest fear is that he’ll be wasting his time on some schmoe that is ‘just looking’ and wanting to get free information while a true customer that wanted to sign on the dotted line walks away.

    Even though he claims he ‘really wanted to buy a Camaro’, it’s difficult to know if that was actually the case. I mean, it sounds like he hadn’t even seen one, let alone taken a test drive. He certainly could have changed his mind after actually having the Camaro ‘experience’ in the flesh. Although I haven’t driven one, just sitting in one with that ultra-high beltline, ‘slammed’ top and gunslit side windows tells me I wouldn’t want to drive one on a regular basis.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    While I agree it is bad business not to follow up with a potential customer who calls in or sends an e-mail, the real issue is likely the lack of inventory.

    We are getting lots of people coming to the lot asking about the 2010 Taurus, and after telling them there are none on lots yet, but offering to take a name and number and give them a call when some arrive, 90% of people decline the offer. Also, whenever a hot new car comes in, especially a sporty car, there are a lot of people who just want to come in and drive it, with no intention of buying it.

    While in general it is a good idea to go ahead and let someone drive the car on the chance that they may be a real buyers, when inventory is virtually nill, and the dealer is trying to sell at full sticker while the car is hot, test drives do need to be limited because those that will buy the car don’t want one that has racked up a bunch of miles on test drives.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ bluecon……Wrong! The launch has been a success. The line is running steady.
    From what I hear the cooperation between trades/assemblers
    management and engineers is at an all time high.

    It is impossible to run the plant any faster,
    while maintaining quality.

    bluecon states he was around the plant on
    product launches. Me to,many of them. For the
    most part,the contract employees and other outsiders,were pretty good folks.

    The odd time someone came in with an attitude.
    The old chip on the shoulder thing Eh?

    Here’s some inside info,boys and girls. Entertainment could be had,by trying to see
    who could knock the chip off first.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    There’s another approach:

    Wait for the hooplah to die down. Then buy a Camaro. It’s amazing how well you can do when you go where the crowds aren’t. But it takes patience, and not everyone can resist their urge to have it now.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    When I was car shopping last year, I was treated courteously at virtually every dealer and was only ignored at one. Dealerships are in the business of actually selling cars and are often flooded with tire-kickers. You have to make them aware of your intentions and that you are a serious buyer.

    So far as product knowledge goes, I fully expect to know more than any salesman. After all, this is a big purchase, and if I do not spend a LOT of time on-line seeking information (especially from current owners), then I deserve what I get.

    The desire for direct factory sales is one I do not understand. If there are no dealers, how would you do a test drive? Would you really spend the money for a new car without driving one several times first?

  • avatar
    slateslate

    If I was a GM marketer (are you reading Karen what’s your name?)…..

    I’d round up all the press/in-house Camaros and hold a traveling “Camaro Fair”– like GM/Lexus/Merc./etc. used to do at tracks and parking lots around the country for no-hassle road tests on an enclosed track.

    Charge $xx for entrance to cover costs and in exchange you get a $yy coupon good for GM Goodwrench service or toward a new car along with the assorted freebies.

    This ain’t rocket science.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ jimmy2x (Goodfellas?)

    If there are no dealers, how would you do a test drive?

    I’m sure this is an increasing trend, but in Australia at least, you can book a test drive online. Currently that is data collection and referral to your nearest dealer.

    Without dealers, I imagine the “manufacturer support office” in your local area would arrange a car to arrive for you.

  • avatar
    JonnyZX

    Beautiful car.
    That said, wouldn’t touch one with a ten foot pole, and if I was given one I’d sell it on Ebay.

    JUNK Cars (though certainly not all of them)
    Financed by JUNK bonds
    Owned by a JUNK government

    The most UN-American company in America

  • avatar
    moedaman

    PeteMoran :
    July 21st, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Manufacturers would love nothing more than build-to-order what ever way it is delivered (internet shopping, mail-order catalogue, dealers). It might be the only thing that makes the industry profitable again (in the USA at least).

    Jeez, this was the way my father used to buy cars back in the 60′s (dealers only back then). Weren’t the manufacturers the ones who changed the way things are done in the first place?

  • avatar
    Samir

    This isn’t restricted to domestic dealers, in all fairness. I’m sure you guys can find millions of stories about people being treated like crap at BMW.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    This illustrates what BS Fritz is peddling.

    Culture reversal at the average GM store is a lost cause.

    GM can’t even get “buy-in” on Service Menu pricing.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    I believe we have to admit that this Camaro launch is flippin’ hilarious as history repeats itself for GM over and over, plus a few new wrinkles. Let’s consider:

    1. Typical GM 1st year build/supplier quality problems

    2. Dealers all ga-ga and playing games with add on pricing and treating customers like crap cause this is the one time in their minds they can have customers begging for a car

    3. How many launches for niche cars like this have had high initial “pent-up” demand only to fall down to low levels later on. Go back and do some historical research, Fiero, Reatta, Allante, SSR retro-pickup-thingy, PT Cruiser, Prowler, Thunderbird, etc…Also look at typical standard GM car launches and how they would spike early on and trend down in sales

    4. Lutz all jazzed ’cause he can boast that they are selling 10k units a month. Oh boy! Yep. That will save GM. Meanwhile the Accord and Camry sell how many units year over year over year….Lutz is hiding some special tobacco in his cigars

    5. Fools rush in and pay MSRP or over MSRP to have said niche car only to find resale later on to be horrendous

    6. Now add Barry Obama running GM and pouring $$$ into it. Heck yes, why should the old GM folks running the “new” GM really be concerned about doing anything right when they’ve got Uncle Sugar at their back to keep their paychecks forthcoming

    7. All that said, we should embrace freedom of market choice and if citizens want to buy Camaros let ‘em buy Camaros. They too should have the right to be “responsible” in making their purchase decision. But don’t make me pay for their responsibility and their purchase decision!

  • avatar
    REL

    dwford:
    People who want Camaros, Mustangs, etc won’t just buy what’s on the lot, they want and think they can get some oddball combination of options and go from dealer to dealer getting told no.

    Imagine that, people actually think that they should be able to buy what they want instead of what the car companies want to sell – what a bunch of rubes.

    There is absolutely no reason that the dealer shouldn’t be able to say some version of the following: “I can look for the car you want, or I can custom order it. Custom orders are currently taking X months. This is/isn’t faster than I can expect to find one through my normal channels.”

    This is part of the reason that the manufacturer/dealer network needs to be completely redone. The dealer should exist essentially to offer service, take custom orders and schedule test drives (of standard models available primarily for that purpose) – in that order.

  • avatar

    This isn’t limited to Chevy dealerships. Several years ago, I test-drove an Audi A4 wagon (not exactly setting the sales charts on fire) at a local Audi store. I liked the car and had no hurry to get it. I said that I wanted one with a specific series of options – nothing weird – and asked when they could get one like that. After the salesman checked their upcoming deliveries and said there was nothing in the pipeline, I said, “That’s ok – just order it and I’ll wait.”

    At that he said they really had no means to do so but would be happy to deliver a similar car with an automatic transmission. The experience was sufficiently off-putting that I went to the BMW store nearby, drove a 325 wagon and asked about ordering. They were only too accommodating.

    It’s possible that the car business will change after this current disaster, but doubtful. As consumers, we keep getting worse and worse service and still keep buying the stuff, so why change?

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    I was hearing today at NPR that the marketing strategy for the Camaro included pitching the car to young male americans going to watch the new Transformers movie.

    Now how can anybody respect a car company that pays itself multimillion dollar bonuses, makes all the wrong choices and goes bankrupt and pitches a car after a crappy movie made for adolescents? How can anybody buy their product? How can anybody consider their product?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had a pretty similar experience when shopping for my Saab 9-3 Sportcombi. I wanted a leftover ’08 2.0T with a manual transmission (a rare car), and was perfectly willing to travel to get it. I called 5-6 dealers, not one returned my call!

    Finally, I just sat down and spent 3hrs searching through Saab’s inventory website, and found a car 125 miles away in Boston. And really lucked out, as the salesman was FANTASTIC! Alex at Herb Chambers Saab in Boston. He was terrific to work with.

    The finance guy on the other hand, was an @ss. This was the simplest possible transaction, no trade, I already had financing arranged through my credit union at a rate that they couldn’t match. All I needed was the number for the CU to cut the check for, and I could drive down and pickup the car. He tried every trick in the book to get me to finance through them, up to saying that I would have to make two trips down to the dealership if I didn’t finance with them. I told him I was making ONE trip, to pick up the car, and that he needed to make it happen RIGHT DAMNED NOW or I would be making NO trip. Finally shut him up, and I got my number.

    So far the service experience has been good too, and the car flawless. Heck of a car for $23K. ~$12K in rebates and discounts.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    I can tell you that the Audi dealership where I bought my Audi Certified 2004 A6 S-Line was just awesome. Here I am buying a used Audi for 27,000 (canadian) which was a smokin’ deal and less than their base entry level A3 brand new. So its not like I was dumping a load of cash on them. Despite the fact I was buying a used car the Audi dealership:
    1) Gave me the easiest sales experience I ever had, no pressure, very friendly.
    2) Gave me 2 follow up calls to see how I was enjoying the car
    3) Gave me Dutch Chocolaits when I picked up the car along with a nice wooden Audi giftbox for my car keys (it was around christmas time)
    4) Gave me a subscription to Audi magazine
    5) Gave me a hardcover “History of Audi” book along with a personally signed letter from the dealerhisip owner thanking me for the purchase.

    Basicaly, it was an awesome experience to go along with getting an awesome car at an awesome price.

  • avatar
    windswords

    This just in: GM says they fixed the manual tranny issue.

    From Autoblog:

    According to The New York Times, General Motors now says that a problem which stopped production of one of its hottest models has been fixed. As we reported first last week, a number of 2010 Camaro SS owners were experiencing failures related to the Tremec six-speed manual gearboxes in their new muscle cars. And while company officials are declining to reveal what the actual cause of the defect was, what we do understand is that something untoward was going on with the output shaft of these vehicles. The defect manifested itself in the form of a debilitating mechanical failure when the affected vehicles were launched aggressively with the engine turning 5,000 rpm or more.

    It appears that the model’s production hold has been lifted, although some vehicles have been held back for inspection, just to make sure. GM’s Adam Denison reports that about a dozen owners had problems, and hopefully the problem with remain isolated, with no further cases coming out of the woodwork. In the meantime, GM has apparently decided that no recall action is warranted.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    +1 slateslate :

    I’d round up all the press/in-house Camaros and hold a traveling “Camaro Fair”– like GM/Lexus/Merc./etc. used to do at tracks and parking lots around the country for no-hassle road tests on an enclosed track.Charge $xx for entrance to cover costs and in exchange you get a $yy coupon good for GM Goodwrench service or toward a new car along with the assorted freebies.

    This ain’t rocket science.

    This is absolutely the answer – Tons of publicity and builds up demand, while giving test drives without burning out the dealer’s limited stock. (No dealer wants to waste a hot model by having it rack up demo miles).

    Throw in a country rock band, a bunch of pretty girls in Ellie Mae cutoff’s and halter tops, serve hamburgers, cokes, and apple pie.

    Maybe have a Charger and a Mustang for comparison runs like Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes do at their events.

    Let’s go work in Detroit slateslate; they need us and it’s our patriotic duty.

  • avatar
    jacad

    So…Your a Chevy dealer who gets 4 Camaros a month and have twenty people a month who will kiss your feet to buy it for MSRP. You can take it to any auto auction and get other dealers to pay three grand over MSRP. Now, your going to get excited about some anonymous geek on the INTERNET who wants to test drive one but it has to be the right one and expects you to go find it for him? Not in this lifetime!

    It does prove though that the manufacturer who produces the right product sells them in quantity regardless of how poor the dealer is in the amateurs opinion.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “…hopefully the problem with remain isolated…”

    Really?

  • avatar

    I can’t be too upset here. The dealer should have some sort of demo, but in a short supply, he won’t. Letting you drive his only and probably sticker plus “stealership market adjustment” car is not a good idea, he’ll probably think you are a tire kicker. He won’t get as much for the car if it has miles on it. He is waiting for the “gotta have it” guy, who is out there-you are not him. He’ll pay market adjustment without driving the car.

    My last car was exactly the way I wanted it. I ordered it and waited, despite the dealer’s best attempt to sell me “what was on the lot”. Once he realized that I was ready to sign the order form came out and the right boxes were checked.

    Sometimes in life you just have to wait. Only Americans think cars are “in stock”.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    “Now, your going to get excited about some anonymous geek on the INTERNET who wants to test drive one but it has to be the right one and expects you to go find it for him?”

    Welcome to the 21st century…serious buyers have been known to shop online; in fact, the demographics of online shoppers tend to skew toward higher incomes and more disposable income. Many times, these same higher income households have more demanding work schedules due to their professions (think doctors, attorneys, CPAs, etc.), they’re not intimidated by using technology to make major purchases, and so they use the internet to avoid the time wasted and BS that goes along with face-to-face shopping.

    Where the auto industry could improve is by finding a way to weed out the serious buyers from the tire kickers. Some real estate and personal computer companies do this by having you pre-qualify by securely submitting proof of resources (real estate) or credit card info (computers). From there, you unlock your ability to either get a showing or choose certain options for your purchase. But until you do so, you may browse the product online to your heart’s content.

    There is a disturbing disconnect here: The customers are pissed off at the way that some dealerships do business, and more than a few dealerships respond by saying, “Well, you don’t understand how we do business.”

    One easy answer is for the dealerships to take the high road by educating consumers on how they do business, and/or by making their transactions more transparent. I’m not holding my breath for either of those things to occur.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    Speedlaw: The guy drove 45 minutes to see the car; if that isn’t a sign of legitimate interest in the car then I’m at a loss as to what else he has to do.

    I think the entire retail business model for automobiles needs to be revolutionized… but that won’t happen without a massive shakeup in state-franchise law. Here’s an article written in 2000 (yes, Netscape 4.0 had a pretty big chunk of browser use back then) that cited the need for a revolution to the automobile sales process.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_3_32/ai_63330933/

    My favorite quote from the article is paragraph #1:

    America’s automotive giants have not always been quick to jump on the next big thing. But they are heeding the call of the Internet revolution. At General Motors, for example, worldwide purchasing chief Harold Kutner promises that by 2003, 80 percent of new car buyers will be able to custom order its vehicles online.

    The guy really wanted to push the e-business model on the “Old GM”

    http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_20/b3681072.htm

    Note to Harold… this is epic over-promise and under-deliver. Then again, Harold did retire in 2001. He was probably shown the door for being a foolhardy old man (at least by GM’s standards of excellence).

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    That’s the way it is for a high-demand car. I have a friend who bought a Honda Fit last summer, during $4/gallon gas. You bought it off the truck with no test drive, or the next guy did, simple as that. She even made an appointment for a test drive and when she showed up, the car she was going to drive had just been sold. Should the dealer not have sold it? They will take the bird in hand every time.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    Companies exist to make money. They used to do this by selling a product. Lately they have found a more profitable source of revenue: the
    U. S. Treasury.

    You’re right and wrong here. The US car companies are not interested in making money off of selling you a product and haven’t been for years. Before they settled for the government teet, they were bellying up to the Wall Street bunk and wallowing in their own self-importance, delusional entitlement, and corporate decandence. Take note that after squeezing every department they could, brand sharing 12 different models off the same frame, and reducing their mid-lower workforce as much as possible, the executives turned to Paulson and begged for some cash to keep themselves in fat city, not their workers and not their products. I’m a little preturbed that we didn’t get a little more out of this deal, but there were PLENTY in congress that were fighting for their local lobbyist to get anymore from it.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    “That’s the way it is for a high-demand car…You bought it off the truck with no test drive, or the next guy did, simple as that…They will take the bird in hand every time.”

    Xyzzy, you’ve raised an excellent point, and one that further underscores why dealerships are an outdated delivery system, and why new vehicles should be able to be sold by any party, including directly from the manufacturer.

    In the example of gouging and a “take it or leave it” attitude with hot-selling models, the dealer has chosen to abandon building a lasting customer relationship in favor of a short-term profit. Not that there is anything wrong with this; it’s just that a major reason why state dealer franchise laws were created is because the NADA and its members argued that the public needed to be protected from sellers who did not have the consumer’s best interest at heart.

    Today the buyer usually has several choices of vehicle that will meet his or her needs, and because of this all parties enter the transaction in search of the best deal. Because there are enough viable options to the consumer, and there were once enough buyers, loyalty wasn’t a necessary component.

    So I say, let the distribution channels and markets run free. I wait patiently at my computer for the day when – not if – this happens.

  • avatar
    jacad

    Anyone who thinks there is any loyalty in car sales today is delusional. The same guy who wants the new Camaro today is the same guy who will want the new BMW tomorrow and the next “hot” car the next day.

    While some think buying a car directly from the manufacturer would be some kind of economic windfall, where do you go to get service, where do you trade your old one in, and who do you ask to sponsor your kids t-ball team?

    For those that think dealers have an indifferent attitude when selling a “hot” new car, what’s new? Have you ever tried to get the latest x-box, pet rock, cabbage patch doll, newest Window’s version… and the list goes on.

    Only industry in the world where your exact cost is on a hundred web-sites and you have to trade back in what the guy bought the last time. They been talking about a revolutionary new way to distribute cars for nearly a hundred years and will still be talking when Obama’s kids are collecting retirement!

  • avatar
    mikey

    @bluecon…..The launch has gone great. The only
    snag has been selling 9000 cars in June. Nobody
    would have guessed that high of sales. On a good
    day the plant can make 420.

    We all know they can’t maintain those sales numbers. GM is reluctant to add second shift for that same reason.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Point of the halo car is to bring people to dealerships and create interest in the brand as a whole. But he never even went to the dealership in the first place to be disappointed. It’s a halo car. It’s limited supply means maximum profit. That’s good for GM.

    Sorry, but it seems like a bit too much negative spin on a big DUH.

    My advice is to actually go to the dealership. Leaving a voicemail isn’t going to cut it. Sorry. If you really wanted a Camaro and were serious, you’d try harder.

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    I suggest you call the dealership and leave a message that you want to test drive a Chevy Surburban.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Why not just buy a Cobalt instead? Now that’s, the American Dream.

  • avatar
    skor

    It’s the same old crap at GM. GM has played this game with it’s “halo” cars for decades. Wanted a big block, 4 speed whatever back in 1967? Good luck. You had to have a connection or twice the sticker amount of cash in your pocket. Sorry, but if you have something to sell me, tell me what it is, and how much you’re asking, and I’ll think about. I won’t fight, or beg, to buy anything that isn’t required to maintain life.

    Screw you, Government Motors, you can’t go under fast enough. And you can keep your god damn Camaro.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Martin Schwoerer :
    July 21st, 2009 at 6:39 am

    So, is anybody still wondering why it’s necessary to cull weak dealerships, like they do everywhere else on the planet?

    ——————————————

    Of course it’s necessary. But how do you define “weak”?

    Is it “poor service leading to die by itself weak?” Or, “it’s weak because Chairman Obama and his minions said it’s weak?”

  • avatar
    wsn

    Robstar :
    July 21st, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Want to know why there is no economic recovery? NOBODY CAN SELL ME ANYTHING.

    ———————————————

    Exactly. That’s why I am firmly against any bailout.

    The service that I receive in my local stores give me the impression that the economy is still red hot. A stimulus package is needed only when salespeople positively, seriously want to make a sale.

  • avatar
    wsn

    NulloModo :
    July 21st, 2009 at 8:40 am

    While I agree it is bad business not to follow up with a potential customer who calls in or sends an e-mail, the real issue is likely the lack of inventory.

    —————————————–

    No, the real issue is that the potential customer isn’t worth his 10 second of time.

  • avatar
    wsn

    jacad :
    July 21st, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    While some think buying a car directly from the manufacturer would be some kind of economic windfall, where do you go to get service, where do you trade your old one in, and who do you ask to sponsor your kids t-ball team?

    ——————————————

    1) Repair at any third party shop licensed by the manufacture.

    2) Sell to a private buyer or used car dealer, not any worse than a new car dealer.

    3) We ourselves would have enough money to sponsor everything we could ever imagined for our kids, if we don’t have to sponsor Government Motors.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Thanks, wsn…you saved me the time of typing exactly the same response to jacad’s comment.

    We hear, “There’s no money in new car sales, just in service and in used car sales.” So get out of the new car business and let it be a direct sale to the consumer.

    Last time I checked, Apple and Dell were managing to do this, and don’t try to feed me that line of, “But cars are different/more expensive/more dangerous than computers” or that I “don’t understand the business.” Computers (and televisions, for that matter) used to be sold only be “authorized dealers,” and the world still turns in their absence.

    As for loyalty, since it doesn’t exist – and it doesn’t – why do we continue to support a system of “friendly hometown dealers” that pretends as though there IS loyalty?!? You can’t have it both ways.

    I’ve worked at banks for almost three decades – with plenty of floorplan and dealer financing experience – so I’ve seen where the money is being made, as well as where it is not. And the future health of the auto industry in this country cannot include the current, bloated distribution system.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Internet sales is a joke at most dealerships. management hates it, figuring (rightly so) that most of the sales will be minimally profitable. Many dealerships have poorly designed systems that send out automated emails regardless of whether they make any sense in the relationship the salesman and customer might have developed. And many salespeople hate it because of the lack of profit from it and the perception that they are showing all their cards before the customer comes in, so it is not a high priority at many dealerships.

    As for the salespeople, they are an itinerate bunch, going from dealer to dealer wherever the grass seems greener. This is enforced by management policy at most dealers of produce or die. So the salespeople have little motivation to deal with low margin internet sales that might involve a locate (tons of calls to other dealers trying to barter for cars), especially on a hot or rare car the sales person knows he can’t get. And especially if it involves a car that might have to be factory ordered, which is a whole bunch of extra work that might not pan out if the salesperson leaves or gets fired before the car comes in.

    Better to blow off the potential future customer for one that is ready to go right now, even in this economy. Really.

  • avatar
    dwford

    No, the real issue is that the potential customer isn’t worth his 10 second of time.

    Yes, that is correct, that potential customer ISN’T worth 10 seconds of his time, especially on car like the Camaro where the salesman knows there is very little chance of a sale, for a variety of factors.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    One expects these types of inventory problems with small companies, not with GM. After 100 years of business if they can’t ship a car they spent 6 years developing then they should not even bother. Besides the obvious sheet metal, how is producing this car any different from their others?

    What happens when the Volt is released (if)? They can’t get enough Camaros in stock how the hell can they deliver the Volt, with it’s unique parts and build?

    This is the wrong company to expect greatness from.

  • avatar

    Geeze DW why don’t they just hang a banner on your dealership that says if your not here to buy a car today don’t bother me and stay off the premises.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    As most of the other commenters have said before me, the car buying process is badly broken. I was looking for a certain 2 year old GM car locally and couldn’t get most of the salesmen to give me the time of day. Most refused to answer email requests for info other than to say “come on in and we can talk.” No, I see what you have on your internet site and I want a price. These guys still had no interest. Some never did answer my emails, but somehow I ended up on their dealers automatic mailing list.

    So, I went looking on eBay. Found the car I wanted and bid. Didn’t hit the reserve, so I emailed the dealer and said “Take an offer?” He called me that evening and we had a deal in 5 minutes. I’m in Detroit and he’s in Florida. No problem, here’s how to get here and I’ll pick you up at the airport. Saturday delivery? No problem (it is if you live in Detroit as few dealers here are open on Saturday). How to pay? Why, I’ll take a personal check. Don’t try to use a personal check at any Detroit dealer. Drove the car back home (1100 miles) and it was perfect.

    Go to the local dealer bazaar? Never again. By the way, looked at some of the car listings on craigslist last night and some of the same cars are still for sale 2 1/2 months later. YOU GUYS COULD HAVE HAD A SALE! Too bad.

    The auto execs should have to buy a car from one of their own dealers. Things would change then. As it stands now, most get the “executive” cars that are washed and gassed everyday for free.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Last time I checked, Apple and Dell were managing to do this

    Apple and Dell are exceptions to the rule. Most businesses in most industries do not vertically integrate like that.

    Your average supermarket probably does not grow its own produce. The local stationary store do not make its own office supplies. Office Depot and Lowe’s don’t manufacture the hardware that they sell.

    Even when you see a private label (store) brand, that production is typically outsourced, not done in-house. You even see some oil companies getting out of gasoline retailing, so that they can focus on more lucrative areas of the business such as exploration and drilling. The Dell model is noted for being unusual, not common even within its own industry.

    The main barrier to direct retailing is that wholesalers and manufacturers are typically not good retailers, and vice versa. They’re different businesses, and it’s usually a distraction for a company that is good at one level of the chain to attempt to operate the other.

    In their own (weird, often offensive) way, car dealers do create value for the manufacturers. I would not assume that automakers would be ideal direct retailers. Just because they can build pretty websites does not mean that they would do a great job of getting the product into the hands of the customer or providing support for it once they have.

  • avatar
    dwford

    @Sherman Lin:

    In all honesty, if most salesmen could put a sign out like that, they would – for the customers with long time horizons or hard to find wishes. It’s just reality, right or wrong.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    BuzzDog :
    July 21st, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    We hear, “There’s no money in new car sales, just in service and in used car sales.” So get out of the new car business and let it be a direct sale to the consumer.

    But being a new car dealer makes it easier to sell used cars and repair work. If you are an independent mechanic, you don’t get to file warranty claims, and a lot of people take their newish cars to the dealer they bought the car at automatically. (So the dealer doesn’t make much money selling the car in the first place, but they do make money fixing that same car for the next five years.) Plus, being a new car dealer makes it a “safer” place to buy a used car in many people’s minds.

  • avatar
    wisguy

    It’s not just GM dealers. I’m in the market for a new car and am interested in the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I called the sales droid at our local Janesville, WI dealer, Hesser Hyundia, to verify what they had and arrange a test drive. He told me they wouldn’t let me drive it until we had an agreed upon deal. I told him I wouldn’t spend time negotiating a car I hadn’t driven and didn’t know I liked. He wasn’t swayed, so the call was over… I drive a 2004 Volvo S60 and my wife drives a 2008 Hyundai Veracruz. My Volvo dealer has always, very willingly given me the keys to any new Volvo or Land Rover I wanted to drive, so this was especially shocking.

    Well, I gave them a second chance, thinking my sales droid might be the problem, and I drove over to their shop. The sales manager gave me the same story as the sales guy, namely that the car was new, and “the buyer of this car won’t want miles on it, so we can’t let people drive it until we know we have a deal.”

    We discussed a little more the fact that I wanted to buy a new car, and presumably they wanted to sell a new car, but there was no budging – they wouldn’t let me take their Hyundai out for a test drive. Completely bizarre.

    So, they’ve lost a buyer.

  • avatar
    NickR

    A commision salesman has no time for tire kickers.

    Given their current sales outlook, they should make time for tire kickers and anyone who expresses an interest for that matter. I was in sales for years and NEVER would have let a call like that go.

    Some never did answer my emails,

    Those online inquiry forms or emails? I have filled out those online inquiry forms several times and the only time I got a rapid, helpful response was from Suzuki. Everyone else? Vanished into the ether.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Pch101 :
    July 22nd, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Apple and Dell are exceptions to the rule.

    ———————————————-

    If that’s your conclusion, then you probably didn’t understand the rule very well.

    Apple and Dell are both mainstream, B2C, sustainable, mostly profitable companies. They are not exceptions to the rule. They are the rule.

  • avatar

    I understand that DW and you are being honest about that. However that’s why virtually everyone hates dealers and car salesmen. Look at it from our point of view. There is a major recession going on, dealers are going out of business left and right, inventory has been building up (its been winding down only recently) and the same old ehh why waste my time.

    In this case its a hot car. How about the common refrain of not being able to test drive a car that wasn’t the all new Camaro. Its happened to me (admittedly not recently) but others have chimed in on other postings that its happened to them to and those weren’t the low volume all new cars like the Camaro. To us its a lot of money to you its a low sales commission.
    It is quite common for salespeople and their managers to get openly hostile rude and even curse at their customers and I don’t mean they do this in response to similar behavior from customers I mean when the mark doesn’t bite and simply refutes what the sales team is doing.

  • avatar
    Frankenbike

    I’m sorry, but anyone who says they were in sales and would never let a call go is full of crap.

    In sales, we had a little term called “qualification”. You don’t waste time on any customer who couldn’t make a near term purchase, unless you were selling something unbelievably profitable, and you needed to groom them.

    There’s no percentage in grooming a customer when your product availability is indeterminate. Particularly in retail, when the odds are very good that when the product is available, the sale will go to another salesman.

    One huge bit of the fault does lie with the automakers: allocation systems. For a car where the manufacturer is the source of the product’s excitement, any dealer should be able to take an order for any car, and be put in the delivery queue, first come, first served. And the software to estimate delivery is easy enough without actually placing the order.

    So if a dealer has used their allocation, the sales people are completely de-incentivized to even discuss the vehicle in question. Unavailability of product is something that will result in a display of rude self interest after a very short period of time, because commissioned sales people are treated like absolute crap by everyone from their management to the president of the manufacturer. They are the bottom of the hierarchy in every company, and their only value lies in a “closed sale”, which is reflected on their pay check.

    If it isn’t even remotely possible to close a sale, even over a period of months (which the allocation system ensures at this time, even for “ordered” vehicles), please explain why someone would not give up on trying to be nice after the 100th person calls on the phone, not even walking into the dealership, looking for something that you can’t help them with?

    To be sure, there are salesmen/women with the kind of people skills which allow them to ignore their own self interest and frustrations…but they tend to have the better, business to business sales jobs, not the retail kind in which car sales are a part.

    My experiences as a salesman in my younger years have left me with a self conscious avoidance of wasting the time of salesmen when they really can’t help me.

    The Camaro is so good at what it is, that there is simply no place for a salesman to turn a Camaro sale into something else. If they have it in, they don’t even have to try to sell it, it’ll sell itself in a matter of hours unless the dealer is taking an added markup.

    I have never experienced some of the situations being relayed here. If I’ve gone into a car dealership, I look around the lot and see what I want, and I show an interest, the sales folk have been more than eager to help me close the sale. I only had problems when I wanted something they didn’t have and couldn’t get easily.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    @Geotpf: But being a new car dealer makes it easier to sell used cars and repair work. If you are an independent mechanic, you don’t get to file warranty claims, and a lot of people take their newish cars to the dealer they bought the car at automatically.

    My apologies…I just realized that I didn’t do a good job of explaining the business model I had in mind:

    I see new car sales directly from the manufacturer’s website, either to custom order (two weeks to delivery) or from a pool maintained by the manufacturer (less than a week to delivery).

    Delivery would be to a storefront similar to what we currently refer to as the dealer, to whom the manufacturer would pay the destination fee (to perform delivery prep) and the “holdback.” This storefront would also have an internet kiosk to handle customers who are not tech-savvy.

    This storefront would fly the company banner, and be factory-authorized to handle warranty claims(and compensated by the manufacturer for this).

    This storefront could carry a small inventory if they so desired, particularly for customers who needed a new vehicle immediately (such as for accident replacement) and were willing to settle for what’s on hand.

    Just as it is today, a buyer may or may not choose to trade in their old vehicle at the storefront, depending on what the storefront was willing to pay for the trade.

    The website would allow for cash payment (from a bank account), proceeds from a pre-arranged bank or credit union loan or online application for financing from either the manufacturer’s financing arm or a variety of lenders.

    TT&L handled by the storefront, with associated costs built into the destination fee.

    Just as it is today, the buyer may or may not choose to use the factory-authorized service center within the storefront for non-warranty work.

    ADVANTAGES
    No new vehicle inventory costs for dealers, guaranteed income on each unit and an incentive to treat the customer right – if you don’t, they won’t use you as a delivery point.

    The manufacturer is better able to respond to demand, and has control over the customer’s buying experience; a dealer’s practices cannot tarnish the purchase transaction.

    The customer gets what is wanted (instead of what is available) and has the advantage of working with a dealer that doesn’t have to waste time on tire kickers and trying to predict what buyers will want to see on the lot.

    DISADVANTAGES
    The major fight needed to change state laws and squash dealer lobbyists who feel the current system is working.

    The need for factory output would be driven by mouse clicks, and thus less predictable…but factories cannot be started and stopped that easily.

    Dealers lose out on impulse buys for the hot, new models, and face a steep learning curve as they re-educate buyers to the new business model.

    There is still some room for less-than-ethical dealings on the trade-in side of the transaction, but no more than today.

    The customer would have limited opportunities to see and test drive before buying, and would usually not be able to test drive the actual vehicle that was being purchased.

    So, not a perfect solution, but in my mind, better than what we currently have.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ BuzzDog

    Good list. One query;

    Dealers lose out on impulse buys for the hot, new models …..

    Is this real? Maybe there’s a tiny % of impulse buyers, and I think that’s the point; the whole dealership experience with their huge stocking costs seem setup precisely for a non-existent impulse buyer when in reality that just doesn’t happen.

    I would think the vast majority of people research a purchase as significant as a car, or are buying on a well deserved dealer/manufacturer loyality.

    To add/expand on your list;

    ADVANTAGES:

    Manufacturers get to extend JIT to the end-user, resulting in an improvement in profitability. Unsold inventory is the single largest cost killer in manufacturing.

    Sustainable profit IS employment.

    DISADVANTAGES:

    There is an existential school of economic thought that says that you have to people in jobs to create exchanges of money to keep other people in jobs.

    So while it’s possible for a productivity or economic efficiency zealot to argue nearly all retail jobs could be eliminated, what does that create???

    Anyone who is a fan of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy will know that the Earth is actually the planet where the useless third of another planet’s population landed. Hairdressers, shoe salesman, management consultants, marketeers, telephone sanitizers etc.

    Funny stuff, but a bit to close to the bone….

  • avatar
    dwford

    @ Frankenbike:

    Thank you.


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