By on January 4, 2017

2016 Lexus IS 300 AWD F SPORT, Image: Lexus

Dave writes:

Should we get a better deal on a special order car vs taking one off the lot? The dealer wants MSRP and won’t budge giving us some story about special orders affecting his allocation. We can’t go to another dealer because the other Lexus dealer in town has the same owner.

We’re looking at an IS 300. The reason for special order is my wife wants an exterior/interior color combo (from the standard colors) that the dealer can’t find in any U.S. or inbound inventory searches.

She’s flexible on other options, just has to have her color combo and is willing to wait for approx 90 days to get it.

Thanks,

Dave

Dave, you seem like a sensible guy, and not a dope fiend at all. So let me drop some knowledge on you about how dealer allocation and special ordering works.

First of all, the dealer’s “story” about special orders affecting his allocation likely isn’t a story at all. While I’m not familiar with the specifics of how Lexus dealers do orders, it wouldn’t be uncommon in the automotive dealership world at large for a special order to affect allocation, especially for a car that’s on the relatively rare side like the IS. While Lexus is obviously a mainstream, volume make, it’s still not Ford or Toyota, and production levels aren’t as high as you might think. There are 675 new IS 300s showing on Cars.com right now. That’s fewer than three per store considering the brand’s approximately 235 dealers in the U.S. Compare that to the 5,200+ ES 350s in stock, and you can start to see why a dealer isn’t super excited about ordering an IS 300.

Why? Because many, many, many special orders end up not being picked up by buyers. I, myself, ordered a BMW 135i in 2008 that I ended up not taking delivery of because the interior color was wrong when it showed up. It’s also how I got my Focus RS — it was a customer order that got canceled. So if you and the Mrs. flake out on your IS, it becomes a bit of a floorplan anchor for your dealer if it’s an unusual color combo that nobody else wants. (Lexus customers aren’t known for being adventurous.)

Now, if you’re a smart person (and you are, because you sent me an email), you’re probably thinking to yourself the dealer won’t have to pay any floorplan interest on the car so they should be happy, right?

Eh, Lexus stores don’t think that way.

Most Lexus stores are part of a larger group, and they’re mostly extremely profitable because Lexus customers aren’t known for driving hard bargains for their cars, and they’re historically willing to pay more for things like “ambience” and “ownership experience.” In fact, Lexus has taken the remarkable step of limiting the number of franchise stores that a dealer group can own to eight. No other manufacturer does this. Lexus is concerned that Sonic, Hendrick, AutoNation, etc., would buy all of the Lexus stores if they allowed it, because they’re among the most valuable franchises available.

The long and the short of it is this: why shouldn’t the dealer ask MSRP? You’re probably willing to pay it, eventually, and the dealer knows it. And for every deal like yours they have to work for, there are a million ES and RX customers behind you willing to pay full pop.

So, I have three recommendations for you:

  1. Don’t assume that you can’t go to the other dealer just because they have the same owner. They probably have different general managers and they don’t necessarily operate the same. But, even if they do …
  2. There are the aforementioned 235 dealers in the United States, and you’re special ordering a car and buying it essentially sight unseen. What difference does it make if you’re buying it close to home or on the other side of the country? Stretch your fingers out and get to emailing, son. Maybe there’s a Lexus store in Kentucky that really needs a sale this month.
  3. Suck it up, pay your MSRP, and enjoy your car. If it’s what she wants, and a similar 328i/C300/A4 won’t make her equally happy, then pay your money and take your chances.

Bark nearly died of bronchitis last week, but he’s back and he’s taking your emails. Send them to [email protected] and/or use the social media platform of your choice to slide into his DMs.

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121 Comments on “Ask Bark: Ordering vs. Buying Off The Lot?...”


  • avatar
    WalterRohrl

    My Audi dealer tells me that a special order (especially if ordered as European Delivery) does not affect his allocation in any way, in fact it does not get counted against it at all, he is happy to order what I want and it would result in him being able to sell an extra car. (with similar discounts to what is on the lot). I’m sure every manufacturer is different. In this case he was happy to let me order a Volcano Red Allroad which is nothing he would normally stock and in fact would be happy to let me order any color I could think of including lime green (for an upcharge).

    My local Mercedes dealer was completely unwilling to budge on a car I was interested in that was on the lot. However the next most local dealer an hour away that is owned by the same company/owner was very happy to deal on an identical car and ended up getting the business. As a result I now constantly take advantage of the free car washes offered by the dealer group and say hello to the salesman that was not willing to budge locally…(-: I must say it was extremely satisfying to answer his follow up call a week after his refusal to deal asking if I had reconsidered and being able to say thank you for his efforts but I had purchased a car at the price I wanted at his other location.

    So yeah, go and talk to the other local dealer with the same owner. I’ll bet the managers are evaluated on their respective sales totals constantly. If that doesn’t work, shop further away, it won’t alter your service experience at all down the road taking it to the local guys for that.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      For Euro delivery, “allocated” (usually newer RS, M, AMG) cars are normally counted against allocation. The rest not so, since the channel is completely different. At least that was true 10+ years ago :)

      If the same is true for Lexus, it would seem they may treat even regular cars as “allocated”, likely to prevent discounting from harming resale, hence the brand. Toyota is certainly big, and non dependent on Lexus immediate profits, enough, to be able to whether the short term hit from lower sales, better than the LuxoEuro 3.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Missing one really important point:

    If Dave buys Lexus, parking it in reverse in the garage is a PITA, but necessary:

    http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/JonCole56/media/FUNNY pics PHOTOS ONLY/LEXUSvsPREDATOR.jpg.html

    http://9gag.com/gag/a447gRZ/predator-vs-lexus

    • 0 avatar
      DudeMcLovin

      Welcome back DeadWeight,

      While your rants were ridiculous, over the top and unnecessary, you were weirdly missed. Like a methed out crazy uncle or red headed step child.

      Hopefully you got the help you needed and can stay off the sauce so your ass doesn’t get booted again.

      Cheers!

  • avatar
    [email protected]

    Unfortunately, Honda doesn’t really allow you to order anything, you’re forced to search around for what’s on dealer lots, or what’s coming to the dealers.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      On the flip side, for the really GOOD Hondas, there isn’t much variation to sift through anyways. When I bought my used S2000 10 years ago, I just looked for MY (’02-’03), color (red), mileage (<35k) and good condition/evidence of caring owner (no mods and good tires on the car were big metrics I used). No need to sift through options, etc, though I did avoid cars with the front and/or side lips.

      Gen 1 NSXs were just transmission choice and color. Civic Sis is just nav or no nav and color. Etc.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      FlyinGato, I’ve been able to get a Honda dealer to tell me what cars the dealer had on order. They were also willing to sell it to me before the extra profit pin striping and wheel locks were added. Call the dealership during a slow sales time in the middle of the week and ask to talk to the sales manager.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That is how I bought my early Acura TSX. The salesman pulled out his list of cars on order, and we went through it until we found my desired transmission (manual) and color (dark gray on black). I told him I didn’t want any pinstripes. And I gave him a check for the deposit. Three weeks later, my car arrived and I drove it home.

        Part of the reason the car was a TSX instead of an Accord V6 was because the Honda dealers were much harder to work with.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Same method, same car. Auto Red/Tan with Nav. Bought in May 2004. Told the saleslady what I wanted, they dealerswapped or changed allocation or whatever and I had it 4-5 weeks later.

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      And that (Honda’s) policy is what turned me off Hondas many years ago when I had considered one.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I would expect to pay MSRP for any vehicle special ordered whether it was a Ford, a Lexus, or a freaking Bentley.

    If you go cruise the manufacturers websites and look at things like “current offers” you’ll usually see language like “$1500 rebate on 2016 ______” – “Must take delivery from dealer stock by 02/03/17”.

    If I’m going to special order I don’t expect to get money thrown at me. That’s one of the reasons few people do it.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      I would expect a bigger discount on existing stock than on an order, but I wouldn’t expect to necessarily pay MSRP unless it’s a crazy hot model. Lotsa guys on the Porsche boards seem to get somewhere between 5-10% off on their orders (assuming not too outrageous Paint to Sample or something).

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        But what about brands that don’t have a laundry list of options or aren’t “sports car purchases of a lifetime.”

        What if its someone who wants a 2017 Terrain SLE-2 4 cyl AWD but HAS to have a certain color combo? Do you honestly think a dealer is going to budge one penny off of MSRP (less your trade in) when he’d much rather just sell you one of the 5 he currently has on the lot?

        Or using Bark’s math – the average Lexus dealer has 22 ES350s on his lot but let’s say he doesn’t have the color combo/options that you want. Do you think he’s going to give you one cent off of MSRP when there are 22 of them sitting there that he would be perfectly happy to sell you?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “Do you think he’s going to give you one cent off of MSRP”

          Depends on if they want to sell something to me or not.

          The people I know of that have done an order (including on stuff like a minivan) do get a discount off MSRP, but you shouldn’t ask about an order as a walk-in. Bark’s strategy of emailing multiple dealers and laying out what you want is the best move. You also should be willing to put down some token deposit.

        • 0 avatar
          nels0300

          Not sure how all of the other manufactures handle special orders, but I was really impressed with Toyota.

          The dealer I bought my Camry from had a few SE V6s on the lot, but they all had sunroofs, because that’s how they order ALL of the V6s.

          I ordered one without a sunroof and they gave me the same deal as the ones on the lot, $4,500 off sticker and 0% for 60 months.

          They ordered it for me, tracked it, kept me updated, and 5 weeks later it was at the St. Paul rail yard straight from Kentucky.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            In my experience Toyota has the best dealer network, on average, of all of the mass-market brands.

          • 0 avatar

            Oooh, I’m gonna go ahead and sorta disagree with you there.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “In my experience Toyota has the best dealer network, on average, of all of the mass-market brands.”

            Says a guy who has never lived in the Southeast.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Fair enough. This statement based only on Northwest and Northeast dealers.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Doesn’t Toyota still have to go through distributors in the southeast?

          • 0 avatar

            Gulf States Toyota. Some of the most hilariously stupid and arrogant people in the world. Truth.

          • 0 avatar
            jim brewer

            It’s been years, but I got a very good deal on my special order—-it evidently attracted so much attention on the lot that they refused to allow me to take delivery at first. There’s no inventory cost to the dealer or even risk with a decent down payment.

            The rule back then was you got whatever rebate deal applied at the point of delivery. Of course by definition you can’t get any deals limited to dealer stock, but that’s a fairly theoretical difference.

            Not that many option combinations to make it worthwhile anymore in my opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          PrincipalDan, the way you get a better price is by asking multiple dealers for a better price. I would expect them to agree to a win-win deal on a special order provided the configuration isn’t too weird and therefore risky.

      • 0 avatar
        midwestTDI

        Just ordered a Subaru online last week. Pushed a quote request through the web to the local dealer and when they called, I ended up with about 8% off sticker. After verifying what I was ordering, it took all but 30 seconds to find out what I would be paying. Another 15 mins at the dealership to ensure my order went in correctly and I was done. Thought the 8% was acceptable considering another local Subaru dealer wouldn’t give me a bottom-line number after spending hours at that dealership. Not into games, so just walked. Funny thing is, got a call from the local VW dealer that I was talking to as well, and they were selling GTI’s for 17% off. Already commited to the Subaru so VW was a couple of days late.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      It’s possible to get really good discount on special order vehicle for the reasons Chris recited –

      – especially if it has LIME GREEN paint.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      True, but special orders will qualify for whatever incentives are available once the vehicle hits the lot. Understanding this, the dealer should only work up preliminary, “not to exceed” numbers on any special order before accepting the customer’s deposit.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’m actually most impressed by Subaru because they are pretty much selling everything they can build (except the BRZ).

        Our OP didn’t mention where the next closest Lexus dealer is located. For a brand with only 235 stores they have some strange franchise allotments. Both Albuquerque and Santa Fe have a Lexus dealer even though the two cities are not that far apart via I-25. Those are the only two Lexus dealers in the state. (Not that our state needs more than two, but why so close together?)

        • 0 avatar

          Not sure on Lexus, but iI have seen dealer agreements based on population density, that’s most likely how it got called out.

        • 0 avatar
          56BelAire

          Dan,
          Are there any other cities in New Mexico?

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Las Cruces – metro area has about 200,000 people in it, but it is so close to El Paso, TX that it has to compete with El Paso for things like franchises. (El Paso is 51 miles from Las Cruces.)

            The state has a bit more than 2 million people living in it and 55% of them live in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Las Vegas (NM) Combined Statistical Area.

        • 0 avatar
          jim brewer

          Rich people in Santa Fe are not about to drive 60 miles to get their car serviced. Probably the same operation with a split franchise.

          • 0 avatar
            Middle-Aged Miata Man

            Yes, both dealerships have the same managing partner. And in Santa Fe, you have the added luxury of visiting a Lexus dealership that isn’t next door to an adult bookstore/peep show:

            (Google Street View) http://preview.tinyurl.com/jcu5cqv

            Of course, that may be considered a benefit for some.

      • 0 avatar
        ItsBob

        Not sure what location your info applies to, or if you are just giving info pertaining to Lexus, but in Canada anyway at Ford, your info totally wrong.

        Here the customer can negotiate whatever deal they are able to, we have had customers deal on a unit in stock and then decide to order exact same in a different colour. As long as was not a restricted allocation vehicle, would usually stay with same figures. Uses up an allocation but so what, still have the one in the yard now?

        The customer actually gains the choice of incentives on unit at time of order, or the incentives at time of delivery. So he can’t go wrong and the dealership is protected.
        Even if the price increases before car/truck arrives, customer is protected on price of day he ordered.

        As a smaller dealer we loved special orders cause they always seemed to arrive just when you were trying to hit a critical sales target. In fact some were still on the truck a few hundred miles away but close enough to put the sale through.

        Personally I think dealers who balk on ordering their customer a vehicle are either lazy or ignorant of the benefits

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          @itsbob

          can=/=will

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged Miata Man

          @itsbob – Were you replying to my comment? It’s tough to tell with this interface.

          If so, I was speaking generally, based on my experiences selling GM and Ford vehicles in the Southwestern U.S. in a past life. The process may indeed be different today, or across borders, or at other dealers.

          Most of the process you described is covered by the “not to exceed” price stipulation I mentioned. I do question how your dealership can sign the customer for the incentives offered at the time of their order, though.

          In my experience, a dealer can try to lock down the deal beforehand all they like, but nothing is official (or legal) until contracts are signed with a VIN on them. Hard to pull that off on a vehicle that hasn’t been built yet.

          Of course, the dealer can offer a special order customer a discount equal to available incentives at the time the order is placed, and then hope like hell (or check with their regional rep) that at least an equal amount is likely to still be on the table once the vehicle hits the lot.

          Best practice – and how I used to do it – is to agree on a price at the time the deposit is placed, and then play the hero card. “We might be able to even do a bit better if Manufacturer X has loosened the purse strings by the time your new car hits the lot, but it won’t be more than that.”

          The deposit (not enough for the customer to really miss it, but just enough to hurt if they forfeit it later) either holds the customer to the deal, or it guarantees that another dealer will take a big hit if they steal your deal by eating the deposit.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      Admittedly on a ford, but walked into my local dealer and told them I could order the car through a Costco certified dealer for $1,000 below invoice + incentives.

      They matched those conditions and ordered what I wanted.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      Why pay MSRP on a factory order?

      The factory order car costs dealer no floor plan, no carrying costs, etc. I factory ordered my most recent (Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring) at invoice with a near-retail price trade-in allowance, a good deal. No way I’d pay MSRP on a factory order, I’m saving the dealer money by not letting it sit on their lot while they pay floor plan.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Strangely, PD, while I agree that factory “sales” have that kind of language, when you do a “Build and Price”, for some reason those incentives tend to qualify. After all, if you “Build and Price”, you almost NEVER find the exact models, colors and packages as you generate available within hundreds of miles of your location. Last time I tried, I found •one• over 2,000 miles away.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Not in my case. I got lots off MSRP on my special order Audi A5. I had no choice but to order it and wait 3 months because I wanted a stick. Dealer had no problem negotiating as if they had the car sitting on the lot already.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Depends on the car. If it’s hot or hard to sell you’ll probably pay msrp. If it’s just something not in Stock or nearby they could write it up as msrp minus applicable incentives month of delivery. I’ve seen that happen. They just can’t lock down finance until they have the price finalized.

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      But if you order the car, it becomes “dealer stock” when it hits their lot. As long as the expiration date of the offer is still in force, the dealer should honor the incentive.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    I’m curious to know what the color combo was.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I am as well. There is a two-tone deep tan and black interior that looks very nice on this car. I could see waiting/paying a bit more for that one over the standard black on black on black.

      • 0 avatar
        Nostrathomas

        I know if I was buying an IS, that tan interior (called Flaxen) would be a must have for me. Black interiors are just so damn boring, yet 90% of what’s out there is black.

        I don’t think I’d be as picky on the exterior for this one…none of them particularly stand out as being head and shoulders above the others, while none of them are particularly offensive either. The only IS color I really remember standing out is that yellow they offered on one of the first generations.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          While I’m at the point where I am tired of silver/grey the ideal IS350 I hope to get would be in Atomic Silver with a red interior. There’s just something about the way Atomic Silver reflects light.

      • 0 avatar
        velvet fog

        You have the interior color correct. Flaxen.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Considering the available body/interior options from Lexus, I would most certainly special-order a car rather than settling for a monochromatic “dealer special” from the lot! That is, if I were buying a Lexus at all.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I hope that one day in this digital age we can go evaluate and test drive a demo model, put down a deposit, go online and submit an order for what we want, then get it delivered to our driveway in 4 weeks or less.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      So the way most cars are sold in Europe, in other words? Well, other than the online part.

      • 0 avatar
        Marcin Laszuk

        They might be now but at least where I live it seems to be changing. The American model of having an expansive dealer stock and corraling customers into the units they have on the lot is getting ever more popular, especially for big city dealers of popular makes. While we don’t have those gigantic 1000+ per brand car lots that I saw in the US, 300 cars and thereabouts is no longer unheard of: I have 5 of such dealerships within 20 miles of my place. In those places, you pretty much have to threaten violence for the salesmen to even consider talking about a custom order. By default, they force you into a unit from the depressing sea of econo-blobs in grayscale that they have in stock.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m simply indicating that it is likely that in 5 years or so (I wouldn’t give it more) you wouldn’t see much difference between the way cars are sold in US and Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      @spookiness

      Buy a Tesla. I think the wait is closer to 6-8 weeks though.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Bark we need more retail side pieces. I enjoy hearing how the sausage is made.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    while I’m sympathetic to dealers not wanting to special order due to customers flaking out and backing out of the purchase, this:

    ” I, myself, ordered a BMW 135i in 2008 that I ended up not taking delivery of because the interior color was wrong when it showed up.”

    really should fall under “it’s their own damn fault.”

    I’ve ordered about half of the cars I’ve had, and the ones I didn’t were either the way I wanted it (my last Mustang) or didn’t have any real options to speak of (my SRT-4.)

    Although the closest Ford dealer only keeps a handful of Mustangs in inventory; I suspect a lot of their customers for it want to order.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Personal experience, I went to buy a new loaded A4 and they didn’t have any with the adjustable suspension option and it would have to be special ordered. The salesman said, “But, of course, we don’t discount special orders.” I laughed in his face and started to walk out. He said, “Wait, let me get my manager.” The “manager” came over and said, “While we don’t like to discount, we of course will.”

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Skip the fancy Camry and buy German. They will cheerfully order anything you want (within the bounds of what they sell in the US), and give you a better deal in the process. Do European Delivery for the trip of a lifetime, and at least on BMWs, an even better deal on the car. You haven’t lived until you have driven your new BMW on the Autobahn, or up Mt. Vesuvius, or across the Swiss Alps or the Italian Dolomites.

    If you simply must have a Lexus, then broaden your net. Even if you have to go across country to find a dealer that will get you the car you want at the price you are willing to pay, airfare is cheap, and make a nice vacation out of the trip.

    • 0 avatar
      AK

      All things considered, these are both weird suggestions.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Unless you simply must drive your car through Europe for the sake of bragging, stick with the Lexus. Have you seen the trade in value on the stale 328? Don’t saddle yourself with a rapidly depreciating and inferior product when better alternatives exist.

      I kid, Krhodes. Kind of.

      But I do certainly agree with broadening the net.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “Skip the fancy Camry and buy German. They will cheerfully order anything you want (within the bounds of what they sell in the US), and give you a better deal in the process.”

      *Offer of reliable transportation not valid if you intend to keep the car more than 60 months.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The choosier the buyer the more he will pay. Don’t fixate on a certain make, model or feature set, especially if it’s in high demand and short supply. Stay flexible, ready to jump to another. The knowledge buyer’s choices encompass several vehicles, all good fits. He’ll look at a range of brands, trims, options and colors because he understands supply and demand: What’s on the lot must go out the door. Deal with what they’ve got. If they haven’t got it or the price isn’t right, move on.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Gardiner,
      Your comment is about the best here.

      That’s how I buy.

      I like to deal with the salesman. If they start to jerk you around and play games warn them once then walk.

      When you become choosey the price rises. Ne flexible, treating a car like a handbag will only disappoint. It will be suited to less outfits.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I used to feel that way. Now I am at an age where I want what I want, and I am willing to pay a reasonable price for it. If you don’t have one in the pretty blue with the tan interior, I can wait.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          VoGo,
          I find you need to allow yourself a minimum of 2 colour choices, two trim levels and have a realistic view on what you are prepared to pay.

          I started out knowing I wanted off road. I wanted a SUV. I considered at a Disco, Patrol, Landcruiser and even a Grand Cherokee.

          Someone suggested an Amarok, which lead me to the Ranger and finally the BT50, which was essentially a Ranger $10k cheaper and one trim level higher.

          I ended up searching for a white or silver vehicle for off road and manual.

          The BT50 I ended up with was the highest trim and manual, rare. The lower trims are more likely manual.

          I picked it up at a tiny rural Mazda dealer, where most pickups are vinyl and manual. Farmers don’t want carpet, leather and all the bling.

          So sometimes the vehicle thst you might want are at the most unlikely dearlers.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “Don’t fixate on a certain make, model or feature set, especially if it’s in high demand and short supply. Stay flexible, ready to jump to another.”

      It’s a car, not a pair of socks or a pack of TP. Scratch that, I’m even brand-loyal on TP (Charmin Ultrasoft, baby!) I’m not interested in getting a car I don’t want just because it’s a better “deal”. A car I don’t want isn’t a good deal. I just want the best(ish) deal I can get on the car I do want.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      ” Don’t fixate on a certain make, model or feature set, especially if it’s in high demand and short supply.”

      Horses**t. It’s a $25-40,000 purchase, I’m going to buy the car I WANT. I’m not going to settle for a damn Camry just because I couldn’t negotiate the price of a GT350 down $50.

  • avatar
    la834

    In decades past when you could pick and choose from 50-item option list, I wouldn’t think of compromising and choosing from whatever the dealers had in stock. But nowadays, when your only choice is one of three trim/equipment levels, maybe six paint colors, and a choice of beige or grey for the interior, what’s the point? Even in the last few years the manufacturers have clamped down on available configurations. So might as well buy off the lot, see and test-drive exactly what you’re getting, not have to wait several months for delivery, and probably get a lower price.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Bark M. divulges his actual identity!

    Ordering cars is only useful for brands with lengthy options lists, such as Mini and Porsche.

    Ordering a Lexus is a waste of time since they are not really exciting, personable cars to begin with. People buy them because they are expected to be reliable and comfortable. But if you really want a certain colour, prepare to cough up close to MSRP.

    And about that other dealer, there’s something called a telephone, invented even earlier than the Internet. You don’t have to drive across town to ask about pricing.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    “Stretch your fingers out and get to emailing, son.”

    Bark, didn’t you *just* establish in the comments of your dealer experience column that:

    “Nobody does it at all. Millennials think email is for their parents. Old people are tired of being harassed. Emailing dealers is dead.”?

  • avatar

    I’ve mostly taken off the lot, with two exceptions-
    A Mercury Mystique, because it had a V6 and manual. My first salesman, after we’d agreed on the deal, then left for vacation and never bothered to look for the manual Mystique. I went back and another salesman took the order, again, and was quite displeased he had to trade for “one of three cars in the tri state area”, said states being NY/NJ/CT. I clearly was putting them out..not taking the automatics on the lot.

    The second was BMW. Of course, a bad example. I wanted black cloth seats and interior, and no sunroof. The car came ahead of schedule (appears “Individual” cars travel expedited with the ///M cars, less sitting on docks and such) and I’d do it again, if I ever buy another one. The wait is worth it and the system is set up for you, even if you show up with a euro catalog and color code not in the US books.

    At this point, I’d web search the dealers for my unicorn and just go straight there, not involve some other dealer.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I’ll be contrarian here any ask what to me seems obvious….one color combination is acceptable? One? That’s nuts, and a little OCD. I get if you want or don’t want black seats. I get if you want or don’t want black exterior, or silver. But to say it must be this color outside and that color inside or I won’t drive it? Unless it’s a common combination (seems it is not), it’s unreasonable.

    • 0 avatar

      I always buy used but if I were to buy new I’m sure it would be a special order to get exactly what I want, and yes that would include colors. My wife on the other hand would likely be far less picky.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “it’s unreasonable.”

      F that noise. It’s a $45K thing from a premium brand. I’m getting exactly what I want.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      Did the same with my last car purchase. I wanted the metallic blue with tan leather seats and a certain option set – not one in the entire US configured that way, so special order it was.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      If it’s available from the factory in the official paperwork, then by NO means is it unreasonable to ask for it at the dealership. This is just the dealership being lazy and wanting to skim extra profit off of a factory rebate.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    The dealer knows you are bending for your wife, so he has no interest in bending for you. Try to go to another dealer and tell him that you want that color combination just because it matches well your new Armani suit. Take the ring off, leave the wife home. You should have better results. Sad but true.

  • avatar

    Having been on the other side of special orders (never bought new) Email everyone. Shipping cars around the country is common. When I used to sell boats I once did took a special order at a dealer here in CT and the boat was shipped to an owner in New Orleans sight unseen. Had another email customer who drove up from North Carolina to pick up one.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Make ’em get you the car you want in the colors you want. Either that, or make them re-paint a car with the equipment you want in the colors you desire. Why? Because dealerships want things as simple as possible and avoid any colors that might affect their throughput… meaning the reason almost all the cars we see today are black, white, grey, silver and red, with only limited exceptions.

    My previous two cars were special-ordered for the specific reasons that I wanted a non-standard color and a couple of non-standard options. My most recent purchase, while off the lot, was a limited Special Edition that I and my wife especially liked. We’ve been very pleased with that purchase.

    • 0 avatar

      Make them repaint a car? Dude, you should stop sniffing paint.

    • 0 avatar

      hahahahaha, make the the dealer re-paint the car?

      First, dealers don’t repaint new cars, it just doesn’t happen.

      Second, even if they did, would you really want a car that was completely resprayed outside of the factory?

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Re-spray a different color?

      Re-spray as in factory quality? As in de-trim the entire vehicle (a Lexus at that), sand, prep and repaint in a different color? And then re-assemble all those plastic parts with factory quality without breaking the crap out of the fasteners that hold the grill, or lights on? You know how much crap is on these cars to even THINK about trying to respray a different color properly? It’s painful enough to see factory repairs done (meaning inside the assembly plant), let alone some “tech” trying to refinish a Lexus.

      Don’t ever offer advise again.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The real question is, did ya get that TruCoat? If you don’t get it, you get oxidation problems. It’ll cost you a heckuva lot more than 500 dollars. They install it at the factory.

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      Some of you folks maybe don’t get Vulpine’s point. If they’re not willing to ORDER YOU THE CAR THAT YOU WANT…then have them order it in white and have THEM paint it the color you want! I really hate it when there’s only six of the cars that you want on the lot and in only 3 different colors. Or, maybe 8 cars in only 3 (and occasionally 4) different colors. Sometimes, the sales manager orders all the cars with the EXACT SAME OPTIONS! Talk about lazy on his part, and offering you no real choice in color (white, silver or gray and black) and all the same price.

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      Several years ago, I contracted with a dealer to purchase a demo from his lot. The car had a nasty scratch on the trunklid. I wrote in the purchase agreement that the scratch ‘would be repaired by the dealer to the satisfaction of the buyer”, to which the dealer agreed. It took THREE tries, with the threat of making them repaint the entire car (which BTW they were willing to do, or get sued), but the scratch was fixed. That being said, a decent paint job is $3K-$4k, take that into consideration.

  • avatar
    timbck2

    Several years ago, I ordered a Mazda RX-8 with a particular color combination (gray exterior, two-tone red and black interior) that the dealer didn’t want to order for me because the salesman was sure I was making a mistake and would hate it once it arrived. I finally convinced him to order it, and when it came in he thought it looked amazing (I already knew it would!). Oh, and I negotiated the price BEFORE telling him I wanted to custom order it.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I ordered an SRT 392 last summer and the dealer was more than accommodating. I negotiated about $2500 off the sticker which I thought was fair enough.

    When I thanked the salesman for making it such a pleasant experience, he said “we just want you to have what you want…”

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      That REALLY is good to hear. Considering salespeople often try to put you in a car THEY want to sell you, rather than what you want to buy. Yes, been there and done that. That sleazy kind of business is why people try as much as possible to avoid the pushy salesperson. And, why initially contacting the dealership’s internet sales department by e-mail is often a smart move.

  • avatar
    thunderjet

    My wife ended up ordering her 2012 Mustang. She wanted a couple options that couldn’t be found on a lot together: grabber blue paint, spoiler with no tape stripes, and the 3.31 rear axle. It’s was easy and we got the same deal we would have on a car on the lot that didn’t have the options she wanted.

    If you have the time ordering is the way if you want something specific.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      all you really have to do is wait. car companies usually have 4 weeks of production already scheduled, so the real reason you need to wait 6 weeks or so is because your order has to wait for the next 4-week rotation to be put into the build schedule.

  • avatar
    craiger

    It was 15 years ago so I’m not sure how relevant it is today, but in 2001 when I got my E39, I had to special order it because of the color (steel blue) the sport package (gorgeous 3 piece BBS with a full BBS spare in the trunk) but mainly for the fold-down rear seats.

    I picked a price a few hundred bucks above invoice. I sent a fax to 20 dealers in a 100 mile radius. I mentioned that I was aware of the customer satisfaction survey kickback that BMW paid to the dealers, and that I calculated that into the deal. I included an Excel sheet with the fax, showing my calculations.

    10 dealers never responded. Of the 10 who did, 9 wouldn’t do the deal. The responses ranged from polite to a-hole. One guy said “I couldn’t buy it for myself at that price.” Whatever. As it turns out, a dealer fairly close to me said “Sure, I’ll do that deal.” 9 weeks later, I drove off in the 530.

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      Again, that’s really cool to hear. When you REALLY WANT only what you want, then really nothing else will do. Some of us positively don’t want a car JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE’S CAR. There may be solid reasons having your vehicle with or without one or more specific options will work for you. I really hate it when a salesman wastes his time and mine trying to sell me a car I ALREADY TOLD HIM I DO NOT WANT! When it is a car I don’t want, they can NEVER come close to a price I am willing to pay. Which would be more than half off sticker price, which I know isn’t going to happen.
      .

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      Once again, back to what you were saying, criager, only ONE out of 20 dealerships was willing to get you what you want. Those other 19 people were content to LOSE A SALE because they couldn’t be bothered to do WHAT IT TAKES to earn your business. And, you told them what you needed. It’s no wonder so many folks don’t last long in car sales. All car sales staff should really take note of his experience. That one out of 20 suggests that in your experience only 5% are willing to work with you to get you WHAT YOU WANT. The rest of the sales staff are little more than lazy people who want to write up your order, in order to earn a pretty decent commission, and them send you on your way. I’m suggesting that it shows that while most folks want to get paid, they don’t really care about YOU, and they aren’t WILLING to do what needs to be done to make the sale. A sad commentary about retail car sales.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I actually ordered a car once – my first brand-new car – a 1976 Chevy C-20 pickup.

    I got exactly what I wanted, but testosterone was what REALLY ordered a 3/4 ton truck, and I paid dearly for that mistake.

    This has nothing to do with the ordering experience – which was great, but then this was a Chevy, not a Lexus. Lesson here: Jump through hoops to get exactly what you want, or just order and buy a Chevy or Ford! No harm, no foul.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    Would be nice if there was an Honor Role of OUTSTANDINGLY GOOD sales people, and the dealership they work for, on some auto website. Even if it were a subscription site, meaning you have to pay X dollars a year, it would be worth it to avoid the so very less than stellar sales people at all the other dealerships. People who waste your time by deliberately lying or otherwise misrepresenting the product they sell. Like those who start out with “What can I sell you today?” when you are only beginning your search for your next car and haven’t yet narrowed it down without looking at a number of cars in person and test-driving them to see if they would do.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    Continuing in this vein, I suspect that many of you, like me, often know more of the specifics of a car that you are really interested in than the salesperson who tries to help you. I typically know the length, width, height, weight, estimated fuel mileage and gas tank size. And, the base price before all the endless options. And, I know the different engines and transmissions available. What the auto manufacturers and dealerships need to know is I get none of this info from TV ads; I rarely ever watch TV. While I used to subscribe to many different car mags for the road tests and other useful info, I now get most all my info online. While I have a smart phone, I mostly use it as a phone and use my computer for much auto-related research. I especially like the sites that let owners of new or late model vehicles write their own review of their vehicle, list the pros and cons, the latter often none, and their likelihood of purchasing said vehicle again. Owners, if happy with a new vehicle, often rave about all the standard features and options on their vehicle, especially if coming from an old, boring so-so vehicle. So, I’m suggesting that in my experience, TV ads and newspaper or magazine ads have absolutely zero influence on what vehicle I’m thinking of buying next. But that’s more personal, perhaps, as I’m NOT a follow-the-crowd person.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    When my Dad bought his F250 there wasn’t a single truck in Canada equipped the way he wanted it. The dealership was happy to do a factory order and sold it to him for invoice.

    From their point of view it was an easy sale, didn’t sit on their lot and they get the holdback for selling a truck with no carrying costs.

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      Maybe it sounds like I’m on a rant, but that is one dealership that’s doing it’s job to sell the customer WHAT HE WANTS. When other places are not making many sales, there’s probably a good reason. And, whatever it is it’s stupid if they’re NOT WILLING TO SELL THE CUSTOMER WHAT HE TELLS THEM HE WANTS. After all, there’s that old saying that: The customer is always right. (Even when he isn’t.)

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Ha! When I quickly read your response my mind said “You and Mrs. Flake”

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Ordering a new car or truck was a family activity every few years in my household growing up. Mom and Dad got to pick the model, for the most part, and my sister and I got to choose the colors and options, for the most part. The 1969 Ford F-100 Ranger, the 1975 Mustang II, the 1977 Buick Electra, and the 1979 Chevrolet Suburban were all selected this way. The Buick and the Suburban has abysmal quality, though, and by the mid 80s Mom and Dad were happy to take Hondas and, later, Acuras off the lot. All great cars, night and day better than the American cars, but few of those were available with special options. I did the same for my new cars through the 80s and 90s–Nissans, Hondas, and Acuras–but I didn’t buy new for a while after that that.

    Jumping forward and once again I’m driving a special ordered American car–the only way, it turned out, that you could get a new CD4 Fusion with a manual transmission. X-plan is a painless way to get a reasonable discount for a Ford, though using online pricing tools you can easily negotiate a better deal than X on an in-stock car. Hard to do much better than X plan on a special order unless you work for Ford.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I’ve special ordered most every car I’ve bought over a pretty long life (admitted lover of manual trans BMWs without sunroofs).

    I’ve always found that offering a significant deposit, with the agreement that it was non-refundable (provided the car arrived EXACTLY as ordered) worked out well.

    Admittedly, my dealer sample size is only one.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    The last sentence in the first paragraph has me stumped: “We can’t go to another dealer because the other Lexus dealer in town has the same owner.”

    Does the shopper realize that there are OTHER dealers in OTHER towns? Hello!


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