Toyota Dealer Wages War on Dealer Fees

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
toyota dealer wages war on dealer fees

Automotive News [sub] brings us the story of Earl Stewart, the Florida Toyota dealer who is waging a one-man war on dealer fees. Born into the car sales business, Stewart noticed one day that his children did not share his love for the family business. Asking his son why he didn’t want to sell cars, Stewart says “He told me he thought car dealers sometimes have a dishonest image. And I had to admit he was right.” After a battle with colon cancer, Stewart decided to make changes in how he conducted business. The first step was removing the $495 “dealer fee” his store had charged, dropping profits by some $200 per unit. But since dropping the fees, he has seen business at his dealership double, and Stewart has been reborn as an anti-dealer-fee crusader. Taking the fight to the radio, television and his blog, Stewart has alienated other dealers who say he is simply advertising his own business. “The world doesn’t need Robin Hood anymore,” one anonymous critic told Stewart. “What we also don’t need is a one-man show trying to run down every dealer on the planet for the good of his own profits.” After attempting to make dealer fees illegal in Florida, and suing another dealer for slander, Stewart still believes in his principles… and his business model. “I know a lot of guys out there depend on these dealer fees — especially right now when the economy is so bad,” says Stewart. “But I did away with them, and my business got better. I can be proud to talk to my kids about what I do for a living. That’s important to me, and it’s important to my sons.”

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  • AJ AJ on Oct 15, 2008

    I think it's great that he does this (other then to try and make it a law). If other dealers don't like it, then compete.

  • Npbheights Npbheights on Oct 15, 2008

    actually the Ford dealer down the street from him advertises that they do not charge a dealer fee either but the only problem with them is the fact they are selling Fords. I wanted a car that was worth more than a few hundred dollars after I was done paying for it.

  • 50merc 50merc on Oct 15, 2008

    Good for Earl Stewart. He's a shining example for other car dealers to emulate. Hope he's beaten cancer and he's gotten a new long lease on life.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 15, 2008

    I had the same good experience with the Cleveland, TN Honda dealer in '99 after almost getting the short end of the stick from 5-6 other Honda dealers. Final place I walked in, took control of the transaction. Firm but friendly. Told him I wanted to drive a particular CR-V. We did. Got back and told him we had 30 mins to make a deal or I'd walk. No dealer add-ons, no dealer wax jobs or undercoating. He gave me a price, I countered and he countered me up $100. We had a deal. Was close to invoice price (my independent research) but they stuck me with a $295 paperwork fee. Still I was satisified. Local dealer got to do my warranty work. Rear strut that holds the glass open on the hatchback was leaky. Fixed in 30 mins. Also the driver's rear wheel had too much negative camber. Fix in a couple hours. Salesman there saw me and realized that his antics cost him a sale. He first insisted that any color but white was hard to come by, insisted there was not such a thing as a 5speed manual for the CR-V, and insisted that his best deal included a 14% interest rate. We went through our credit union for less than half that on a first car loan (new, used or otherwise). I hate working with dealers on a car - new or used. The whole process is the worst. My relatives have all bought Saturns in the past and the customer experience there was excellent before and after the purchase. Same at CarMax according to a friend. I can't believe that people at dealerships can sleep at night. I can't believe they are surprised when customers quit coming through the door. Have been in too many dealerships where the whole process is set up for a good customer screwing. I use my local dealership for parts. Occasionally. If I can do better online then I do that. I do all of my own work. The vehicle has been excellent. More power to Earl Stewart though I agree with someone above that said they hate to see people or companies use the gov't against their competitors.