By on April 3, 2012

Grizzled automotive veterans of the VRA (that’s Voluntary Restraint Agreement to you whipper-snappers) often wake in the night screaming about “ADP! ADP!” That’s “Additional Dealer Profit”, a little markup sticker found on everything from Accords to Z-Cars in the Reagan era. Honda dealers were perhaps the worst offenders, adding as much as three thousand dollars’ worth of pure markup to vehicles which often had MSRPs below ten grand.

There’s no “agreement” on the books that limits the number of Elantras that Hyundai can import from the far-off land of Alabama (or, in the case of this Touring model, Korea) but it looks like at least one dealer has decided to revive the glory days of automotive “stealerships”…

Yesterday, Jalopnik investigated College Park Hyundai, home of the $1,495 door guard. What did they find out? Not much, actually, other than the fact that door edge guards normally cost approximately eight bucks. The Jalops figured that the $1,495 door guards were a “bait and switch” to advertise a lower price in the newspapers and on the Internet. That’s at least partially true, but my experience in VRA-era dealership politics were that “options” like this were put on the sticker to offer an easy “win” for the customer.

Customer: I want this here Elantra, but I ain’t payin’ no thousand somethin’ dollars for no door guards.

Salesman: (Laughing) Of course not! Our owner makes us put that charge on there to (whispering) fool the suckers. (Back to hearty voice) But you’re no sucker! I can negotiate that off for you and we can put this Elantra on the road for the price of $21,680, just like it says on the regular sticker.

Customer: Awwwlright then! Let’s do it!

And there you have it. Unfortunately for the nice people at Hyundai, dealer-lobbyist-funded state law prevents them from doing too much about this kind of chicanery. The day may come where you purchase a car from a Web browser at a rock-bottom price and have it delivered via Amazon Fulfillment, but in the meantime, buying the Elantra of your dreams, just like meeting the girl of your dreams, will result in a sticky transaction or two in the flesh.

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38 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: That Had Better Come With Free Blinker Fluid For Life Edition...”

  • avatar

    I absolutely hate those kinds of tactics. At times I think this kind of stuff may be borderline psychopathic.

  • avatar

    I’m always amused by the “outrage” that ADPs stir up. It still boils down to supply and demand – if you don’t think the car is worth whatever the dealer asks, negotiate. If you can’t agree to what you consider a reasonable price, DON’T BUY THE CAR. If enough people agree with your judgement, the asking price of the car will come down and/or the ADPs will go away. Having been around in the ’80s, my sense at the time was that enough people were willing to pay above sticker for certain Japanese cars (yes, Hondas in particular) that dealers could get away with the practice. These days, when Edmunds, TrueCar, etc. make it easy for anyone to determine current true market value for a car, and with supply relatively unrestricted, it’s hard to imagine many buyers being “high grossed”.

  • avatar

    We have a few local dealers who do this crap. None this egregious, however. They just add-on $350 for some kind of brand-name paint protection service (still a waste of money, IMHO, given the quality of modern clear coat) and the requisite “glass etching” B.S.

    We turned down both on our Cube when we bought it, as well as the “extended warranty” and “service plan” offered by the F&I guy. No skin off our backs. Smaller commish for Mr. F&I, though.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing preventing Hyundai from shipping more Elantras here except their unwillingness to build another plant. Looking at what Toyota and Honda are doing right now – huge incentives to keep all their plants running (kinda like the Detriot 3, huh?), I don’t blame them too much. Not sure why a car is different from any other product where the retailer sets the price. Don’t like the price, don’t buy it!

    Some states require something of value to be added to the car to justify these ADM stickers, hence this ridiculous one.

    My dealership doesn’t use these ADM stickers, but everyone around us does. Makes us feel like the suckers when customers grind us off MSRP while everyone else is starting the negotiation $1500 higher.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I’m surprised that any customer “grind off MSRP” today when invoice pricing is readily available to all. MSRP is and always has been a basically meaningless number.

  • avatar

    My local Hyundai dealer has vast rolling hills of Elantras with dealer stickers that have “Added Dealer Value” to the tune of 2,000+ dollars, on top of an $800 paint stripe.

    • 0 avatar

      Paying $2,000 mark-up on an ELANTRA is hilarious. Heck, paying that on 99% of vehicles is hilarious. I could see it on a BOSS or a GT-R, maybe, a car that’s genuinely in somewhat short supply, but an every day compact car the dealer has 15 of? lol.

      The dealer around me used to add pin-striping to literally EVERY car they sold, but they only charged a much more reasonable $30 per vehicle for it. It wasn’t too far of a stretch to think the pin-striping guy got paid $20 a car for his skill. Those guys are quick and steady with the hand, it’s remarkable watching them work!

  • avatar
    M.S. Smith

    “(Laughing) Of course not! Our owner makes us put that charge on there to (whispering) fool the suckers. (Back to hearty voice) But you’re no sucker! I can negotiate that off for you and we can put this Elantra on the road for the price of $21,680, just like it says on the regular sticker.”

    That’s exactly it.

    Some time ago when the Juke came out, I stopped by Nissan just to take a look at it. They had a “market adjustment” of $2995. I asked the salesman why that was.

    “Oh, don’t worry,” he assured me, “we can negotiate that off for you.”

    There are a lot of people who will respond to that by thinking “Wow! $3000 off! What a deal!”

    • 0 avatar

      There are a lot of people who will respond to that by thinking “Wow! $3000 off! What a deal!”

      Yup, and that’s the point. Price discrimination is the name of the game. Getting the folks who are willing to pay more to pay more, and giving the folks who are not a (more difficult) avenue of reducing the price.

      OTOH, I think I’d pay it if the dealer agreed to paint the Juke froggy green, and replace the horn with something that went “RIBBIT”.

  • avatar

    I’ve bought several new cars to later discover $2-3,000 in pin striping and scotch guard on the window sticker.

    The salesman has never so much as mentioned it. They can tell whether you’ve done your homework or not.

    That markup is for widows, the senile, and recipients of campaign contributions.

  • avatar

    on there is a dealer from Maryland who pollutes the listings with really low prices, like dozens of Camry SE’s at 18,310. Even when you email them, they reply with that price. When you go to their website, the only cars with that price are the ones that say “guaranteed $3000 trade-in allowance included.” Only when I straight up asked about it in the email, they confirmed that the price includes the $3K deduct. Negative review posted for this slime.

    • 0 avatar

      A certain dealer near me does something similar (sneakily worded as “pre-trade”) to advertise artificially low lease payments. If you look through the fine print, “pre-trade” is of course a euphemism for an artificially high down payment (and they will also take the opportunity to lowball your trade).

      Even worse, they advertise these fake deals at the same time the manufacturer is actually offering subsidized leases.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      We used to call this, “pulling off a Bill Heard.”

      Bill Heard Automotive Group used to make advertisements like this…

      “2008 Chevy Aveo! 57 currently in stock.”***

      Then in brilliant four point font that was developed by the local news rag it would say.

      *** Assuming $3000 trade-in, $500 owner loyalty incentive, $500 college graduate incentive, plus other manufacutrer rebates.”

      Actually the other would be a list of six other hoops you would need to qualify. the small asteriks paragraph would be followed by a 24 font color, and bolded quote…

      “Do The Math!!!”

      I did. i no longer bought the local paper. Bill Heard went bankrupt. The local paper has lost well over half it’s circulation over the last five years, and the world has one fewer deceptive entity with a willing partner.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    That ain’t nuttin’ … the local Kia dealer wants $4000 for the color-matched door-edge guards and pinstriping on their Fortes.

    • 0 avatar

      This guy has a Forte (which I like very much), but wouldn’t have paid $18k for it (it’s the base model and the only additional option – or perhaps it’s standard – is A/C). What the heck are door-edge guards?

  • avatar

    I have to ask how common this is with dealers of the “no-haggle” variety? The ones where the sales person gets a flat commission + a base pay for each sale instead of a percentage of the sale price. I’ve bought one new car and the price paid was within a couple of bucks of (not the best source, but not the worst). I don’t notice these types of stickers at many of the large chain dealerships in my area. In Minnesota some of the larger chains are Walser, Luther, and Morries and all of them are “price is on the windshield, take-it-or-leave-it, no haggle” dealerships.

    Interestingly enough one of the large chains that liked to haggle was owned by a man serving I think 20 years for fraud or something similar.

    • 0 avatar


      Try Buerkle next time. :)

      ‘Interestingly enough one of the large chains that liked to haggle was owned by a man serving I think 20 years for fraud or something similar.’ Ah, the Hecker. What a Delta-Bravo. He was able to ‘haggle’ as he was busy not paying Chrysler for inventory or paying off traded-in car notes. Just sayin’…

  • avatar

    1400 for door edge guards? That car better have as many doors as an old time Checker stretch airport limo, or else the guards better be gold-plated palladium, or else they better have been autographed and installed by John Krafcik himself.

  • avatar

    Jack – since when do you real Jalopnik?

  • avatar

    Does that include muffler bearings as well?
    Honda dealers charged for passenger side mirrors, hub cabs, radios, floor mats, seat covers, and the all important dealer prep.

    And these items were in the 300 to 800 dollar range.

    • 0 avatar

      You forgot mud flaps. My cheapskate father was fond of paying extra for mud flaps, floor mats, dealer-installed air conditioning, and until about 1995, rustproofing on his bottom-of-the line Camrys and Accords. But he absolutely refused to buy a radio from the dealer. Claimed he could buy a “better” one from the Crutchfield catalog and install it himself for less.

      Which was technically true, it did cost less. Except it always took a solid six months of music-free rides in the new family car before he finally got a round to buying and installing it. And the end product always looked like crap.

  • avatar

    “The day may come where you purchase a car from a Web browser at a rock-bottom price and have it delivered via Amazon Fulfillment…”

    I bought a car in 2001 from and had an excellent experience. It was an Elantra actually, relatively loaded with automatic and ABS, and the bottom-line price was under $12k.

    This was in California, where the dealers have less of a grip on the franchise laws than say a state like Texas.

    Until state franchise laws are fixed (which won’t happen), the easiest solution to the “market adjustment” and magic paint sealant problem is to simply not shop at dealerships that employ these practices. Car dealerships are everywhere, and many of them haven’t regressed to this kind of nonsense.

  • avatar

    After attempting negotiations with two Honda dealers, one in person and one on the phone, I walked into another with my laptop and price breakdown in Excel of the MSRP vs Invoice (per CR/Edmunds/KBB average including dealer holdback) vs what I was willing to pay. We used that spreadsheet to negotiate walk out price. The sales manager was floored and said he had never negotiated the price of a car that fast with someone who was so knowledgable.

    I also told them that their stupid “document fee” was just coming out of their profit of the amount over invoice I thought was reasonable. The salesman griped b/c he claimed it deducted from his commission but I was firm. I paid exactly what I wanted for exactly what I wanted.

    Preparation is 9/10 of success.

    • 0 avatar


      Do your homework. More importantly you should print out a bunch of stuff about the car you want, put it in a folder, and carry it into the stealership with you. At least look like you know what you’re talking about.

    • 0 avatar

      Frankly in this day and age I find it a lot easier to do all my negotiations through email before I even set foot in anyone’s showroom. That way you could play them against each other and get the rock bottom price.
      You may know exactly how much you want to pay, but chances are you don’t know what is the lowest price the market will bear at that particularly moment.

      • 0 avatar

        Is the doc fee optional? I live in North Carolina and it is typically around $495 (have seen as high as $600). It certainly is a good and steady source of income.

      • 0 avatar

        @icemilkcoffee – excellent points, although if inventory is thin (we bought in the early / middle of the Honda tsunami shortage), your better bet is to go to the dealer in person and show you mean business. At least that’s what I found.

        @mike978 – I believe each state has different requirements as to how they disclose the doc fees, but in the end, it’s another way the dealers try to add to profit (or in their words, cover overhead – regardless, add to the bottom line price, not actually reimbursing for any direct costs). I had three dealers argue with me about the doc fees, and in the end, I said “I’m an accountant. Show me an invoice, P&L, or any kind of documentation that shows what this fee is supposed to be reimbursing you for.” Each said something to the effect of “well, we incur a lot of cost for documentation, like staff, copying, tags” to which I replied “these facts of your business are unchanged over the years, yet now you laden these junk fees on top, like a scumbag mortgage broker, which I’m sure you don’t want to associate yourself with.” Then the sob story from the salesman starts how their commission excludes the fee.

      • 0 avatar

        Everything is “optional”, including taxes & lic, as long as the dealer is willing to ‘deal’ and you’re willing to walk.

  • avatar

    I’ve bought one car, a used one, I believe it was listed at $9,500 by the dealer. My conversation went like this, within a few minutes of sitting down at the salesman’s desk:

    “I will pay you $9,000 out-the-door for the 2009 Kia Rio.”

    “Let me check with my manager.”

    “We’ll take $9,000 for the car.”

    I’m planning on upgrading within the next few months, and wonder why I can’t just apply the same tactic with a new car.

    “I’ll pay you $25,000 out-the-door for the black Mazdaspeed.”

    “No deal. We’ll take $26,000 for it.”

    “Here’s a check.”

    Yes? No?

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      I’ve done that a number of times. Surprising how often that works if you’ve properly done your homework and offered a fair price. It cuts through the clutter really fast.

      Don’t forget to add the sales tax in the check. I’ll have a note attached with purchase price, tax, total.

    • 0 avatar

      That works even better over the phone, which is how I’ve bought my last two new cars. Go in for a test drive, but don’t negotiate in person. Give the salesman a call later. It cuts through all the ‘sit and wait while he talks to the sales manager’ crap. You have to run it past the manager? Fine, whatever — call me back. And then, of course, the last thing to get straight is, “That number includes EVERYTHING, right? You’re not going to try to add ‘documentation fees’ or anything else when I get there to sign, are you!?” To be extra sure, have them email or fax you the final paperwork before you go in.

  • avatar

    As Homer would say: “Extended warranty? How can I lose?”

  • avatar

    You could also read that sticker as saying that they are throwing in the door guards for free but charging $1495 for “adjusted market value.” Gosh, that’s not some greedy thing like “additional profit,” that’s just the market, you know, and we don’t control the market, it’s just something that happens, whether we want it to or not.

    The sticker also lists “adjusted market value” in an area for dealer-added options. So, just tell the dealer you’ll take yours without the adjusted market value installed. You’re planning to buy your own market value when it goes on sale at AutoZone.

  • avatar

    Add ons? Walk, or run from the dealer. Shop online, get quotes.

    The BS is for ‘off the street’ naive buyers. A GTR? Yeah. Any Hyundai FWD sedan, no effin way!

  • avatar

    What is this “Elantra of my dreams” of which you speak? Surely it would be a better looking car than any Hyundai currently sold.

    But seriously, in my college persuasion class (a clever-sounding disguise for advertising/marketing) the tactic here is called “in your face,” and it fits into the reciprocity family. The notion is that something that obviously goes too far is thrown into someone’s face (which of course they reject), and then when you remove it, it gives them the impression you are doing them a favor, thus they are more likely to return the favor.

  • avatar

    There was a dealership in town known for keeping cars a long time due to wanting to make the most on each car. They had a PT Cruiser sit for over 2 years before some fool bought it. I say fool because anybody that would buy a car that sat out in the weather for over 2 years, never driven, doesn’t know diddly about cars.

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