The Comical World Of Dealer Internet Advertising

Steve Lynch
by Steve Lynch

After I purchased my S2000 and was about to drive off the lot, my salesperson regaled me with stories about the Honda’s previous owners – an elderly couple who loved the sports car, called it their “baby,” but traded it for a Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe because they wanted more room. None of this history was noted in their website or internet ads for the S2000, but why wasn’t it?

It turns out that most franchised dealer’s new and pre-owned vehicle ads on AutoTrader and as well as their own websites do not tell such stories because they are composed by automated services. The fun part is that dealers sometimes never proofread them, like in the example above showcasing the ultimate in Additional Dealer Markup. Even better is when dealers try to write the ads themselves. Let’s take a look.

Assuming you do not pop for the $114,000 Focus, you might want to jump on the deal below from a Georgia dealer. Another fat finger typo or a low ball to get you in the store? Amazingly, both ads have been on AutoTrader for several days.

One of the services supplying automated text to dealers for used car ads decided to quote an published road test on the 2011 BMW 528i. It sounds like a good idea but here is the excerpt currently being quoted by a dozen BMW dealers around the country:

“Dead center in the BMW sausage case is the 5 Series, always a strong choice for buyers who want vigorous acceleration and crisp handling, but not the limited interior space of the 3 Series, nor the girth, weight and fee-fye-foe-fum price of the 7 Series.”

Bash the other cars you sell in order to move the 5-Series? Manufacturers and consumers wish dealers would be this transparent, but in the words of Lewis Grizzard, “I don’t believe I’da told that one, brother.”

Here is the first line from an Audi dealer’s self-composed AutoTrader ad designed to educate high-end prospects about the $191,350 2015 R8 V10 Spyder:

“Biener Audi does not charge any Dealer Administrative fee. BUYER BEWARE! Many of our competitors charge exorbitant Dealer Administrative fees above the previously agreed selling price or tack on charges for unnecessary items like window etching which are not disclosed until delivery!”

Hey, why talk about the car when you can criticize other dealers instead?

It is safe to say that most pre-owned managers neither have the time or the talent to write compelling used car blurbs. Witness all this Houston dealer could think of to say about one vehicle:

This 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage 6-Speed Coupe has had it’s annual service and is Warranty ready. It is ready to get back on the road.

Does this mean the car is ready for more warranty work? Or that you need to buy an extended warranty?

Some dealers try to be too cute. In honor of Bark’s story, here is what a San Diego BMW dealer has to say about the yellow 2013 Boss 302 on their lot:

Luxuriate from Alpha to Bravo. Be a part of this innovation Nation. Don’t pay too much for the family car you want…Come on down and take a look at this superb 2013 Ford Mustang. Power is nothing without control, and the incredible brakes on this Mustang means that you are always just a quick pedel press away from bringing life to a halt.

To be fair, here is a dealership that does a nice job of telling the story of each vehicle, witness this text from Alderson Mercedes-Benz in Midland, Texas:

“..this beautiful Certified C-Class served as the faithful travel companion of an up and coming law student, taking her back and forth from her home in Dallas to the prestigious Rice University in Houston. Now a successful attorney in the Permian Basin, she entrusted Alderson to find her C300 a new owner…”

A lot of other dealers might have written, ” ONE WOMAN OWNER! HIGHWAY MILES! E-Z FINANCING!” to sell this Benz.

Bleary-eyed from reading hundreds of car ads in an attempt to be half as funny as Doud DeMuro in this post, I also learned:

  • The first line in Jaguar Nashville’s dealer information webpage says, “Let’s break down just how much we have to offer here at Jaguar Nashville…” Hint: never use the phrase “break down” when advertising Jags.
  • Dealer mega-group AutoNation has either 9 million or 43 Million happy customers, depending upon whether it is AutoNation corporate or one of its retailers making the claim.

**All prices exclude $599.50 Pre-Delivery Service Fee (which represents profit to the dealer), any applicable taxes, estimated tag and title fees, any reconditioning expenses, $699 certification cost (if applicable), $350 auction purchase fee (if applicable), $300 transportation expense (if applicable).

So if the dealer bought the unit at the auction in Orlando, transported it to Clearwater and certified it, you would be asked to pay an additional $1948.50 plus reconditioning charges beyond the price of the car. I bet the locals have nicknamed this retailer, “Dimwit Chevrolet.”

I suppose we next could do a story making fun of dealer’s newspaper ads, but that would be too easy…

Steve Lynch
Steve Lynch

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4 of 98 comments
  • Blue-S Blue-S on Feb 18, 2015

    All this is why I buy hoopty-ass used cars that don't run. I fix them up, drive them for a while, then sell them on.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Feb 18, 2015

    Some thoughts: I'm all about the fair deal. I don't need to pay the least, but I don't want to be fleeced either. For those of you behind the scenes, what is a GOOD deal,barring any alphabet plans? What are some BS fees to avoid, besides really obvious ones (such as $600 HDM or Happy Dealer Mark-up). I used Edmunds TMV on our Oddy when we leased it and the dealer beat it by $500-$1000 (can't remember). I went TrueCar initially, but none of the dealers were close by. Between the Honda dealer and the Chrysler dealer, the Honda dealer was much more pleasant to deal with. Our salesperson at Honda didn't know much about anything, which was fine with me. The Chrysler dealer was your typical obnoxious "what can I do to sell you this today". I violated my rule of never going on a lot that uses inflatable anything to lure people in. I've only had one salesman who was a car guy, the rest could have sold jewelry, furniture or cars, it didn't matter. It's a tough life, I tried it for a week and didn't like it. For those who listen to "This American Life", they did a program sometime last year where they followed a Chrysler/Jeep dealer on Long Island for a month. Really interesting, if you don't live it day to day, look for the podcast if you can. There's one dealer in Pittsburgh, Kenny Ross, who's fine print says "Smart customers read the fine print. Thank you". Always read the fine print. (Of course, anyone in Pittsburgh knows that it's getting down to being Kenny Ross, Cochran or Bairel as the only dealers in town, depending on where in town you're from.)

  • Lou_BC Question of the day: Anyone actually care to own an old TVR?
  • Bd2 First, this was totally predictable. 2nd, Genesis already does have hybrids in the form of a 48V mild hybrid, but more performance oriented (supercharged and turbocharged), so not really helping with regard to fuel consumption. 3rd, Hyundai's hybrid systems don't really help as there currently isn't one that would be suitable power-wise and the upcoming 2.5T hybrid system would have to be heavily reworked to accommodate a RWD/longitudinal layout. 4th, it seems that Genesis is opting to go the EREV route with the GV70 the first get the new powertrain.
  • Bd2 Jaguar's problem was chasing the Germans into the mid size and then entry-level/compact segments for volume, and cheapening their interiors while at it.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .