By on April 23, 2015

inteior

I come to bury Derek Kreindler, not to praise him.

No, wait.

I come to praise Derek, not to bury him.

Scratch that.

I come to agree with Derek, and to disagree with him. And to agree with him again. Wait a minute, it will make sense.

One of the several admirable ways in which my erstwhile boss and even more erstwhile employee diverged from conventional auto-journo thinking was his relentless focus on the real reasons behind automobile manufacturers’ product-planning decisions. Every time some writer for Social Justice Hooning And European Vacations trotted out the usual complaints about the lack of brown diesel-powered, stick-shifted, MB-Tex-interior, E30-sized station wagons, Derek would unleash hell on the poor fellow, pointing out that American consumers get the model mix they’re getting because it is the model mix for which they have voted, again and again, with their wallets. He never tired of forcibly redirecting the assignment of responsibility for today’s tepid dealership inventory from the OEMs to the buyers.

In doing this, he was breaking the fourth wall of automotive journalism a bit. Everybody in the business talks to the same product planners and has access to the same numbers, but nobody wants to annoy the reader by pointing out his culpability in the disappearance of enthusiast-focused automobiles. It’s a funny double standard. You’re allowed to injure the customer by pretending that the Porsche IMS issue and a hundred other similarly offensive quality problems don’t exist, you’re allowed to screw him over by puff-piecing junk product, but you’re not allowed to add insult to those injuries. Instead, the writer conspires with the reader after a fashion, by pretending to believe that the reader is ready to buy a brown diesel manual wagon the moment one appears. This gratifies the reader, who as a consumer of automotive media fancies himself to be quite different from the two million other people who took delivery of a CR-V-shaped nonentity-mobile in the past year. All those other people bought CR-V-esque things because they are idiots, but he did so because the hipster wagon of his dreams did not happen to be available. This mild conspiracy is widely held to benefit all parties involved and it leads to many people writing very complimentary things in the comments section – but Derek didn’t play that.

Young Mr. K’s refusal to give new-car buyers a pass on that matter, even if they were valued members of the B&B, was both admirable and charming. Yet as a grizzled old veteran of the showroom sales floor, I have to wonder if all of the blame for – say, the existence of the BMW X4 – can be placed directly on the shoulders of the American middle class. Could there be another reason that we, the *ahem* enlightened cognoscenti showing our black fleece in uneven and miniscule distribution among endless flocks of white sheep, cannot get the cars that we are truly ready to buy?

Or, to strip the veneer of genericity from the question – why the fuck did I have to buy a two-door car in order to get a manual transmission in a Honda Accord V6?

08accordex-l-v6_27.jpg

Let’s apply Derek’s reasoning to that question. Is it because nobody wants a V6 manual Accord sedan? I doubt that. Somebody wants it. I want it. I’ve talked to other people who bought a stick-shift coupe or an auto sedan because they couldn’t have the manual sedan they wanted. The problem is that we, the Would-Be Stick Sedan Buyers Of America (WBSSBOA), are not Honda customers. We think we are, and the auto-journo-industrial complex pretends that we are, and the TV ads pretend that we are, but we are not.

We are the customers of Honda dealerships. Honda dealerships, in turn, are the customers of Honda. When Honda sells a car to the floorplan bank of a dealership, son, that car is sold in Honda’s eyes and it doesn’t matter if it sits behind the detail shop for seven years before getting a temp tag on it. In practice, of course, dealerships almost always move the metal sooner than that, even when the metal is garbage. And in exchange for agreeing to borrow money to buy millions of dollars’ worth of inventory that they then have to sell using regional TV spots and newspaper ads and free popcorn and deceptive business practices and whatnot, the dealers get to tell Honda just how the fuck it’s gonna be. Their power is not absolute – note that you can now have A/C and/or a stereo factory-installed in a Honda, which breaks the heart of the scumbag dealers who loved the profit from those add-ons the way John Bonham loved alcohol – but it is formidable.

1995 Ford Explorer

Now let’s sit down for a moment so Uncle Jack can tell you a story. In 1995, I worked at a very small Ford dealership. We had room on our lot for fewer than 200 cars and trucks of all kinds, period, point blank. But you can bet your sweet bippy that at least ten of those trucks would be absolutely identical Explorer 4WD XLT 945A package trucks in Medium Willow Green. Why? Because we could sell every one we got. If an eleventh Explorer 4WD XLT 945A package truck in Medium Willow Green showed up and we didn’t have room for it, we’d make the service employees park down the street.

How many Explorer Eddie Bauer trucks did we have? Never more than two, and usually none. It was simple. The Bauers didn’t sell in volume significant enough to justify keeping one in stock. Ninety-five percent of the people who came on the lot looking for a Bauer could be moved to an XLT 945A. The reverse was not true, because the Bauer cost so much more to lease due to its lack of “top to bottom sticker discount”, a concept on which I shall perorate further some other time.

“But Jack,” you say, “why didn’t you keep five Willow Green XLTs in stock and five Bauers (or, G-d help me, Limiteds) in stock?” Good question. The answer is simple. We could never be assured of a constant allocation stream for Willow Green XLTs. So we needed to get every one we could get, even if it meant occasionally having fifteen in stock, because that way we didn’t ever face a situation where we sold six of them in a weekend (happened All. The. Time.) and had none left. Faced with a choice between the certainty of selling a Willow Green XLT and the possibility of selling a red Bauer, we chose the XLT, in bulk, constantly.

Every Ford model had the equivalent of the Willow Green XLT. For the Escort, it was the cheapo LX hatchback in Jade Green. For the Taurus, it was the GL sedan in silver. For the F-150, it was the XLT supercab in red. We could not afford to be out of stock on these items. Being out of stock on these items would lead to losing the customer to another dealer who had these items in stock.

As a result, our under-200-unit dealership lot, viewed from the air, had a very monocultural look to it. We really only sold about twenty different combinations of model and equipment. Everything else was a special order. If you special ordered, you could have that black Explorer Limited 2WD. But you’d wait. And this is America, where people don’t wait.

Skoda Showroom, UK

If you go to Europe, on the other hand, you’ll see that car showrooms are just that — showrooms. You look at the car they have, then you order the car you want. You are the customer. The dealership is the delivery method. This method is so radically different in all of its implications for the underlying business practices that I feel it should be repeated:

And swear I meant that there so much that they give that line a rewind

In Europe, You are the customer. The dealership is the delivery method.

In America, the dealer is the customer. And the dealer wants quick-turning inventory. He does not have a lot of space to store that inventory and he doesn’t have unlimited funds with which to purchase it. Therefore, it isn’t just important a potential in-stock unit have a buyer; it’s important it have a buyer right now.

Let’s say that Honda brought the V6 manual sedan back. And let’s say that they needed a minimum production run of 10,000 in order to make it worthwhile. That’s about eleven units for every Honda dealer in America. Can the dealers sell eleven manual V6 sedans each in a year? I bet they could. But they would rather have that spot for an automatic I-4 sedan, because that car is a guaranteed quick sale. They can sell that spot in the lot more than eleven times a year with an I-4 automatic EX. And here’s the thing: they can use that spot on their lot for an I-4 EX in another color, which keeps customers on their lot. Customers like seeing all the available colors of a car in stock. It helps sell cars that aren’t in that color, because it creates the illusion of choice. Towards that end, we always had one white XLT 945A next to the green ones – so people could look at it and then buy the green one. So the reason you can’t get a manual V6 sedan is simple: the dealer loses money keeping it in stock, even if/when it sells, compared to the potential for stocking more popular choices in that space.

Why can’t you special-order a V6 manual sedan? The same reason Honda wouldn’t sell me a brown V6 manual coupe, even if I paid extra and waited for it. Manufacturers are extremely allergic to small-batch production. Honda does not want to sell 2,000 special-order manual V6 sedans a year. It creates an entire extra model to EPA certify and put in the brochure and observe for recalls. It’s too much hassle. Similarly, they don’t want to sell 500 brown V6 manual coupes. Better to force that small buyer group into just a few colors.

“But Jack,” you’re saying, “you’re describing conditions that have been in place for thirty years. What’s changed?” Well, what’s changed is the model mix, particularly at manufacturers like BMW. It’s exploded. They used to make one 3 Series – the 320i – and it had two doors, no choice. Now they make so many variants of the Three that some of them are called Fours and others are called X3s and others are called X4s and cut-down ones are called X1 and 2 Series.

The BMW dealer of 1980 just needed space for a few 320i coupes. Today’s BMW dealer needs guaranteed in-stock inventory of no fewer than a dozen highly popular variants of the 3 Series. When the X4 debuted, your local BMW dealer needed to make room on its lot to stock, say, five X4s in silver with Premium and cold weather packages. Where’d that space come from? Did it come from high-profit stuff like the 760Li or M6 Gran Coupe?

Of course not. It came from oddballs, the 328i Sport manuals, the Z4s, the non-DCT M3s. The space came from inventory that doesn’t have a guaranteed turn. The same is true for the V6 manual Accord, which used to be available for sale even though it was low-volume. That space can be better used for the HR-V or a Pilot Touring or any of the dozen-plus other vehicles Honda didn’t sell in this country twenty years ago. Where do you think the space for the repugnant CLA comes from at your local Benz shop? Not from gloss-black S-Classes with basic option packages. Not from GLE350s or whatever they’re called now. It comes from manual SLK250s and C250 Sports.

Is there a fix for the situation? In the short term, absolutely not. In the long term, it is possible that local assembly and more flexible supply lines could reduce the wait time for new-vehicle orders to a window that the average American could accept. Say, one week. I think if BMW could deliver a 3-Series to its customers seven days after they specced it out, as many as half of those customers would choose a custom order. Too bad that scenario won’t come true until long after the last vestige of character has been entirely removed from all available automobiles. By the time Honda can just-in-time me a brown V6 manual Accord with cloth interior and 17″ wheels, it won’t be possible to make one.

In the meantime, what can you do? It’s simple. Buy something weird. Order something the dealer doesn’t have. A different color. An odd combination of options. A lime-green coupe with a brown interior. Vote with your wallet for something else. Doesn’t matter what it is. Because when you order a car from the factory and refuse to consent to taking a dealer-traded vehicle or the next-best thing they have in stock, you become something you’ve never been before.

You become an automaker’s customer.

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273 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: They Paved Manuals, and Put Up a Four-Door Coupe...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The used market is so robust though…….

    And used cars are so much better than they used to be….

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “In the meantime, what can you do? It’s simple. Buy something weird. Order something the dealer doesn’t have. A different color. An odd combination of options.”

    I do this every time I order a car. Manual transmission on a mainstream vehicle that’s headed right to a BHPH lot after I’m done with it? Check.

    Red interiors. Oh yeah, baby. Though it’s impossible to spec with obviously contrasting colors like bright blue or green.

    RWD V8s in the snowy rust belt, slap on some snow tires!

    It’s always amusing to see where they end up and for how long they sit before being sold to some other aspie who’s fixated on having some obscure combo.

    • 0 avatar

      “Manual transmission on a mainstream vehicle that’s headed right to a BHPH lot after I’m done with it? Check.”

      BHPHs avoid anything that’s not a 2006 Altima w/120k miles. That unwanted-when-born car you order ends up on a lot like mine where two things happen…

      A) It sells in less than a week for $2-4k gross and I laugh, shove the buyer’s order in everyone’s face, and remark about how good I am for the next three weeks.

      B) Languishes for the better half of six months until we sell it for $79 over dead net cost.

      I remember a really nice 65k-mile 5-speed 2006 Forester 2.5X with a roof and alloys I sold on eBay that three people sniped each other over until it brought like $9165.27. I actually had forgotten to take the $8495 price off the glass before the guy came to pick it up. That was awkward. Also, he drove down in his other car – a 2010 Fusion Sport with a 6MT.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        People go a little crazy for used Foresters, especially if they are the X. This does not surprise me. I don’t quite get it for that particular model, and I don’t like the premium fuel requirement.

        • 0 avatar
          56BelAire

          My wife drives a red 2008 Forester Sports, 5speed manual, 88k miles, mint cond. I recently drove the car to the mall and a couple walked up to me and asked if I wanted to sell it. They offered me 12K. Car cost us $21,000 new.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I didnt think the 3.5L Fusion Sport came with a manual option. I thought it waa only avalible on the I-4, and even then, its rare as hen’s teeth.

        I drove a new Sport when they came out. Didnt care much for the ride, and the idiot salesman wouldnt shut the hell up. First and only new car test drive I didnt enjoy. It wasnt so much the car, it was him. He also directed me to drive on the most pot-hole-ridden road in the city, as if trying to highlight the one negative aspect Id found in the whole car.

        When we got back, I had to hear all about how ALL of the Fusion Hybrid’s power came from regenerative braking. I started to explain how wrong he was, but by that time I just wanted to get the hell outta there. I faked a phone call and thus, suddenly had to go.

        Note: I have a terrible back. To the average person, Im sure the Sport’s ride is fine.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Do I spy a high mile’d *LH* New Yorker on a certain Florida lot?

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I remember, playing with the Corvette configurator, that you can pay an additional $500 to override any contrasting color exclusions. Red interior in any exterior color? They’ll make it happen.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The dealer will probably want a large deposit before ordering a car like that, and you certainly won’t get a deal — I bet the effective price of that option is significantly more than $500.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Audi (e.g.) will do “any color you want” on the outside, if you custom order and pay extra.

        (IIRC BMW and Mercedes will, too, if you ask the dealer nice.)

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          The window sticker on Baruth’s Audi said his custom paint was $2500. Honestly I think that is a deal. I can’t really get a factory quality paint job for any less and the aftermarket paint would likely harm resale much more than a factory custom.

    • 0 avatar

      I ordered my 330i custom. I wanted “no sunroof”, manual, sport and something “not on the list”.

      After a conversation with BMW NA, I found out I could get the cloth seats I saw while in Europe. I paid an upcharge to the dealer, but still less than “leather”. OK, I did cheat slightly, as I had the German 3-er catalog. (I avoided the plaid interior options)

      The car was built on an expedited basis, arrived a month early, and the black microfiber seats show little wear even ten years out. The car is unique and the cloth seats are better than plastic/leather. If I ever get a new one again, I’ll do the same thing….

  • avatar
    SkookumFord

    How many unsatisfying Subarus do I have to buy before they’ll sell me a 6MT Levorg?

  • avatar

    My boss and I have a joke anytime I buy and – after eating up 120 days of floorplan finally sell – one of those stupidly-optioned obviously special-ordered cars, like a hard-loaded 328i sedan in Montego Blue with Chestnut Brown Dakota leather and a 6MT…

    “There are three people dumb enough to pay money for that car – the guy who bought it new, YOU, and now this idiot.”

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Buying a car with unpopular specs is only dumb in the strict financial sense. It may be a idiotic PITA for dealers trying to move these oddly-spec’d cars, but the original owner simply got the car he wanted in the way he wanted it.

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        Good point, especially for keep and hold buyers. It’s one thing if you’re fixated on 2-5 yr trade in value with standard mileage and wear, quite another if you drive it for 10+ yrs (or plan to put very high mileage on in those 2-5 yrs). If I’m driving a car for a decade or more, why should I have to defend specing it out exactly how I want it?

    • 0 avatar

      That sounds like my dream BMW…

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        +1

        • 0 avatar
          sco

          Almost exactly what I said to the guy at the car lot where I bought my (then) three year old 2006 Scion Xb, manual tranny, two-tone paint job. “the market for this car is very small, maybe only me”. Got a great deal

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            And that’s how a got a five year old MkII 3.8L Jaguar coupe in British Racing Green, with wire spoke wheels and knockoff hubs that probably had never been seen before in central north Florida…car ran great, but needed the Weber sidedraft carbs tuned, and the nearest Jag dealer was a hundred miles away.

            They had already come down to about $1300, and after about a month of tire kicking and pretending I wanted something more practical, I got them down to $965, just under my budget at that time. I was so happy I couldn’t even pretend I wanted to pay less. The lot manager probably told the guy who took it in trade the same thing about three people dumb enough to buy the car.

            But I got three trouble free years out of it, and when it needed a new timing chain, traded it for a fully rebuilt and newly painted VW, even up, to a VW mechanic.

            My mechanic friend taught me how to tune the Webers, and the only problem I had with it, was when my now long since ex-wife went out joy riding with some friends while I was working second shift, the month I bought it, and put it into a curb on a hard left turn. Fortunately it was fully insured, though the insurance company didn’t like it a bit. They rebuilt it, but it took them three months to find a replacement part.

            I still remember the newspaper advertising manager I worked with who taught me how to lean on the lot about how hard it was going to be to find a buyer. But I must have kicked a couple of hundred tires over a few weeks to get it, but it was worth it to be a 21 year old guy driving a sharp Jaguar in a party college town. And it was rare enough that most people liked it better than the troublesome E-Jags that came after it.

            Got a three or four year old Norton motorcycle that they only made in England under similar circumstances, for $400, when a new Norton went for ten times that or more.

            Let’s hear it for rare vehicles (provided you can find parts, of course).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @VolandoBajo

            I like you, I feel like I am reading about myself n this tale.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @28-Cars-Later Yes, we probably think and operate a lot alike.

            And the less you pay a dealership or a car lot or even a private owner, the more you have for mods and/or other fun.

            Another trick I learned, when my ’55 3/4 ton panel truck (don’t ask why, I just wanted something with a lot of room)…when it threw a crank pulley. The mechanic priced a GMC pulley while I was standing in his office, and I was shocked to find that the pulley cost well over $100 in the early sixties.

            But he said not to worry, and called a Chevy dealer whose parts department was open (it was a Saturday), and the Chevy parts man quoted him a price of somewhere around $30.

            The shop owner then told me that Chevy and GMC shared a lot of parts, but that the overhead on the GMC parts was much more.

            It’s amazing the ways you can keep your car costs down if you work at it. Snd parts interchangeability is just one, trying to spook a seller another. We all do what we can do.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Or perhaps a lightly optioned stickshift RWD 328i wagon in Tasman Green with Chestnut Dakota leather? In Maine? Like the one I ordered in 2011 and plan to keep until my grave?

      But Jack covered that dilemma in an earlier post – unicorns sell really well privately, but are dealer poison. If I ever decide to sell my wagon, I have a line already.

    • 0 avatar
      forzablu

      That’s exactly the car I’ve been looking for -__-

    • 0 avatar
      Forty2

      A factory order was the only way to get my 335i exactly the way I wanted it: chiefly 6MT, but Msport, Mbrakes, mineral gray/red leather, no BS tech/nav packages. I really don’t care about resale value.

      Blue/brown is kind of gross, hey who am I to judge…

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      That’s similar to my car (orient blue/natural brown, manual transmission 330). Montego is much more blatantly blue though. Orient blue is often mistaken for black in low light. I’m a fan of brown interiors. BMW and Audi offer it, as well as Lexus in the non-Fsport IS. I think you can get brown leather in the Mustang as well.

      VW has brown leather in Europe for the MKVII Golf. It makes me very sad that it didn’t make it across the pond.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    Great read.
    I’d add external forces like the chicken tax and CAFE/light truck loopholes that affect the choices buyers have.

  • avatar
    mshenzi

    So what’s the average wait time when a customer orders a not-in-stock car at a European dealership? Is the structure of the manufacturer/dealer relationship very different? Are dealerships’ footprints much, much smaller?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think the answers to your #2 and #3 questions are both yes. And I’m sure the dealerships are smaller. It’s just a “boutique” as we’d call it in America, with no real for sale stock to speak of.

      Only the used car lots are similar to the American lot model.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I think buying habits are a bit different. In the US the Average Joe drives to work one morning, his car dies and two days later he has a brand new one. In Europe things must be more pre-meditated.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      1. Depends, approx. 1-3 months for Euro brands if not in stock elsewhere in EU.
      2. Dealers are not owned by OEMs so it’s not that different, nowadays huge international co.-s like, say, Inchcape own nearly all regional dealers for certain brands + there are some smaller dealership owners.
      Every dealership also has new cars in stock, optioned based on their knowledge what would sell well. American type customers who want their cars same day are welcome to pick from that list of 10 cars at smaller dealer. Car supermarkets have hundreds of new cars too from many different brands.
      3. Yes. There’s no need to have hundreds of cars at dealership. Those supermarkets are more like US dealerships.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      When I asked about that recently, they said something like 6 months.

      Might get lucky and have it be only 4.

      First they gotta build it (depending on the make, custom orders *might* go to the head of the line; the Volvo guy told me they did it like that).

      Then it gets put on a slow boat.

      Then it gets shipped to your dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      Check this out:

      http://www.autostadt.de/en/ort/

      http://europeforvisitors.com/germany/cars/vw-autostadt.htm

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autostadt

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      BMW can be as short as 6-8 weeks to the East Coast. A week or two to build it, 6 weeks to ship it – my current car took six weeks to the day after I dropped it off in Amsterdam (I picked it up in Munich). When I was interested in a C250 Coupe, Mercedes said about the same for an order. Depends on how backlogged they are with orders, of course. Takes a lot longer to get a 2-series than a 3-series, for example.

      Ultimately, every single BMW is built to order. Whether that order is from a dealer or an end user is largely irrelevant, BMW themselves don’t build a car until it is bought and paid for by SOMEONE. And the parts for the cars are not made until that order is placed, for the most part.

      I assume that the rest of the Germans work much the same way. No idea what Volvo does, much, much smaller volume there.

      The dealerships are much smaller, a big BMW dealer is like a smallish Detroit 3 dealer. My local dealer actually doesn’t really have more than a handful of used cars, they are part of a large auto group with a “used car superstore” down the street. So all they have are a few primo CPO cars on the lot.

      What was impressive about the delivery of my car was that the boat it was on arrived in NJ Friday afternoon, and it was at my dealer in Maine first thing Monday morning, I picked it up Monday evening.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Interesting article. I came to the conclusion during my last car purchase that if I wanted something odd I’d have to order and wait–nearly 6 weeks in my case and I was fine with that. It helps to have a bit of patience and not need the new car the very day you walk into the dealership.

    The real problem comes when the manufacturer stops manufacturing a certain color/trim/transmission. Doesn’t matter if you want to vote with your wallet and wait 6 months for your special order, you can’t have that manual V6 Accord sedan.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’ve been looking at SSes for a while now. And for whatever reason I can’t stop thinking I should special order a manual one in this color:
    http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/631379319/overview/

    I’d NEVER be able to sell it, but for crying out loud, it’s not black or gray!

    • 0 avatar
      1998redwagon

      o that thing is sweet! in a manual? in green? i would be looking at it years down the road as a used vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      There’s one in that color at a local Chevy dealer (DC area). It’s been there quite a while – not a manual though.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I have to vote against any shades of green. Green cars don’t age as well as other colors, and they’re only current for a very short period of time.

      Don’t paint your car, house, living room, etc green – anything you think you’re gonna keep for a while.

      Examples of super dated green?
      1996 Grand Cherokees
      2000 Blazer/Bravada
      2004 Taurus
      Any Tacoma
      And they’re currently doing the Corolla in a gross green too.
      http://www.toyotareference.com/colors/corolla/toyota_corolla_14_6W3_28.jpg

      By contrast, these cars in other colors still look fine.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The problem with green is that it was THE color of the moment in the ’90s, got overexposed, and started looking old. It’s just now beginning to recover.

        Some green cars, though, look extraordinarily beautiful.

        Green was by far the most striking color on the second-gen LS400. http://media.ed.edmunds-media.com/lexus/ls-400/1996/oem/1996_lexus_ls-400_sedan_base_fq_oem_1_500.jpg

        The green 1991 “+” Taurus SHO was highly desired for its rarity… http://bringatrailer.com/wp-content/plugins/PostviaEmail/images/1991_Ford_Taurus_SHO_Green_Plus_For_Sale_Rear_resize.jpg

        …but then the 1992+ second-gen models had green as the most common color and it ended up getting overexposed.

        I saw a green Tesla Model S, no longer offered, in person, and it was arresting. Best-looking Model S I’ve ever seen. (It had the silver 21s rather than these 19s.) http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=23776&d=1371304281

        If I were to order a Chevy SS, it would be in a different green from the one pictured above: https://content.homenetiol.com/468/2089542/640×480/fcaf1e2206024549ae280ccaa0faf89f.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Yuck, I hate that LS in green. It looks like something a lousy dentist would drive. A good dentist would have a white one. Or gold.

          The SHO, okay that looks fine in that green. And I like the Tesla in green, but only because it looks black.

          Still don’t like the SS in either green color. Looks too rental!

          But I think even if you get an uncommon color of green, and it doesn’t get overexposed like in the 90s, it will still age poorly.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Green will come back into fashion eventually. Colors come and go. Blah non-colors won’t stay “in” forever.

          My Tasman Green BMW is spectacular.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Green has come back before. The explosion of green in the nineties was following a period about ten years earlier where I remember reading that nobody was buying or selling green cars of any shade. The pendulum swings once more.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        There’s a really nice dark pine green that Chevy does. I’ve seen a few Cruzes in that color. And it’s one of their few extra cost color options too.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Conversely, I LOVE that Corolla green. I’m also a big fan of dark cherry and maroon reds, various browns, and blues. I really dig the evergreen pearl over anthracite two tone combination on my 4Runner. That’s another thing I miss dearly, and something that is considered terribly ‘dated’ these days: two tone SUVs. Can you still get a Ford Expedition in two tone?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Yes, the Expedition is two-tone in both the Limited and King Ranch versions, and probably the XLT as well.

          The Encore is two-tone.
          The Enclave is two-tone!

          My faves for two-tone include the Montero Limited, QX4, and the ES300, and the LS400.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I pity the fool who doesn’t buy they Expedition two toned!

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Oh my god. Two tone is such a pain in the ass. What a waste of plant labor, floor space and process engineers’ sanity

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Gone but not forgotten: White and medium Tan Isuzu Trooper II (also had the rarer A/T; my Navy Blue one had a stick.)

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          And you can, but it’s body cladding only. The only real two tone paint process is on the trucks. Masked and re ran through the booth.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I didn’t consider it from an extra work perspective. I’m glad you’re always here to remind of production realities and make sure we hate everything!

            :)

      • 0 avatar
        56BelAire

        Speaking of colors, has anyone else noticed BROWN is back? I have noticed quite a few new cars and trucks of late from different makers with beautiful brown metallic paint.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The dark green Honda used in the late 90s looks black at night, but hides dirt better than black during the day. However, I agree that the color was overused.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I dunno, my ’94 Toyota pre-Tacoma was in Dark Green and didn’t look all that dated 18 years later when I finally dumped it.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        On my way to buy a used tuner from someone on craigslist, I saw an absolutely beautiful Aero series Mercury Grand Marquis in a deep, deep green I hadn’t seen before on GM’s. Along with the diamond spoke wheels, it made a really nice setup.

        Given that combo it had to be between 92-96 MY’s.

        You’re right, it’s not current…it is agelessly good-looking.

        And my 95 Cherokee Sport in dark green looked like a perfect color for a Jeep SUV.

        I will admit that I am partial to green as a color for a lot of things, though I don’t think you have to be as biased as I am on the subject to have appreciated either of the above two examples.

        However, I am the same person who, when given the opportunity to pick the color of my bedroom in our new house in Florida, as a pre-teen, I picked a Lime Green against everyones advice not to paint something as large as a room in such a strong shade.

        They were right…it was overwhelming when I saw it on a wall and not just on a paint chip. The house painter was gracious enough to put a lighter shade down on the second coat, however, saving me from having a room that would have glowed in the dark, practically.

        But subdued dark greens, such as the British Racing Green on a Mk II Jag I once owned, can be a great color…somewhat unique without being garish.

        I also once owned a green 76 VW Rabbit, I think the name of the color was Alpine Green. Lighter than the above examples, and a bit more of a standout bright shade, but still not a bad look.

        I hated the era during which you couldn’t buy a new car in green if you paid extra to have it painted, even.

        I also have a neighbor whose 96 Grand Marquis can be seen down the block, looking from my front window, that is a darkish green color, though I don’t think as dark as the one I saw today. It too has the diamond spoke wheels, and the combo neither looks dated or gross.

        I realize “de gustibus non disputandum”, @CoreyDL, but I just don’t think your examples are very convincing. I like the green turn of the century Blazer color as well.

        Green looks better than a lot of other colors, including most browns, with the exception of a dark chocolate brown color, perhaps with a medium tan interior.

        So the vote stands at 1 to 1 on the color green.

        Anyone else have an opinion on green as an automotive or other color?

        Studies have also shown that green is a relaxing color, which probably has added to the proliferation of institutional green walls. That is one place I will agree with you that green is an ugly color. The visible result of a night of over-indulgence is another example of an ugly green that comes to mind.

        But virtually all broad colors have both good and bad examples.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      +1 for it not being black or silver. -1 for it not being yellow, red or orange. OR BROWN!!

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I am utterly not in the market for that, but I *love* that color.

      I’m weird, though. I like the old 70s-80s “reed green” style European color, too.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …i waited six weeks to take delivery of my mazda 2, even though, like most mass-market manufacturers, mazda doesn’t do “special orders” per se…

    …rather, after i specified the exact combination of trim, options, and color i was interested in buying, and after confirming that no such beast was available for trade stateside, my dealer inquired with mazda when that particular combination would next come up in their pre-allocated production run at hiroshima, and reserved its delivery a couple months in advance for a reasonable down-payment…that’s not the way things are typically done, and that’s not what mazda USA’s distibution program is set up to do, but a reputable and resourceful dealer can find a way to satisfy exacting demands to make the sale…

    …and yes, it has a stick-and-clutch among other features, and yes, other marques under consideration lost the sale due to not offering said option: some of us still vote with our wallets…

    • 0 avatar
      Moparmann

      I did the same thing for both (’07-’12)of my Honda Fit Sports. Due to Honda’s limited color palette, I wanted a BLUE manual, and I was willing to wait. It took almost 10.5 weeks for the first one, and longer for the second, finally resolved by a dealer swap. I told my sales rep that as I was buying NEW, I was NOT willing to settle..I wanted what I wanted! :-) BTW: I guess that’s why I CAN’T have a BLUE 6 speed Accord coupe!!

      • 0 avatar
        ...m...

        …exactly that: if i’m paying the premium for a new car, i expect it to exactly match my specification…if i were willing to compromise a bit per whatever’s readily available, i’d be much better-served buying a used car and saving substantial depreciation cost…

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    There is a red copy of the universally-praised Focus ST at my small town dealer. It has been sitting in the front row of the lot for at least a year. I guess it’s just the wrong market for that car.

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    Funny you mention BMW, because of all the car brands out there, it is still relatively easy to custom order a BMW (and their FWD sister brand MINI), and they still offer a manual in many (but not all ) configurations (where’s my 328i touring 6MT? Oh that’s right the last year it was offered they sold literally 11 or so of them). In fact BMW caters to both the buy off the lot market and the custom order types, including a brisk European delivery business. Moreover, you can actually finance and lease the weird configurations possible with little or no penalty. You can even get a BMW in almost any color you want, as long as you’re willing to pay $5k for it.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      I just thought of something. How does European Delivery and/or the BMW Individual program work with the X5, which is built in South Carolina? I thought all custom BMW Individual work was done in Germany.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike N.

        You obviously can’t do a European Delivery but you can do a SC factory delivery (they offer driving classes etc too while your there, I think it’s called Performance Center Delivery). In fact you can even do a Performance Center redelivery of your European Delivery BMW, and thus never have to even set foot in the dealership that actually sold you the car..

        Individual is also available from the SC plant.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t. The Euro delivery excludes those cars.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      This works for BMW because their cars are expensive. Yes, you can get what you want, but you’ll pay the price. Mainstream brands can’t charge enough to do this.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike N.

        Truth, it wouldn’t work for a mass market brand given the way things are currently structured. I think BMW knows it’s part of their value proposition, just like sporty RWD cars. I mean, they will sell/lease all the X4s people want to buy, but will still offer the likes of the M235i and 3’s (and M cars for that matter) with manuals for their core fans, a small but vocal and influential constituency.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        BMW also nickels and dimes you for every option. Withholding options is not exactly a blessing.

        Honda’s approach of having a couple of basic trim levels with bundled features is better for production efficiency, reliability and customer choice. You can just get more stuff, rather than decide what not to get.

    • 0 avatar
      King of Eldorado

      BMW actively promoted this a few years ago with a slogan I don’t remember but that amounted to “Have It Your Way.” Out of curiosity I asked a rep at the LA Auto Show if that meant they would literally build one for you or if it just meant they would search their inventory for one. She said they would actually build one and that it would be delivered in 5-6 weeks.

      I thought that was a refreshing answer to car reviews of upscale models that mention a specifically optioned version — usually a base model with just a couple of options — and then add “if you can find one.” If I’m buying a $45,000 car, why should I have to “find one”? Shouldn’t that be part of the better dealership experience they would like you to believe you’ll have when you buy an upscale brand?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I agree. I think BMW and Porsche are the makes that handle custom orders the best, and it’s a compelling reason to look at BMWs even though I find most of the products pretty uninspiring at the moment.

  • avatar
    raph

    I just ordered a new Mustang and so far it’s been a pleasant experience. I got the exact vehicle I wanted and it was ordered, assembled and delivered in a reasonable amount of time.

    The order went in on March 17th and the vehicle hit the dealership on 20th of April.

    Ford has a pretty neat website for tracking the order. You can search for the vehicle via order number and a few more details or by VIN and the website generates an approximate picture of the vehicle along with the status which is date stamped for each stage from order to delivery and you can generate the vehicle window sticker.

    I honestly don’t think I’ll ever go back to just settling for whats on the lot unless they have exactly what I want.

    • 0 avatar
      ferdburful

      I did the same thing. Ordered a GT Premium Convertible Jan. 28th. Got a good price from the dealer, and I ordered it exactly the way I wanted. The Mustang was delivered March 18. They told me it would take 6-8 weeks for delivery and they met that easily. It was fun going into the dealership to pick it up. Smallish Ford/Lincoln dealer. All the older sales reps commented on the color combo – they loved the Ruby Red with Ceramic interior. The dealer rarely has a convertible on the lot. Go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        arun

        @ raph and ferdburful

        When you special order a car as you mentioned, is there any leeway on the price or are you forced to pay msrp every single time?

        I do want to special order a challenger and a jaguar at some point but not if the prices stay at msrp

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          I special ordered a Focus a while back, and was able to negotiate a decent deal. The only kicker was that I’d get whatever incentive that was available at the time of delivery. In my case it worked out in my favor.

        • 0 avatar
          DeeDub

          Wouldn’t it be quicker and potentially less expensive to search a broader area for the car you want rather than special order?

          Just make a deal over the internet with a dealership wherever, fly one way and drive your new car home.

          You get exactly the car you want, you don’t have to wait a month to get it, and you don’t have to pay special order pricing.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            Quicker, yes, less expensive, no. What I wanted was a hatchback with a five speed and a sunroof, there were none in the region. Adding the airfare would have pushed the price beyond what I ultimately paid.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          @ arun I used my SVTOA membership to knock a coupla grand off the price and my salesman checked for any offers so I saved about 3k over sticker so not much haggling going on.

          I went to Ford’s configurator and spec’d out the car I wanted ( loaded Metallic Guard GT M6 PP ) and brought a print out to the salesman. The print out was generated through Ford’s special pricing website and I provided my SVTOA membership details and went from there.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          I bought an 88 Thunderbird Supercoupe that I found on the local dealer lot, near to the end of the model year.

          It was titanium silver metallic, midnight blue leather, moonroof, but no aluminum billet wheels.

          It was an eyecatcher, in a capital city/college town, so it was going to sell sooner or later, but probably later.

          They didn’t want to budge on the wheels or the price, but I couldn’t find the same combo anywhere. But after I listened to all the drivel about how NHTSA wouldn’t let them swap wheels, or FoMoCo wouldn’t for a week, I finally told them it was the last time I was coming into the dealership. That if they didn’t get those wheels on there that afternoon and get the paperwork signed with me, I was done.

          Suddenly there was no problem with swapping the wheels, except getting the service department to drop everything and swap the wheels.

          I only wanted the car exactly the way I wanted it to look, and they knew I wasn’t playing. PS the deal was closed on the last day of the sales month, no doubt giving me considerable leverage.

          If I pay your price, you give me what I want. That simple.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Domino’s has a stages to ready thing on their website which I enjoy as well.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I want a similar CarTracker for Ford.

        “Bill is putting the engine in your Mustang”

        “Your Mustang is baking in the paint oven”

        “It’s a Friday afternoon, and you have a Job 1 vehicle, so Ken and Tim didn’t feel like properly aligning your body panels. Good luck a$$hole!”

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          LOL

          There are no cool Kens.

          Ken is the name of a man you borrow a step ladder from.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Or a man who was mercilessly bullied throughout his childhood and is at high risk of shooting up a mall.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            He still may have a step ladder I need to borrow though. Hopefully that’s not what sets Ken off. I repay for my ladder borrowing with beer.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            The three of you are cracking me up.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Lions sadness seems to have a recovered since the addition of Matthew Stafford and Megatron. EDIT: wrong thread.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If Ken only has a bit of flat plastic downstairs, then I would understand his motivations on shootings.

        • 0 avatar
          56BelAire

          “It’s Monday, your car just fell off the Haulaway, don’t worry, we’ll have it fixed and to you in no time at all”.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            “Its Friday afternoon, lets just finish this last Verano…this transmission look funny to you?”

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Dave-

            As a resident of Oakland County, MI, I apologize for the GM Orion Township workers that decided to put a potato in your transmission. I feel that it’s also Russelsheim’s fault.

            What month was your car built?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            May have been my evil twin, that’s the kind of thing he would do to be a dick and all.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            March 2014.

            As a resident of Calgary, I am appalled by my neighbors who can’t seem to perform ANY service on this car without it taking 3 visits to close a single invoice.

            The fact is, the build quality issue is far and away exacerbated by the local dealership/service experience. (hint, terrible)

          • 0 avatar
            GS 455

            Does the 5 second rule apply to cars as well as food?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            LOL poor Dave and his first hand experience :(.

            Sue Budweiser!

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Living and learning, trying to figure out the best way to get rid of the car.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “March 2014”

            Well then they have no “I was drunk” excuse. No summer shudown, no Jobbie Nooner (Michigan Mardi Gras with boats in summer), no Detroit Lions sadness, no opening day. Terrible.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Isn’t Lions sadness… like a forever thing? I didn’t realize it ever stopped.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Lions sadness seems to have a recovered since the addition of Matthew Stafford and Megatron.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Lions sadness is forever. But March is not peak sadness time. Everyone is hopefully for the NFL draft all over again. We should know better by now.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s massively annoying to hear people braying about the death of the enthusiast when that is so obviously not true. Rather we are spread out to the point that catering to us had become economically difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      clivesl

      I think the interesting thing is that as manufacturing costs come down for smaller operators you might see a real resurgence in the local maker movement in the Automotive space.

      Enthusiasts might be on the verge of an age where you can go and order your dream car with modern internals from a local fabricator for not much more than a mass market vehicle.

      That’s years away of course, but I could see that becoming a profitable niche for a talented designer/builder.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        I think you are underestimating the effort involved in developing and building a car. I don’t forsee this happening, I’d expect more consolidation, not less.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        As long as they can somehow get out of crash-test requirements, which would be pretty brutal, otherwise.

        • 0 avatar
          clivesl

          Yes, there is going to need to be major changes in the current system for the small operator model to be feasible.

          That hasn’t happened because there are so many other factors that keep a small shop automaker from happening that everything else is moot.

          However, the cost to manufacture small runs will come down. One man shops can build more complex stuff more cheaply than they ever could before.

          New materials, 3D printing, modular electric drive-trains, heck modular ICE drive-trains.
          If there is suddenly money to be made by the majors by supplying platforms to boutique makers they will be happy to provide a small maker generic platforms.

          I’m not talking $30,000 family sedans. I’m talking about a pristine 1974 Pontiac Grand Am (I have weird fetishes) that was built last week for like $80K to $100K.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Excellent article, Jack! Thank you!

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Thanks for reminding me why I’m packing my bags and moving to Europe as soon as I win the lottery.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Finding the one-off models with the desired “out-of-the-mainstream” equipment and in a color that’s acceptable has always been my quest when new-car shopping. In past years I found and purchased a new Astro Van, base model but with the mid-level interior, cruise but no tilt, towing package and also purchased a 4.3 liter w/ 5-spd manual as well as a Chevy Cheyenne with similar upgraded interior, 5-spd 4.3 liter and cruise/tilt. Not brown manual diesel wagons but were exactly suited to me and not what everyone else was steered into purchasing. Hard to do now for the reasons stated by Jack above but there is a sort of work-around. One of my daughters and I each purchased new vehicles last year with the basic requirement of a manual transmission. Of course, both my Outback and her Fiesta were bottom-model vehicles and white in color but equipped with manual transmissions. What we’ve found is that we have “blank slates” for upgrading what we want to add as far as options; we weren’t forced to purchase something with that extra crap in “packages” that we didn’t need/want – most of the wiring/attachment points/brackets are there for upgrades with OEM stuff. A little more work than walking the lots back in the olden times to find something different that meets the needs but not following the sheep at the stealership and satisfying in the end.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Jack, great piece and echos my days just out of college when I worked on a dealership lot myself at a time when we did everything in our power to get hold of silver New Beetles (when the New Beetle was indeed ‘new’) and EmKayFour Jettas to sell to the sorority girls. Silver was the color of choice. It was silver or nothing and damn if we didn’t charge a premium for them.

    This piece is spot on and it bears repeating, again and again: in America, the dealership is the customer. It affords the automakers the ability to offload inventory from their books very quickly and hoist that burden onto someone else.

    As an aside, and this is in no way an endorsement of the current dealership model: The next time you go begging for manufacturer direct sales from the big automakers, just keep that little nugget in mind and also keep in mind that eliminating the dealer will probably result in everyone paying *more* for their cars. To use the Apple model: it is exceedingly rare that Apple runs any kind of discount or promotion in their retail stores (sans a back to school offer of, say, an iTunes gift card), but third party Apple resellers will often offer discounts or bundles that you would otherwise never see. Prepare for a similar experience in the direct sales world that the B&B often desire.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      On the other hand, factory-direct dealerships that just have a few floor models and most cars are factory-order eliminates the god-awful huge expense and tied-up capital of inventory.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Like Jack pointed out, customers don’t want to wait. They want to walk in, sign, and drive. Dealers don’t have big inventory for no reason, customer demand made it this way.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          Maybach in the US was shocked to learn that even people dropping over a quarter million on a car were uninterested in special order and wanted to grab something off the floor as though it were a magazine.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The US business model dates back to Henry Ford. Ford’s strategy was to run the factory full-out, then force the dealers to eat the excess inventory (which at the time, he could do at the dealers’ expense.)

        It’s a byproduct of mass production. The key to profit was to keep pumping out units, no matter what. The five dollar day came from this — better to have a stable workforce at a higher cost than lower output and cheaper labor. The dealership model also came from this — dealerships were dumping grounds for inventory, and it was left up to the dealer to figure out how to unload it.

        The American customer has grown accustomed to having inventory ready to buy. High taxes in Europe have fostered a company car/ lease market that allows for more pre-orders (although the customer pays for this in the form of higher prices.)

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        sirwired: yeah, that would work great for dealerships, but not so much for the factories. GM, Ford and Chrysler avoided death several times over by channel stuffing inventory to keep the factories running. As danio3834 pointed out, this is a legacy system that is so entrenched it’s hard to imagine the factories being able to change it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      That desire comes down to the fact that those people people don’t actually want a better deal, they just want everyone to get the same bad deal as them.

      Similar to the brown manual trans car brigade, they remain dissonant after it’s explained why things are the way they are to them, and why that works.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        “That desire comes down to the fact that those people people don’t actually want a better deal, they just want everyone to get the same bad deal as them.”

        EXACTLY. Everyone (and by everyone I mean “the aggregate, not necessarily those of us in the B&B) loves to spin tales of how they got an insanely good deal, beat the dealership down and walked out with a $50,000 car for $30k. It’s almost always complete and total horse dung.

        As I’ve said many times before – there is no reason for anyone to haggle or negotiate on a new car deal. The price of the vehicle is right there on the factory sticker. The auto industry is just one of those where everyone thinks they deserve to pay less than sticker.

        Why people don’t believe in negotiating for other items with far higher margins than cars is beyond me: bottle of wine at dinner (typically 100-300% markup), jewelry (150-200% markup), clothing (typically 300% markup), eyeglasses (1,000% markup).

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “there is no reason for anyone to haggle or negotiate on a new car deal.”

          That isn’t quite true. If you offer to pay MSRP with no argument, chances are good that the dealer will try to get you to pay more than that. The sticker is a thing on the window — the dealer will go for more if and when it is possible.

        • 0 avatar
          56BelAire

          I’m an old time car salesman and I’m also a haggler. I’ll try to haggle on anything, furniture, appliances, etc., even in big box stores. Did you know for instance that every single employee(even part timers) at Home Depot is authorized “haggle power” up to $50. Department Heads(DH’s) have more and managers have more yet. They regularly haggle and give discounts to contractors. After retirement I worked part time at the local HD in the hardware and tool dept and regularly gave discounts to nice people I encountered(even on sale items)……dick-heads….no discounts.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “keep in mind that eliminating the dealer will probably result in everyone paying *more* for their cars.”

      Fine. I’d pay a premium to avoid the dealership experience. Just give me a straightforward price on a car I configure, with no haggling necessary to get a reasonable deal, and don’t make me spend days of my life trying to find the car I want and a salesperson I can trust.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        People say this in the abstract. But I doubt that they truly want to pay several thousand dollars more per car for a marginally easier shopping experience.

        The resulting price differentials would force most buyers to downgrade their trim levels. Many of those who buy Camrys and Accords would end up in Civics and Corolla because of the price hit.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I don’t think it would be several thousand dollars. I think it would be less than 1000. And I’d pay it. The dealership experience is absolutely miserable, except when you luck out and find an exceptional salesperson AND management team.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Look at European prices (excluding VAT). They’re substantially higher than US prices, and this inventory system is one reason why.

            The dealership system is a direct outcome of the production system and the large scale inherent to the US market. If we had a small population, a marginal economy or really high taxes, then things would be different.

            The dealership system is the way it is because it serves the OEMs for it to be that way. That helps the consumer in the form of lower prices, but you also have to know how to play the game so that you don’t get burned. Given American circumstances, the best remedy for this would be to reform disclosure laws so that customers know more about what they are paying and what they are buying before the deal goes hard.

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            dal20402 –

            Imagine you’re an executive at a car maker. You’ve got the choice of building cars, selling them to dealerships and then receiving that cash within 15-30 days; or, you can build the cars and floorplan them yourself. You’re taking working capital and tying it up in (very expensive) inventory for, on average, 72 days.

            If automakers go this route you’ll see even *fewer* options as the automakers will only want to build high margin cars and those that turn inventory extremely quickly.

            If you’re going to floorplan those cars yourself you need to build in additional margin for the floorplanning. You also need to build in additional overhead for the manufacturer owned showrooms and showroom staff. You also need to add in overhead for the service departments, parts, service equipment, training and staff that will now be on your balance sheet, not on the balance sheet of hundreds, if not thousands, of independent shops.

            Look, I’m not saying the model cannot work, and I’m not saying that there are benefits to an integrated approach. What I am arguing is that a lot of people overlook the immense overhead that the OEMs avoid by being able to essentially outsource the entire distribution, sales and aftermarket end of the business. Bringing all of those aspects under the OEM’s umbrella would require monumental sums of cash and outside of a major upheaval in the industry or economy just isn’t going to happen en mass anytime soon. Look, it took the bankruptcy of General Motors in the midst of the worst financial crisis in 80 years to get the incremental changes and consolidation that GM has wanted for decades.

            There’s a lot of baggage out there that needs to be overcome.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        dal20402 –

        I’m with Pch101 on this one: everyone says this in the abstract, but in reality the vast majority want the deal. You’ve already got a straightforward price on the car: it’s called sticker price. Outside of unicorns or high demand combos, there’s no negotiating that needs to take place. Walk in, offer sticker on an in-stock car, write a check, go home. Guarantee it’ll work at 99% of the dealerships out there.

        Reality being the pain that it is, people on the aggregate just don’t operate this way, especially once your friend/neighbor tells you (often times embellished) that they just purchased that fancy BMW 3 Series that stickers for $39,000 for $30,000 and you just rolled in with your no-haggle top of the line Camcord for $29,500.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Walking in and offering to pay sticker doesn’t save me from any part of the dealership process except for some of the haggling. I want the dealer GONE. I’ve just had too many bad dealership experiences and they’ve lost my trust and my wish to be a customer.

          It’s still on me to find the car I want, which may be anywhere in the US, and in my experience is certainly not at any dealer close to me. It’s still on me to sit through the dealer’s interminable attempts to upsell me on everything from etched glass to the frequent washer plan at his brother’s carwash. It’s still on me to go through the paperwork with a fine-toothed comb, finding all the places where he’s tacked on fees and obfuscated numbers so I’m actually paying more than sticker. It’s still on me to figure out a way to deal with the fact that the salesman’s boss’s boss took my car for a 184-mile joyride before delivery (yes, this actually happened with my G8, and I negotiated a further discount only after an unpleasant confrontation). It’s still on me to deal with the fact that the entire staff treats me as though I had dog poo on my shoe the second I want something that’s not Jack’s green Explorer XLT.

          I don’t see why the European system would add so much expense for the manufacturers. It’s not like the manufacturers have to handle all that inventory when almost all cars are built just-in-time. The expense would come from the greater number of build combinations.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I would pay MSRP for the Mustang GT350, but I doubt dealers will let me do that.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Dealers in the US compete against each other, which pushes down prices. Company-owned stores aren’t competing against themselves and have less impetus to haggle, plus they are more motivated to avoid discounting that could come at the expense of their brand.

            A system based upon inventory push (the US) invariably leads to excess production, which leads to discounting (incentives). A pull system as is found in Europe is less likely to produce that outcome, so prices stay higher.

            As noted, the tax system also encourages different outcomes in Europe that would favor a lease-oriented pull system. The US does not and almost certainly will not have those factors.

          • 0 avatar
            kablamo

            Dal, you’re right in that the built to order model can work, since it does in Europe.
            The problem is the status quo right now is perceived as adequate. There’s little desire to undertake such a change when consumers have already been conditioned to expect limited selection and fast delivery, according to the existing model.

            There would have to be a lot of requests for custom/oddball vehicles for dealers and manufacturers to take notice and that isn’t too likely – so JB and DK are right, unfortunately.

    • 0 avatar
      Dirk Stigler

      Couple things:

      1) Dealers are required by law to be the customer in every US state. Manufacturer-direct showrooms don’t exist because they’re illegal. Chrysler-Fiat found that out a few years ago when they tried to open a boutique in downtown LA, and more recently Tesla has been challenging the laws in Texas and New Jersey.

      2) European carmakers don’t just make it easier for customers to order, they have more build combinations available, especially engine/transmission combos. If they can handle all those build sheets there, they could do it here. What’s different is that the US government requires every combination of body and drivetrain to be crash-tested separately, whether or not there are any real structural differences. You have to make your per-unit profit over a lot of sales to cover that.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        California allows factory-owned stores. But they have to be at least ten miles away from franchises that carry the same brand: http://www.autonews.com/article/20110921/RETAIL07/110929967/chrysler-to-sell-factory-owned-la-store-to-new-century-automotive

        I’ve explained above why the European system results in higher prices — variety does not come free of charge. US taxes are also too low to encourage the creation of the company car market that is commonplace in Europe.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          Another reason why we can have that variety in Europe is that most people don’t expect to take a new (or even used) car home after visiting the dealership. We like to go looking, tire-kicking, test driving and then go home and think how we are going to sell that old car first. Waiting more than a month for a car isn’t long at all.
          Most people wouldn’t even mind waiting a week for the dealership to detail and change the tires on their new-to-them used car, since it has obviously been test driven by who knows what etc.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’m impressed that there are still Accord coupes. Its getting to the point where the only two doors left are sporty and luxury cars.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Reminds me of the 2001 525iT with a 5-speed manual and sport suspension I bought back in ’04. The first owner had special ordered the car and paid full sticker (a disadvantage to ordering, by the way, unlikely to put you in a good negotiating position with the dealer). I bought the car off of Craigslist from him. A couple of years later, I resold it on eBay and had so many calls from around the country that I sold it only 2 days for a bit more than I had paid for it. The new buyer showed up at my house in a 1991 VW Jetta GLI 16V nearly exactly like the one I had driven 10 years earlier… great minds, I guess.

    When I was looking for the car in the first place, dealers told me that a) they never stock manual transmission 5-series, especially wagons, because they don’t sell and b) I was probably the 4th person that week looking for a manual transmission 5-series.

    Similarly, every time I have sold my “oddball” manual transmission cars (I later had a manual trans Mazda5 Touring from the first and only year they offered it with a stick and some options) I have had my door beaten down with calls from people who thought these were unicorns.

    Not every dealer needs to stock up on these, but if one dealer in a particular market tried I would think they could foster a successful and loyal business. It’s just that nobody wants to stick their neck out and try. And since most customers simply buy a different car anyway, they have little perceived need to try.

  • avatar
    adamiata

    Yet another reason dealers are parasitic middle men.

    I’d like to see Tesla’s manufacturer direct sales legal for every brand in every state.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Well I have purchased my share of oddballs new from dealers. The M6T Sonata, which I later found had sat on someone’s lot for at least 6+ months. Before that a Caravan with manual windows and door locks but with power side view mirrors and built in baby seats. And a Honda Civic Wagovan with Realtime 4WD and a 6 speed manual transmission (and dealer installed A/C).

    As others have noted, if it is on a lot and you find it sitting then you have a very strong negotiating position.

    If however you ‘special order’ it the dealer is going to stick it to you in a very special way.

    In effect the automobile sales process in North America is set-up to protect the manufacturer and actually forces the dealers to use disingenuous sales techniques.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Arthur Dailey wrote:

      “If however you ‘special order’ it the dealer is going to stick it to you in a very special way.”

      Would that explain the Grecian columns in the new style of Lincoln showrooms?

      Perhaps to get you in the mood…

      Just bend down here and sign on the dotted line, sir.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    I sell Audis and I agree 100% with Jack on this one. The Q5 is our most popular model and if you visit our dealership you will find twenty of them. In descending order they will be black, gray, white and silver. Most will have the tech and sport packages, one or two will be the lease special, none will be volcano red or teak brown. We stock what we sell quickly. Ordering from the factory is 8-12 weeks, tack on another 6 weeks for custom exterior paint.

    We have a black on black A4 stick with sport plus package that has been gathering dust for 8 months, ask me why my manager will not order a 2016 in that configuration , what will happen with it? One of the salesmen will probably lease it.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Great article. Interesting you should mention V6 manual sedans. That’s exactly what I was looking for a few cars ago. There were exactly three choices, well two and half… Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and VW. The latter being the half choice since the Jetta was too small and the Passat never made the list since it was too expensive. Finally settled on the Mazda, in blue, V6 manual, and GS not GT because I didn’t want the silly ground effects package. Unfortunately here is where I fall off the article, because they managed to find one over on the other side of the province. I’m sure that other dealer was glad to get it off their lot, but not so glad that they didn’t try to squeeze an extra few dollars out of me because they had to send their transporter over to get it… Until I threatened to go find that dealer myself and buy the car directly from them.

    This is where the problem with foreign-built cars lies… They are shipped over in batches. There are really no custom orders unless you happen to get your order in at the beginning of the model year. If the last batch has come over, then that’s it. You take what they have.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    Done and done! So now I own a Hyundai Genesis 2.0T coupe. Tens of thousands of those around. With a manual. Still thousands of those. In Catalunya Copper. In Canada. One of about four that I know of in the whole country since this color is “not available here”. My dealer had to work for this sale. Come on Canada – stop limiting yourselves to black, white, silver, and grey! I just checked, and the best colors are not even offered any more in the US either. *sigh*. Marlin Blue was so nice too, why did it have to go?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      ’cause nobody bought it?

      That’s my guess.

      (I *love* cars in actual colors.

      But I’m realistic – they’re not actually popular.

      [Says the guy who bought a Metallic Bronze Volvo, with brown leather.])

      • 0 avatar
        badreligion702

        I have an Estoril Blue II 3 series that as far as I can tell can no longer be ordered. You already had to get the M Sport Line to get it, now the only new BMW you can get in EBII is the 4 series Gran Coupe.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          You can get the 2-series in EBII, M-sport 228i or M235i. I ordered mine in EB on Oyster. Though EB on Coral has a certain zany appeal to me. The “Superman combo”.

          EB looks spectacular in bright sun – so pretty!

          And of course I ordered a stickshift RWD car, which is pretty much a unicorn in the Northeast.

  • avatar
    A09

    “In the meantime, what can you do? It’s simple. Buy something weird. Order something the dealer doesn’t have. A different color. An odd combination of options.”

    This is exactly what I did when I purchased a 2006 Honda Accord. It was a V6 Sedan, EXL Navi, with the 6MT. It was even in brown (Carbon Bronze Pearl). I ordered it in December 2005, it finally arrived at the dealer in March 2006. The dealer commented that if I wanted the 5AT, I could have something that day; three Carbon Bronze Pearl EXL Navi V6 Accords were on the lot when I put in my deposit.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Jack’s article can be summed up in 2 words. Opportunity Cost. From Wiki… In microeconomic theory, the opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative forgone, in a situation in which a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives given limited resources. Assuming the best choice is made, it is the “cost” incurred by not enjoying the benefit that would be had by taking the second best choice available.

  • avatar

    I saw this exact thing when I sold Mitsubishis 20 years ago. The 2nd gen Eclipse was out. We had one green GSX AWD model which sat on the showroom floor for five months while the base model and mid-level GS flew off the lot in less than a week. One guy special ordered a GS turbo with a five-speed in silver and we had to wait while one was built.

    And the 3000GT? Forget it. We were leasing Galant sedans for $149 a month and with a small 150 car lot, we were practically parking new cars on the street.

  • avatar
    clkimmel

    Great article Jack!

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’ve been impressed with the number of MT Accords Honda runs, including the 4-pot sedans. Autotrader says there are almost 15,000 Accord sedans for sale and 689 of them are manuals within a 500 mile radius of me (at least 60M people), for about a 4.6% mix. While a rough estimate, that would put the number of MT sedans at about 16,000 per year – far from common but not unicorn territory either.

    There is a dealer in town who has enough working capital to avoid a floor plan loan. They’ve always got interesting inventory.

  • avatar
    redliner

    Reminds me of a recent experience at a Subaru dealer. My father was looking manual transmission Crostrek.

    Sales woman: Hi, welcome bla bla bla bla.
    My dad: Hello, I’m looking for a Crostrek… with a manual transmission.
    Sales woman: Ohhh, let me check with the manager…

    Sales woman walks away, and then from some cubical in the back we hear, “What is it with all these F*ng people coming in and asking for F*ng manuals!” Needles to say, they didn’t have any.

    Proving Jacks point that Americans don’t wait, my dad went down the street and purchased a max loaded Focus ST instead. It had only been on the lot for 3 days. The salesman remarked that they knew the ST would either sell right away, or languish in some back lot for a year until ford discounted it enough to make it worthwhile.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      They sound very professional there at the Subaru dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      That Subaru dealer must HATE people who buy WRXes!

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Probably.

        I hear they’re usually fanboys angling for a discount and wasting his time with test drives and not buying.

        (Look at a local Subaru dealer’s inventory.

        Around here, Carr Subaru has 13 WRXes – one’s a Premium with the CVT.

        They have 54 Outbacks and *113 Foresters*, 23 each of the Impreza, Legacy, and XV.

        Think they really give a damn about the WRX?

        I don’t.)

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          (And I just spot-checked Wentworth Subaru.

          They have *5* WRXes [also one of which is a Premium with the CVT], 101 Foresters, 44 Outbacks and 39 XVs.

          I’m pretty sure this pattern is typical.)

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I bet both of those dealers will sell all of their WRXes, though.

            The WRX might sell to a limited market, but said limited market is a loyal one. In my experience, people who buy WRXes tend to continue buying WRXes.

            The closest Subaru dealer, A&T Subaru, has six new WRXes (5 with the manual) and I am sure they will sell all six of them.

  • avatar
    Veee8

    Good Article Jack.
    It’s almost a mirror of our fast food culture – I’ll take an Accord I4 with the auto and some fries, Now!…but it’s so much nicer to sit down and truly be served a professionally prepared meal at a finer restaurant.

    I’m glad to be a weirdo driving a 5 speed Mazda 6 Wagon with the V6.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Ah, how do I love the oddball unit. I really like them on the used market, as you can get a great price typically if you are patient. CL & autotrader etal provide a great resource. CL especially because the original listing date is present. When it is on a dealers lot you have to call and ask how long said unit has been in stock. As mentioned, once the oddball piece has reached the six month mark the used car manager is generally willing to make just about any deal they can to open up the space.

    My father, back in the day, was the king of special ordered units from dodge and they wee happy to comply. Four speed MT full size van, no problem just wait here for 60 days. Dodge Dakota CC, MT with roll up windows and am radio. No problem. Fortunately he kept his cars till either they expired or in the last instance, he did. Either way he always had exactly what he wanted and had no desire to care if someone else would not want it later.

    Sid note, a full size van with a clutch was a awesome fun in HS. Would do burnouts for days….took the old man awhile to figure out tire wear increased when I got a DL.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    It reminds me of the old quote about “the consumer gets exactly what they deserve.

    Now tell me why we’re supposed to love dealers again and how they really are the best way to sell cars?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You have now summoned Ruggles. He will soon emerge from his lair, deep inside NADA HQ. I like to think of him as the NADA version of Mothra.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        HAHAHAHA

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Does that make PrincipalDan one of the Peanuts?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Are The Peanuts the little girls that sing the song to summon Mothra?

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            Yes, at least in the very old movies. They’re twins, Emi and Yumi Ito. They’re not called the Peanuts in the context of the movies, that’s just the name of their pop duo.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “Ruggles oh Ruggles
            If we were to call for help
            Over time, over sea, like a wave
            You’d come
            Our guardian angel”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            But, is Ruggles also the Brave Friend of All Children?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamera

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I may have watched too many Toho monster movies as a child.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Not enough MST3K apparently.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I watched that as a kid. My dad really liked it. I think I was too young to remember all the commentary. I think that’s a series I should rewatch. Is it on NetFlix?

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            Those lyrics, lol. I’m cracking up at the office.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            You are reminding me of when one of the very high level district special education administrators came out to see an incompetent special education teacher I was unfortunate enough to have on my staff.

            After she finished laying down the law, she turned to me and said (in her soft West Texas drawl): “Was I too hard on him?”

            I said; “Ma’am, you could have made a Kraken rise from the tiled floor and it would not have been too hard on him.”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @bball

            They released some of them on DVD through a company called Rhino but due to copyright issues they couldn’t release them all. Years back a group called the MST3K Digital Archive Project (DAP) started converting episode to mpeg from I presume VHS and put them on the interwebz. Now nearly the whole series is all over youtube. What’s not on youtube I have at home since I have the DAP’s copy of the entire series (no I was not part of the project but pulled a monster torrent down in 2005)

          • 0 avatar
            Funky

            MST3K; not available on Netflix but is available on Amazon Prime.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Thank you Funky. I already have Amazon Prime, too.

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        HIlarious! Funny because true.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    last time i was looking for a car i wandered into a rural ford dealership on a slow day and got to talking with the saleswoman and the general manager. we started talking inventory and model availability. turns out they know they will get a new shipment of vehicles every 2 weeks or so. they really do not know what will be on that shipment. best guess is trucks! all sorts of trucks because that’s what they sold last month. trucks. trucks. trucks. o and stripper model cars. because – you guessed it – that’s what they sold last month. and they had one hi-po mustang on the floor because that was their allotment as a franchise dealer. already other dealers had made inquiries as to when they would trade it for a – truck.

    the general manager was frustrated. he could place a request for something else but the dealership was so small he had no influence unless it was a special order.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t care about manual transmissions but I did buy basically the last naturally aspirated pushrod V8 sedan that exists.

    I don’t think my purchase is going to stop the march of turbos though.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    fascinated by articles on customer/dealer/manufacturer relationships. thanks for an interesting read.

    any room in the north american world for a small dealership that caters to spec ordered vehicles? it would have very little overhead due to a much smaller footprint. much like the european model. anyone could come in and order any vehicle but have to wait. the order and searching process would be shorter – that has to count for a lot – probably just as much time as searching for, finding and arranging a purchase across the city or across the county.

    the established dealers might like this because they can have on the lot more of the cars that sell fast and customers may like it because of the convenience of finding and getting what they actually want. manufacturers would hear less whining from large dealers but still have the opportunitty to satisfy their ‘special’ customers.

    may or may not require a service department. imagine one or two to region; a small building with just a salesperson or two, one of which also serves as the gm.

    yes, we can get you that sedan with a stick and diesel. ya know you can get it in any color you want for a slight upcharge. in fact this month we are running a deal on special order colors, let me show you the pallet……” the up sales may be worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Not a dealer person, but I assume: 1) Dealers make a lot more profit off of parts and service. 2) Special order buyers I would guess are much more likely to pay cash or bring their own financing (more profit not going to the dealer). I just don’t think they could compete. Plus, what’s the motivation for a manufacturer to franchise a super-low volume dealer?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I’ve special ordered three cars. Call a dealership up and let them know you want to order something. Be prepared to put down a deposit. I have financed with the dealership each time. Not because I had to, but because they beat my Bank of America or Credit Union rate.

        The Ford dealership I’ve worked with has never made me put down a deposit, orders the vehicle, and I pick it up when it comes in. They’ll even add all the discounts on. It’s been a pleasant experience, and I’ll use them if I even buy a new car again.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Definitely they make more off of parts and service. And when they don’t, such as the indestructible (for the most part) Panther platform cars, they kill the line off because the dealers don’t like to sell them when they could sell a rust bucket with service issues and make much more off of the sale over time. Once the RWD BOF Impala was gone, there was no reason for Ford to keep making them. And don’t cite low sales…in the last years, dealers would only special order them, and try to steer customers away from them like the plague, especially the Mercurys.

        And the Marauder, which was a step in the direction of modernity, suffered from being too little too late…should have been at least 100 more hp, maybe supercharged.

        But the dealers wanted service, and obsolescence, not durability and ease of maintenance.

        I’ll bet there will be LEO’s still running Crown Vic Police Interceptors when most of the LEO’s in the US that are going Ecoboost (or Dodge) will have gone through two or three generations of the newer cars. Ditto for the Chevy new cop cars.

        And according to the Michigan State Police tests, my (stock) 97 Grand Marquis is about as fast as everything out there for cops now, except the Chargers, which have zero staying power, except in the repair shop.

        Short lifespans and high maintenance and repair costs are the wave of the future for the dealers and manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      This was my thought too, at least in major metro areas there would likely be enough of a niche market to support a dealership that welcomes special orders, has oddball configurations and manuals on the lot.

      We’ve all heard the stories of manual cars sitting on dealer lots for 6 months, but I’ve sold 3 manual cars in the last 6 years and each one was snapped up within a few days. 2 of the 3 were sold to immigrants who were used to and preferred manual transmissions.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This is a great article, and I think something a lot of people outside the dealer side of things don’t consider or see. I would welcome more articles like this – industry stuff is always interesting.

    That’s why we liked Steve Lang articles. Or have Ruggles write something and Steve Lynch can add in.

    • 0 avatar
      AnotherMillenial

      I agree! I’ve had so many lingering questions about this area of the auto industry and you’ve cleared them up in your article, JB.

      I too welcome more dealer & industry-insider pieces that truly enlighten the audience. These are the articles/OpEds that live up to the TTAC name and also provide an edge that other auto sites simply can’t provide.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Great article, one of the reasons I keep coming back to TTAC is the insiders view.

    Especially with the internet, I can look around and find something that’s close enough. I would have preferred to buy our Odyssey in blue, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker. With our Mazda 5, finding a Grand Touring was tough, so we traveled to NYC to buy it and drove it home. The deal was good enough to offset the cost slightly (plus the adventure factor).

    My 01 Focus ZX3 had everything I wanted, a fully loaded 5 spd manual car but it was white, which was fine. I got close enough to what I wanted and the 0% financing deal. I’m just not picky on color, inside or out.

    If I want or if I am buying something truly special, I’ll probably special order it. I’d like to do Euro delivery some day on something. But as far as the family hauler lease, whatever is on the lot works for me, at least if it’s a Honda product. Our Odyssey EX-L has everything I want and not much I didn’t want.

    I’m also lucky enough to have airline travel benefits. If it’s REALLY something I want and it’s 300 miles away, I’ll hop a flight and go get it. If I can do it in a days drive, it’s a reasonable trade-off to me. That will also hold true if I get a fun car or do Euro delivery.

    I could wait, but I’d rather not if I don’t have to. And nothing I’ve ever bought has warranted waiting for the exact vehicle.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Pretty much every car that I find interesting right now would be in a unicorn configuration I’d have to order. Chevy SS manuals are order-only items at 99% of dealerships. Audi S4s either come without the sport options or with so many other options they break $60k. We all know about RWD manual configurations of BMWs. It’s pretty much impossible to find a RWD Lexus GS in the north. Even the lowly Honda Accord Hybrid only seems to be stocked in black and silver, where blue or red would be my preferred colors. The Ford Flex doesn’t often come with rear captain’s chairs and all the other goodies I want.

    And special-ordering would be fine with me except for two things.

    First, dealers, by and large, hate special orders. Any willingness to deal goes out the window the second you tell them you don’t want what they have on the lot. This is particularly true for dealers of non-German cars, but is true even for the German dealers.

    Second, manufacturers hate special orders too, unless they’re German. American manufacturers give you narrow order windows, byzantine timing rules that can result in months of waiting, and opaque, constantly-changing order procedures. Asian manufacturers basically won’t special-order at all; your dealer just has to pick a car from the next batch of your desired configuration with availability, which could be built months in the future.

    In other words, both the manufacturers (except the Germans) and the dealers are firmly oriented around the “pile ’em high, sell ’em fast” model, and strongly discourage you from trying to do anything different, to the point that it’s an unappealing enough experience that I’ve bought way fewer cars than I would have otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I wonder if that’s true if you walk in with a buying service certificate, like Truecar or USAA. If it’s basically a fixed price, do they care if they have to order it.

      I’m thinking of going this route, because I can’t find the model with the color, engine, and options I want anywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Wow.

      My last new car was a 2011 Accord coupe V6 manual, in white. I had no problem whatsoever with the special order process. Maybe it was just a class dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Are you in the Detroit area? I’ve gotten the feeling from conversations with a lot of members here that the dealership experience is better in areas like Detroit where there is a high concentration of auto-industry folks.

        I’ve only ever bought cars on the coasts (both coasts, though) and my dealer experiences lead me to post the rants I’ve posted in this thread.

        I think it’s not a coincidence that the one smooth car-buying transaction I’ve had in my life was the one time I bought a very common model (my Forester XT) out of dealer stock.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I dunno if he is, but it would make sense. You and I have talked about this before. I think it’s different here. I know plenty of people that special order cars. Some Ford dealerships around here like A-Plan customers to order vehicles. The price, and I think commission, is set, and the car doesn’t sit on the lot.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Yep. Posts here are making me think it might be worth my while to buy a car in Michigan and then take a nice 1500-mile road trip home with it, rather than dealing with the dealers around here.

            I think it’s actually worse in the PNW than it is in other places because Seattle and Portland, which both have limited numbers of dealers, are so far from other cities that people aren’t willing to look further away to buy.

            I should add: my experiences with some, but not all, of the Subaru dealers in the PNW were better when I bought the Forester. Subaru in the PNW is a special situation.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I almost did that with a GTI. I had to go through 5 VW dealerships in Arizona in order to find one that would sell me an MKV GTI under MSRP. My father taught me that someone wants to sell a car, you just have to find that guy.

            My C-Max purchase was the opposite. As soon as packages were announced, my salesman had me come in, and select which options I wanted from the order guide. I then signed a piece of paper saying that my $0 deposit was non-refundable, and my car was ordered. Six weeks later, it hit the lot, they did prep, we figured out the financing, I came in and signed paperwork that took less than 20 minutes, and done.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          No, it was Mechanicsville Honda (VA). They gave me the same for my trade in as CarMax offered, and they gave me $4600 off sticker for the Accord. And 0.9% interest. It was my best car deal EVER. Just came at a time in my life where buying that car was a dumb move, which is why I sold it 16 months later.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        Interesting, I tried to special order a blue, I4, manual Accord coupe around the same time period and was politely told to get lost by every Honda dealership in the greater Denver area, even after offering to pay sticker price.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I had no problems special ordering a Focus. The dealer did some searching, and came to the conclusion that what I wanted wasn’t out there, so we speced out what I wanted, agreed on a price, I gave them a $1000 deposit, and six weeks later I picked up my car.

      I’d think the Detroit three’s dealers would be very used to the process since many of their heavier duty trucks are special orders.

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        There should be a QOTD for “Which Dealer(s) would you recommend in your area”. That would be useful.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          I won’t recommend ANYBODY in Hampton Roads. The huge military presence makes “sign and drive” so commonplace that the dealerships are very resistant to real negotiating. You can almost always get the same car for a better price if you drive an hour or three.

          4 out of our last 5 used cars were bought in the DC/Baltimore area. The one we DID get locally was a steal because, well, it was a stick-shift Juke. Nuff said. ;)

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Much truth here. Then again everybody would probably be better off if they turned the 7 cities into one giant military base and trucked in civilians to fill the jobs and trucked them out. It’s interesting how the cost of living falls when you get away from the Hampton Roads area.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The answer for the Detroit Area:

          The large domestic dealerships that churn out employee deals. They will deal.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Very interesting article Jack, thank you for that new perspective, not something I had considered before. I’d love to be able to buy an Accord Sport in the maroon exterior/beige interior combination my Civic has. Hell I’d be willing to pay a decent amount extra to get that combination. Instead 6spd Accord sedans are only available in black and slate grey, and even with a CVT the Sport only comes with a black interior, which I don’t care for.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice article.

    “Honda does not want to sell 2,000 special-order manual V6 sedans a year. It creates an entire extra model to EPA certify and put in the brochure and observe for recalls. It’s too much hassle.”

    Once again, gov’t is a big part of the problem.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    The Explorer story takes me back to when I was 10 and my mother would drive demo cars that were ordered directly from the factory and then driven for a year. My father was a GM for a large car rental company thus the demo car situation.

    Being the car nut in the family he would bring home the Ford/Mercury/Lincoln book in which I could spec out the car, a car kid’s dream.

    The Explorer was hot and caught me eye and I wanted the best, so I tried to get my mom into the Limited model but she didn’t care for any of the colors. So we agreed on a Red with Tan interior `96 Eddie Bauer 4.0 V6 4WD model with all the options. It looked identical to the Explorer in this story minus the color.

    After a few months wait the vehicle arrived and I loved it as the passenger. Unfortunately my parent’s loathed it, a lot of it due to the gutless 4.0 engine hauling around a loaded model with 4WD.

    In retrospect I should had ordered it with the V8 as we used the 4WD once, we were living in San Diego at the time. I had visions of off-road treks and sacrificed the V8 option for real 4WD, not sure what I was thinking.

    Another oddball demo we ordered in 1998 was the Windstar Limited with the rare Gold/Tan paint, our second one as we had a 1995 GL launch model in Green that was useful for the family but even as a kid I picked up on how terrible and clunky the transmissions were in those vehicles, low speed rough shifts were common.

    Other memorable demo cars as a kid was a 1989 (or thereabouts, I was 3) 2-door Blazer with the digital dash, a loaded up 1993 Oldsmobile 88, 1994 Oldsmobile Silhouette with the power sliding door, 1996 Mustang Saleen S281, and a 1997 Land Rover Discovery among some others.

    P.S. As I have mentioned on here before I did go out and order my new car that is en route to the US, as I wanted a manual M3 and all the dealers had M3/M4’s with DCT, and very few M3’s on that note.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I wouldn’t call the 4.0 SOHC engine gutless at all, in fact it is widely reputed to have been underrated at 205hp, to not step on the toes of the 225hp V8. I rode around central NY’s hills several summers in a base XLT truck with the 4.0 six, loaded with 5 people going to and from corn fields. I thought it was a gruff but torquey beast, and the 5spd auto did a good job (until it didn’t: started to flare out on upshifts at 58k miles).

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    two problems with this article:
    1) I’ve seen custom ordered BMW X3’s delivered in THREE WEEKS.

    2) More than a few German metal mongers sell quite a few custom ordered cars. That’s not a problem – I did this with my S4 to get a manual. What I DO NOT GET and CANNOT FIND AN ANSWER FOR, is how much this elusive EPA certification costs. I see precisely zero reason why I can’t walk into an Audi dealer where I can buy an A4 avant(allroad), I can buy an S4 with a stick (or dsg, if a moron), and I can buy a A4 with a stick, but I can’t buy an S4 avant with a manual. All the bits are there, and they work in the US, and they’re all made on the EXACT SAME LINE in Europe, but I can’t get what I want.

    I don’t necessarily enjoy much of the Baruth $.50 word encrusted style pontification, but I would gladly read an article that would enlighten on how dearly priced this elusive EPA certification is for option combinations of features already sold in the US, and why manufacturers choose not to offer them.

    I had cash_in_hand for a stick shift AWD performance wagon. I still do. If I had a wrench, an allraod, and an S4 in the service bad, I could bloody well make one myself. But Audi won’t take money to do it for me, and I want to know why.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Don’t frankenstein together an Allroad S4. That’s a rabbit hole from which you will never emerge.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “I see precisely zero reason why I can’t walk into an Audi dealer where I can buy an A4 avant(allroad), I can buy an S4 with a stick (or dsg, if a moron), and I can buy a A4 with a stick, but I can’t buy an S4 avant with a manual.”

      Easy.

      Because the S4 Avant manual is a unique combination to crash-test and EPA certify (remember, the Avants are Allroad-shaped, but not actually the same car; it’s wider and taller than the Avant), and *nobody is going to buy one*.

      I suspect the EPA cert is the cheaper part.

      Crash testing is expensive, since it ruins vehicles – and for *low volume* cars it’s real easy to guarantee a net loss, unless you can get people to pay Ferrari prices.

      (I couldn’t find numbers on how many of a model are ruined to establish meeting NHTSA requirements – let alone the optional IIHS tests – but Autoblog [http://www.autoblog.com/2007/10/19/how-crash-tests-work/] suggests the total cost can be well over $100k *just for the testing procedure and wear on dummies*, not including the car itself.

      But if you’re doing Frontal, Rollover, Side, Partial-impact, well … you need to ruin a *new* car for each one.)

      How many S4 Manual Avants would they have to sell to make even $1 net after throwing away $150k, minimum?

      More than they will EVER sell, is how many.

      (Don’t get me wrong; when I was car shopping recently, I lusted over the *idea* of an Allroad with the S4 engine – though not a manual.

      But I’m realistic. Nobody was going to buy that.

      So I got an XC70-T6; I needed extra cargo space anyway.)

  • avatar

    Apropos the last paragraph, would buying a Tesla help similarly?

  • avatar

    A better question is why you were stuck with just three paint colors for said manual-transmission-equipped V6 Accord Coupe.

    I am not a complete proponent of the manual transmission, but I think that, yes, if I were to get an Accord Coupe V6, I’d go ahead and get the manual. But I’d want mine in Tiger Eye Pearl, and you can’t get that with the manual (and you can’t get it in the sedan at all).

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      If I was high up in the Honda system somewhere , and I knew that my manuals were as good as Honda manuals used to be, I would continue terrorising the people who bought auto-Hondas just like Honda (rightfully) used to do in the past…

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      That’s been a thorn in Jack’s side. Go to Honda’s Canadian website. They make those cars, in Ohio no less, but ship them north and refuse to sell them in the US.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    “In America, the dealer is the customer.” Just like the medical industry, where the insurance company is the customer. We’re the product.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    In-stock vs. special-order is a false dichotomy. Why not sell cars through large, well-capitalized, multiline retail chains operating hundreds or thousands of small showrooms supported by regional distribution centers? You know, the way every other consumer good gets sold these days? A big DC with a couple thousand cars can serve the long tail more effectively than a bunch of independent dealers with a couple hundred units each, but delivery would take a week at most. Extra bonus for the cost savings of warehousing inventory in a secure, cheap, central location, rather than giant open lots in Class A, high-traffic retail space.

    The franchise-dealer model is dumb, archaic, persists only due to legislative fiat, and can’t go away soon enough.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      I’ll drink to that.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I suspect you underestimate how much of car buying is an impulsive, emotional decision.

      People don’t want to “come back in a few hours/tomorrow” for their car, once they pull the trigger and decide.

      Also, dealer lots do provide a FEW shopping benefits a showroom doesn’t – even limited in their variety, it’s more than you’ll see on most showrooms.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        As much as I’d love to see Madroc’s plan implemented, I’ll have to agree with your sentiment. The last time I bought a Honda, we were sitting in a “sales cubicle” next to a couple who couldn’t have possibly had an idea they were going to buy a car that day. They had literally no idea how they were going to pay for a new car, much less what their old one was worth. Sad stuff.

  • avatar

    Is there another automotive writer who could, or would, write this? Is there another website or magazine that would publish it?

    Isn’t it nice to be able to work with people you respect?

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Attention Mazda:

    If you can paint an automatic-transmission CX-5 in blue, you can paint a manual-transmission CX-5 in the same blue. Yet somehow, you refuse to do that.

    I’d like a stickshift CX-5, but since you’ve limited my (non) color choices to black, gray, and another gray, I won’t be buying. I like my cars in an actual color.

  • avatar
    jameslhb

    I did exactly that two years ago: ordered a Grand Caravan SE Plus, Red, with rear heater and control as option. The dealer had to place a factory order for me. I waited about 10 weeks for the van to arrive. I was not in a hurry for the new van so it worked out for me.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    The one vehicle I could see myself ordering and waiting for(besides Mustang, Corvette,etc.) is a truck. The 52 zillion combinations of equipment is never on the right truck. I like the Dodge (Ram) EcoDiesel but around me ( and I mean the 300 miles around me) there are none configured how I’d like one. They are either stripper Tradesman 4×4 or Laramie 4×4 at 44k.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I agree. I’d love an F150, but I am pretty specific about what I want. I know that dealers are not stocking what I want. I wish I could get the MFT head unit in the XL. Luckily, I can get vinyl flooring and MFT on the XLT.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Me at a Ford dealership (presumably after I’ve won the lottery or embezzled public funds or something): “Hi, I’d like to buy a new F-150!”

        Honest Dick: “Well certainly thar, boy, heer’s a nice King Ranch–”

        “No thanks; I’ve got a custom order. An XLT SuperCab with an 8′ bed, 5.0, FX4 package, heavy-duty payload and towing packages, heated tow mirrors, Medium Light Camel interior, heated leather front bench out of a Lariat, rear cloth XLT seat, vinyl floors, moonroof and power sliding rear window, with a drop-in bedliner, in Blue Jeans but with that Caribou two-tone from the King Ranch. I’ve got cash up front. I’ll pay any extra fees and I’ll gladly wait the 6 weeks from the factory. Do we have a sale?”

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That sounds suspicuously close to my truck order.

          God I love the two tone. I saw one the other day. Guard and Caribou. Beautiful.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The dealer who says “Ya betcha!” to that question, rather than making 10 attempts to get me to buy that King Ranch instead and then acting passive-aggressive through the rest of the transaction, is the one I want to do business with.

          And the F-150 configurator is indeed a great time-waster. I’ll take mine as a Lariat Sport SuperCrew, shorty box, 3.5TT, 4×4, tow package, 3.55 locker, 6-spoke 20″ wheels, 502A, moonroof, and nav. While I’m dreaming about this I’ll also take a new garage it would actually fit into.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I’ve never thought about buying a full-size truck but totally agree that I’d jump straight to special order if I did. So. Many. Build. Combinations. It would be like winning the lottery to find one with the right combination of cab/bed/engine/drive wheels/axle ratio/towing hardware/wheels/color/trim level/options/etc./etc…

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The F150 configurator is one of the internet’s greatest time wasters.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Just behind Reddit and TTAC :)

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          My god…given the fact that there are four different F150 engines, even before you factor in trim levels, cab lengths, bed lengths, and options, the number of combinations must be staggering.

          And yet I’d rather buy a Ram! I’m not sure if Ford will sell you a half-ton truck with a V8 and a sporty rear diff ratio, but you can get a Ram 1500 with a Hemi and 3.92 rear gears.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            3.73 is the largest ratio.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            3.73 is still good, as long as you can get it with the V8.

            The Tremor gets a 4.10, but doesn’t even have the V8? That’s some serious bullshit right there Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Tremor is gone. You can get the 3.73 in anything 4×2 or 4×4. I wonder if the Raptor will keep the 4.10. There is an aftermarket 4.56, which is some craziness.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            The Tremor *had* (past tense) a 4.10 rear because mechanically, it was just a regular cab FX2/4, which all came with a 4.10.

            @bball: 4.56?! That would be absolutely insane in a half-ton. We have an F-350 with a 4.30 and it pulls like a mother…but it’ll never get better than 12 MPG, and you get up to interstate speeds and the engine is breathing hard even in OD.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I assume the 4.56 is for the Raptor with bigger aftermarket tires and some other mods. I can’t imagine it in anything else 1/2 ton.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            4.56 for the Raptor is for the nearest drag strip, preferably the eighth mile. Or stump-pulling contest.

            “Hey Bubba, I’ll betchoo my truck can lay a longer patch of rubber than yours!”

            “H’it’s a bit slow off the line, but I’m getting a new 5.27 rear end as soon as I get my tax refund.”

            Probably running on a set of fifteen inch rear wheels with Nittos.

            And available only with the 80 gallon gas tank and the heavy duty rear suspension.

            But it would definitely be “Katey, bar the door.”

  • avatar
    KOKing

    The ‘lack of choice’ is definitely a product of the American retail mindset. As stated, it’s not how it works in Europe (or Asia, AFAIK; historically in Japan, the salesman came to your house to take your order). On top of that, not even close to anyone who SAYS they want a brown MT RWD diesel wagon would actually buy one, let alone want to wait 2mos for it, so that shrinks the potential sales numbers even more.

    I’d like to think I’m trying to go against that flow; 14yrs ago I ordered a RWD MT wagon with manual cloth seats (in white, only because special-order orange was recalled at the time), all the brown MT RWD diesel wagon people ooohd and aaahd at its existence the whole time I owned it, and I actually sold it to one of em recently. It’s now been replaced with a FWD (boo) MT hatchback in green over brown with the tiny turbo motor and driving aids delete, so we’ll see what happens with that.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I would not say that the American consumer is lacking choice. If you’re looking for a crossover with an AT, you have a vast number of choices. What Jack was looking for was a modestly priced high performance family sedan. Considering that a four cylinder Accord has more performance than most of us can use and only a small percentage of family sedan buyers want a manual transmission, its no surprise they aren’t available. He can get that car but at a price.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I disagree that most people can’t use any more performance than a four cylinder Accord. It’s not about drag racing, top speed, or track times; it’s passing power. More powerful engines also cruise with less effort. Anyone who spends a lot of time on freeways and two lanes with passing zones benefits from more power.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Usually people want more power because almost no one is comfortable pushing their car hard enough to make use of all of its power. So if you used 100% of the 4 cylinder Accord’s power then it’s basically enough for anyone, sure. But in the US at least, people won’t and don’t floor the gas pedal basically ever. If you drive that way, then to experience the power of the 4 cylinder in daily driving, you need the V6 model. I suspect elsewhere in the world, especially Europe, the taxation has gotten people used to driving smaller 4 and 3 cylinder models, so those drivers are used to actually pushing the car to its capacity to merge onto freeways and such. American drivers simply don’t do it, and won’t do it regardless of the size or power of their engines.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      “manual” cloth seats?

      It’s taking every bit of restraint I can muster not to make any jokes about what a manual seat would be used for. But I’m guessing it might have been a back seat?

      But white was probably the better color choice.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Thanks, Jack, for cutting through the BS as you so often do. Good luck and godspeed to Krindler, but I won’t miss his his snide remarks. I actually do want a brown diesel wagon, but besides that, I’m so tired of his lazy, reflexive habit of blaming the consumer. By Derek’s logic, we observe that the old Soviet automakers sold every Lada and Trabant that they produced… so that must prove that these were exactly what their consumers wanted! And if anyone wants anything else that you can’t find on the market, it’s your fault for not buying it already!

    Today’s automakers mold and shape their consumers, in much the same way that politicians choose their electorate through strategic propaganda and gerrymandering. To say otherwise is to say that marketing budgets go to waste. The sales inventory practices Baruth describes here are another hidden tool that I hadn’t considered…

  • avatar
    slow kills

    About a decade ago, I was at BMWNA headquarters and people were asking about getting cars without sunroofs. Apparently tall people dislike the imposition on headroom. The bigwig gave some answer about special orders always getting something wrong and the customer refusing delivery. I’m unsure if this was a cop-out or whether they really had problems building per the spec sheet.

  • avatar
    warrencar

    Jack, just want to say this is about the best automotive-based article I have ever read. Thoroughly enjoyed your eye-opening segment…and very well written. You have true talent as a writer. And the way you got into the story kept me engaged. Thanks for your article. Keep it up

  • avatar
    MrCharlieWhyoming

    So true everyword you wrote. I wonder if the fascination with Tesla is the chance for people, who can afford Tesla, to go around traditional car delivery systems?

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