Ask Jack: I Need NOS (New Old Stock), and I Need It by Tonight!

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack i need nos new old stock and i need it by tonight

It’s the kind of story dealership employees love to tell during slow afternoons: the decade-old car with an MSO (manufacturer’s statement of origin, which is what cars have before they have titles) in the glovebox, no air in the tires, and 3 miles on the clock, tucked in back with the service loaners or parked behind the body shop.

As with most car dealer fairy tales, there’s plenty of real-world inspiration for the (usually fabricated) story of the moment. In the days when dealerships tended to own their inventory rather than have it “floorplanned” with a bank, and before the manufacturers came up with the idea of revving up secret incentives to sell leftover cars from the previous model year, it wasn’t all that uncommon for a dealer to have an 18-month-old car somewhere on the lot. It wasn’t just the “megadealers” — truth be told, those were the guys who usually had a better handle on a computerized inventory system. I’ve seen everything from ancient (Mercury) Mariners to Old (smobile) Achievas sitting around way past their sell-by date.

Nowadays, the banks and the dealer groups keep a pretty tight rein on their inventory. Cars just don’t get “forgotten” like they used to. Still, there are times when something slips through the proverbial cracks. Should you take advantage of this “mistake”? In this case, I’m asking for a friend, and I’m also asking for myself…

Rudi writes:

48 years old with a 2011 Charger RT AWD with 70k miles on it. We ordered new and absolutely love it, even though it hasn’t been trouble-free. Many electrical issues early on and more recently a fuel pump failure and alternator replacement. Came across a new 2015 Charger RT with a huge discount. I’m so tempted! But it’s been sitting on the lot for over two years? What to do? I have the new car bug even though this is not the ideal time to buy…. Help me!

This email from Rudi got lost in my spam filter, so chances are that I’m too late to answer this question for him.

As fate would have it, while I was cleaning out my spam inbox I also happened to find an email from the nice people at RevZilla alerting me to this new 2007 Yamaha FZ-1 for just $4,995! My long-time readers will recall that I am already the co-owner of a first-generation FZ-1 that I bought with my old pal Sidney. Over the past year or so, Sidney has worked on the bike like a madman, swapping out seals, grinding off the rust, and even sourcing a Yoshimura carbon-fiber exhaust. The problem, from my perspective, is that my friend likes working on the bike even more than he likes riding the bike, so it’s apart more often than it’s together. I’ve only ridden it once since buying it. So if I bought this leftover FZ-1 I could stop hassling Sid about when he’s going to have his rotisserie restoration completed.

It’s much more common for motorcycle dealers to have leftover inventory than it is for car dealers to have leftover inventory. The reasons for this are many and varied but it boils down to the fact that the automotive market is a lot more rational than the bike market, and you can always sell a factory-new car by cutting the price 25 percent and putting an ad in the paper. That won’t always work for the bike buyers, who are usually buying a toy instead of a tool and therefore tend to be remarkably picky and weird about what they want. The last two bikes I bought were leftovers; I got a 2014 CB1100 in the summer of 2015 and my wife bought me a 2015 ZX-14R in the autumn of 2016. I’m pretty sure you could still find new examples of both out there on the internet.

With cars, it’s different. If something is still on the lot in the calendar year after its model year, there is probably a specific reason for this. The most common reason is what I call the “Body Shop Shuffle”, which works like this:

* Somebody manages to damage a car that is part of dealer inventory. This can be anything from a scraped-up fender to a full-on airbag-deployment wreck.

* The car is sent to the dealer’s body shop…

* …where it is assigned absolute dead last priority…

* …and after a year or so of being shoved out of the way by paying customers…

* …the shop finally gets around to fixing it and sending it back out to the lot…

* …only to find that the car is basically Rip Van Winkle and it has slept through the incentives.

I’m willing to estimate that more than half of the suspiciously old cars you see on the dealer lots are there are because they had to leave inventory for a repair of some type. Which leads us to the question: Does the dealer have to disclose that repair to you? This is where all of my truly savvy readers will pipe up and say, “IT DEPENDS ON STATE LAW!” Different states have different laws about what has to be disclosed. A rough guideline is that if a car has incurred damage of 6 percent or more (it’s three in some states, but this varies), the dealer is supposed to disclose it to you.

So in the case of this leftover 2015 Charger that was originally stickered at, say, $35,000, it might have to be more than two grand worth of damage in order for Rudi to be entitled to a disclosure. Does it matter? It depends on what Rudi’s going to do with the car. If he’s going to keep it until it’s fundamentally worthless, it probably doesn’t matter if it has a repainted quarter panel. The problem would be if Rudi tried to sell it in good faith as a no-accidents, no-damage car to someone three years after buying it and that person (or dealer) happened to be better at noticing the damage than Rudi was.

I can also envision a situation where the car is sold to Rudi as a new car and then the dealer body shop obligingly tosses the damage report into one of the data aggregators a year later. Now the car has a “bad Carfax” thanks to a situation Rudi knew nothing about.

Even if none of that is the case, however, I’d still be a little wary about buying an car that has sat in inventory for anything between 18 and 30 months. It definitely needs an oil change and fresh brake fluid. The transmission might need a look-over. The tires are probably flat-spotted and, in any event, they are old. A lot of the savings you’d expect might vanish pretty quickly.

In the case of that 2007 Yamaha, I think that $500 worth of tires and fluids should rectify the situation. But I’m not so sure about the Charger, which is a much more complicated machine. I’d want to see SERIOUS savings — something more than 30 percent off retail — before I even considered it. What about the rest of you? Would you buy a lot leftover like this one? Should I buy that Yamaha? If not, will somebody go over to Sid’s house and help him finish the fork rebuild?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Mr. Bill Mr. Bill on Jul 07, 2017

    Did this once and never again... 2014 Buick Verano with a build date of late 2013 that I took delivery of in March of 2015. I got a great discount on it, but after a while of ownership, I noticed many paint and exterior trim imperfections that came with the car sitting out in the open on the dealer's lot for way over a year's time. Paint spots, mottled clear coat from bird droppings, and dull brightwork were some of the issues. As someone mentioned, trade-in value is horrible so I will just drive it until it is absolutely worn out. I keep the maintenance up on it as it is a nice car, but I don't worry about the exterior cosmetics. In fact, I enjoy not worrying about what could happen to it. However, never again...

  • Rudi Rudi on Jul 09, 2017

    Rudi here. Thanks for the replies. Even though my 2011 Charger was not that reliable, we really enjoyed the car's was some cruiser and it sounded great. To me it was the ultimate q-ship. What initially led me to consider a new Charger was that I had read about Dodge offering 20% off of MSRP on leftover cars (you know, because it's not a SUV/CUV) and I really wanted the new 8speed auto (2011 was 5speed auto). I priced many Chargers and in the end purchased a 2107 Charger Daytona 392 (black) for 20% off of MSRP and the dealer (over an hour away) offered $2k more for my trade-in then several local dealers. After nearly 4k miles on the car I am loving this car which I named "the beast". 485hp, 6-piston brembos (4-piston in back) brakes with every option....hated the kid-like Daytona stickers/decals so had them removed. The car sounds (and goes) like the devil....people are shocked by how loud it is....

  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation
  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?
  • Lou_BC Once again, Mustang is the last pony car standing. Camaro RIP, Challenger RIP.
  • FreedMike Next up should DEFINITELY be the Cadillac Eldorado. On the subject of Caddies, I saw a Lyriq in person for the first time a couple of days ago, and I'm changing my tune on its' styling. In person, it works quite well, and the interior is very nicely executed.
  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!