Dealers Behaving Badly: FTC Seeks to Crack Down on F&I

We would wager our combined annual salaries – a sum roughly equal to the value of a half dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme – that every single soul reading this website has a story or three about being blitzed with products in a dealer’s F&I office. Vehicle etching, useless warranties (sorry – this paper only covers mechanical fuel pumps), and p-packs up the wazoo are the bane of most shoppers’ existence when trying to buy a car.

Make no wonder some people call it the “Effin’ Eye” office.

This environment may change if the Federal Trade Commission gets its way. According to a report by Automotive News, a new proposal by the FTC would ban finance/insurance coverage and physical vehicle add-ons “that provide no benefit” while also requiring expanded disclosure on such items.

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Study Claims Gen Z Doesn't Like Buying Cars

Younger drivers have reportedly had it with the dealership experience, with Gen Z even more disenfranchised than Millennials. Though it’s difficult to imagine anybody visiting a showroom within the last 12 months having any other reaction. Incentives are down, prices are up, and there’s a good chance whatever you wanted to buy isn’t going to be on the lot anyway. Someone saying they had an exemplary dealer experience is becoming about as common as people claiming they enjoy going to the DMV.

However, CDK Global Inc. still opted to conduct a survey in the hopes of determining just how much less tolerant younger shoppers might be compared to older generations. The takeaway probably isn’t going to shock you, even if the sheer volume of first-time buyers that don’t care for dealerships might.

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National Automobile Dealers Association Elects New Chairs

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has elected Mike Alford as its chairman for 2022. The decision was announced shortly after the group’s board adjourned on Tuesday.

Alford — who heads Marine Chevrolet Cadillac in Jacksonville, North Carolina — currently serves as NADA vice chairman and will be taking over for Paul Walser next year. Geoffrey Pohanka was chosen as the vice-chair, setting him up as a strong contender for the top position in 2023.

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Kia Embraces At-Home Test Drives

With various government and corporate entities pushing rolling restrictions to our everyday lives, the automotive sector has gotten extremely creative in how it does businesses over the last nineteen months. Everything is being digitized so business can be conducted remotely, including sales. But this creates an issue for shoppers who — and this is going to sound crazy — actually want to see and familiarize themselves with one of the largest purchasing decisions they’re likely to make this year before committing.

Luxury brands were already testing at-home test drives and subscription-based vehicle exchange programs by the start of 2020. But we’re now seeing more pedestrian brands trying similar strategies to reach customers from beyond the confines of the dealership. Kia even recently announced a pilot program to sync digital sales with at-home test drives. Called “Kia@Home,” the service allows shoppers to schedule a vehicle to be sent to their home for an hour-long assessment.

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GM Considers Sharing Chevy Bolt Between Dealers

The latest from Detroit has General Motors considering tweaking its delivery strategy for electric vehicles. While this appears to tangentially fall into the industry trend of trying to shove EVs into an online sales model, GM’s plan is distinctive and would introduce centralized inventory lots for the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt ( hatchback and EUV) before Christmas. But we can already see the dual-sized nature of the plan that will be used to promote and condemn it, should things move forward.

General Motors could be seen as throwing dealerships a bone by finding a way for those located in areas where EV buyers are less prevalent to provide their customers with electrified options. This saves them from having to prep their lots for charging and making space for vehicles people might not bother buying until the technology has further matured. However, with industry giants (including GM) vowing to continue making more of their lineup battery-powered, dealers might also view this as a coy way for the manufacturer to obtain more control over retail operations. Other manufacturers have already explained that they want to prioritize online sales of electric automobiles, with the end result likely mimicking the Tesla sales model … something that doesn’t include traditional dealerships.

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Tales From the Service Desk: When the Wheels Fall Off

It was a bright summer day when our regular customer, a woman in her 30s or 40s who had a haircut that we’d now deem a “Karen”, was leaving the dealer with her brood after a routine service, probably an oil change and tire rotation.

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Could Virtual Test Drives Transform the Car-buying Experience?

With large hunks of the nation still under varying degrees of pandemic-related restrictions and accompanying panic, auto dealerships haven’t been awash with customers. Many that did reopen have been forced to follow distancing guidelines, frequently limiting the number of people allowed on the premises. Hoping to avoid closing permanently and relinquishing ownership to the bank, they’ve come up with some interesting solutions to keep their clientele interested.

Virtual test drives aren’t exactly new, but they have become an increasingly popular avenue for dealerships hoping to drum up business in 2020. While we’ve seen salespeople giving tours of new product as they hit the lot for years, on-board video is typically reserved for independent review purposes. That’s largely because nobody really expects a fair assessment from the person selling the vehicle. However, with in-person test drives becoming quite difficult, showrooms want to exercise every option they have to draw in customers.

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Michigan Auto Dealers Allowed to Resume Operations Under New Guidelines

Michigan auto dealers will be allowed to resume in-person sales on Tuesday, according to the latest in a long list of executive orders signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The state, which harbors the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the country (following New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts), has enacted some of the strictest countermeasures in the country.

This has created no shortage of pressure to both reopen Michigan so life/business can return to normal and maintain closures to avoid further contagion risks. Obviously, that’s proven difficult to do. All steps taken towards reopening come with conditions, including those established for Michigan’s dealerships.

But first, some backstory.

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Direct Sales Compromise Reached Between Colorado Auto Dealers and EV Makers

Colorado has been considering allowing automakers to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers, but pushback from dealerships complicated things. Senate Bill 167 was intended to level the playing field against Tesla, which already engaged in direct sales, by opening up the door for rival electric vehicle manufacturers to similarly bypass the dealership model.

However, dealer groups noticed the language in the bill effectively permitted any automaker producing EVs to engage in direct sales, Naturally, they cried foul. The bill had its final legislative hearing on Monday, and its new language identifies a difference between a legacy automaker with existing storefronts and EV firms without them.

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Ask Bark: Can They Actually Do This to Me?

When it comes to buying new cars, I don’t have much patience. When I bought my Focus RS in 2016, I spent less than an hour doing the whole deal, including actually deciding what car I wanted to buy. Got a blank check approval from my bank, spitballed some ideas with my older brother and my good friend Bozi, and then put down a deposit on a car at a dealership about a thousand miles away. But there was one time when I tried to have patience, and was sorely disappointed.

Eleven years ago, I put down a $5,000 deposit and placed an order for a BMW 135i with my local BMW dealer. It was the launch year for the ill-fated 1 Series in the states, and I wanted to have one of the very first Ones to hit our shores. I ordered a very stripped down version — black, stick shift, cloth seats, no roof. After about 12 weeks, the dealer called to let me know that my car had arrived. Well, a car had arrived… but certainly not mine.

This example was an automatic. But that wasn’t the only thing they got wrong. They added somewhere in the neighborhood of $5k to the sticker, including nearly every option, even a red leather interior. Imagine my disappointment and frustration with the dealer, who had recycled sales people a couple of times since my order and couldn’t seem to track down anything about it, not even the original order sheet.

I asked for my money back, which they reluctantly gave me, and I ended up buying a Pontiac G8 GT instead — not a bad trade. But not everybody who goes through the ordering process is so fortunate. Click the jump for a question from our friend Andy about his experience in ordering his own custom German whip.

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Piston Slap: The Geographic Luxury of Bespoke Motorcar Ownership?

TTAC Commentator arach writes:

Sajeev,

I need some car buying advice, and I’m not like one of those lame buyers who ask if they should buy a Honda or a Toyota, so you should definitely give me your 30 seconds of direction. (Fine, maybe this isn’t pointless. – SM)

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Mazda Plans U.S. Dealer Network Makeover, Still Wants 2-percent Market Share (and More CX-5s)

“We have been working more closely with our dealers to evolve their businesses and through that process,” Mazda tells Automotive News, “some new dealers have chosen to begin working with us, while others have made the decision to leave the Mazda brand.”

Mazda has been open about its goal of earning 2 percent of the U.S. market while being forthright about the brand’s intentions to do so only on solid ground. This means fewer discounts, a premium vibe, and the kind of higher margins that make dealers happy.

On the dealer side of the equation, Mazda now wants those dealers to improve. In some cases, that means a new location. In others, a new exterior design is necessary. More thoroughly trained staff members is key, as well. But it’ll be slow going. Of Mazda’s roughly 600 dealers, the brand acknowledges that some have forsaken the automaker, though Mazda won’t say how many. Since the efforts to revamp dealers began last year, only 26 have been upgraded so far. By the end of the decade, Mazda believes roughly one-sixth of its network will have undergone a remodel.

In the meantime, Mazda is getting further away from reaching its 2-percent goal.

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Toyota Dealership Under Fire for Handing Over Charity Raffle Supra to Sales Manager's Wife

In February, a Texas Toyota dealership and The Genesis Center of Kaufman County joined forces to raffle off a fully restored 1994 Toyota Supra Twin Turbo. Donated by a local resident battling cancer, the entirety of the proceeds from the draw were designated specifically to help fund the center. Genesis is a faith-based shelter which also provides job placement, parenting classes, financial management programs, spiritual counselling, material needs, and medical referrals to women and children in crisis. It is funded largely through the church or via direct donations.

All in all, the dealership managed to raise more than $50,000 for the center. However, when Rebecca Rawl was announced as the winner of the raffle in April, many stated that the name was suspiciously close to that of the wife of sales manager Danny Rawls. Toyota of Rockwall was quick to rectify its mistake, specifying that the name given had been a mistake and “Rebecca Rawls” had in fact been the lottery winner.

As you can imagine, this did not go over well.

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Massive Wheel Heist Leaves Another East Texas Dealership up on Blocks

It’s the latest in a string of similar nighttime thefts, but it’s not surprising — after all, when four hours’ work can net you hundreds of thousands of bucks, who expects thieves to stop?

This past weekend, the inventory of a General Motors dealer lot in Tyler, Texas was left up on blocks after thieves stripped 48 vehicles of their wheels, Automotive News reports.

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Piston Slap: Taken Outback and Ripped-off by the Dealership?

Nigel writes:

I own a 2011 Subaru Outback that just reached 107,000 miles. The past four bills I’ve received for it have cost anywhere from $300-580 a pop (two were for maintenance, plus the timing belt and new brakes up front).

Should I get used to high bills for it, or am I just getting ripped off by the dealership?

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  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.
  • MaintenanceCosts Chevy used to sell almost this exact color on the Sonic, Bolt, and Camaro, as "Shock." And I have a story about that.I bought my Bolt in 2019. Unsurprisingly the best deal came from the highest-volume Bolt dealer in my very EV-friendly area. They had huge inventory; I bought right when Chevy started offering major incentives, and the car had been priced too high to sell well until that point.Half the inventory had a nice mix of trims and colors, and I was able to find the exact dark-gray-on-white Premier I wanted. But the real mystery was the other half of the inventory. It was something like 40 cars, all Shock on black, split between LT and Premier. You could get an additional $2000 or so off the already low selling price if you bought one of them. (Neither my wife nor I thought the deal worth it.) The cars were real and in the flesh; a couple were out front, but behind the showroom, there was an entire row of them.When I took delivery, I asked the salesman how on earth they had ended up with so many. He told me in a low voice that a previous sales manager had screwed up order forms for a huge batch of cars that were supposed to be white, and that no one noticed until a couple transporters loaded with chartreuse Bolts actually showed up at the dealer. Long story short, there was no way to change the order. They eventually sold all the cars and you still see them more often than you'd expect in the area.