Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Legacy sales tactics

We’ve spent quite a lot of time researching cars, trying to figure out what we want, and doing some test drives. We decided on a 2014 Subaru Legacy with Eyesight late in the winter, but discovered that they had closed factory orders for the year before we made our decision. Argh.

But the 2015 Subaru Legacy was going to be new and improved! Just like every year’s new models are new and improved, but this one actually made improvements we cared about: less road noise, better fuel economy, a new color we liked better, and an upgraded Eyesight safety system that no longer required a bunch of features we didn’t need. The reviews this spring were all stellar, and the car started showing up on dealer lots a few weeks ago. On Sunday we finally found time to take a test drive, discovered that the car was comfortable and handled just like we wanted it to, and finalized the list of options we wanted and didn’t want.

So we’re doing a factory order which will arrive in the late fall, whatever that means. Shopping wasn’t bad: we had a price from the dealership where we took the test drive, and on Monday over lunch I emailed six local dealerships to ask them for a price. Almost all of them asked some meaningless question first, but three of them followed up with a price on Monday, one gave a price on Tuesday morning, and the dealer in North Reading insisted (wrongly) that we could only order a more expensive version than we wanted. We already knew the invoice price and we knew that the best we could reasonably expect on a factory order was about 2% under invoice plus a doc fee, so when the low bidder came in just under that I went over to sign the paperwork and gave them a deposit. No headaches, and all rather anticlimactic. Hopefully it will be just as easy when we pick up the car in a few months.

The dealer in Wakefield was horrible when we went there last year: unprofessional, incredibly rude to other customers, unhelpful to us, and overall seeming like an over-the-top parody of a nightmare dealership. We didn’t even consider asking them for a price. The dealer in North Hampton was overall helpful, though they tried briefly to see if we’d respond to high pressure sales tactics, tried the mysterious back office crap, were clearly used to a foursquare sheet, and tried raising the quoted price by $350 a day later. But they did quote us a perfectly fair price, and were straight about answering the few questions we had. In the end we went with the dealer in Belmont, who could not have been a bigger contrast to the dealer in Wakefield. Hard to believe they compete in the same market.

So the hard part was deciding on the car and putting up with the dealership showrooms. The actual price negotiation over email was far more civilized than I feared it might be. And in a few months, we’ll have the first new car I’ve ever owned.

Follow-up on October 5:

25 days ago, I called the dealer to ask what the timeframe looked like. I was told that our car had been built, and was on its way from Indiana to New Jersey. Once they knew when it would travel from New Jersey to Massachusetts, I would get a call letting me know that the car would arrive at the dealer in 7-10 days.

9 days ago, I noticed that a car with our specs was listed on the dealer’s web site as being in their inventory (not in transit). I called the dealer to ask about it, and was told that the web site was wrong, that our car was still on its way to New Jersey, and that I would get a call once it was ready to leave New Jersey letting me know that the car would arrive at the dealer in 7-10 days. They said that our car’s VIN was not available, but that it was not the car listed on the dealer’s web site (which had a VIN). Our best guess is that the route from Indiana to New Jersey now involves sherpas, sled dogs, and Sharknado 3 instead of rail cars or trucks.

Yesterday the dealer called (during Yom Kippur) to let me know that our car had arrived. There had been no call 7-10 days in advance, and our car’s VIN now mysteriously matched the VIN of the car listed on the dealer’s web site 9 days ago. Hmm. Had our car arrived over a week ago and they just lost track of it? Was the web site simply posting advance information? Have they been using our car for test drives for the past week or two, since they had no other cars with the new Eyesight system? Something went wrong en route, since we never got the call 7-10 days in advance. We’ll check the mileage when we pick up the car next week, but we’ll never know most of the answers.

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