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No Honor Among Thieves

Tales From Your Local Auto Dealer

Our consumer helpline for buyers of our printed guides has been used thousands of times by readers looking for pricing, product information, buying and selling information, and just plain advice. Besides helping out people with confusing situations, it keeps us close to the "action" in the retail car marketplace. In the print world, we believe it is one of our competitive advantages.

It also has provided for some amusing office banter. We all share our phone stories, have a good laugh, and then get back to business. A while ago we decided to write some of them down for use in a future story. Although we present these in a humorous manner, often times the actual situation is anything but. While there's no denying that there are reputable and honest car dealers out there, we hear enough of this stuff to know that the industry has a ways to go.

Particularly distressing is that a high percentage of these stories come at the expense of women, especially younger first-time buyers and older women with no place to turn for help. The problem is not relegated to independent used car dealers. Plenty of manufacturer-franchised stores are guilty as well. The car companies, while publicly supporting and praising their dealers, are not happy with this situation. It costs them goodwill and future sales. It's part of the reason so many of them are looking for alternative purchase and delivery avenues for consumers.

So read these and chuckle, but don't forget that there are real people behind these stories.

He said it had an extra coat of paint to make the car heavier and safer. From an older woman questioning why the new car she was looking at had an extra charge of $1200 over MSRP.

I have two other people interested in this car. They're coming back this afternoon. An often heard statement designed to sway fence-sitters.

We use different books for different manufacturers. A salesman explaining why he used NADA for the car they were buying and a different book for their trade in. Another "sell at NADA, buy at Galves" story. NADA generally publishes high retail numbers, while Galves publishes low wholesale numbers. Dealers make out like a bandit on these deals.

It costs more than the book because it has the special 6-cylinder engine. To a woman looking at a vehicle which was not available with a 6-cylinder engine.

You have to pay extra for all the luxury options. From a salesman gamely trying to add $2000 to the book value of an LS400 while trying to convince a prospect that power accessories, alloy wheels and other premium (and standard) items were all options.

Sign the papers, take it home, and if you don't like it we'll take it back. Sure, and watch for our new publication, Land Deals in Florida.

Actually, convertibles cost more in the winter, because we get more buyers in here looking for deals. From an import dealership in the Northeast. And we bought our boat in November thinking we got a better deal.

Our cost is MSRP, the invoice price is the factory cost. A Toyota dealer trying to explain why his window sticker showed an amount well over MSRP.

You don't get the rebate if you finance the car from someone else. From a Ford dealer trying to convince a young buyer that he'd have to use in-house (and more expensive) financing to be eligible for a factory rebate.

That book is garbage. Those prices are made up. They shouldn't be in business. Reportedly the words of a mid-western dealer when presented by a prospect with an issue of VMR Standard Used Car Prices. We promptly called the gentlemen asking for an explanation and got a lot of um's and er's. He then laughed and said "Actually, I use your book to buy cars myself."

It's good for another 200,000 miles. The story on a 200,000 mile '87 Mercedes-Benz 300E from a North Carolina dealer. When the woman called our helpline to verify the claim, we told her that it was absolutely true. All she needed to do was take out an equity line on her house and establish a maintenance and repair fund for the Benz.

We've already checked the car out, you don't need to bring it to your mechanic. A dealer explaining why a customer couldn't take a car from his lot to another mechanic.

And our favorite:

If you go out with me, I'll give you a better deal. A Pennsylvania college woman away from her family called several times asking for advice on how to handle this salesman. He was very attentive, even showing up unannounced at her door with the car she was interested in. The car was priced thousands over our retail price. Perhaps this was due to the extra service the salesman was offering.