I did it, I actually did it, I leased a new car on-line. Why is this so amazing? Here is a little background on me:
- Age 16, lot attendant (1967 Camaro, private party)
- Age 22, Salesperson (1987 Suburban, private party)
- Age 24 Sales Manager (Demo)
- Age 28 General Manager (Demo)
- Age 30 Chevrolet Dealer (Demo)
- Age 37 Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge dealer (Demo)
- Age 44 Consultant (?)
As I embark on this next chapter of my business career I want to be a part of the most amazing changes in the retail automobile business in the last 30 years, the information revolution. Yes, the internet but so much more; Yelp, Edmunds, Truecar, ZAG, and many more sites are available to consumers who are interested in buying a car. If I was going to help my fellow dealers navigate this information ‘super highway’ by teaching them to ‘think like a consumer who is in the market for a new car’, for the first time in my life I was going to have to be ‘a consumer who is in the market for a new car’.
Vehicle Criteria- Under $30,000, 3 year lease, excellent fuel mileage, reasonable insurance costs, some style, navigation, reasonable interior room, automatic, warranty and maintenance for 3 years (or more), sub 4% money factor, and heated seats. It came down to the Toyota Prius and the Volkswagen TDI Sportwagen.
STEP 1- What to buy
Step 2- What to pay
Step 3- Where to buy
I spent roughly 4 hours deciding what to buy, what to pay, and who would get the opportunity to earn my business.
Having been a participant in literally thousands and thousands of transactions (but not having bought a car retail from a dealer EVER) I knew, in theory, the best way to go about it was to educate myself, send specific inquiries through the Truecar site and weigh the results.
Here is what I found, ranked from bad, to negligent, to good:
Dealer 1- Very responsive until I asked specific questions about the cap cost of the lease. After 2 days the 'Manager' told me he could not match the cap cost I was calculating due to the fact I was leasing and they would lose a $750 rebate, if I came in ‘this weekend’ he would make me a ‘deal’, I was left to wonder if that tactic still works, needless to say I was very turned off.
Dealer 2- The home of the automated email and the lazy Salesperson; I only received automatic replies with promises to follow up later. Would not quote cap cost.
Dealer 3- I received one automatic email response, nothing more. Would not quote cap cost.
Selling Dealer- OK, now I was onto something. Dealership was very responsive, professional, and I was coupled with an excellent Salesperson. They offered an alternative to me on interior color and equipment in stock, which I took. I calculated what I thought fair price/terms were and asked them to meet it. Their next email met my terms, invited me in for a test-drive, and we set a delivery time. Delivery went smooth, paperwork was perfect, and the car was exactly what was promised.
Did they make any money? I used the Truecar price, purchased lease wear and tear (at a discount) in my contract and within 48 hours had spent $250 in factory accessories.
What did I learn?
We have to respect the customer who has done their homework, they are the buyer. So many buyers (over 90%) conduct some sort of research before EVER contacting a dealership. There was no doubt I was going to buy a car but I was treated by 50% of the dealers I contacted as if I was ‘not a buyer’, 25% played games with me (wasted my time), and 25% treated me as a buyer and delivered the car.
We must think like a customer, see what a customer sees, and give them the information they request. In my case if the dealer did not (give me the information), I simply moved onto someone who did.
Needless to say I am happy with my decision, although not near as luxurious as my last car (LS460), it fits my needs for now and in 3 years who knows, maybe I am a buyer again!
Give me your guess; did I lease the Prius or the Sportwagen?