Am I the Only One That Thinks the Auto Industry Feels Like Government-Sanctioned Organized Crime?

I recently spent some time with a local car dealer. I told him that I enjoyed my vasectomy more than I liked being at his business, and I meant it.  The problem? Oh, there are a few to talk about. We went through two “sessions”, shall we say.

Session #1. Not Really Ready to Buy, But Wanting a Lay of the Land.  This one went as follows:

  1. Walk onto lot, no appointment. Very little real research done.
  2. Fairly nice guy gets a pickup truck ready for us to test drive.
  3. Drive said truck, we’re mildly interested in it but haven’t done the “new car thing” in a while. Let’s just see how the numbers shake out…
  4. Same fairly nice guy works up those numbers. As he’s running through them, we see MSRP, then price go down then price go up. and up.
  5. Confusion ensues, several attempts to explain it. We *almost* comprehend (between wife and I, we have 8 college degrees) but also have no desire to buy the truck on the spot, given “the numbers”. It’s late in the day.
  6. Same fairly nice guy says “we’ll just give you the truck at $500 over our invoice. You don’t have to haggle, we make $500. It’s easy! I’ll show you the invoice” Remember this.
  7. We say we’ll think about it. Then manager walks in, less than three minutes later and says “what’s it gonna take? We can probably move the price down some more, like maybe $500?”Hmmm… so manager just contradicted sales guy, because they certainly aren’t selling that truck with no profit. This point is also important during Session 2.

Session #2. Really shopping. Vehicle researched. Acceptable price determined. Back to dealing with these paragons of virtue.

  1. Point out vehicle to fairly nice guy. Inform of my desired price.
  2. Funny math ensues, guy goes straight to payments.
  3. I share that I don’t like that he’s skipping past “price”, ask him to slow it down.
  4. Math doesn’t add up, at all.
  5. Here’s where I get schooled in the bull shit- as in the excrement that comes out of a bull’s ass- that is car buying. Let’s employ a visual aid.
  6. So… you got your fairly arbitrarily assigned “MSRP”. Is SUGGESTED. You’ll never really know what the car truly costs. Why is this industry allowed to function in a way that the buyer is denied TRUTH?
  7. Skip down to “Price”. When you go to WalMart and buy shoes, you pay sales tax (most of us do, at least) on THE PRICE. Not so with cars. Price is not price, and you can’t win… Here’s New York’s approach:
    Calculating New York auto sales tax can be tricky. If you purchase a vehicle from a dealership and there are manufacturer incentives and rebates associated, the auto tax you will pay is determined by the sale price before the reduction.  
  8. Now fairly nice guy’s math is starting to add up, and it smelled really bad. Except his rather shocking math as presented including tax was legal. The way they deceptively bandy the word “price” around is both unethical and also common among dealers. I bitched and moaned that nowhere was any of this reflected on the advertisement. His answer, backed up by the manager- this is how everyone does it. (Or- we’re no sleazier than anyone else and the state gets their cut.)
  9. I say… then you’ll need to lower the MSRP. He says… we can’t do that. We’ve given you our best deal.
  10. I point out that last night’s “best deal”- that $500 over invoice- was completely bogus. Fairly nice guy says “Oh… the manager has access to dealer cash I can’t see”. Uh-huh. How about I just deal with the manager then? Why deal with a a lowly sales guy who can’t see what manager sees? And what supposed invoice were you going to show me, given what the manager had to say?
  11. Finally, I pissed, punched and sarcasmed my way to a deal that I could stomach. But I have no doubt I still paid too much- because I have no idea what this car or any new car COSTS. It’s all vagueness, games, double-talk, and lies. I don’t care how much research you do- the average schmuck is doomed.

Not only is the government in on it with the BS tax stuff, but our tax dollars bailed this industry out during the big economic crumble, propped it back up, and Congress did nothing to reform the sleaze that pervades.

Utter Gaul- the customer survey.  Fairly nice guy shows us his “I love me” wall. Lots of awards, because he gets such high ratings on the post-sale surveys. Really now?  It’s very important that we rate him and the dealership with absolute perfect scores, so he gets his next award.

Sorry to break it to you, Slick, but that won’t be happening. Where I come from, you don’t get gold stars for being part of a crime syndicate.

So how low is people’s esteem when it comes to car dealers? Do some Googling, see how many hits you get:

  • “New Car Scams”- 4,050,000 entries
  • “Auto Dealerships are Crooks”- 329,000
  •  “Auto Industry Scams”- 881,000

In closing, this is not the first new car I’ve ever bought. But I paid a lot more attention this time, and when you do, it really sucks. I don’t know how people in the sales side of this industry live with themselves as professional truth-distorters, and I don’t see how the government doesn’t demand reform on behalf of customers.

Did I mention that my vasectomy was more enjoyable than this loathsome experience?

10 thoughts on “Am I the Only One That Thinks the Auto Industry Feels Like Government-Sanctioned Organized Crime?

  1. males149

    Luckily enough, you’re ok with pain right away instead of going for “stubbornness”. I got mad at the guy who wanted to sell me a Ford a few years back—-winded up with a Kia minivan just because I refused to be part of his bu—-it scheme. Ugh!
    Now I’m looking for a Ford Escape again, do you like yours?

  2. wirednot Post author

    Hi males149. There was a lot more to this process, but I trimmed it down for brevity. Thanks for reading, by the way. So far, so good on the Escape. I opted for the Titanium model, with turbo 2.0 engine. I like some umph when I need it, and this motor seems to be a great match for the vehicle. There is also a lot of technology on the car- hopefully it’s been designed and coded well to stand up reliably over time.

  3. Tim Kridel

    I considered replacing my 2004 SUV earlier this year. Then I started shopping, and the experience was such a turnoff that I decided to stick with what I have for at least another inspection period (two years). I have no interest in a Tesla, but I do applaud what the company is trying to do to enable people to buy vehicles directly from manufacturers.

  4. wirednot Post author

    Hi Tim. I’m with you… we drive ours into the ground. Just retired a ’97 and and 2002 from frames rotting! I’m astounded by the folks who get a new vehicle every three years and just have a perpetual car payment. To each is own, but no thanks for me.

  5. apcsb

    Never bought a new car unless it was on the company. Loses half of its value in the next three years. That’s three pretty good vacation budgets 😉

  6. MainFragger

    Unfortunately, a lot of businesses work off of what I call, “the business isn’t the business..the crime is the business” model. I’ve talked to many owners of said companies, and I have often heard an unbelievable sentiment, “If I didn’t rob people blind, this business just wouldn’t be worth it. I wouldn’t even be able to keep my doors open or pay for operating costs” In other words, business doesn’t pay, crime does. Its pretty scary to think about.

  7. MainFragger

    Also, if you assume there is a certain percentage of profit on this car, it gets split between the manf., the dealership, the manager, and the salesman. My guess is, each is guaranteed their percentage.. When you are haggling with these guys, whats probably happening is that each of them is giving you a little of their percentage to get it off of the lot.

    The idea that taxes are attributed to the actual price of an item, and not its rebated, sale or discounted price is pretty common for many products. The logic is, the fact that something is on sale doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a set value. And you are taxed on that value. Even if you win something for free..if its value is above a certain point, you get taxed for it.

    1. wirednot Post author

      Thanks for replying. On the tax thing- my point is when Walmart discounts something, you are taxed on the discounted price- not the original…

      1. MainFragger

        That is because its a low ticket item. Its like the casino. You can win up to a certain amount at the slot machines without having to have them take your tax info. But win like $1100 or more and they have to take your info for tax purposes. Same with cars. They aren’t giving you a $5 discount..they are sometimes giving you hundreds and thousands of dollars discount on an item that is still thousands of dollars after the discount.. Its not the same thing as shopping at a Walmart..

  8. wirednot Post author

    When you buy a house- you pay taxes on the final price, not the original asking price. Not following the logic about “it’s high ticket”, myself.


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