Think $41,000 Steep For A Chevy Volt? One Dealer Wants $20,000 Premium!By John O'Dell August 2, 2010
We know how the same is played - consumers are always happy to take a car dealer to the cleaners but resent it when the dealer wants a premium for a hot car.
We even understand the dealer's motivation - if customers demand bargains when times are tough and cars just aren't moving, then why not try to make a little back when there's a model that's expected to outsell supplies.
But when the government is urging people to help slash oil use by purchasing the most fuel-efficient vehicles out there, is it wrong to suggest that the idea of charging consumers steep premiums for such cars seems a bit, well, unpatriotic?
We haven't heard a lot about price gouging with the upcoming Chevrolet Volt - or the Nissan Leaf EV for that matter - but we suspect it will start and we've already got one doozy of an example.
A Southern California Chevrolet dealer's internet sales office - no names because we haven't talked to the dealership's management yet - told one of our colleagues that because the Volt would be in high demand and short supply, it wants a $20,000 premium for the $41,000 car!
Don't believe us?
Here's the body of the e-mail our colleague received after sending a purchase inquiry to the dealership:
Thank you for your online request, as you know the Volt is going to be a very limited production vehicle for the first 2-3 years. Demand is going to far exceed supply for this vehicle, initially our asking price for the Volt is going to be MSRP plus $20,000, we are expecting only receive 9 Volts all of next year. I will keep you in my customer base for when the Volt comes out and I will contact you with any information as I receive it. We are taking orders right now for the Volt, if you would like more information, please let me know and I will be more than happy to help you. Thank you.
But as our colleagues at EdmundsDaily point out, some dealers who will be selling this 21st Century car still are using 19th Century horse-trading techniques aimed at getting you to "come on down and talk" rather than simply providing price info and letting you decide the next step.
We're sure that someone out wthere will be quite willing to pay a huge premium to get a Volt before his or her neighbor does, but our suggestion is to tell gougers No! in whatever colorful terms you care to use.
The entire new-car pricing process is ridiculous. Although there is a manufacturer's suggested retail price, it's the merest of suggestions. Even the prices scrawled across the windshields on dealers' lots have little relationship with reality.
As a result, players on both sides spend enormous amounts of time, money (we have a friend who devoted two vacation days to bargaining for hours on end at a Ford dealership to ultimately "save" $100 on a car last year - not such a good deal when you consider what it would cost him to replace those two lost days) and emotional capital trying to best one another.
Instead of seeing our local dealers as helpful allies, we usually see them as enemies, and many car-sales people consider consumers to be prey.
In our perfect world, used-car dealers would buy and sell used vehicles and new-car dealers would sell new cars (and trucks) at a competitive price, and the whole "trade-in" scenario would be tossed out.
If you didn't want to sell your old model to a used dealer, you could sell it in a private transaction. But the whole process would be separate from the new-car deal and most of the haggling would be taken out of the process. That's in our perfect world.
When was the last time, after all, that you dragged your old Kenmore refrigerator down to the local Sears and asked how much they'd give you for it against the price of a shiny new one?
AutoObserver's Bill Visnic, who broke the Volt gouging story over the weekend, suggests that because GM is alive thanks to a taxpayer bailout last year, the idea of Chevy dealers "clipping the very people who helped keep them in business is a new and ugly twist on an age-old auto-industry phenomenon."
We agree, and we urge readers to reach out to their local Chevy and Nissan dealers and let us know if there are others out there trying to profit from the initial limited supplies of Volts and Leafs.
We'll post dealer responses, along with their names.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor