Everyone loves a new car, but for most of us, buying a new car is an arduous and forgettable experience. Recalls, industry shakeups and restructurings, and the perception of a half-century’s worth of sleazy car salesmen have done much to erode consumer trust.
When buying or looking for a new car, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the salesman buddying-up to you is desperately trying to take your money in order to get a commission. And while many new-car dealerships have improved ethical standards and business practices, the smiley salesmen and loan officers are never quite as trustworthy as they seem in TV commercials.
But car-building is still a business and at the end of the day, the world’s top car manufacturers will find a way to grab more of your hard-earned cash (and five-year’s worth of interest on credit if they’re lucky). Knowing how to deal with them while accepting this premise will work to your advantage. Because you’re not a fool. You’ve done your homework and you know what you want, right?
Unfortunately, there are some things the automakers have hid from view. So here are the ten sentences the salesman cozying up to you in the dealership parking lot would never dare tell. Many thanks to Larry Printz at the Virginian-Pilot for the inspiration for this post…
We want you to feel like your car is made specifically for you, but it is not.
Truth is, cars today are designed and built to appeal to a wide range of consumers. A complete list of customizable options is going the way of the do-do bird. To save costs at the manufacturing plant, easy-to-install dealership options are now almost exclusively grouped into trim-level packages.
For example, take the Honda Accord. Used to be (pre-Y2K) that you could chose two doors or four, a transmission, color, and the trim — from base to premium — DX, LX, and EX. But the 2011 Honda Accord sedan comes with a head-spinning nine different trim levels where each successive model’s factory options are increased. You may still be able to upgrade to all-season floormats at any trim, but if your LX doesn’t have alloy wheels or a moonroof, you’re out of luck unless you pony up for an EX.
Our new specially designed option is the same specially designed option as that other rival car company
Think the new 2011 Scion tC is the only manufacturer with an OEM Pioneer audio system? Or that Audi’s Night Vision Assistant is different than BMW Night Vision?
With the current state of the economy, there just isn’t as diverse line of parts suppliers as there has been in the past. Pioneer and Bose and Alpine and Infinity have been supplying OEM head units and speakers to auto manufacturers for decades while Bosch, Hella, and Raytheon, among others, have been supplying active and passive night vision systems to luxury manufacturers since the early 2000s.
So don’t be fooled by brand name recognition. Instead, try the systems and options out for yourself to gauge whether or not you like the way it works.
We designed our new, small rear window to look great from the outside, but you’ll need to add an expensive rearview camera if you expect to see behind you.
New car designers have placed rear windows slightly above raised trunk and decklids, making it all but impossible to use the rearview mirror. You can see out, maybe, but certainly not down. And it’s not just the 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP-700-4s of the world either, as the 2011 Cadillac CTS sedan, 2011 Acura MDX, and even the 2011 Hyundai Genesis all have expensive rearview camera options.
Thou shall not smoke and drive.
First it was inside bars and clubs, then restaurants and other buildings. Now, you can’t even smoke in your car unless you have a lighter or matches, a cumbersome act to juggle when behind the wheel. That’s because most manufacturers no longer offer ashtrays and cigarette lighters as standard features. If they’re even available at all, they’re optional. In its digital place are “auxiliary power outlets” and “accessory power sockets,” the familiar 12-volt DC power for your iPod’s and GPS devices, which according to the user manual for the 2010 Honda Fit “will not power an automotive type cigarette lighter element.”
If your tire-pressure monitor light won’t go off, you’ll have to come to the dealership to have it reset and we’re going to try to sell you other maintenance “needs” while you’re there.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation mandated that all new passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System and that it must warn drivers when tire pressure has changed by 25 percent. And while manufacturers tout the technology as an important factor in your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, in fact, the system was designed for safety and its benefits on fuel consumption are negligible.
The 2011 VW Jetta, whose TPMS warning light appears on the speedometer, can be cleared by pressing the “set” button inside the glove box. But other cars aren’t so easy. Infiniti M and G series cars are supposed to reset after continuous driving, but in most cases, users report that the dealership is the quickest way to reset the warning light.
What spare tire?
Speaking of tires, have you noticed one seems to be missing? More and more lately, automakers are opting to remove the spare entirely. The 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco, which gets 42 mpg on the highway, comes instead with a tire inflation kit, which saves 26 pounds and increases trunk space. With roadside assistance standard on most new vehicles (sometimes up to 100,000 miles) as well as the popularity of AAA roadside coverage, it’s never been easier to have someone else do the work for you.
Our cars don’t break very often, but when they do, we don’t want you cheaping out at Mickey’s General Auto Repair. You’re going to have to come to the dealership for factory-authorized maintenance, unless you want to void your warranty.
You can’t just work on your own car anymore and independent auto repair shops are learning this the hard way. General mechanics now need to also be computer programmers, it seems, since our fancy, technological road warriors now have dozens of onboard computers and sensors. But no worry, your factory warranty usually has you covered for the first four to five years, or up to the first 100,000 thousand miles. More business for the dealerships! At-home mechanics? Forget about it. Attempting anything more than an oil change (and even that’s getting hard to do on most cars) these days is pretty much out of the question.
Small truck? Seriously?
Toyota and Datsun (Nissan) achieved huge success in America in the 1970s and 80s with their small pickups. But there’s a reason why the Ford F-150 is the best selling truck in America for the last couple decades: it just isn’t economically feasible to design and build a small truck, imported or not, and sell it for the same price against the blue-oval bargain of the century. In addition, any foreign automaker who would even think of importing a small truck here would come up against the so-called “chicken tax,” a 25-percent tariff on imported trucks that dates back to the Johnson administration. Bye-bye, Pup!
We love it when you buy crossovers and cute-ute SUV’s.
Automakers make a killing on crossovers and SUVs. Because some SUVs like the Honda Element and Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Escape are based on car platforms that use an independent rear suspension, it doesn’t cost as much to manufacture them. But in most cases, the savings on the assembly line are not passed on to the consumer. Instead, prices are jacked up, literally and figuratively.
Your perception of us is, like, totally wrong, dude.
This is a globalized world, dude. Your CPO’s Camry is every bit as American as your Daddy’s new Mopar, since some parts are sourced from overseas suppliers. The Ford Focus was designed in Germany and all Honda Accords sold in the U.S. are built in America. Even the way you once thought about import quality has changed, too, since many new domestics have been outperforming imports in the latest quality reports.
So, the next time you stroll up to the dealership parking lot, whether looking to buy or service your newly-bought vehicle, consider these tips your salesman or General Manager definitely won’t be telling you.
Got any other tips? Please share them below!