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Readers React: No Wonder US Car Makers Are in Trouble

Empty GM Dealership
Photo: Jane Wells
Empty GM Dealership

My post about car shoppingtouched a nerve — my inbox was flooded. One of the biggest criticisms was that I didn’t try hard enough to buy American — I only went to one GM dealership, then ran straight back into the unwelcoming arms of Honda.

To be honest, my husband and I would’ve tried harder, it just spooked us that a GM dealer could be so belligerent. It made us think that things were even worse for GM than we thought and scared us straight out of the dealership.

Admittedly, my story was but one couple’s experience. To get a broader perspective, we asked readers to share their experience.

In response to the poll, “Have you been able to get a good deal on a U.S. car?,” the runaway winner was “haven’t tried,” with more than 50 percent of respondents saying they haven’t even bothered to try a U.S. dealership. “No” came in second with 27 percent of the vote, and just 21-percent of the voters said “yes.” (Of course, if the email responses are any guide, many of those are U.S. car dealers.)

Readers weighed in from all across the country. Of those who took the time to share their experience in an email, a few found good deals, but the overwhelming majority said they had a similar experience to ours, with two unsuccessful attempts at getting a good deal for every one good deal.

Here's what they had to say.

AP

Try Harder to Buy American
Next time you should try harder to purchase a car from an American company and possibly the recession won't last as long as this one will. — Bruce, St. Louis, MO

Dealers Haven’t Learned Any Lessons
I agree. The dealers have not learned any lessons. They should be discounting the cars with a small profit for themselves to help GM, Ford and Chrysler. … I would like to buy a new Dodge Challenger but no deals. Well, no deals means Chrysler may go out of business. — Phil

Not Fair to Judge So Fast
I am a car dealer in Michigan and I have NEVER in my career had a customer walk into this showroom and get treated as you did. It is unfair for you to judge your experience based on the fact that you had an idiot trying to sell you a car. … [I]t's writers such as yourself who destroy the US car market one blog at a time. – Nikki, Michigan

'BIG THREE DESERVE TO GO UNDER'

'Big Three Deserve to Go Under'
Good for you and your husband !!!!! You guys tried to do the right thing and instead were confronted with the reality of a**hole salesmen in a dealership. I guess these jerks still can't figure out that 80% or 85% of something is a lot better than 100% of NOTHING. I am not a mean person, but this is exactly why the US big three deserve to go under. With post-bankruptcy changes at the manufacturing level, and some real reforms/better control at the dealership level, maybe this industry can become healthy again. … Enjoy your Honda, and don't feel badly for the Chevy clowns. — Alan, Long Island, NY

It’s Un-American to Bail Out Failed Companies

Your story about buying a car is interesting. I just bought a Honda Civic DX-VP for 14,800 + tax... That's a car that lists for $16,200. I considered the Chevy Malibu, but I'm not going to buy a car from a company that should have been out of business decades ago. Nothing is more un-American than bailing out failed companies. – Reggie, Colorado

New York Lawyer Offers Cash for Cadillac, GM Shrugs
I, too, found no deals to be had. I was interested in paying cash on a Cadillac Escalade. The dealer only offered a modest discount off list price. So I walked out. — Peter, New York, NY

Got Fed Up, Went to a Honda Dealership
My wife and I had a very similar experience and I am fairly certain that the same scenario is playing itself out over and over at American Car Dealerships across the country. … [O]ur last lease was a Ford product that was less than satisfying but we wanted to do our part to help put the US auto industry during this crisis … We went to no less than 10 GMC and Chevy dealers in an attempt to purchase either a Tahoe or Suburban … We had also done our research online, clipped out ads and made a list of available rebates only to get to the dealers and have one salesman after another tell us why they couldn't honor one deal or another. We finally got fed up and went into a Honda dealership … and ended up driving home in a new minivan. … I really don't know if we will ever buy American again and that makes me sad. — Chris, California

Good Deal on a Chevy Malibu
I bought a Chevy Malibu and I got a good deal which was close to invoice and 0% financing. It was no give away but why should it be? Malibu is Chevy's best car … and has a warranty backed by the U.S. government … I felt great about my purchase, I love the car and I do not see any reason GM needs to pile $4,000 on the hood to get these out door. I was happy to support U.S./Canadian jobs and GM with my purchase and I would do it all again. Take someone out to look for a Trailblazer or an Impala and you will probably get a completely different story. GM's Malibu, CTS, Traverse and a few others are amazing models and they have to make money somewhere! — Kanti, Toronto, Canada

Tried to Buy a Saturn, Ended Up With a VW GTI
My wife and I had a similar uninspiring experience when we went to check out the Saturn Astra, a little hatchback made in Belgium that had some good reviews. The dealership only had automatics in stock, no manual transmission. The autos are 4-speed, which is dated technology for 2009. None of their cars had electronic stability control. Finally, they said the Saturn price is fixed, and if they brought in an Astra with manual and stability control, it would cost in the low 20s. Well, for that price, you can buy a Volkswagen GTI with high-grade interior, more air bags, electronic stability control, 200 hp, and much sportier handling and demeanor. I just don't get it, to whom is GM marketing? A few weeks later we bought a VW GTI, and it's fantastic. — Andy, Vicksburg, MS

The Real Steal Was a Ford F-150 Pickup Truck
The real steal was the F-150 bought in December of 2008. They were offering employee pricing plus cash back so for a $42,000 sticker [price] ... I was able to get it for $29k and then the rest of the price came in my trade in. … Ford was much more willing to wheel and deal to clear out their old inventory than any other dealer ship. I think that is apparent in the current market view. — Darrell, Newark, DE

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Just Bought a New Jeep Wrangler, Got a Costco Discount
We just bought a new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited in March, and thought the deal was pretty good. We got "employee pricing" plus a $250 discount for being Costco (COST) members. Plus Jeep was offering a $1,500. rebate. Plus we got 0% for 36 months. Their advertisements call it "Employee pricing plus plus." — Daniel

Hyundai Deserves Congressional Medal of Honor!
I also was less than impressed with what I found when trying to but a brand new America car … Since I wanted a reliable four cylinder with manual transmission (for the next round of $4/gal fuel), I went to look first at the Ford Focus and Fusion. Both made in Mexico — gas mileage only fair — and even the salesman admitted that their manual transmission isn't up to par. But they were willing to get serious with the numbers after seeing that I had priced the cars online. … Toyota … Overall appeared to be a better car at a competitive price. … Hyundai … was crawling with customers - whoever dreamed up the Hyundai Assurance scheme deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor! … Bottom line — I agree that it's easy to find car lots with plenty of great deals on less desirable models. But the top rated, affordable cars are in fairly short supply — it took me seven weeks to get my Elantra Touring — but I love it! — Andrew, Charlotte, NC

BETTER DEALS IN 2008

Better Deals in 2008
It seems the better deals were had in December 2008 when the automakers knew they were hopelessly overstocked with model year leftovers and people were just not buying cars due to the declining economy. I bought a 2008 Ford Escape XLT with a sticker of $26,500 but ended up with a combined discount of $6,000 off the sticker … The dealership in North Jersey were I bought the car even put their holdback incentive of $750 toward the purchase just to get the car off the lot before the end of the year. … It leads me to believe that if the car makers are working with the dealerships to move the vehicles off their lots, even at a breakeven cost, everybody wins in the short run until the economy and consumer confidence picks back up. — Lee, New Jersey

Good Experience Buying a Ford Fusion
I had a reasonably positive experience. I decided to buy a car for my wife at Christmas. Since I travel frequently on business and rent a lot of cars I had already decided on a Ford Fusion. I felt it was a much better car that the Malibu and could be bought at a lower price than a Toyota or Nissan. I went to the local Ford Dealer in Webster, MA and they bent over backwards to help me. In the end I bought a brand new Fusion for $16,000, add in the fees and trade-in (almost nothing since we keep cars for 10 years) and I got it off the lot for right around $18k. The people working there got into the whole Christmas present situation and even gift wrapped the keys for me. — Richard, Webster, MA

Better Deals in the Midwest?
[G]uess we had a much different experience than you, twice... First, I purchased a New 2008 Yukon XL in late January. Sticker was $49,500 and we struck a deal at $35K. Since mileage is not one of my concerns, this was a great deal for me. This vehicle is used for towing my bassboat. The next vehicle we purchased in February was a Camry Hybrid. This vehicle was sold at dealer invoice less a $1,500 rebate. No negotiating and no high pressure sales... Maybe you need to look at purchasing your vehicles in the Midwest. — Michael, Chicago, IL

Great Deal on a Jeep Liberty
[T]his past winter … foreign car makers were … very snooty but the American car makers were actually drooling to see a live person on their lot. … [I]n February I drove away in a new 2008 Jeep Liberty. Because it was a leftover 2008, I received $4,000 in incentives on top of the $2,000 discount for the "employee" pricing special deal. I also received $2,500 for trading in the old Caravan which I was pleased with. — Ralph, Denver, CO

Dealerships Are Too Greedy
You are finally addressing a BIG part of the problem. It isn't quality or design that is causing the big slump in car sales. One of the main reasons is the dealerships are trying to make entirely to much profit on the sale of a vehicle. I am all for sharing wealth, but not at the insane level of profit the dealerships are trying to make and not to mention the way the vast majority treat you while you are there. (which usually isn't very nice) The entire buying process is tiring and needs to be changed. The dealership is nothing more than a middle man and could for the most part be eliminated. … Why don't the manufacturers offer direct sales to the customer? … the big corporations are not even looking at this side of the equation/problem (dealerships that is). Again, this shows how out of touch they are. — Bill, Memphis, TN

Great Deal on a Chevy Silverado
I bought a Chevy Silverado today at Friendly Chevrolet in Dallas, TX and got an excellent deal. I got a ton for my trade-in too! I just kept telling the salesman that he had to come down on the final finance price or I couldn't buy. After getting employee discount + $4,000 cash back (around $7,000 off MSRP) they raised my trade-in value so I wasn't under water anymore. I'm extremely pleased and love Chevy trucks for their long running, low maintenance. This is the 3rd Chevy truck/SUV we've owned because they keep on running. — Lory, Dallas, TX

Chrysler Loses Deal Over $250 in Florida
Well, we went to Chrysler dealer several times I would say at least 4 … Well on the 4th day the dealer had the car ready for us but when we sat down at looked at the paper work it showed my papers that the dealer had given us an he showed his, well there was only a $250 dollar difference — he said was not included and I said was we walked and we were dealing with the manager ... How about that? He even called twice and said are you ready to take the car and I said for my price — he hung up … It was a dealership in southwest Florida. Maybe they should go around these dealers and see what is going on. So now I am considering buying a Buick and if I get the same treatment I will go back and buy a Lexus they treat you like a customer should be treated. – Anonymous, South Florida

Left in a State of Shock
I must say that my car-buying experience was very similar to yours. I walked into several show rooms several months ago (Toyota, Pontiac, and Ford), expecting to get an offer I could not refuse. I left in a state of shock. A Ford dealer quoted me a price that exceeded what Edmunds indicated people were paying for a similar car by several thousand dollars, and neither Pontiac nor Toyota would deviate much, if at all, from their sticker price. The Toyota dealer also gave me a financing rate of about 6.9%. When my wife asked about those near zero percent rates she read about in the paper, the salesman just scoffed at her. As we were walking out of the show room, he came running after us saying he could give us a 2.5% rate! By that time, we had had it and kept on walking. We ended up purchasing the Ford Fusion I had been leasing for the past three years-with no reduction from the original residual price ($11,700). … Had they made me an offer I could not refuse, I would have walked away with a new Fusion. The same goes for the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix. — Norm, New Jersey

The ‘New Reality’ of Buying American
Well, it turns out that the "new reality" of buying an American car is almost identical to the "old reality", major recession notwithstanding. As I just learned (again) when an American manufacturer finally produces a "hot" car that could help them take back some market share, they are defeated by their very own dealership network that insists on price gouging. I talk specifically about the new Ford Fusion which, as I speak, is being routinely priced significantly (10%) above MSRP and thereby sufficiently annoying prospective buyers (like myself), who would like to 'buy American', to send then right back to the foreign manufacturers. My experience is not unique and my reaction appears to be the same for 7 out of 10 of my friends, relatives and associates. After interacting with a local Ford dealership here in New Hampshire I am headed right back to Toyota for a Camry Hybrid. Buy American? Not this go round and therefore not for another three to five years. Good luck Ford, you will sell a bunch of the Fusion Hybrids but not the number you could have sold were you able to control your dealers, their arrogance and their shortsightedness. — Bill, New Hampshire

Kansas Pontiac Lover Mulls an Acura
I flew from Kansas to Ohio after finding a Pontiac Solstice that matched my desires in that type of vehicle on the last weekend in Jan. I made an assumption that no one would want a convertible in Jan. and with the recession in "full swing," I thought I would get the deal of my life. When I arrived the dealership had just received 9 inches of snow and it was minus-2 [degrees] the night I got there. It was so miserable I didn't even attempt to drive the car. Now for the "deal"... invoice price ... that's it ... and nothing more. I didn't purchase the car and the last time I checked they still had it. They have been sitting on it since July 1. Oh well....at least I got to see my cousin I hadn't seen in 20 years!! I guess things turned out ok ... If GM goes bankrupt, which I think they will ... I'll buy me and Acura TSX. It's kinda sad ... I've driven Pontiacs all my life. — Joe, Kansas

‘No Wonder They Are in Trouble’
After leasing a German car for the last two years I felt that it would be the "correct" thing to do to "Buy American." As we lease our vehicles we assumed that with all of the rebates and offers that the GM car would be a much better deal. We stopped at the local Cadillac dealer and were met in the parking lot by the salesman. After explaining that we were interested in a lease he said "Well we don't have a good lease program." The average payment would be $1000.00 or more per month on a car with a lower sticker price than the BMW or Mercedes. No wonder they are in trouble. They will not lease because they have no idea what their cars will be worth in two years! Why should we take a chance if they are not willing too!! — Doug, Cleveland, OH

GM Doesn’t Want to Make a Deal
I just spent the last few days trying to buy a new GMC Sierra Truck with little success. Let me preface that I am a huge GMC supporter, and currently own two Chevrolets. When I went to look for a new vehicle, I found that GM lacked the following: 1) Little selection (production cut backs?), 2) Poor financing (Zero Percent was on every other model but the Sierra 2500), and 3) Standard pricing — The truck I was interested in costs more than it did a year ago before the collapse in the economy. I did not feel GM wanted to make a “deal” to move a unit; instead they just let me walk out of the dealership. Not a good strategy for a firm on the verge of bankruptcy. – Chris, Gardnerville, NV

Great Deal on a Chevy Impala
FYI — I got a great deal on a 2009 Impala. The details: Sticker price $30,875 … GM family discount price -$28,011 … rebate -$4,250 … lease turn in, -$3,000 … price I paid=$20,761. That’s a $10,000 discount a third off the sticker price. — Jay, Wilmington, DE

Pony Treats:

  • Salesmen Should Offer ‘Sales.’ Here’s a crazy idea: If U.S. auto makers want to make sales, why not have an actual sale? Say, 25% off or 30% off. If retailers can do it, why not auto makers?, blogger Joseph Young asks on TrueCreek.com.
  • Confessions of a Car Salesman.Where does the salesman gowhen he leaves you sitting there to “go speak to his manager?” Edmunds.com went undercover to get the inside track on what really goes on at dealerships.

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Click on Ticker to Track Corporate News:

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