Watch any car commercial, and you will almost always see the abbreviation “MSRP” come up next to the price of the car. Many people don’t know that this stands for the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. In other words, this is what the big corporations “suggest” their dealerships sell their cars for. But dealerships are independently owned and operated, and they can set the price as high, or low, as they want.
Which plays into two upcoming, potentially world-changing cars; the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF. While many Chevy dealerships seem prepared to gouge initial Volt buyers by as much as $20,000 over MSRP, many Nissan dealers are taking the opposite route, actually going under the MSRP for the LEAF by as much as $1,000. What gives?
At least one dealership in the L.A. area is planning on charging around $60,000 (before tax credits) according to Edmunds Inside Line, for the first Volts to roll through its doors. Why? Because the demand is there apparently. This is not an uncommon thing, mind you. When the first Corvette ZR-1’s rolled into showrooms, dealerships were charging a premium of $100,000 (over the $110,000 starting price), same as many dealerships charging upwards of $80,000 for the first 2010 Camaros (which max out around $40,000).
People have the right to make a buck, no doubt, and if there are customers out there willing (and able) to pay, more power to them. However, compare the price gouging on the Volt with the route many Nissan dealers are taking. That is, some Nissan dealers are offering discounts of up to $1,000 off of the MSRP off of the Nissan LEAF. Other dealerships are offering to install the 440 volt quick charger for free. Why?
Is it because the LEAF is an electric car while the Volt is a fancy hybrid? Are Chevy dealers inherently greedier than Nissan dealers? Or do Chevy dealers feel that much stronger about their product that they are sure people will pay a premium for it, while Nissan dealers feel they need to “sweeten the pot” to draw in customers? I don’t rightly know. Maybe it is a combination of these and other factors.
I did decide to call a few Chevy dealerships around the Connecticut area to see if the same price gouging applies here. Most of the dealerships I called said they were getting just one or two Volts in the first year, so availability would be extremely limited (especially given the demand). Even so, they said they have no plans on charging more than the MSRP. That could all change in a few months. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.