Americans regularly rank car shopping as one of their least-favorite consumer activities, yet car dealerships have done little to improve relations between salespeople and customers. With Tesla Motors seeking to overturn the franchise dealership status quo, car dealers are on the defensive, responding with outrage to an Edmunds advertisement about horrors of haggling.
Before you read any further, watch the above video if you haven’t already. For anybody who has ever bought a new or used car from a dealer, the negotiation song-and-dance seems all too familiar, but the fact that it’s taking place in a grocery story just highlights the absurdity of what car negotiations are actually like. With these videos Edmunds hoped to highlight its car shopping service, which goes through dealers to give buyers a set, non-negotiable price on the car they want.
As Jalopnik pointed out, the Edmunds system seems to leave a lot of money on the table for dealers to put in their pocket, It’s an open secret that Edmunds, which is the same magazine that had a hard time recommending the Tesla Model S, is quite friendly with the car dealers who subscribe to its cache of car selling services. So when the dealers got upset over the above video, it was just a matter of time before Edmunds caved to the pressure and removed the videos from their YouTube channel. Some car dealerships even pulled their subscriptions to Edmunds services, claiming the video accused dealerships of “outdated” and “unethical” negotiation tactics.
Edmunds.com President Seth Berkowitz responded with this statement: “Our digital videos illustrating the ‘Absurdity of Haggling’ missed the mark. Some of our partners were deeply insulted, expressing that our attempt at humor reinforced outdated stereotypes. That was obviously never our intent. It has created a distraction from our business of helping to make car shopping easier. We are terminating the videos and getting back to working with our dealer partners to improve the car buying process for car shoppers around the country.”
Did something change? Did car salespeople suddenly decide to give everyone the same price and treatment regardless of their ability to negotiate? If they did, I sure as hell didn’t hear about it, though I have heard of the wonderful treatment Tesla Model S buyers get at the company-owned showrooms, which has put the spotlight on the traditional car dealer system. People are starting to openly question why car buying is so different than buying anything else, and rather than try to compete with better customer service, car dealership lobbies are just trying to ban the Tesla sales model instead.
Unfortunately for the dealership establishment, their war against Tesla has made the issue of direct car sales a national conversation, and little snafus like forcing Edmunds really highlight just how entrenched the dealer lobby has become. Time to yank ‘em out by the roots if you ask me, and even some dealer advocates believe it’s merely a matter of when, not if, the franchise dealership system falls.