I worked at The reader for over a year now and I’ve discovered a lot of things I don’t know about the United States. For example, what is Fahrenheit and how do you spell words like “color”. But one of the biggest is that I had to try to find out how American car dealerships work. Just when Stellantis was forming, I had the idea that maybe this was something I didn’t fully understand. After 18 months of research, however, I am pleased to report that this is how I have think you all buy cars.
Here (sort of) in Europe, we don’t have dealers. Or, well, we have what I interpret as concessions, but which I have found have nothing to do with the American model of a concession. Let’s say you specifically want to buy a Nissan here in England, then you just search for a Nissan dealership and go there to check out their Nissans. Salespeople will probably try to sell you from the Nissan you want to a nicer Nissan, but there might be specific incentives from the automaker to get this one specifically. Other non-Nissan specialty car locations (car lots) might not have said incentives. Or really, you could just go online and buy one, but most new cars here are bought direct from the manufacturer in our dealer version because, uh, that makes the most sense.
Let’s recap how it works in the UK: people say they want a car, the manufacturer makes and delivers the car (pending delays for chip shortages etc.) – that’s it. I was surprised to discover that it is not how people buy cars in the united states
Car manufacturers cannot sell you a vehicle
It might seem obvious to anyone in America, but to me it was a real surprise to find out that you can’t buy cars from automakers. This is probably where I first realized I was out of my depth, as the idea that gigantic, multi-billion dollar multinational corporations are beholden to a group of dealers still baffles me quite a bit.
Dealers can charge you whatever they want
In these times of car shortages I hear that prices at dealerships in the US are on the rise which again doesn’t make sense to me because surely a dealership shouldn’t be allowed to put the price he wants on a car that a manufacturer has delivered to him. sell to you. This, I have come to understand, is naïve. In fact, it’s basically written into the law that dealers can triple the price of the Jeep you want to buy and you can go suck it if you don’t want to pay that.
You have to go to a dealership to buy a car
It’s crazy to me, and although things are changing in the United States after the pandemic with door-to-door deliveries and all, most people still have to go to a dealership to buy a car. That reminds me, why the hell would i still need to go somewhere and talk to a guy to get a car in 2022? I don’t want to do that, it’s extremely embarrassing. If I wanted to try and deal with a weirdo trying to mug me and force me to meet them, I’d look up Suzuki Jimnys on Facebook Marketplace.
You might not get the car you really want
Okay, this is where it gets even wilder for me. So you have to go to a dealership and talk to a guy who’s probably trying to rip you off with a markup these days, and then he tells you what car he’s going to sell you. You can choose from the inventory they have there, and if that’s not the spec you really want, you’re stuck. I guess maybe you could go to another one place and talk to another one guys to find out what they have, but if not, just take what’s in there. That’s not how we do things here in the UK, where if you buy a new car you can choose which car you get. Crazy, I know.
Dealerships have infinite power over you and automakers
So you went to a dealership and were basically forced to become best friends with the guy who sold you a car that you may or may not want, but at least you have a car now. Now the whole process is very different to what it is here in the UK, but perhaps the biggest difference is the amount of energy that dealers and the National Dealers Association (NADA) have on the consumers and car manufacturers. As far as I know, dealerships choose what car you buy and who you buy it from, and even at what price you will buy it. It seems there is some sort of legal agreement that prevents anyone from speaking directly to a manufacturer – oh wait, there is! Dealerships seem to dominate the entire auto industry and if anyone questions it, you can’t have a car, mate.
If you’ve ever wondered how a Brit views buying a car in the US, now you know.
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