Why it pays to just keep the new Chevy

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DETROIT -- If you don't love your new Chevrolet, now you can return it.

Or, you can do your research ahead of time, test drive the car to confirm it's what you really want, realize that you'll later discover something super-annoying no matter which brand of vehicle you buy, and then ask your Chevy dealer for an extra $250 or $500 discount in exchange for giving up the right to return it later.

These are the options available to consumers through the new "Love It or Return It" that GM rolled out this week -- although GM didn't highlight the waiver option very much. I'm no financial expert, but seriously, take the $500.

Are you really so unsure of your ability to make and stick with a decision in life that it's worth saying, "No, thank you, nice Chevy salesman. I would rather not have $500, because there's a chance that the four hours we've been sitting here has all been a waste of everyone's time"?

Then, if you're on the fence about the car in a month or two, remember that you have an extra $500 -- or you used to, anyway, before you blew it on a big-screen TV -- and see if your opinion improves. No matter how irritating your coworkers/friends/in-laws/children are, you'll probably find them less annoying if you got an extra $500 to tolerate their presence.

And if your car truly ends up making your life so awful, just use the old-fashioned version of GM's return guarantee: "Love It or Leave It in the Bad Part of Town and Collect the Insurance Money." (I do not recommend this, but if you try it, take the garage-door opener out first.)

So, after you have the keys to a new Chevrolet and an extra $500 in your pocket, think about this: Sears has a 42-inch Panasonic HDTV advertised this week for $499.99.

Whatever you do with the extra $500, don't accidentally give any of it right back to the nice Chevy salesman through the other new program that GM announced Tuesday: Total Confidence Pricing.

"All 2012 model year Chevrolets will be offered at the best possible prices in addition to all current vehicle-specific incentives," GM explained in its announcement. "No mystery about it -- the price you see is the price you pay."

For consumers terrified at the thought of talking to a car salesman or using the Internet for something besides forwarding email chains, Chevy's offer of no-haggle prices on 2012 models can potentially make buying a car easier.

But it probably will not help -- and may even hurt -- those who know how to do all their research and don't mind a bit of back-and-forth to get the best deal.

Chevrolet is basically making supplier discounts openly available for the next two months to all customers, even those who don't regularly buy resin by the truckload. What many people may not know is that they might already have had access to those discounts, either through a relative or by being a member of a credit union or other organization.

I received a supplier discount when buying a Chevrolet two years ago, just by showing that I have a credit-union account.

For those who don't automatically qualify, supplier pricing has generally been available to everyone through a technique known as "asking for it." A check of Edmunds.com shows that in many cases, the supplier price is very close to the Web site's "True Market Value" -- in other words, the average price people already pay.

Chevrolet's online vehicle locator shows that a dealer in suburban Detroit has a Silverado pickup with a suggested retail price of $33,375, now offered at a "Total Confidence Price" of $29,957, including shipping.

Edmunds shows the "True Market Value" of a Silverado with the same sticker price as $29,890 after incentives, meaning most buyers are paying less than GM's new no-haggle, "best possible" price.

On the other hand, a Malibu is listed as having a "Total Confidence Price" that is about $200 less than the Edmunds "True Market Value." So it works both ways, depending on the nameplate and configuration.

Of course, there's nothing to stop dealers from agreeing to haggle on the no-haggle price. When I bought my car, I negotiated to get about $400 more off, despite being told initially that the supplier price was firm.

GM obviously has reason to believe these new promotions will bring in new customers and increase Chevrolet's sales. It also knows that its products are good enough that it won't have disgruntled buyers dumping them en masse in six weeks, as many might have 30 years ago if given the option.

It's that improvement, not a new promotion, that should give shoppers "total confidence" to go buy a new Chevrolet without having to worry they'll soon hate it. And then go ahead and buy yourself the new TV, even if you do not need it. You can always return it.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter

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