A big-city test for no-haggle pricing

Roughly 300 dealers in the New York and Los Angeles areas will offer no-haggle pricing below sticker on their new-vehicle inventory this week, in a promotion organized by car shopping Web site Edmunds.com.

The Car Week events — modeled after “restaurant week” promotions that many cities stage to stimulate local business — represent the first large-scale test of Edmund’s Price Promise program, which it launched last year as an antidote to what it sees as a persistent source of tension between dealers and customers: negotiations over vehicle prices.

“The greatest unmet need in the marketplace is for shoppers to get an actual price on an actual vehicle,” Edmunds.com CEO Avi Steinlauf said in an interview, citing surveys of more than 20,000 customers over the past two years. “We think that reducing some of the friction which has existed out there around price is a great leap forward, and we’re getting great feedback from shoppers and our dealer partners.”

Dealers who use Edmunds’ Price Promise offer up-front, no-haggle price guarantees over the Internet on new vehicles stocked in inventory, similar to up-front price guarantees offered by TrueCar. In an age when the vast majority of car shoppers do most of their car research and shopping online, such programs aim to give them the same level of price transparency they get through online retailers such as Amazon.

Edmunds has about 10,000 dealer clients that pay a monthly subscription fee to list their vehicle inventory on the site, and about 6,500 of those dealers use the Price Promise tool to some degree, the company has said. Edmunds has promoted the program by staging “takeovers” of dealerships in California, St. Louis and New York’s Long Island.

Steinlauf says the takeovers were valuable learning experiences, but expanding Price Promise through one-off events proved inefficient.

“We sat down and said, ‘What can we do to scale this in a way that will get this out to many, many more dealers?’” Steinlauf said.

Dealers participating in the Car Week promotion will hang special Edmunds tags on vehicles with guaranteed prices that are at or below the vehicle’s “True Market Value,” or Edmunds’ measure of the price people are paying for a given car in a local market. Dealers also will hoist special signs for the Car Week promotion, and Edmunds has encouraged participants to hold fun events of their own to boost traffic. 

You can reach Ryan Beene at autonews@crain.com

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