No-haggle pricing isn't the only way
I was in the retail auto business for 16 years, so I have great empathy for the Denver dealers who feel AutoNation is 'skewing' the facts about 'other' dealerships.
Most car buyers will shop around. The notion that most hate haggling is true only when they are abused, lied to, mistreated and insulted.
On the other hand, customers welcome negotiating in good faith, with honesty and respect. Especially when that professional treatment goes hand-in-hand with a fair price.
The concept of no haggle/no hassle/one low price sounds good, but there is no guarantee that the no-haggle price is the best price and the best value. That can be validated only by comparison.
Dealers sell the customer short if they assume that reduced stress and emotional comfort are the only factors in a pleasant buying experience. That state of mind can be attained by a lower price, too.
I have some simple advice for the Denver dealers. Don't waste your time fuming over AutoNation's advertising. Clean up your acts if they need cleaning up. Produce quality advertising through your local dealer group. Let customers know that while no-haggle dealers make them feel good, you will make them feel just as good or better at a lower price.
And you must back up your words. Be sure your sales force buys into it.
I must scold just a little. If you had done that years ago, America would be the only nation you'd be talking about. So give it the maximum effort; it will pay off for you and your customers.
Director of Fleet
One-price may be out of sync
Spurred by Saturn's early success, the industry's one-price movement has spent the past decade proclaiming that negotiating will go the way of the 12-month warranty.
I'm not a fan of the negotiation process, but I have viewed the one-price claims with caution. While research has shown that a majority of customers don't like to negotiate, a deeper analysis reveals that most customers still plan on negotiating the price of their next vehicle.
Why? We have spent years teaching customers that without negotiating, they will pay too much.
Almost perversely, many customers feel that the more time spent and the harder the negotiation, the better the deal.
Faced with the market's reluctance to embrace fixed prices, many one-price dealers have adopted 'fudges.' Trade-in values and F&I terms are flexible. Car prices vary based on color, length of time in inventory, popularity of options, etc. That is likely to change, but not in the way you might expect.
Customer expectations about pricing in general are evolving. Once again, blame the Internet. Its friction-free flow of price and product information is resulting in tremendous downward pressure on margins.
As pricing becomes 'negotiable' over the Internet, traditional retailers may be forced to join in to remain competitive. As the industry continues to move toward one-price, we risk (once again) being out of sync with our customers.
JEREMY P. ANWYL
Marketec Systems Inc.
Santa Ana, Calif.
Marketec Systems is an automotive consulting firm.
Another hazard: Unnecessary SUVs
John Teahen's March 29 column, 'Driving is a full-time job,' was good.
Perhaps you'd like to add another type of driver to the list - drivers of sport-utilities who have absolutely no functional need for them.
In a parking garage recently, a young lady of about 105 pounds was trying to negotiate her Ford Expedition out of the exit (the roof of the vehicle was about 7 inches from the ceiling) while talking on the phone and fixing her makeup.
Of course, she was clogging traffic and blocking everyone's vision.
The writer is president of an executive search firm.
Packard Predictor should be revived
In your March 8 'Briefly' column, it was good to read of Roy Gullickson, who wants to bring Packard Motor Car Co. back to life. The prototype doesn't look too bad, especially the front end.
I would like to see someone build upon the Packard Predictor show car that was built and displayed in 1956 at various auto shows.
I wish Gullickson the best, and I hope he can pull it off.
I must differ with your statement that 1957 was the last year in which the original Packard was sold. It was 1956. The so-called 1957 Packards were actually Studebakers with the Packard name.
The writer is a former Packard dealer.
The last Packard? 1958, not 1957
Automotive News seems a little off on Studebaker-Packard history in the March 8 and 29 issues.
The last Packard-badged Studebaker-based cars were produced as 1958 models, not 1957s. The 1956 Packard-based models, including Clippers, were the last built in the Packard plant in Detroit.
In the otherwise well-crafted article on Ed Davis, you said both he and Packard went out of business in 1956. Studebaker discontinued car production in March 1966, 10 years later.
Director of Service
Hyundai Motor America
Fountain Valley, Calif.