Edmunds.com's new Price Promise program sounds bizarre: Basically, dealers tell a customer the price of a car, then -- try to stay with me here -- actually charge that price when the customer comes in to buy the car.
Edmunds says 54 percent of people surveyed said their greatest unmet need is getting a real price on a car before driving to the dealership.
Consumers spend days, even weeks, putting off important projects at work to research cars online. And after all that, more than half still don't know exactly how much any of those cars will cost.
Meanwhile, they can order a TV without having to drive to an Amazon.com warehouse to talk numbers and find out whether the only one in stock has $800 worth of rustproofing added on.
And here's another piece of evidence in the long-running debate over no-haggle prices: Edmunds says dealers who give consumers a final price upfront and honor it can make more money per car.
Edmunds COO Seth Berkowitz said dealers gross $300 to $500 more on deals brokered through the Price Promise program, which began over the summer, than other transactions.
"Essentially, people are paying for the convenience and the guarantee of a streamlined process over grinding out the last penny," Berkowitz said.
Edmunds, which joins TrueCar.com in offering guaranteed prices online, has been promoting the Price Promise by staging "takeover" events at dealerships. Edmunds employees help guide customers through the program, and every vehicle is offered at a no-haggle price.
A recent takeover at Bommarito Automotive Group near St. Louis resulted in 20 percent more showroom traffic and 15 percent more sales than a typical sale event. Besides higher revenue, Berkowitz said dealerships experience a "measurable increase in trust and reviews" among customers who use Price Promise:
"If [dealers] actually guarantee things to consumers and fulfill that, they're starting off on a better foot than everyone else."