OMAHA, Neb. -- When customers come in to shop at Lexus of Omaha, one of the test labs for a new sales process called Lexus Plus, salesman Jeff Bahnsen starts off by running through the program's concept statement. It assures them that he alone will take them through the entire purchase and explains why the dealership's prices are non-negotiable.
He then lets the customers decide how to structure the rest of their visit. They can start with appraisal of a trade-in or a test drive or comparisons of different models -- whatever suits them best.
For each vehicle, a label on the windshield shows customers the sticker price, factory incentives and additional discounts that go into the final no-haggle price. (An IS sedan with a sticker price of $46,494 recently carried a no-haggle price of $40,719.)
If a buyer wants to walk out because of the no-haggle policy, Bahnsen reiterates that the quoted final price is indeed final and won't change later. Some customers leave, only to return after doing more research, Bahnsen says. But for the vast majority, it never comes to that.
"They're happy as heck," Bahnsen said. "The fear level is gone. The anxiety is gone."
Lexus execs are convinced that this is a better way to sell luxury cars, and they are betting on it to further differentiate the Lexus brand from competitors. But rather than forcing the change on skeptical dealers, they are rolling it out as a voluntary experiment in the hope that it will spread organically to more of its 236 U.S. dealerships. In some markets, that means a Lexus Plus operator competes against a traditional Lexus dealer not far down the road.
It's still early, but Lexus officials are encouraged by the response they have gotten so far from the 11 dealerships involved in the Lexus Plus pilot program.
"We're seeing some good sales results," said Matt Kaleba, national manager for future retailing and incentives for Lexus. "We're seeing some outstanding customer satisfaction results. So all of the things we're hoping to see, we're starting to see early on."
Two big takeaways, says Robert Mueting, Lexus of Omaha's general manager: Buyers love having a single salesperson to work with -- even more than no-haggle pricing -- and dealership employees enjoy a sales process that is less stressful.
"We were always the person behind the curtain," Mueting said. "We were the bad guys."