There is something special about ordering a car from the factory just the way you want it. Many dealers will offer to order anything the customer wants that the dealership doesn’t have in stock. But some orders are easier than others, and not every dealer can get the car you desire.
Here’s how it usually works: you build up your vehicle on the automaker’s website (if they allow ordered cars—some do not) by selecting your trim, colors and options and submitting that build to the dealer. The dealer then sends the request to the factory and, hopefully in a few months, you have your car.
But it doesn’t always work that way, of course; in addition, the process includes misconceptions, like, for one, that you will have to pay sticker price for an ordered car. This is not usually the case. On something mainstream like a Subaru or a Ford, you should be able to score some kind of discount and maybe be able to get your factory ordered vehicle for under invoice before any rebates are applied.
That, though, is for more accessible models. Where things get tricky is on higher-end cars, when dealers have a limited number of allocations for a specific build. Recently, I worked with a few clients looking for hard-to-find cars only to find out that the order they placed with their local store couldn’t be filled.
One of them, for example, wanted to order a brand new Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS. My client figured this wasn’t something super rare or in high demand like a GT3, and that his dealership should be able to get it. He told me the dealer held his deposit for months without any answer or update as to when his car would come. What the dealer didn’t tell him is that their particular store did not have an “allocation” for a GTS and they were waiting for an opening.
I made a few phone calls to my Porsche contacts and within a week I was able to find him a store that could get him a car. There is no reason why his local dealer couldn’t tell him within a reasonable time frame that they could not secure his car and he should look elsewhere.
Sometimes, things get even more complicated, because, sometimes, a dealer can get you the car, but not the options you want. Once, I had a case with a factory-ordered Mercedes E400 wagon where the client wanted the Premium 3 package. Because that option package adds a lot more equipment to the vehicle, and therefore takes more time, Mercedes limits the number of Premium 3 cars a dealer can get within a certain model. One store was able to get the E400, but had to wait until late spring to get it with the P3, while another store that sells more volume and therefore has more pull with the factory was able to swap one of their builds in order to get an E400 P3 sooner.
I’ve also encountered a few situations where a dealer claimed they can order a car when it simply was not the case. Awhile back, I worked with a client who wanted a brand new Lexus LS 460 that starts at around $75,000, but he was satisfied with the standard equipment and didn’t want to buy the $85,000 versions that were on the lots. He figured that Lexus would gladly build him what he wanted. I came to find out after a long conversation with Lexus corporate, that Lexus, unlike the European brands, will not build a customer car. The dealership can request a build, but if the factory will only build the most popular configurations and if that particular spec never gets made, the store will never get it.
So if you are interested in ordering your next car from the factory, find out from your local dealership if the automaker does indeed offer exact orders, or if they just take requests. Your dealership should be able to give you an answer within a few weeks. If they can’t because they lack the allocation, shop around and spread your net wide. A dealership somewhere else might be able to get you what you want—and even transport it at a reasonable cost.