Everyone already knows this is a difficult market in which to search for a car. Supply and demand means that dealers are less likely to give discounts and some stores are really leaning into tactics that make the buying process more frustrating than ever. This conversation with a Toyota dealer will illustrate that logic sometimes has no place in sales.
Typically, customers are able to shop for the right car at the right price. But with the current inventory shortage it’s less about who has the bottom dollar deal and more about who has a car that isn’t already sold. Even still, it’s always advisable to get your prices in writing before you go into the showroom. However, that is not as easy as it sounds.
I was recently shopping for a Highlander lease for a client in NJ when I engaged in a conversion with a Toyota store that almost broke my brain.
“Hi I am interested in a Toyota Highlander on your website Stock Number (redacted)”
Salesperson - “Yes that vehicle is available”
“Excellent, can you please send me a lease quote to my email? This will be a 12k/36 lease, with 0 down tax for NJ.”
Salesperson - “I’m sorry but due to inventory shortages we can’t send prices to an email.”
“But the car is available right?”
Salesperson - “Yes you can come in today to buy it.”
“If I was there in person could you show me the quote?”
Salesperson - “Of course”
“If the car is available, the ‘inventory shortage’ doesn’t really apply in this particular case. Therefore, you should be able to provide a quote correct?”
Salesperson - “I’m sorry but due to the inventory shortage we can only provide a price if you are here in person.”
“I’m confused, if the “inventory shortage” you speak of which doesn’t apply to this car because you have it doesn’t prevent you from showing me a price in person, how does it prevent you from showing me a price in an email?”
(dealership hangs up)
In fairness to the poor internet sales rep that I had on the phone, I don’t actually believe that she bought into the reasoning as to why she couldn’t send me a quote. This is almost certainly the work of a sales manager that demands that all customers come in person to get a price. Dealers like this are well aware that they play games and their best chance of ripping someone off is to have the customer in front of them.
Over the years I’ve encountered a bunch of lame excuses as to why dealers don’t want to send a written price quote. Some dealers have even claimed that it was “illegal” to send such information to a customer, but it’s perfectly legal to disclose that information in person. Last year a dealer cited the pandemic as a reason why a customer must be there in person instead of doing business in a way that would have been safer for both parties.
Some customers might give in to these tactics, especially in this market since it can be so hard to find the car you want. But I can’t stress enough— you do not want to do business with these places. As I mentioned in this post if you can build in some flexibility and willingness to shop outside your region your chances are much better. I had a contact outside of Philadelphia provide me with a competitive quote for the client mentioned above that was several thousand off MSRP. That made for a bit of a drive, but it was well worth it.