I've brokered car deals all over the country and I have learned that some cars and areas are easy and some are more challenging. After several attempts at getting folks a good buy a Honda in the Big Apple, I'm here to tell you that purchasing one in NYC is an exercise in futility.
Now, I'm not going to assume that all NYC area Honda dealers suck, but this is the internet and I have plenty of anecdotal evidence so I'll just say that almost all of my experiences have been terrible.
My most recent adventure will illustrate how difficult of a task this is. I had a client that wanted to lease a Honda Accord Sport. He hired me on a Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning I started calling and sending emails. I contacted about 6 or 7 dealers who had the car in stock and were a short drive for my customer. I figured that inventories were plentiful and gathering quotes should be no problem. Boy, was I wrong.
It wasn't that the quotes came back too high. it's that they didn't come back at all. Usually when I contact a handful of dealers, I'll get ignored by one or two but the rest will cooperate. Not only were these NYC Honda stores uncooperative, some were downright hostile.
Here is how one of the conversations transpired
-"Hello this is Salesperson from So and So Honda can I help you?"
-"Hi, my name is Tom I am with Automatch Consulting I shop for cars on behalf of buyers. I have a customer in your area that is interested in leasing a Honda Accord Sport. I see you have a few in your inventory that would work and I would like to get a quote."
(The attitude changes from friendly to defensive) "Sir, you realize that only a manager can give a quote."
"That's fine. I understand you need to speak to your manager. I can give you my email and phone number and you can get back to me."
-"When can your customer come in for an appointment?"
-"They can come in once we have a lease quote on a specific vehicle."
-"Sir...we can't give you a quote without an appointment. Can they come in tomorrow?"
-"My customer wants to take delivery this week. They can't be there tomorrow, but once I receive the quote and determine that it is the most competitive they can come by on Friday."
"So I can put them down for an appointment on Friday?"
-"Ma'm I can't make appointments on behalf of my customers. My job is to gather quotes. They ultimately make the final decision who to purchase from. But they are local to you and if you offer the most competitive price, I will encourage them to come by."
-"Sir...(now she is getting angry) I don't think you understand...there is a process here."
-"Ma'm I understand that each dealership has their own protocol, but I cannot guarantee they will come in until you provide me with a lease quote for that vehicle."
"So if I get you a number they will come in?"
"If your price is the most competitive one."
(In an uncomfortable volume) "Sir we are a meet-it or beat-it dealership, in order for me to get you a price I need a commitment from you that you will give us an opportunity to earn your business."
"Ma'm, this is your opportunity to earn my business. All I need is for you to email me a quote. Look, if you are not interested in doing business with me for whatever reason just say so and I will gladly hang up. I have other phone calls to your competitors I need to make."
"O.k well...what is your email and phone number?"
I provide my contact information.
"Thank you, I'll get back to you."
She never calls or sends that email.
Of the half dozen or so dealers, two get me a number. The first quote is insane at the second one is turns out to be a very good deal. I tell my client to contact Dealer 2 and arrange for delivery. The next day he gets there and the "internet specialist" that I worked with does not speak with my customer rather it's some other salesperson I don't know. It turns out the specific car he wanted at the agreed upon price was the "manager's car" and is no longer for sale. Now I have an unhappy customer and I am an unhappy consultant because people are paying me to avoid this bullshit. I call the dealer and they issue some half-assed apology about how the car was available in the computer but the system is wrong...blah, blah, blah. That situation could very well have been legitimate, but I'm still pissed.
Out of desperation, I call one of my Honda contacts here in South Jersey. I really don't want my customer to come all the way down here from Brooklyn to get a car, but I need something to make up for that catastrophe. I have done prior deals with this Honda store before so that gives me a little bit of an edge. My contact calls me, on his day off, confirms they have the car I want, and beats Dealer 2's price by a few dollars per month. He also throws in a bunch of free extras like mud-flaps, floor mats, and some other things. I tell him that I can't guarantee that my client will want to take the long drive. He says "no problem" and puts a hold on the car for a few hours just in case. My customer decides to fight New York and North Jersey traffic to make the two hour drive down to pick up his car.
I have a theory as to why it is so difficult for myself or other savvy shoppers to get any traction in New York. You would think with all the dealerships so close together they would be fighting each other tooth-and-nail to make a killer deal... nope. My guess is because there are millions of people in that area that will just wander into the dealerships on a daily basis, they aren't concerned about making a good deal with an internet shopper nor are they much concerned with referrals or repeat business.
The other factor is Hondas, for the most part, sell themselves. For millions of car-buyers a Honda is the default choice. These people are not cross-shopping, they owned a Honda or knew a friend or family member with one and they just want a nice car that won't break. The dealerships know this, and don't feel the need to cut a deal.
NYC Honda dealers are are like that bad pizza place in Times Square. They know their pizza sucks, but they make so much damn money off of it because people get hungry, and suckers keep ordering slices. Therefore there is no reason to change the business model.
TL:DR If you plan on buying a new Honda in NYC, be prepared for a fight and be willing to drive out to the suburbs.
Full disclosure: I admit that the primary explanation for the situation above is I am a third party that is acting on behalf of a buyer. Most dealers know if they do not have direct contact with that buyer many of their tactics and advantages are lost. So if they have "stealership" tendencies, it is a waste of time to go back and forth only for me to call them out on some bullshit and they lose the sale anyway. I assume that if I was just a regular buyer there would have been more communication. As to whether or not that communication would have resulted in competitive quotes for that lease is another story.
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.
Photo: Getty Images