• Jul 21st 2009 at 6:01PM
  • 122
For many, car-buying is an experience that rates somewhere between pouring a basket of scorpions into your underwear and a visit to the dentist from Marathon Man. Some dealerships feel like hives of villainy more wretched than even the Star Wars Cantina, though being held at gunpoint by Greedo is likely preferable to enduring the overall auto-buying process at one of those retailers. After all, as Han Solo demonstrated, one can actually "deal" with Greedo in a satisfactory manner.

Dealing with anyone in a satisfactory manner was, unfortunately, not in the cards for Washington Post blogger Vijay Ravindran, who probably would have had better luck negotiating a peace treaty with the Rancor monster in Jabba's palace. Ravindran, guest-posting at WaPo's Achenblog, reports that with his nine-year-old Bimmer beginning to feel a little tired, he was ready to make the move to a new car. Now, Ravindran is one of these people who admits that "domestic sports coupe" is not a thought that had ever tickled his synapses before, but the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro's drop-dead looks changed all that. Ravindran started with a nearby dealer that advertised Camaros in the newspaper, and things pretty much tanked from there. He called the dealer, left a voicemail requesting a test drive, and promptly never heard back. Good thing the auto market is so strong right now that dealers can turn away prospective customers so easily.

Ravindran's efforts were similarly futile as he expanded his search to other area Chevy dealers, each of whom appeared to have an aversion to the general concept of getting him into a car. Or responding to his queries at all. The dealer that did finally engage him excelled only at giving him a slimy runaround. Granted, we understand Camaros are hot commodities right now and that they may be hard to get, but Ravindran's story flies directly in the face of GM's post-bankruptcy spin about great dealers, great service, etc. You can read Ravindran's whole tale at Achenblog. As for Vijay Ravindran himself, he's no dummy: he's pretty much given up on his Camaro quest.

UPDATE: Just in, via Twitter from GM's Adam Denison, one of the PR personnel for Camaro:

"FYI, we offered that WaPo blogger a ride with Ed Peper at a local dealership tomorrow. Haven't heard from him yet.

Based on Vijay Ravindran's Twitter feed, tomorrow may not work out, but it's interesting to see that GM PR is all over this.

[Source: Washington Post's Achenblog via TTAC]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Experiences like this truly make me wonder why Chrysler and GM would cull a lot of mom and pop, small town dealers that are fairly honest and straightforward while keeping all their shady, corporate-owned, mega dealers that treat people like dog squeeze in business. Those should have been the first ones to lose their franchises.

      I have a pretty similar experience with Ford and GM dealers here in Arizona. If you walk in to any one of them you can expect to get the run around and be mistreated. Because of dealer treatment I recieved when buying a GTO new in 2006 I've almost exclusively done all of my new car purchases online now.

      Using the internet to shop inventory and haggle cars prices is so much better than driving around all day and getting harassed or mistreated in a dealership. My last few purchases I looked for exactly what I wanted in inventory online and numerous dealerships in and out of state, emailed them all, narrowed it down to the best quotes and haggled and compared them to each other.

      My last purchase doing this was my G8 GXP I got last month for nearly 10k off sticker from a dealer out of state, sight unseen. I even did a trade by shipping them my car after we had an agreement and them shipping the new car to me with them covering the cost. It worked out beautifully.

      With Ford I was hunting for the best price on a 2010 GT500 for a family member. The dealer closest to where I live still has four or so 2007 and 2008 GT500s collecting dust that nobody has bought. Still marked up thousands of dollars and no you cannot drive them or touch them. I inquired about ordering a 2010 GT500. They wanted well over sticker and the entire price to be paid up front prior to purchase. When I politely told them I would not be willing to pay for any car that I was not allowed to drive in advance the sales person and manager became extremely rude. Needless to say, I recommended that it be bought elsehwere. This was pretty much the same thing I experience at three other Ford stores. Keep in mind that in the past few years I've spent plenty of money on new car purchases and was looking to recommend Ford this time but the dealerships blew it.

      I'm also interested in getting a Camaro for fun. It's impossible to get one here without paying near Corvette money (at one dealership) let alone getting to test drive one to see if you like it. I will probably wait to look again until the dealerships are drowning in a sea of them and anxious to give them away, even then I will probably just look for what I want online and get it out of state again. It's worked out quite well the last three times I've done it.

      If (more like when) manufacturers work out a way to sell cars direct to consumers online then I think the days of shoddy treatment and industry practices at dealerships may truly come to an end.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't see how the Camaro can be THAT hard to come by given that I've seen numerous copies sitting on rental car lots in the past few weeks. Just yesterday, there were 3 or 4 sitting outside the rental counters in Kansas City.

      If there is demand and GM is pushing these things into rental fleets instead of filling customer orders, well, it tells me they haven't learned much over their bankruptcy episode.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Some of you whiney little brats in here REALLY ought to try selling cars for a living just once.
      CUSTOMERS LIE they LIE and then they LIE some more!! 20 years of selling has shown me that.

      You know WHY that guy didn't give you a test drive???? because odds are HE WON'T EVEN BE there in 3 months, let alone 6 months!!

      He needs to put FOOD on his table TODAY, TODAY not 6 months from now. If he doesn't sell a car HE OWES the dealer money at the end of the week in order to cover his minimum wage draw!! How would YOU like to work 70 hours and at the end of the week OWE your employer ALL OF YOUR MINIMUM WAGES back?? HHMMM

      And THAT used car WON'T be there in 6 months SO REALLY WHAT IS THE POINT??? Sure a good demo MIGHT and that is a MIGHTY LONG MIGHT get you to buy today or in a week ,BUT he's actually more likely to get hit by lightning than to have you buy that car.

      And to the point of this orignal premise about the new Camaro ,well ....any salesman here who has EVER dealt with Indian car buyers KNOW that they are THE WORST buyers for wanting a car 5K BELOW invoice and THAT is why know one called or emailed you back. Change your screen name to something like Johnson in your email and your odds of a response will skyrocket.

      A saleman works 60-70 hours a week in the heat or freezing snow and after he puts up with all of your whiney crapola and the new car surveys from the factory he still in most cases makes a whopping $100 or $150 commission on a 50K vehicle.

      Walk a mile in someone elses shoes before you rant next time.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Wow, no wonder you and your buddies sell cars for a living.
        You guys are obviously not bright.
        Almost 100% of Indians are either physicians, engineers or business owners, that is, high earners.
        No wonder all the Indians drive Honda, Toyota, Lexus, BWM and Mercedes and not American cars.
        They have to deal with people like you.

        Crustyoldvet: Example #1 why the American car company is almost dead.
        • 6 Years Ago
        So what you're saying is that you and your ilk are a bunch of racist pricks? Because that's what I get out of your post.

        Car salesmen and the current dealer networks are a remnant of post-WWII America when cars didn't last as long and new purchases were significantly more common. The entire system needs to be reworked, but state protectionist laws make that impossible.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Hell yes, accept a job and then bitch about the conditions of employment. Yay entitlement! Maybe you should go work at Wal-Mart, knowing full well you won't get benefits, and then bitch about not having benefits.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well crustyoldvet... I have worked sales. And I'm Indian. I don't think I've ever managed 5k under invoice. 1k maybe on my mom's rav4. =D. By the way, I've paid cash for every vehicle I've ever owned.

        I've had to pay back my hourly wage before at Car Max. The day I quit was a joyous one.

        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't understand why people think salesmen from import dealers are automactically a cut above salesmen from domestic dealers. Where I am from there are no generalizations I can draw about any of them.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I can't blame GM for individual dealers but I can blame them for lack of quality control.

      Had an almost comically bad experience a couple of years ago trying to buy a Suburban. Bait and switch on available cars, wanted a deposit before test drive, etc. etc. Drove 10 miles to another Chevy dealer and was out the door in 45 minutes with exact colors, options, etc. A couple of years later I had a similar experience with an Escalade at two Cadillac dealers. One didn't seem to want to sell me a car - no nastiness, just indifference - while the other turned me into a very loyal customer.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You know one thing I find troubling is the number of commenters making excuses for the dealership saying that he didnt try hard enough and that he was asking for too much of such a "currently" popular car and it totally misses the point. The consumer is bringing their business and money to this company and instead of being treated respectfully as customer they are to be expected to ignored and lied to by these places? Like others have said. for a company that just exited bankruptcy and trying to put across the message to the customer that they have changed and are now a better company this sends just the wrong message. I think we have reached a point where people are a little more willing to let the bygone perception of american cars automatically being crap but the dealership experiences are dreadful and I'm sorry if I don't think that the place that Im trying to give my money is doing their best to get my business then I will go somewhere else. Yes other car makers have bad dealerships sometimes too of course but GM ones and to a lesser extent ford ones are pretty abysmal by comparison and yes I will hold GM accountable for the dealership experience because the dealerships represent GM. They want to avoid another trip to bankruptcy? Then along with building better cars as they have been doing they also need to make getting those cars a better experience.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It is irrelevant that GM just exited bankruptcy, obviously there are people willing to pay a premium for their products, namely this Camaro.

        All that matters is, that there are a lot of calls, emails, tire kickers, buyers, and people who want to play with this car. The dealers are overhwelmed with the responses. The ones this guy dealt with haven't been able to answer them all in a timely or professional manner, okay fine. Man up and find another approach.

        You can sit back and say GM sucks, that they should be begging you to come in there, or you can realize that the market forces of supply and demand make your opinion of what they should be doing irrelevant. Its not bad or good - right or wrong, it just is. He can get in line like everyone else, or wait until things cool down and try again, or go buy something else.

        Everyone commenting here has sold something in his or her life and has enjoyed the benefit of scarcity, marking something up to take advantage of market conditions, or being picky about who or how they conduct business, but because its the big bad GM dealers, we can now all be holy and cry foul. No.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Similar thing happend to me when I went to buy a camaro. No one had one in stock and the dealers that did have them..would not allow a test drive. They wouldnt even allow me to sit in it or see the interior...I bought a new 2010 mustang gt...instead..Two other people I know had similar problems..
        • 6 Years Ago
        The salesmen gave me the keys, opened up the car, and let me turn it on. He wouldn't let me drive it, though. "I'd love to let you drive it, but the owner is saying nobody is allowed to test drive a Camaro."
      • 6 Years Ago
      This guy is a nut case. People have been waiting for months and my dealer has not had a single car and he expects to get preferential treatment. What a loser, I tired of my Bimmer, well big shot get in line like the rest of us that "HAVE" placed orders.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Well, I guess I can add my latest vehicular buying experience.

      We had been doing research on V10 4x4 F250 CrewCabs for a while. We had pretty much figured that we would buy a 2005-2007 model, as they had the better trans and upgraded engine. Hubby was looking at the online inventory for our local Ford store (small town), and saw that they had a loaded one (what we wanted), brand new (2008 model). We went down and test drove it (they threw the keys at us, after copying the license), and decided that we had to have the 2008. I knew the rebates, I knew my credit score, and I knew what my trade was worth (AWD Tribute in snow country is desirable, even when gas is $4.00 a gallon). I told the elderly salesperson (nice, but not too bright) what we had, what the score is, and where we wanted our payments........ and that he can call us back, as we were off to HD to buy something we needed for our hot water heater.

      He calls me back, and asks me if I had any cash to put down. I tell him my cash has 4-wheels, and is green (we owed next to nothing on our low mileage Tribute). He kept insisting we needed cash............. then told us he could not get our payments within $200 of what I wanted. I told him to forget it, and went home. I figured out how he came to what he did.................. and figured he gave us sticker, minus rebates................. and did nothing with our trade, but pay it off.............. and acted like he was doing us a favor by doing that.

      Fast forward to 2 months later. We sold our Tribute, ourselves, for $2000 more than high trade-in, to the first person who looks at it. The V10 is still at the lot, and it is Sunday, so we figure we will go to look at it again, when the old man isn't there (had no desire to deal with him again). We are looking at the truck, and an Explorer comes out of the back lot, and stops by us. The guy gets our in swim trunks, and asks if we are interested in that truck. I proceed to tell him our sordid tale, and how we felt insulted over what happened. Turns our, he is the dealership sales manager............... and he is mighty pissed, because that deal never came across his desk. After talking more, we verbally agree to a deal, and we go in on Monday to complete it.

      End of story. The old man almost lost his job over the deal, but begged for it, as he really needed work................ even though the sales manager agreed that he was not good with people. We got a much better deal on the truck than we had originally planned on ($9000 off sticker), and got a great interest rate.

      No pressure, no games, no bs.

      The original salesperson had prejudged us, based on what we were driving, what our credit score was, and what he perceived to be a nonchalant attitude to buy.............. since we left. Thus, he barely tried at all. Big mistake.

      It doesn't matter if the vehicle that someone is interested in, is the most popular, or the least. It does not matter if the person drives up in a 1975 Pinto, or a Rolls. It does not matter if they are wearing a suit, or jeans/shorts and a dirty t-shirt. Every person is a potential buyer. If not today, than tomorrow................ or even 2-3 years from now. Foster those relationships, and treat everyone how you would want to be treated. Build your "business" and it will reward you.

      Yes, I was in sales for years. I worked primarily off of referral business, and treated everyone like they were the only clients I was working with. It is, after all, their money, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
      • 6 Years Ago
      So wait, the guy never stepped foot in a dealership? At all? Sometimes the old fashioned way of working a deal IN PERSON, face to face and man to man is still the best way. I'm not excusing the dealers poor customer service of never calling him back, but I think the guy gave up way to easy and is frankly too scared to buy a car. I know what I want, I don't shop - I go down there and get it, after doing my research on the net. I've never been given the "run around" on anything as a consumer. If I sense BS, I leave and go somewhere else, its simple.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That was my thought. If he just called and left messages and didn't visit the dealer, what do you expect? The dealers are probably being flooded with tire kickers looking at the Camaro and wanting drives. If you're actually serious, you actually go there and show you're serious rather then one of those people that just want to joy ride...
        • 6 Years Ago
        A consumer's time is valuable too.

        I had a similar experience when trying to buy my last car. First of all, if dealerships aren't going to take email and websites seriously, then they should just dismantle them instead of just paying lip service to them.

        I emailed and called several dealerships, telling them what car I wanted, the options I wanted, and my timeline for purchase. Some emails were unanswered, and some answered after I already bought a car. Phone calls weren't much help. You get the "oh our systems down so I can't check inventory right now, but why don't you come on it, I'm sure we'll have something for you".

        Note to dealers: I won't waste your time if you won't waste mine. I'm not going to waste days driving around the beltway going on a wild goose chase looking for the car I want. A few emails or phone calls should be sufficient to narrow things down, then I can show up in person, and we can make the deal. And also, if I want a certain color and options, thats what I want. If I want red, don't try to convert me to 3 different shades of gray. If you have what I want to buy, I will buy it. I'm not going to buy what I don't want.
        • 6 Years Ago
        idk, I had 2 dealers (1 I bought my car from -via internet- and another that I've had service done at) email me, before the car came out, to call and set up a test drive.

        One of the dealers is in the suburbs and the other is getting out there a ways. Both provide good service and seem to be in the curve internet-wise.

        I've had my share of good and bad dealer experiences, its probably 50/50. Most of the time, you can contact the mftr direct and get the name of a reputable dealer.

        I find it hard to believe every Chevrolet dealer in the area sucks hind teet.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Seriously. This dude never even tried.

        "oohhh. poor me. I just emailed some car dealers and they never got back to me".

        Most car dealers are stuck in the 1850s technologically. Just drive down there dude.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You'll noticed I asked wether or not he went to a dealership, and that I said SOMETIMES the best way is to deal in person. It doesn't change my opinion of the guy even though he did actually got tricked into driving 45 minutes to see the wrong car. For all we know the car sold before he got there, we haven't heard the dealer side of the story. All the internet gurus who buy their cars via fax blasts and email blast, well good on you - that doesn't work very well on a car with extremely high demand.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Agreed with Tourian. Sounds like an arrogant WaPo writer meets up with arrogant dealer salesmen and both abuse their powers.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Speaking of giving up way too easily... if you'd read the linked article, you'd see that he DID go to a dealership that took the trouble to answer his calls and/or emails. Oh, and they baited him in by telling him they had the car he was looking for and he could drive it, when they really had an auto (he wanted a manual) and would only let him sit in it in the showroom.

        I realize that dealers get all horned up when they finally get a new model that people want, and they don't want to put miles on a car that's not a demo if they can avoid it. However, I wouldn't buy a car if I couldn't at least drive a very similar one to find out what it's like. My partner bought his first WRX shortly after they went on sale in the US, and the dealer was slightly stand-offish about the test drive at first, but talking to them for a few minutes gave them the idea that we were serious, and a couple of minutes into the test drive he decided to buy it. If they had been too stupid to realize that you might want to get a feel for the product on which you're about to spend tens of thousands of dollars, he probably wouldn't have bought a car from them.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The way a dealer gets the 'privilege' of my business is to reply to my initial inquiry. It's 2009 and the internet is practically ancient at this point. They need to get with it. The reporter did what I would have done.

        My last new car purchase was for a model that was sold at 6 dealers close to me. I did 6 'email us for a price quote' and only one responded. He knew ALL and more about the car, had it ready for a test drive, and did everything as a normal, hopeful customer would. He's the one I went to first, second and from whom I bought my $40k car from. Then when it got totaled while parked- he's the one who got my business again. Some may prefer the walk-in dealer approach, but I for one don't have the time to deal with the showroom-dance till the music gets really good. That's AFTER we've established some rapport ...via email.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You think that people just looking to kick a few tires are actually going to go through the trouble of calling ahead of time and making an appointment, giving the dealer the information necessary to get in touch with you? That doesn't sound like a tire kicker to me.

        And Dude, dealers need to be up to date technologically. It isn't the 1950s, and their failure to realize that is part of why so many dealerships are going bankrupt. The whole process of purchasing new cars needs to be seriously overhauled.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I disagree. It's 2009, not 1972. If they want to sell me a car, they have to get with the times. I *have* purchased cars without going into a dealer and they *should* realize that not everybody has the luxury of time to bullsh*t with Bob the Loser just to pick up a car I know I want. I don't have time for that crap and if they're non-technical then they should have been closed with the rest of them.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I understand what you are saying, and it is valid. But look at it from this perspective: Most new car dealers have their inventories online. You may not be able to see all the options and all the specs, but you'll at least get the color, engine and transmission in most cases. And being that this is a new model that has a high demand, there aren't mass quantities sitting around right now. If I just want to drive it, I'll look and see who has one - color and options shouldn't really matter at this point. He could just visit the dealer that has inventory and go there.

        All he did, IMO, is expect to be coddled and have has hand held in the mean time Camaros are flying off the shelf, and only wanted to go drive the exact car he was "thinking" about buying, and nobody had it, so he got no response. Most people in that case want a dealer to go buy a car, or do a dealer trade, just so they can come in and look at it - which dealers in this case won't be willing to do, they can just sell what they have. People get pissed because they expect dealers to do things on their beck and call because they believe it is a buyer's market and dealers should bend over backwards, but not for Camaros they won't.

        Basically he can now say he "hates" domestic cars and go back to BMWs because they're "better", but in reality its just what he is used to and probably wasn't serious about buying a Camaro (or any other American car) in the first place.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I get x-plan pricing for Ford products. I had been "sorta thinking" about a new car for a while, when in March, I decided to lock it down and go for it. I shopped around on the Ford site (fordpartner.com) and found a dealer about 65 miles away that had the car I wanted---color wasn't important, the features/packages were. (Context: My commute is 38 miles one way, 65 miles to the dealer is nothing).

      I went there and asked to see a salesperson. (I HATE salespeople rushing up to me---to me, it bugs me--I prefer to ask for help). Nice guy came out. I told him I found an '09 Fusion SEL V6 in Smokestone on the site and I was interested. We went out to the lot, there were still quite a few '09's at that time, but found it.

      Asked me if I wanted to drive it, we did. Came back, told him I was eligible for x-plan. Appraised my trade-in while we did the paperwork. Showed me the invoice and the x-plan price. Done deal.

      Had to come back the next day due to my not being able to make it to the bank on time for the check. But, it was done and over in probably 1 or 1 1/2 hrs.

      Every customer is entitled to good service, but I think some folks not knowing what they even want to buy, or worse, whether they actually want to buy ANY car at all causes the conflict.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I went to Nissan of McKinney (TX) to get my wife her 4th new Nissan, and they seemed to be doing everything in their power to prevent it. I was really confused as someone that is fairly experienced buying cars.
      • 6 Years Ago
      GM has very little sway over dealership behavior thanks to state franchise laws. And the one time they any influence was during the bankruptcy hearings and that moment has passed. And its even being undone by Congress.

      The one areas that the federal government should have gotten involved to help the auto industry but didn't is exactly this crap.
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