2016 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport
Lexus is about one month away from launching a test of no-haggle pricing at dealerships, which it hopes will entice more buyers.
It's a move that may be viewed favorably by consumers, but it's already meeting resistance from Lexus dealers.
A recent survey by car-buying website Autotrader found that as many as 44 percent of consumers don't want to negotiate the price of a vehicle, but that may not matter to the dealers.
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Respondents said haggling was their top issue with the car-buying process, but a majority also believe it's the only way to get a fair price.
The Lexus pilot program could offer an alternative, but only if the luxury brand's dealers cooperate.
"Many of our dealers, philosophically, are opposed," to haggle-free pricing, Jeff Bracken—Lexus' U.S. boss—said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.
Money and car keys
Lexus dealers have an unusual amount of power in these matters because the Toyota luxury brand limits the number of dealer franchises it will authorize.
That means each dealer has a higher average number of sales than do competing dealers of luxury brands with larger networks.
Franchised dealers have gotten more aggressive in protecting their current business practices in response to Tesla Motors, which sells its electric cars directly to customers.
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That has led to battles over franchise laws in multiple states, as well as a national public-relations campaigns that defends the traditional dealership model as being in the best interests of the car buyer.
But it's also invited consumers to reflect on the way they currently buy cars—a process many continue to find frustrating, according to most surveys.
Lexus parent Toyota previously tried no-haggle pricing with its Scion "youth brand," which will be killed off this August.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
Inspired in part by Tesla, Lexus itself has considered changes to the traditional franchised-dealership model for some time.
As far back as late 2014, U.S. boss Bracken called Tesla's shopping-mall retail stores "clever," and indicated they might be a good way to attract younger consumers.
That's a primary goal of the current no-haggle pricing pilot, which is part of a larger program called Lexus Plus.
The program also aims to provide customers with a single point of contact for sales, and to reduce the amount of time needed to complete a sale.