George Matick Chevrolet, Redford, Michigan
In an ongoing battle with Tesla Motors, state auto dealer associations have continually touted the superiority of the traditional franchised dealer model.
While surveys have shown that many car buyers are frustrated with the process, dealers claim Tesla's direct sales model does not benefit customers.
But the experience of one dealer trainer indicates dealers may need to take a closer look at how their showrooms actually run.
Dealers are "clueless" about how difficult it is for a customer to actually buy a car, Richard F. Libin—president of consulting firm APB-Automotive Profit Builders—concluded in a recent WardsAuto piece.
Libin recently bought a Chevrolet Camaro, but throughout the process, he said he felt the three dealers he contacted all seemed to be trying to do everything they could to stop the sale.
He sent online inquiries to three dealerships, and received a mix of automated replies and prompts to direct his inquiries to specific people that were later found to be unreachable.
2016 Chevrolet Camaro convertible
That's even after Libin explained to a salesperson that he was 260 miles and three states away.
Eventually, he managed to make a deal, and drove those 260 miles to pick up his Camaro, with a certified check in hand.
Yet the delivery process proved just as onerous.
All that needed to be done was some paperwork. Libin expected that to take about 30 minutes, but it was four hours before he was out the door.
The dealer had the wrong price, didn't have the car ready, and kept trying to sell him on financing.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
The current system can be so aggravating to customers, that virtually anything different could likely attract their attention.
But franchised dealers are likely to remain entrenched, even when it means confronting an established carmaker.
Lexus, for one, has considered fixed prices, but anticipates strong resistance from its dealers in implementing such a scheme.