Buying a car in 2023
Why do dealerships still exist?
Over the past 2 months, I have been shopping for a new car and feel that dealerships have done little (if anything) to make the process easier. I am surprised that manufacturers have not done more to regulate the dealerships which often make the entire brand look bad.
A few examples from the past month:
- cars listed as available on a dealer’s website, only to be told it’s unavailable or already sold (after providing name, phone, email address, and a sales pitch for the other models on the lot)
- dealers unprepared for selling electric cars, to the point of a sales rep opening the hood to show me where the oil went (pointing to the wiper fluid)
- ongoing supply chain bottlenecks to the point of not even having a single hybrid sedan to test drive
- a $3,000 markup on an EV—the Bolt—that Chevrolet tries to advertise as the most affordable EV yet (true at MRSP, laughably incorrect at the price local dealers want)
It’s easy to understand how the system got established in an era before internet but shocking how little innovation has occurred among traditional dealerships in the years since. As far as I can tell, the main change is that dealers have created websites (not always accurate ones!). Odds are about 50/50 of finding the price for a particular car listed online. For the other 50%, I have to call the dealership to ask but I found that was necessary regardless because even cars listed online with a price and as “for sale” were often already sold to customers.
I looked closely at the Chevy Bolt EUV as an affordable EV with decent range but unfortunately an affordable but unavailable EV is no better than an unaffordable but available EV. The Chevrolet Bolt website defaults to looking within a 200mi radius for available vehicles but I could not find a single one that was available/ not yet sold. From reading others’ reviews, ordering a Bolt hardly guarantees anything with dealers often having no idea when the car would be shipped to them.
I would like to say I looked closely at the Toyota Camry Hybrind and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid but I didn’t—not a single model available for a test drive in the area.
Eventually, the Tesla price cuts got my attention. Combined with the $7,500 tax credit for a new EV (dropping to $3,750 for many models on April 18, 2023), a car that I initially dismissed as too expensive was solidly within my price range. Can’t say I like the CEO, but I was willing to put the aside to try the car out.
Scheduling a test drive was done entirely online with a brief discussion by phone with an advisor to confirm the appointment. I walked into the local Tesla center, signed a single document, and was brought to a Model 3 to test drive on my own for 30 min.
Like the difference between legacy dealerships and what I suppose is essentially a direct-to-consumer model, the difference between “legacy” auto manufacturer EVs and Tesla was profound. It feels like the difference between replacing an internal combusion engine with an electic motor, and rethinking a car from the ground up around the new capabilities an EV brings.
Plenty of detailed discussions of the car out there so I’ll leave it to the experts. But with that said: the test drive had me hooked. I’ll be picking up the car this weekend!
In the meantime, here’s to hoping that the transition to electric vehicles can bring a few addition changes along for the ride.