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Are Dealerships the Real Reason Modern Drivers Aren’t Buying as Many Cars?

By Elizabeth Puckett

Recently, I found out about a program called BOOK by Cadillac that allows people to swap models by month. I decided to do a write-up on it, and found it was a little absurd that they’re targeting people under 50. People just getting their start in there careers, starting families, or putting older kids through college — maybe not. As I was writing, I came to the conclusion that the program is a splurge, but certainly not some golden ticket to getting younger people to buy/lease more vehicles.

I don’t claim to have the answers to getting younger people to buy cars, I haven’t exactly bought a brand new car myself, while I do own a really well-maintained used Tahoe and an F-Body. I’d have to pin the my biggest complaint about buying a new car has more to do with the hassle of it all, the hidden fees (destination fee, really?), the pain of approval for financing, and so on.

I recently went to a Chevy dealership to look at the new Camaros, and was completely ignored. My intention was to check them out and put the money down to pre-order a ZL1 (this was a few months back), but I couldn’t get a salesperson to give me the time of day.

The whole process of following around salespeople made me lose interest pretty quickly, opting instead to reinvesting the grand a month plus higher insurance in the sports car I already have, and saving the room on my credit for something else.

I’m not saying this is typical, but it’s a typical experience that I’ve had when looming around sports car or luxury cars at dealerships — but maybe dealers need to improved here. We’re a fast-paced generation who wants to take care of things and go home — I also don’t want to have to beg car dealerships to take my money. Meanwhile the car buying process has barely evolved since I sat around for hours with my dad as a kid as they went through the financing and paperwork on a new car.

It’s probably also worth noting that as far as getting people in their 30s (or younger) to buy a new car, I’m an easy ‘get’ — I’ve driven a lot of these cars already before at events, I love cars, I do my research on exactly what I want before I leave the house, and I’m good with my money. What stopped me from buying a car that day was all on the end of the dealership.

While certain sites get you most of the way there, I don’t understand why you can’t buy a car completely online yet. There are so many review sites and videos about every car for sale, even someone who doesn’t work in the industry could probably figure out what they want pretty easily online.

Back in the day, maybe people felt the need to form a bond with the person who sold them their car, but those days of extended customer service, where that would be beneficial, are gone — unless you’re a business owner investing in fleet vehicles.

That’s because people couldn’t just jump online and find out every little detail about a car, they had to be shown all the features by a sales person. They also couldn’t compare pricing as easily, so they were willing to invest in the haggling process with the sales guy to save a few grand. Thanks to sites like TrueCar.com, we know what people are buying, we don’t need to be super savvy negotiators to get the best price.

I honestly think you could throw a financing form on Amazon and virtual showroom and start selling way more cars. Maybe that would be too disruptive to the industry, but if car dealerships got involved, they could inventory the cars locally, offer financing online, and drop the car off at your house. Invest those dollars spent on employees following around browsers and tire kickers into ad teams and test events — it seems like a more effective plan than doing things the way they did 20 years ago and wondering why fewer are interested in participating in the process. Meanwhile, you can hail an Uber at the tap of an app. Maybe it’s something for auto manufacturers and dealerships to consider instead of costly ‘subscriptions’.

If anyone wants to steal this idea, please do. I still don’t hate the idea of buying a ZL1, although I will probably just get a loan from a credit union at this point and buy used for much less from an individual without jumping through the dealership hoops. So maybe I’ll never buy a new car, but all hope isn’t lost for others in my situation.

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