Tuesday, May 8

Local Chevy Dealerships React to Words and Thoughts

I suppose I was expecting more out of car dealerships. And these businesses mostly sell Chevys, not Cadillacs, so I have to give them some slack. However, I also remember working at a car dealership and seeing that it was a big deal for some guys to sell a mere ten cars in a month. That's why I was disappointed that my email sent to nine local Chevy dealerships largely went ignored. But it got me to thinking that the salesmen that need targeting (the ones who sell around 10 cars a month) probably aren't the ones who are allowed to answer the company email. Instead, those are dedicated internet marketers, who send out form letters and probably still sell twice as many cars (assuming they're in sales at all). The long and short of it is that I was terribly disappointed in the response I got from what I felt was a well-written email with a simple request. 

Most of the local (within 40 miles) Chevy dealerships use the same GM website setup. It's a contact form that allows a potential customer to send a message, along with the mandatory email and phone number. Most of these allowed me to choose email or phone as the mode of response, and I always chose email. Of course, after a single day, it was obvious my phone was fair game.

My request was really simple for these local Jacksonville Chevy dealerships: all else being equal, why would I choose your company? I was assuming the 20% off MSRP sale, combined with an educator discount, as well as my GM card cash (topped off). Is there anything else that should make me want to drop $20,000 on a new car from you?

I was honestly surprised that I really only got a decently personal response from one person. I even got one video response that was barely personalized. I got text messages, phone messages, and several emails, mostly generated by a form. The best and most personal response came from Gordon Chevrolet in Orange Park. The goal was for me to create a little bit of competition for the salespeople, but the result was mostly nothing special.

This is the list of Chevy dealerships I contacted:










Here's the letter I wrote:

Greetings Authorized Chevy Dealers,

I am writing to give you the opportunity to make a sale. It’s fairly simple deal. You have one or more vehicles on your lot that fit what my family needs as a backup car. You have special incentives of 20% off the vehicle. I have a topped-off GM card with a little over $3000 in cash to add, as well as an educator discount. All of these are pretty much set by GM, but you want me to purchase this car in the next couple of days.

I know the car I want, and you have one or more eligible for the 20% savings. Cruze Hatchback LT. I am fine with the pricing online, but I need to make a choice about the dealership I will use. We are also new to the area. Both my wife and I had the same Chevy dealership of choice in Milwaukee, and my parents and grandpa bought from the same place for several decades, so we’re looking for our new Chevy home.

So that’s the question: what can you do to get me to buy from you? I have a Saab 9-5 (made by GM) worth $300-$500 in trade on a good day, but it runs and has AC, so I’ll keep it running if I don’t feel good about a new car. However, I want to see if this is the right time to buy from you. We will also need to finance the purchase with a loan that can be paid off early.

I know there’s wiggle room on trades, there are better terms to be had in loans, and there’s other freebies that dealerships will throw in. I felt good about my last purchase because of an extra $1000 for my trade (yes, it was a newer car), free oil changes, some gas cards, and a wine refrigerator. Not earth-shattering, but it was a used car purchase.
I realize that a special manufacturer deal means that the haggling on price may be done for us, but the decision to go with a particular dealership comes down to more than price for me. In this case, in fact, vehicle price will play almost no role.

Please provide the standard-issue response to this request and then add something more creative or unique over what the other dealerships will undoubtedly send me. Then I’ll come in and purchase the vehicle. Obviously, I’m not looking for a binding contract in an email; I’m just looking for the best Chevrolet dealership in the metro Jacksonville area, and if you are the one, then I’ll be back for my next vehicle, too.

Also, I have noticed that some local dealerships do not seem to have the 20% off incentive, and some prices do not reflect those on the chevrolet.com website, so feel free to clarify this for me in any correspondence. With nine Chevy dealerships in the area with matching vehicles, I am looking forward to reading your responses. Of course, if these cars are now flying off the lots, please feel free to disregard. Please do not send me other offers on more expensive or used models. This will be a good second vehicle as outlined.

Thank you
Even though I have a very specific deal in mind with a very specific request to know why any single dealership is better than another, here are some of the canned responses I had to read:

I am following up with you regarding your request for more information on the Make UnknownM.

Please give a a call to set up an appointment to show you the vehicle of your choice.

We will do what we can to save you as much off the vehicle as possible.

[Y]ou will not be just a number, your our customer, a name and you will get service before, during and after the sale... Pricing for you is all through GM and there guidelines.

I wanted to personally thank you for your online interest in the .
Two responses without a vehicle name listed in the blank and one response with two spelling errors in one sentence (I guess that's why they use form letters). One response even included my own location, which was obtained through my IP Address. Most replies added some detail of my initial letter, like my trade in. However, it's obvious from the phone calls, text messages, and lackluster emails that the goal is to get me in the door in order to see what they wanted to offer. Even the one or two emails that were better said nothing about details. Nobody addressed the specifics of my message very well, implying the words and thoughts were more than they wanted to deal with. I think we're living in a lazy culture, but it's also one that's afraid to commit to anything over written email. 

Granted, the specific salesman might only make $300 on a car in this price range, so spending too much time on me might not be worth it. The dealership might make $400-$500. The dealership is banking on me coming in for service of all sorts and financing through them in order to make more. That's the opportunity I was trying to give one local dealership. As far as selling me on that, Gordon did the most. I never listened to the phone calls because I asked for emails, so maybe I missed a solid sales pitch via voice message. 

In the end, the bottom line for me is that I can't find proof GM isn't still installing defective Takata airbags. It also bothered me that GM knew a long time ago that these airbags were bad, AND the company is still fighting recalls to this day. So instead of buying a new car, I'm actually going to sink some money into the old Saab while I wait for an airbag for my MKZ. 

After three days, a few of the dealerships sent another canned message right from the sales manager's email account. These were all even less personalized than the original responses, but it's something to consider when you're buying a car. I don't know if you can get a better deal from the numero uno honcho at a dealership, but it's something to consider.

I also put off installing new tires on my Saab for another day while I wait to see if GM gets back to me about the airbags. Maybe I should email all the dealerships back to see what they say about Takata.

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