Monday, August 1

Shop Click Bait and Switch - Buying A Chevy Online 2022

A couple years ago, car dealerships and auto manufacturers were begging me to buy a car, so I obliged. Then the manufacturing of new cars slowed down. Then the prices of used cars exploded. But in late summer 2022, our family needed another car. With sky-high used car prices and low inventory, I decided to buy another new vehicle. I chose the Chevy Equinox because it was the only car in America with a decent incentive going (which means no one else in the country was terribly excited about this car). With two years of refinement, I figured the Chevy website or local dealerships had gotten better at the whole online shopping thing. Not even close.

I had a special case because I was going to use a special GM discount. Some dealerships allowed me to choose this discount when I tried to use the online purchasing tool. Others implied I needed to call first in order to use it. Still others did not even suggest they would take the discount at all. But since the savings was worth the effort, I ended up contacting many of the dealerships. I believe the eventual winner of my money didn't even have the option for me to say I had a GM discount. That's a good surprise, while most of the Shop Click Buy experience was full of negative surprises.

By the way, and before I describe the real challenges I faced using the Chevy online buying tool, I wanted to say that I ended up buying our Equinox from Tom Gibbs Chevrolet in Palm Coast because the dealership honored the GM discount, answered my emails, sent me an offer in writing, and didn't add all the silly items I didn't need for huge fees. Basically, I got the published deal. Plus, I was even able to reserve my car with the deal I wanted, whereas most other dealers that even allowed the GM discount told me it was only good on current inventory. So Tom Gibbs gets my new car business going forward.

Back to the other guys. Most of them were very similar. I think locally, Beaver was the worst for "Market Adjustment," meaning it was the dealership that gouged buyers the worst online. That's not to say some of the other dealerships wouldn't try something once you got to the store. For example, Coggin added lock nuts and other crap to some kind of Coggin Crap Package that was not optional. It wasn't as bad as the Dirty Beaver Market Adjustment, but it was slightly annoying. Nimnicht seemed to think it had a Corvette Z06 with the Equinox that hadn't sold in two months on the lot, refusing to respond to my emails that asked for MSRP minus GM discount. And though their market adjustment wasn't terrible, I was told by a salesman that he'd never heard of them honoring a GM worker discount. That's a slap in the face, right? You work for 30 years for a company, get their stupid low-points credit card, save up for a new car, and then get told by nearly half the dealerships that your hard-earned discount is no good with them.

The most frustrating part of trying to buy the Equinox was the Chevy online tool, however, because it would promise MSRP pricing and often GM discounts, only to eventually tell me to contact the dealer before I could Click and Buy. But that wasn't the point of going mostly online with the shopping. The point was to avoid the sleazy salesmen at the stealerships, except the system just seemed to allow more of them to hide in plain sight.

I even contacted GM about the horrible customer experience of being able to basically buy the car I wanted online and then being told the clicked deal was not valid. The response was that they understood but it's new and not guaranteed. So no response. It wasn't new, and any other online shopping site that lets you get to the point of seeing all the numbers (even tax and other fees) is fully-functional. That means the online tool was being used by every dealership except Tom Gibbs within 150 miles of Jacksonville (my range) as a Bait and Switch ad to get unsuspecting consumers in the door. Making it even worse than before Covid. I tried to buy a car back then, and all I had to deal with was unresponsive salespeople, not an online click funnel designed to convince me I could get a deal that isn't really being offered.

I want to be clear that not all the dealerships were dishonest. About half of them said I couldn't really create my deal on the website, or didn't allow me to choose the GM discount. And a lot of dealerships were only adding about $1000 in unnecessary crap, which isn't all that bad considering others were jacking up prices or not allowing GM discount or claiming to allow it and then pulling the rug out from under me.

If you are a former GM employee in the Jacksonville area, make sure you try Tom Gibbs in Palm Coast first. You can also decide to give the others a try, since they might be more amenable when it isn't as much of a seller's market. But I won't bother with the other dealerships or with the online tool until there are guarantees that the deal I see is the deal I get.

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