Over the past few years, we've highlighted how frightened autodealers have absolutely freaked out
about the way in which Tesla sells its cars. If you don't know, rather than having a bunch of independent dealers, Tesla sells direct, where you mainly buy via its website. Rather than dealerships, Tesla has showrooms where you can go check out the cars. The pricing is clear and obvious and it's much lower pressure. Dealers have tried a variety of tricks to actually outlaw
Teslas from being sold in their states, even arguing that Tesla's website is illegal
. Thankfully, most states aren't falling for this, and even the FTC has supported
the Tesla way of selling cars.
Apparently, some dealers are finally realizing that if you can't beat 'em by trying to make them disappear, perhaps you ought to compete. Via Jalopnik
, we learn of a dealer in Seattle (who owns both a Honda and a Toyota dealership) who has decided to adopt what he thinks is the "Tesla model" for selling cars
-- single price, no haggling, no separate finance department whose there to screw you over on the deal terms, and transparency about the loan rates.
What's more, the dealerships have no F&I managers. Salespeople handle the loans. Learning to do that isn't easy, so Miller and Mohammadi have hired contractors to do some paperwork and walk the salespeople through the process.
Prices are fixed, and so are interest rates. Customers who need financing can refer to a chart on the wall, tracing their finger from their credit score to the amount of the loan.
Of course, the story also notes that this shift hasn't been easy. Most of the existing sales staff left as they couldn't deal with this setup, and sales at the dealership dropped significantly -- though they've since rebounded. And, of course, there have been other dealers in the past that have adopted "one price/no haggling" setups, but studies have shown that many customers don't trust such deals, assuming that the "one price" is likely to be higher than they could get by negotiating, even if they don't like haggling.
While I think it's a smart move to try to compete, rather than ban, innovative competitors like Tesla, it feels a little bit like a cargo cult copying
situation, where the focus is on copying the obvious superficial
aspects of what Tesla is doing, but not the deeper hidden reasons. In Tesla's case, it's a combination of factors that are selling those cars, including the cool factor, the environmental factor and the overall prestige of the car. Hondas and Toyotas, while recognized as reliable, don't have all of those factors. Plus, since the Tesla sales model is for all Teslas, there is no other option, so no one feels that the single price offering is a rip off. That's not the case when a single dealer does something.
So I think it's good that this dealer is looking for a better model, but it's going to involve a lot of experiments and innovating, beyond just copying some of the superficial aspects of what Tesla does.