Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Window Shopping

Yup,  I went window shopping last Sunday. Came home with four windows, four doors, a windshield, and a hatch.

That wasn’t the plan. I didn’t think I was taking delivery of a 2014 Volt until late next week, perhaps later or not at all if negotiations failed. I was working all of last week with one of the big-volume dealers in the Valley, mostly by phone and text, after visiting them on MLK day to check out the fully loaded Volt in their showroom. The exact car I wanted was in transit – a Summit White Volt with a black leather interior. I had a firm idea of what I wanted to pay for a 3-year/10,000 mile lease: $270/month plus tax, $0 drive-off. When the salesman called back with a $301/month + tax offer, I let him know that I was expecting a lower payment based on my calculations using the $3000-under-invoice offer that the dealer advertised on the Volt forum. I  wanted to pay no more than $300 including tax, so their offer was more than $1000 higher than what I was willing to cough up over the next three years. I asked if he could give me the details of the lease – specifically the gross capitalized cost, since that represents the sales price, and the capitalized cost reduction – but I didn’t get a call or text message with the information. After a couple of hours I got tired of waiting.

Coincidentally, the other big dealer in the Valley posted an ad on the same Volt forum. Their posting parroted the Volt lease terms that headlined their weekly sales ad in the local papers, delightfully complemented with a long list of the numerous Volts they had on the lot and in transit. I noticed that they too had the white-with-leather Volt of my dreams coming their way. I emailed the internet manager of that dealer with the lease terms offered by their competitor on the other side of the freeway. After a couple of email exchanges and a phone call from her salesman, they quoted $302/month, a buck more than the first dealer… but theirs also had the $525 safety package that includes a backup camera, which would be nice to have, but frankly I didn’t want to pay for it. After all,  that feature came standard on my Focus Electric, my wife’s Honda Pilot EXL, and her Sienna LE before that, so it just seemed wrong to have it as an option nowadays. I was really close to caving in and taking the deal anyway; fortunately I refrained and told the salesperson that I wanted to sleep on it and that I’d call him in the morning.

When I woke up the next morning, my intent was to head down to the Valley to try to negotiate a better deal in person with one or both dealers. Failing that, I would give up on getting a Volt for now and call Dianne at Carson Toyota about a RAV4 EV.  I figured that if I had to blow my budget, I’d blow it big-time on a Tesla drivetrain and lots of cargo space.

While I was getting ready to leave for the Valley, a salesperson from the local dealer called… which greatly annoyed me because I was in a rush to leave. I started chewing him out for not calling me when I first reached out to them last week, then went on and on about the deal I was trying to close that morning with one of the big Valley dealers, and then declared that there’s no way he can beat their deal because he doesn’t have any with Volts with leather only; all he had were fully optioned ones that were close to $40K. He asked if I would like a white one with a black cloth interior. I told him absolutely not, and ranted even more about how he simply does not have one in stock that I want.  I continued by telling him that if I can’t get the lease terms I want from one of the Valley dealers, I’m done with looking for a Volt anyway and will be going for a RAV4 EV. I was on a roll. He tried to interject, but I kept cutting him off.

Then, with one very sincere, personal apology, he calmed me down. As soon as he got my attention, He enthusiastically asked me if I had ever seen one with cloth, and that it actually looks great in black.  Then he asked me if I’ve driven the Volt yet. I paused for a second, then realized how unreasonably I was acting, because I certainly had done neither. He urged me to come to the dealership to see it, drive it, and give him a chance to beat the offers I had in hand. So I told him that I do qualify for the competitive lease rebate and GM employee discount, and promised that I’d hold off going down to the Valley for a half hour to let him work his offer.

Meanwhile, I called back the Valley dealer that has the safety package Volt, let the salesman know that I will drive down there immediately if he can close on $270/month + tax. He said he’ll have his manager call me.

Minutes later, the salesman from the local dealer called back and did the unexpected… he offered $269/month for 35 months, $0 due at signing. Including tax. That’s $247/month before tax. I was stoked – that was more than $50/month below the other two offers! I told him that I was impressed, and that I’d call him back before noon with a decision. I braced myself for a barrage of high-pressure tactics to force an immediate decision, but instead was left with a message of hope and opportunity. He thanked me for giving him a chance, said he’d be there for the day.

In short order, a manager from the Valley dealer called back. I told him about the local dealer’s offer on a base model, then rationalized that the MSRP of his incoming Volt with leather and backup camera was about 6% higher than for a base model, and that my $270/month  + tax my for his car was over 10% higher per month than what the local dealer quoted on a base model, so therefore my counter-offer was reasonable. The manager explained that the pricing structure is different for the cars with options, and that essentially their first and only offer of $302/mo plus tax is their final offer. I thought about it for a second, then decided I didn’t want to shell out and extra $50/month for the privilege of sitting on a dead cow every time I climbed into the Volt. I thanked him for his time and hung up.

I called the local dealer and said I have 30 minutes to spend with them before I needed to go back home and take care of some things. The salesman had the car waiting for me before I arrived, just outside the tall glass walls of the dealership. I was sold as soon as I laid eyes on it, but figured I’d better check out the cloth interior and drive it for a few blocks before inking a deal. So we took it for a spin…. The cloth looked and felt just fine, and in Sport mode  the Volt moved with the spunkiness of the Focus Electric. Fifteen minutes later we were back in the dealership to start the paperwork.

There’s only so much paperwork that can be done in fifteen minutes, but I really had to leave and couldn’t come back until about 5pm. The salesman handed me the keys to the Volt and had me sign a no-cost loaner agreement, said he needed me to take the Volt so that someone else couldn’t snag it from under me. Naturally, I obliged. When I returned later that day, I was taken straight to the finance office, and in 10 minutes the Volt was mine. In the end, the deal came out to be $267/month for 35 months, $0 at signing.

My local Chevy dealer really came through for me on this. Besides providing me with a great lease, they saved me from three 40-mile round-trip excursions into the Valley to work the deal, pick up the new Volt when it arrives, and then retrieve whichever car I took to the dealership to pick up the Volt. They treated me with courtesy, respect and efficiency, even after I started off on the wrong foot by chewing them out over the phone for taking so long to get back to me after I initially contacted them.
In retrospect, I do feel really bad about flying off the handle… especially today, after I sifted though unheard voice mail on my cell phone. Turns out that a manager from my local dealership had called me right after I reached out to them through; I just missed the call and didn’t bother to check voice mail.

Now it’s my turn to deliver a sincere, personal apology.