Here’s how I, a Brit, think US car dealerships work

I have worked in Drive for over a year now and there are many things I have discovered that I did not know about the United States. For example, what is Fahrenheit and how do you pronounce words like “color.” But one of the biggest is that I’ve had to try to figure out how car dealerships in the US work. It was around the formation of Stellantis that I got the idea that this might be something I didn’t fully understand. However, after 18 months of research, I am pleased to announce that I am THINK you will all buy cars.

Here in (sort of) Europe, we don’t have salespeople. Or, well, we have what I interpret as a dealership, but which I’ve come to discover is nothing like the American model of a dealership. Let’s say you specifically want to buy a Nissan here in England, then simply look for a Nissan dealer and go there to check out their Nissans. Salespeople will probably try to sell you on the Nissan you want on a nicer Nissan, but there may be some specific incentives from the automaker to specifically get it. Other non-specialist Nissan car lots (car lots) may not have stated incentives. Or really, you could just go online and buy one, but most new cars here are bought direct from the manufacturer in our version of dealerships, because that makes more sense.

Let’s recap how it works in the UK: People say they want a car, the manufacturer builds and delivers the car (pending any delays due to lack of chip etc.) – that’s it. I was surprised to find that it is not how people buy cars in the usa

Car manufacturers cannot sell you a vehicle

This may seem obvious to anyone in America, but for me, it was a real surprise to find out that you can’t buy cars from car manufacturers. Perhaps this is where I first realized I was way out of my depth, as the idea that giant, multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies are dependent on a bunch of salespeople still baffles me quite a bit.

Merchants can charge you whatever they want

In these car-hungry times, I hear that US dealer prices have gone up, which again makes no sense to me because surely a dealership shouldn’t be allowed to charge whatever price they want for a car that a manufacturer delivered to them . to sell you. This, I realized, is naive. In fact, it’s basically enshrined in law that dealers can triple the price of any Jeep you want to buy, and you can suck it up if you don’t want to pay it.

To buy a car you have to go to a dealer

That’s wild to me, and even though things are changing in the post-pandemic US with home deliveries and all, people for the most part still have to go to a dealership to buy a car. This reminds me, why in the world will i still have to go to a place and talk to a guy to get a car in 2022? I do not want to do this – it is extremely inappropriate. If I wanted the hassle of dealing with some weirdo trying to push me away and force me to meet them, then I’d be looking for Suzuki Jimnys on Facebook Marketplace.

You can’t get the car you really want

Okay, this is where it gets even wilder for me. So you have to go to a dealership and talk to a guy who will probably try to rip you off with a markup these days, and then he tells you what car he’s going to sell you. You can choose from whatever inventory they have at that location, and if it’s not the spec you really want, you’re stuck. I think you can go to another decide and talk to him another guy to find out what they got, but otherwise, you just have to take whatever there is. We don’t do things like that here in the UK, where if you buy a new car, you get to choose what car you get. Crazy, I know.

Dealers have unlimited power over you and the car manufacturers

So you’ve gone to a dealer and basically been forced to make love to the guy who sold you a car that you may or may not have wanted, but at least you have a car now. Now the whole process is hugely different to here in the UK, but perhaps the biggest difference is how much power dealers and the National Dealer Association (NADA) have over consumers and car manufacturers. As far as I can gather, dealers choose which car you buy and who you buy it from, and even how much you buy it for. It looks like there’s some kind of legal agreement that prevents anyone from talking directly to a manufacturer – oh wait, there is! Dealers seem to rule the entire automotive industry, and if anyone questions that, then you can’t own a car, friend.

If you’ve ever wondered how a Brit views car buying in the US, now you know.

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