Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Car dealer tricks revealed

Showroom shenanigans to coerce consumers into buying cars were outlined in a Which? Car magazine report today.

Experts and industry insiders revealed the tricks of the trade, with the magazine giving tips for would-be buyers to get round the salesmen's hype.

Dealer lingo includes:

  • Loss-leader advertising - The dealership sells a couple of unwanted cars at an unrealistically low price to attract buyers, then sells them pricier ones;
  • Low balling - The salesman tells the customer an unrealistically low price that they should aim to pay for a new car. When they come back because they could not get it for that price elsewhere, they are convinced to buy it for more;
  • Ankle tapping - A salesman offers less than market value for a trade-in, so he can offer an unrealistically low price for a new car;
  • Limited time - A dealership offers a deal that is only available if the customer signs up on that day;
  • Time of the month - At the beginning of month, the salesman tells the customer he needs the sale to make up last month's quota. In the middle of month, he says the sale is needed to hit a specific target. At the end of month he claims to have "almost hit target" and just needs this sale to do it;
  • Wooden duck - A customer who does not haggle or negotiate.

In the Which? Car article, Nigel Marlow, director of business and psychology at the London Metropolitan University, said: "Like all 'big ticket' items, buying a car is mainly an emotional decision.

"It's often done totally irrationally - just as many people walk into a house and know straight away it's the one for them.

"Car companies use all sorts of techniques to appeal to you. The first is bombarding you with totally unrealistic car ads that generally show attractive people flashing along an empty road.

"People are buying into the dream of attractiveness and freedom. However, that won't be the reality for most car buyers, who'll end up slogging through bumper-to-bumper jams on their way to work."

Paul Buckley, a former sales trainer and head of consumer marketing at Cardiff University's school of management, said: "Time pressure works really well on most people.

"Every weekend you'll see sales that started on Thursday and will end on Monday. Chances are you'll go in and look at something on Saturday, then think about it later and rush back to snap it up on the Monday."

Which? Car editor Richard Headland said: "Buying a car from a dealer is a bit like a game of cat and mouse. If you know their tricks, you're far less likely to fall for them and more likely to get a good deal."

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