Observations and arguments.

No more waiting for a Prius?

When we finally put down our $500 deposit for a 2007 Toyota Prius, we were told we’d have to wait two to four months–especially as the color (silver pine mica, aka green) and options package (with bluetooth phone connectivity) were the most popular choices.

I received a call two days later telling me that we’d have the car within a two weeks.

Five days later I was driving it off the lot.

The official story I was given was that Toyota was ramping up production, and that the dealership was surprised with a shipment of eighty cars for the month, up from their typical shipment of thirty.

If this story is correct, then quoted wait times for the cars should begin to come down, and not just at Toyota Sunnyale.

I remain unconvinced, however, as our car was the only Prius I saw on the lot. For the narrative to sustain plausibility, there would have to be at least some small number of cars available for sale. Unless one were to believe that nearly all eighty of the cars were silver pine mica with the HK option set–otherwise, how would they have gotten so far down the “waiting list”?

The more likely scenario is that yes, Toyota has built up its production to better meet demand, but that the cars are held at an intermediate location and shipped to order promptly in response to customer deposits. Toyota would benefit by being able to artificially sustain demand, and give them some power over its dealers by tightly managing wait times. Dealers would benefit by maintaining their zero-day inventory on the cars and their sticker-price sales numbers–customers are not bargaining from strength when they have to “custom order” their vehicles. Sales representatives also get to play the good cop role when delivering the news to the customer that their vehicle has arrived well ahead of expectations. As dealers (and their better sales reps) are typically working not just to sell you today’s car but your return business, delivering good news can be a powerful emotional hook.

(In my earlier post regarding a bad experience at another dealership, our obnoxious rep attempted this as a last ditch maneuver as we were on our way out the door–promising to finagle a car “just for us” within two weeks. Curious how the end result matched this prediction.)

The trouble with this strategy, at least from our perspective, is that we were in a position to wait two to four months, so that we didn’t experience any real emotional relief at getting the car so quickly. Our advance planning allowed us to remain detached from the theatrics and drama, and as a result I’m much more critical of the manipulations involved.

I would encourage future Prius buyers to kick the tires of the quoted wait times. Share the fact that I got a car within a week, and that you’d be willing to walk off the lot and find a dealer who can match that.

See if you can get a car quickly, and for a fair amount under the quoted price.

There is a third possibility that I can envision, however, only because this dealership is located in Silicon Valley. It is conceivable that the dealership’s internet manager found my earlier blog post, which favorably compared our experience to that we had at a competitor. Hoping to milk some additional positive blogness, s/he may have influenced the speed at which we got our car. This seems unlikely to me, but if it’s true at all and you the dealership’s internet manager is reading this right now I hope you understand that it kinda backfired.

I’ll have positive things to write about my Prius in future posts. But getting the car so quickly has left a foul taste in this car buyer’s mouth.


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