There are still at least a few affordable – and so, appealing – new cars on the market. Some with manual transmissions, like the base trim ’22 Subaru Crosstrek. Some that have advertised base prices under $20k that also tout being able to get 42 MPG, like the ’22 Ford Maverick hybrid (just reviewed at length, here).
The problem seems to be actually finding one to buy.
There are at least two reasons why this is so. The first is new, the second, old. The old reason is that some dealers deliberately – historically – don’t stock models that have a lower profit margin. For the obvious reason. These are generally the base trim versions of a given model, as in the case of the manual-equipped Crosstrek. It’s the also the lowest priced version of this model, so there’s less profit to be made on this model. The manual transmission is only available with the base trim, so if you want to shift for yourself, that’s the only one you want.
But the dealer doesn’t want to sell it to you because there’s less money to be made selling you a $23,145 Crosstrek – the base price of the base trim with the manual – than there is in up-selling you into a $28,995 Limited with a CVT automatic plus the $2,395 sunroof/Harman Kardon audio system.
So the dealer stocks lots of Limiteds (irony there) while stocking few, if any, base trim Crosstreks with the manual – hoping that the advertising will lure the buyer in and then buyer’s fatigue – well, we’re already here and wasted half the morning looking – will lead to the buyer compromising.
And the dealer profiting.
Similarly the new Maverick – which astounds with its sub-$20k base price and its standard 42 MPG capability. This is hugely appealing to many and Ford dealers are flush with people eager to buy one. The problem – the new problem – is that Ford hasn’t been able to produce enough of them to meet this demand. It is a problem caused not by greedheaded business dealings by dealerships but by unnatural scarcity of the item in question.
Italicized to make the point.
Normally, when a thing is in high demand, there is a scramble to satisfy that demand. Because there’s profit in that.
Ford has every incentive to get as many $20k Mavericks – and Mavericks, period – to their dealers as they can, as soon as they can. But they can’t – on account of the supply chain gimps that have caused general shortages of necessary parts such as semiconductor “chips” without which a new vehicle cannot be fully put-together (made fully functional) and so ready to ship to dealers for sale. These “chips” are key to the workings of every new vehicle’s various electronically controlled systems, including various options such as heated seats. If a buyer pays for seat heaters, he rightly expects the seats to heat. If there’s just a button that doesn’t do anything, he’s not going to like it – and may even refuse/return it on the basis of not getting what he paid for. It could be even more serious for the dealer/car manufacturer in that not giving people what they paid for could arguably constitute fraud.
And so, the dealership lots are empty – and the trailer trucks await inventory to haul their way, once it comes off the assembly line.
This supply bottleneck has no modern precedent. The last time a similar thing happened – also unnaturally, also as a result of government mucking up the works – was during World War II when the car industry was coerced by the government to stop building new cars for the market and instead built tanks and trucks for the military.
It is why there was a post-war boom in pent-up car sales.
But how do you deal with the problem of not being able to buy what they haven’t got to sell – or don’t seem to want to sell? There is essentially one answer. Don’t buy what you don’t want to buy – and be willing to wait for what you want.
Some dealers may claim they haven’t got what you’d like to buy on account of not being able to get what you want, due to supply chain issues. That may well be true. It may also be true the dealer is wanting – hoping – he can upsell you into what he’s got on the lot, all of which is top-of-the-line stuff and marked up accordingly.
But you are the buyer and have what the dealer wants. That being your money. This gives you leverage over the dealer – a sweet spot in the relationship you’ll never enjoy again, after the dealer has your money.
Make the most of it – just as the dealer does.
Don’t be upsold. Don’t allow yourself to be buyer-fatigued into buying the one you didn’t come there to buy. The loaded (and automatic) Crosstrek Limited for $28k. The loaded Lariat Maverick, not equipped with its standard 42 MPG hybrid powertrain.
Tell them what you want – and don’t – and that you’re willing to wait to get it.
It’s not necessary to do this in person – and waste time dealing with the dealer. Instead, dial up the dealer’s email – the contact info is usually right there on the dealer’s web site – and send them a short note indicating you want to buy and are ready to buy “x” – specify the model and trim and equipment you want – and will come in to buy it as soon as they have one available for you to buy. If that’s right now, great! If it’s not right-away, so what? Tell them you are happy to have them order it as you want it and are willing to wait for it.
You may have to haggle over the final purchase price. But you do not have to accept haggling over what you’re purchasing. If what you want is a manual Crosstrek or a $20k and 42 MPG Maverick, don’t let them sell you the $28k automatic-equipped Crosstrek or the $$35k loaded Lariat Maverick.
It’s that simple. It only takes patience.
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