In ordinary life, if you want to sell your car, you can go about it pretty much any way you like. Options include placing an ad online or taping a For Sale sign to the windshield and waiting for someone to give you call. If you don’t want to deal with calls, you could also sell it to a car store such as CarMax. The point is, there aren’t – yet – any laws prohibiting you from selling your car any way you like. Including, specifically, directly – to the person who wants to buy it.
Nor are there laws – yet – prohibiting people from buying cars any way they like. Including, specifically, directly – from you.
Well, as far as used cars.
As at a dealership.
For the most part, you are not allowed to deal directly with the manufacturer, the company that built the car. Which you might wish to do, in order to cut out the middleman – and save yourself some money.
Minimally, the “destination and delivery” costs – typically at least $800 or so and sometimes more, depending on how far the vehicle had to be shipped – that are otherwise added to the base price of the vehicle. If you could simply pick the car up at the point of final assembly instead, there would be no such charges – just the same as there aren’t any when you drive to see a used car and buy it from the seller, right there – as opposed to buying it from afar and paying a shipping company to truck it to where you are.
But that’s small potatoes compared with what you could save if you didn’t have to pay the dealer on top of the manufacturer. There is the cost of the car plus the profit – for the dealer. Not, as Seinfeld used to say, that there’s anything wrong with this. Dealers perform a number of services you may want, such as removing the plastic protective covers from the car’s interior, stickers applied to the vehicle during assembly and so on. They also usually clean the car up and deliver it to you “showroom new.” They also handle the paperwork attending sale, which many people understandably find impenetrable and forbidding. These services merit compensation, if you want to pay for them.
There are also the legitimate costs – transferred in part to you – of maintaining the dealership, itself. Including rent, carrying costs of staff and so on. Just the same as the cost a restaurant owner folds into the price of your dinner.
But the issue is – should you be required, by law, to pay them?
Put another way, why shouldn’t you be free to make the choice to pay for a dealership’s services – or not?
The answer, of course, is no – because the dealers don’t want you to be free to not pay for them. Car dealers are a powerful cohort, meaning they have a lot of money and having a lot of money can buy a lot of government. And so it did. Dealer “associations” bought laws – by buying politicians, which is how big money interests own the government (see Pfizer, et al, to understand the most etiolated example of this transaction). These politicians then did what they were paid to do, which was pass laws forcing people who wanted to buy a new car to buy them only through a dealer, paying for the honor.
An oddity – or incongruity – is that the one car manufacturer that has bought the most government – Tesla – wants to be able to sell you its cars directly without the dealer middleman. As via online stores, which work like other such stores in that you go there – figuratively – and shop (virtually) for the item you want and then buy it. No salesmen, pushy or not. Many people just would prefer not to have to – what’s the word? – deal with them.
And why should they have to, if they don’t want to? One is not obliged to deal with computer salesmen in order to buy a computer. Or tires. Or many other things, besides. You are still free – for now – to go to a tire store, if you prefer. Or (as I just did) you can go to an online store and buy tires directly and have them shipped to you and then it’s up to you to have them installed.
It’s a good job – as the Brits say – that the tire chain stores haven’t formed “associations” and bought themselves some government, to make sure you pay them and only them for a set of new tires when you need them. They might hire PR heavies – as the dealership associations do – to spread unction about the necessity of tire stores to assure people make the right and safe choice with regard to tires.
This is essentially the PR emitted by the dealer associations in their fight against dealer-less (direct) sales, as Tesla has been doing in states where it’s allowed. In italics to emphasize the sickening, idiot-child paternalism of this permutation of tyranny. You are too stupid to handle buying a car directly. You need assistance. Which, of course, you’ll be paying for. Need it or not, like it or not.
Weirdly, it’s Tesla that’s in the vanguard of ending this – as a requirement, at any rate. In italics because Tesla, more than any other car company, has bought the government. Not just some of it.
Its investment has paid off to the tune of billions.
But at least you can pay Tesla for one of its cars directly – and maybe save a few hundred that way.
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