We had a similar situation in Oct03 when the new Prius came out. Buyers
were stacked around every dealership, and the "dealer added markup"
number just grew and grew. My local dealer finally made it a sort of
auction, in which money talked, not deposit date. In late '03, some
green-conscious buyers saw the desired color and features arriving and
paid up to an incredible + $7,000. In '04 the wait list grew to 6-8 months!
The dealers simply said "supply and demand", and they're right unless
there's a "real" contract in place, with consideration and specific
terms. If there's a contract that says "THIS AGREEMENT GUARANTEES YOUR
OPTION TO PURCHASE THE NEXT FIT SPORT AUTOTRANS IN COLOR XXXX TO ARRIVE
AT THIS DEALERSHIP, PURCHASE PRICE TO BE MSRP PLUS ADDED DEALER MARKUP
OF $YYYY, SUCH OPTION TO BE EXECUTED WITHIN 24 HOURS OF NOTICE OF
VEHICLE ARRIVAL", or somesuch, the "deposit" may guarantee nothing more
than to be placed on an auction list.
In late '03 we let our fingers do the walking, and bought precisely the
Prius we wanted for MSRP (pinstriping, a few other things, at no added
cost!) at a dealership in a rural community 1500 miles away (suspicious
of that lektrik stuff), then paid $800 to have it transported. For two
years I could have sold it for the price we paid!
In August my daughter bought her FIT and got precisely what she wanted.
It took an hour of phone calls to find a dealer less than two hours'
drive - selling at MSRP, and with a free IPOD hookup. She had worked
hard and saved, so paid cash for her first new car. What a day!! We made
it a family outing, and I rode back in her car part of the way. At her
age I don't get that much quality time - and her joy was boundless. A
super ride, a terrific car, and at the end of the day there was none of
that feeling that we were taken advantage of.
TACTIC ON HIGH-DEMAND CARS: there's a salesman (forget the dealership!)
willing to work with you, somewhere. Call/visit many dealerships. When
you call a dealership, talk turkey to a salesman directly and do NOT get
put on a dealership list. Offer the salesman a quiet extra $100. That
salesman is interested in a commission, and may put your name in his/her
hip pocket in case another buyer falls through. Otherwise, that sale
might go to some other salesman's buyer who's "on the list". You could
become the original buyer's "brother-in-law". In the days when there was
a 6-month wait for the Prius, I've helped many people do just that!