It’s 1am and a man shuffles unsure down an empty city street.
Staring into the sterile glow of his phone, trying to reckon his direction from where he is, he resorts to asking a scruffy looking fellow for help. Eventually this man, still dressed for success in his workplace clothes, ambles aboard a westbound train (the last one of the night, the lines are all shutting down) and settles into a seat. He pulls his knees in on himself, a purposed outward show of youth through flexibility, and puts the new Mew album on his iPod for the ride home.
His head lolls as the train clucks and clicks and clacks down the track… and he thinks to himself, “Portland was good to me tonight… Portland was good to me tonight.”
Well folks, as you read this, the details of the federal government’s auto industry stimulus package, called CARS, are set to be communicated to dealerships tomorrow. As you may know, Sharaun and I have been awaiting this day – as we’re ready to take advantage of the legislation by dumping our old Ford in favor of a new ride. You can read more about how we’re personally planning to use the program in my original entry, and then about my experience earlier this month talking to our local dealers about it in this entry.
Back a couple weeks ago, most dealers were either in a fog about the plan (not entirely unexpected, as they had no hard details from the Fed) or were completely unaware of it. At each dealer I visited, I was the most knowledgeable about the plan, and had to speak carefully to avoid sounding smarmy and patronizing when explaining it to them. After a few days of fruitless negotiations, however, I realized that I was just chomping too hard at the bit – and that only patience would resolve my issues. Put simply: I would have to wait for the July 24 date on which the government promised to send the program’s logistics to dealerships. So, I hunkered down and watched the lot inventories online in hopes that the vehicles we are after stuck around.
Then, on Monday evening, a shimmer: The local Ford dealership called me while I was in Oregon to relay good news. They’d got “all the details” on the Cash For Clunkers program “ahead of other dealerships” and were “doing the deals now.” In fact, they said, they’d already done nine, count ‘em, nine, deals under the program. Impressive, I said… and after some chit-chat, I told them I’d give them a ring when I was back in town. Unfortunately for Ford, Sharaun and I have pretty much decided on a non-Ford vehicle. However, I was able to use that Ford cold-call as a nice datapoint with the other dealers. I made the calls, and here’s what I learned…
I called the GMC place and they are by-the-book. No deals until the 24th, said the sales manager. Not until they’d got the communication from the Fed explaining what they have to do in order to make a deal comply with the legislation. In fact, he went as far as to say that, even when the “magical” details are received on the 24th, that it may take time for the dealer to get the mechanics of the system implemented. In my mind, this is the most logical dealer position, and makes the most rational sense.
I called the Chevy place and they landed somewhere between Ford’s salesmanship and GMC’s transparency, saying that they were indeed doing C4C deals now, but that they were doing them “outside” the governments program. They explained this as basically giving buyers trade-in cash equal to what they would qualify for under C4C (using the governments qualifying criteria site) and then hanging onto the trade-ins to submit for the federal program when they got the details. I’m certain that’s what Ford is doing too, although I think they are misrepresenting themselves as having “insider info” and thus a leg-up on their competition.
Right now it’s down to a battle between the Chevy place and the GMC place. At this point, I’m really hoping that we can make a deal this weekend. I’m hoping that the C4C details are easy enough that the dealers can make deals on them ASAP. If that’s the case, then, for us, it’s the perfect storm of car-buying conditions: The C4C rebate, Obama’s new-car stimulus sales-tax writeoff, GM’s 0% APR, and the “friends and family” employee pricing hookup from a Godsend GM-employed friend. So, this weekend is the prime weekend… this weekend is where I’ve reset my expectations around… you think it’s gonna work?
Wish us luck.