We don’t usually have many good things to say about automobile dealers. Many of them have a richly deserved reputation for mauling their customers with shady negotiating strategies and then slamming them with expensive extended warranties, anti-theft systems, paint sealants, wheel locks, and other geegaws they want us to buy.
Lately, the intertubes have been buzzing with stories of dealers tacking on outrageous “market adjustments” over and above the price on the window sticker for cars that are in high demand — like the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning. The icing on the cake was the customer who went and bought a Lucid Air after a Mercedes dealer tried to soak him for an extra $50,000 over the sticker price of an EQS.
Lately, Ford dealers have come in for plenty of criticism for their heavy-handed tactics with people trying to buy a hot selling Mustang Mach-E by adding $5,000 to $10,000 markups to the sticker price. But the latest scam among some Ford dealers is demanding more money from customers who have reserved an F-150 Lightning.
The folks at the Ford F-150 Gen 14 forum got their hands on a memo sent to all Ford dealers from the corporate office this week that tells them to knock off demanding more money from reservation holders or see their allocation of F-150 Lightnings cancelled for all of 2022. Here’s the memo:
It’s refreshing to see Ford slap down some of its most rapacious dealers, but that’s not the end of the story.
While the memo warns dealers not to charge additional deposits, there is nothing preventing them from whacking the customer over the head with an additional dealer markup fee when the vehicle is ready for delivery. “There’s your truck, Mr. Customer. Fork over another ten grand or kiss it goodbye. What do you want to do?”
The reason, of course, is manufacturers do not have all that much control over their dealers, who are insulated by rigorous dealer franchise laws. The initials MSRP stand for “Manufacturer’s SUGGESTED Retail Price.” Just as dealers are permitted to sell a vehicle for less than sticker, they are also permitted to sell it for more than sticker if they can find someone willing to pay the extra cash. Nothing in this latest memo will tamp down the trend toward marking up cars that are in demand. It’s called charging what the market will bear and it’s perfectly legal.
Here’s the part that really sucks. In the memo, Ford tells its dealers it will support them if they choose to require purchasers to sign a legally binding contract that prohibits the buyer from selling their shiny new F-150 Lightning for a period of one year after the purchase date. What? People have to pay extra to buy the truck and then are subject to legal action if they sell it within 365 days? Are people really willing to get slapped around like this?
The answer is, apparently so. “You want the truck that bad? Here are the terms. Take it of leave it.” And people wonder why some of us loathe car dealers and car manufacturers. What a bunch of scum-sucking bottom feeders! If someone presented that proposal to me, I would tell them to go shit in their hat and pull it down over their ears — or worse! The rationale is that someone could “flip” a new Lightning for more money than they paid for it. Horrors! If someone is going to make a killing, let it be the manufacturer or the dealer, not the customer.
Someday, dealer lots will be crammed full of F-150 Lightnings in every color of the rainbow just waiting for a ready, willing, and able buyer to come along much as conventional trucks fill dealer lots today. Until then, if you absolutely have to be the first on your block to drive an electric F-150, go on down to your local dealer, hand over your wallet, and say “please.”
How Ford thinks demanding extra money from reservation holders threatens the Ford brand and the reputation of its dealers but cramming a no-resale contract down people’s throats does not is a mystery, and I am going to ask Jim Farley for an explanation the next time I see him. He better have a damn good answer.