When Jennifer Williams walked into the Nalley Lexus dealership in Cobb County, Ga., on a recent Tuesday, all she needed was a salesperson to provide her a good deal on her trade-in, the keys to her RX 350 SUV and a happy wave goodbye.
Thanks to the Internet, Williams had done research ahead of time and already knew what cars were available on the lot, their features, price and even ownership and mileage records. She also pre-investigated available interest rates, her credit score and, most important, what Nalley’s competitors were offering.
“I just needed to know what you’re going to give me for my trade, talk interest rates and see if they could take a little bit off the car,” she said.
Williams is the epitome of the new car shopper, industry experts say. Unlike a decade ago, today’s car buyers walk in the door with almost as much knowledge about what’s on a lot as the sales staff. And they don’t want to spend hours negotiating or being wooed into costly upgrades.
That has made it more difficult for dealerships to make the same profits of yesteryear and pushed some to change how they compensate employees. Lexus South Atlanta, for instance, switched from paying staff a traditional commission to an hourly salary plus incentives.
“The opportunity to negotiate has almost been eliminated,” Sid Barron, general manager at Lexus South, said, emphasizing this is especially true among young car buyers who don’t even understand the concept of negotiating. “You have to build value.”