Harrisburg Car Shopping: Faulkner Nissan / Harrisburg Toyota

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m retiring my 2003 Honda Element EX. It has been a bullet-proof tank / snowmobile of a car that I’m really going to miss. But between getting a lower monthly payment and a 63% increase in fuel efficiency, the lure of a new car has finally gotten to me. Yesterday, I saw Faulkner Honda about a Fit Sport and Civic LX. Here are my Day #2 experiences at Faulkner Nissan (Versa 1.8 S) and Harrisburg Toyota (Scion xD).

Faulkner Nissan’s new location is near the Harrisburg Mall, just past Sheetz. Right off the bat, I could tell that my sales rep really didn’t want to be there. He didn’t seem the least bit excited about the Versa (in stark contrast to Faulkner Honda), or about being there, or about anything at all. It’s not that he was rude, he just didn’t seem the least bit interested in whether or not I bought my car there. Maybe that’s a strategy; maybe he was expecting me to feel sorry for him. Regardless, we took the Versa out for a test drive. While not as energetic, nimble, or quiet as the Fit, the Versa offered far more headroom and much more comfortable seats. The dealer made sure to talk trash about Hondas and Toyotas as much as possible in our short jaunt up to Mushroom Hill and back 322. Between the car’s impotent performance and the sales rep’s conduct, the test drive was far from enjoyable.

We got back to the dealership and started negotiating. Round one opened up at $7500 trade and MSRP. Round two went to $8000 trade and $100 off MSRP. And this is where it gets interesting. Round three involved me going home and coming back the next day (I had failed to do as thorough research into Nissan as I had into Honda, so I went home to correct this).  Upon returning, I informed my sales rep that their trade-in value was far below what I was expecting, and I wasn’t satisfied with his price on the car. He explained that by offering me the car at $14335, they had already come down $2000 off MSRP, so really it was like they were offering me $10000 for my car.

However, according to Nissan’s website, MSRP on the Nissan Versa 1.8S configured with cruise control, splash guards, and “1.8S Power Package” is $14445, including $625 destination & handling. So according to Faulkner Nissan, $14445 – $2000 = $14335.

I guess Faulkner Nissan assumed I wouldn’t be capable of going home and checking the MSRP myself..

Now, I’m not saying they lied to me. I’m sure that they conduct business to the highest standards of ethical integrity. They’re just idiots who use 1970s-era used-car-salesman tactics and employ disinterested sales reps who presumably have a million better things to do than help customers. Between the combination of the Versa’s poor performance, the sales rep’s “meh, I don’t care” demeanor, and the dealership’s poor math skills, the door has been pretty much closed on the Versa. And truth be told, it definitely eroded my otherwise positive experiences with the Faulkner name.

Next up was Harrisburg Toyota to check out the Scion xD. In case you’re not up on these things, Scion is the youth-oriented stepchild of Toyota. They make that ugly-as-sin Element knockoff that would fall apart if you ever so much as thought about going off road, the xB. The xD is a stubby hatchback that looks similar to a Dodge Caliber. Fuel economy and performance were acceptable, but the vehicle still didn’t have the crisp handling of the Fit or the high-power / high-economy combo of the Civic.

To be honest, I went into Harrisburg Toyota with mixed feelings. They’ve had some ridiculous and/or offensive ads over the past decade, and I remember some shady allegations about why they had to change the name from Hartman Toyota to Harrisburg Toyota. Nonetheless, I wanted to see what they could put together on my vehicle. My sales rep was far more attentive and knowledgeable (and downright personable) than the one from Faulkner Nissan. He didn’t bash the competition, and he was able to make intelligent comparisons between the xD, Fit, and Versa.

Harrisburg Toyota’s showroom, recently rebuilt, was clean and organized if not a bit barren. One “trick” that I immediately noticed was that they had a 2007 Corolla on display. Why 2007? Because the EPA changed their fuel economy standards for 2008 model years, and every vehicle’s 2008 gas mileage numbers are about 10% – 15% lower than they were in 2007. More on this later; for now, having a 2007 model in the showroom will undoubtedly get some consumers to compare their ’07 numbers with the competition’s ’08 numbers.

The coffee was adequate. A little burnt. But who am I to complain about free?

Negotiations started. I let the rep know that I had been to multiple other dealerships, that I was going to be purchasing this weekend, and that I already had my “magic numbers” in mind. Naturally, he asked what those “magic numbers” were. Also naturally, I responded with “You show me your best price, and if you hit my numbers, I’ll let you know.”

After disappearing for about five minutes, my rep returned with some disappointing numbers. $7200 trade. Since the price of all Scions is non-negotiable, the only room the dealer has to negotiate is on trade-in.  And since their profit on the car is firmly secured, I was hoping to see far better trade-in value than other non-Honda dealerships were offering, and I let my rep know this.

He disappeared and came back with $8000 trade-in and explained that this was as high as they could go due to the age of my car (four years, 105000 miles) and the fact that it would likely be sold at auction.  Now, Faulkner Honda already showed me a current Manheim report.  This shows what cars are selling for at dealer auction.  2003 Elements in “average” condition near my mileage were selling for around $8500 – $9500.  So what the dealer was telling me was that he planned on selling my car at a $500 – $1500 profit at auction AND collecting the profit off the Scion.  I told the rep that if they really couldn’t move any further on the price, then I’d take their price under consideration but in all likelihood would not be purchasing my car from them.  This is when the PIP started (though it appeared only the sales manager was available).  I received the standard lecture about wholesale auto pricing and Scion’s fixed-price policy.  My response was basically “that’s nice, but your competitors are offering me better deals”.

Despite the fact that they knew they had been knocked out of the running, Harrisburg Toyota remained calm and professional, which is more than I can say about some of the other dealers I went to (see tomorrow’s post).

Day two ends. It’s Faulkner Honda in the lead at $9000 trade + $1000 off MSRP on the Civic, Faulkner Honda at $9000 trade + $300 off MSRP on the Fit Sport.  Faulkner Nissan at $8000 trade + $100 off MSRP on the Versa.  Harrisburg Toyota at $8000 trade + MSRP on the Scion xD.