Car dealers wince at a site to end sales haggling

Source: Tara Siegel Bernard, New York Times

When it comes to negotiating a price on a new car, the script has not really changed much over the years: The dealer’s salesman writes down a price, you counter and then he walks to the back of the showroom to talk with the manager to “see what we can do.” At least consumers no longer have to enter the process blind. Prospective buyers can educate themselves on Web sites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book and get suggested retail prices and find out how much their trade-ins are really worth. Still, the auto industry has not embraced the digital age in the way other businesses, like real estate or travel, have. In part, that is because the auto dealers’ business practices are protected by state franchise laws. But then, a company called TrueCar.com came onto the scene and tried to shake things up. It started running television commercials late last year, which attracted a lot of attention, and the industry immediately pushed back — hard. Here’s why: Besides showing what other car buyers paid for a particular car, TrueCar also gave an estimate of the dealer’s true cost. But what really alarmed the industry was TrueCar’s promise to deliver a guaranteed price from several dealers, essentially eliminating the need for any haggling.

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