Monday, June 15, 2009

A Victory for Florida Car Buyers In The War Against the Dealer Fee!

A watershed event for South Florida car buyers occurred June 1, 2009. Two large car dealerships, Palm Beach Toyota and Royal Palm Toyota, eliminated their dealer fees. For those who may not know what a “dealer fee” is, it’s an extra charge which is added to the price of the car in addition to the price you are originally quoted. In the case of these two dealerships, it was $899. You can learn all you ever wanted to know about the dealer fee by reading my articles on http://www.earlstewartoncars.com/ or just Google “Earl Stewart” and “Dealer Fee”.

This is a victory for the car buyers of South Florida because they spoke with their pocket books and wallets and two car dealerships listened. When I eliminated my dealer fee about six years ago, I was one of the smaller car dealerships in Palm Beach County and the smallest seller of Toyotas. Today I’ve grown to be, not just the #1 seller of Toyotas but also the largest seller of any make car in Palm Beach County. This growth could not have occurred just in my immediate market area. Earl Stewart Toyota is located in Lake Park on the border of North Palm Beach, a much smaller population area than the three other Toyota dealerships south of me. The growth came from customers in the central and southern county who travelled many miles to buy from me.

As many of you know, I’ve fought against the dealer fee for several years. My column in Hometown News, http://www.earlstewartoncars.com/, my Saturday morning talk show on Seaview AM 960, my TV advertisements, public speaking engagements all over Palm Beach County, and my lobbying efforts in Tallahassee have all been focused on eliminating the dealer fee in Florida. Isn’t it interesting that where my political efforts to change the law have so far failed, the free marketplace efforts are winning, albeit slowly? By educating you, the car buyer, to what the dealer fee is and why it’s bad, you’ve spoken out with your checkbooks and done something that the politicians were afraid to do.

I congratulate Palm Beach Toyota and Royal Palm Toyota for their decision to eliminate their dealer fee. It took a lot of courage, especially during these severe economic times, to eliminate an extra $899 profit per car sold which was going right to the bottom line. But now, by including all profits in the prices you’re quoting your customers you’re not only doing the right thing but you’re giving your prospective customers the ability to shop and compare your price with your competition. You may make less per car but you will sell more cars.

I expect this trend to continue. There are two more dealerships in Palm Beach County that do not charge dealer fees. Mullinax Ford opened just last year on Northlake Blvd. [only about a mile from my dealership] and North Palm Beach Mercedes opened just this year [about 2 miles from my dealership]. General GMC Truck in West Palm Beach also doesn’t charge a dealer fee. Mullinax has three more Ford dealerships in central Florida and does not charge dealer fees at these locations either. North Palm Beach Mercedes also owns Palm Beach Mercedes [In West Palm Beach] which does charge a dealer fee…go figure!

I encourage the Penske Auto Group, a public company traded on the NYSE, to consider eliminating their dealer fee for all of their franchises. Penske Automotive Group still adds a dealer fee to the Mazdas and Nissans that they sell from their Royal Palm location that also sells Toyotas. This move would give you a “leg up” on your competition that charges a dealer fee. You can be the first to do the right thing for Mazda and Nissan buyers in Palm Beach County. I do not believe that the Penske Auto Group has eliminated the dealer fee on their Toyota dealership in Orlando either, Central Florida Toyota. This would be a smart move to capture sales from the other Toyota dealers in that market that do.

Readers of the Hometown News and http://www.earlstewartoncars.com/, please call my NO DEALER FEE HOTLINE, 1 800 909-9879 and voice your opinion on eliminating the dealer fee in Florida. I collect these voice mail messages which are transferred to computer audio files and forwarded to our Florida legislators. Messages relating personal and specific experiences with the dealer fee are especially valuable.

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