Bel Air car dealer launches no-haggle pricing

January 10, 1993|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Forget the haggling, the hidden costs, the inevitable anxiety.

Forget the hassles of prolonged negotiations that end in exhaustion, frustration and, sometimes, the purchase of a car.

Now, at Village Volvo/Saab on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air, negotiation is a thing of the past. When you buy a new or used car there, the price you see on the sticker is the price you pay, period.

On Friday, Village Volvo/Saab became the first dealer in the Baltimore-metropolitan area to independently launch one-price selling. The sales technique, pioneered by General Motors' Saturn Division, has been endorsed by such auto experts as J. D. Power & Associates Inc., the national auto-rating firm.

Marketing research and customer surveys reveal that most car buyers detest the need to haggle and negotiate a price, said Mike Martino, the Volvo/Saab owner. A J. D. Power & Associates poll, for example, showed 85 percent of buyers dislike such haggling.

Mr. Martino said the technique is the wave of the future in the auto business.

"We know our market best," he said, "and are convinced that our future customers will appreciate this program. It is our program. No one put it together for us."

He said he and the sales force have worked steadily for six months fine-tuning the technique.

"For us, it's a whole new way of thinking. We looked at all the pluses

and minuses and had many open, lively discussions," said Mr. Martino. "We have one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings around, so we have to put our customers' feelings first."

The price of each new car model -- 24 variations of Volvos and eight Saabs -- is determined at the start of each day and is based on market conditions and inventory.

"There will be no negotiation from our price," Mr. Martino said.

"We will never break the integrity of our posted price, one that we will have already calculated down from the manufacturer's suggested retail price or the National Automobile Dealers Association."

Salespersons will get a flat fee per sale instead of a commission, regardless of the model.

Instead of high-pressure selling, the salesperson will spend time getting to know customers and matching their needs with the car, Mr. Martino said.

Trade-ins will not affect the purchase price.

"We're just going to buy your old car at a fair cost," said Mike Harrison, the company's sales manager.

If the offer does not meet a customer's expectations, the dealer will sell the car at the Bel Air Auto Auction and pay the customer the highest bid price.

Used cars, also included in the program, will include the National Automobile Dealers Association retail rate and the Village Volvo/Saab price.

"I'm confident the buying public will accept this approach," Mr. Martino said. "They'll know they won't be hassled here and that if they don't like our price they have the option to shop elsewhere."

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