If you could change one aspect of the car-buying process, what would it be and why (excluding the "having to pay" part)?
First, let me point out that there's an inherent problem with asking this question on Quora: The vast majority of people who answer questions here are educated, well-off, analytical, and generally successful. Thus, their answers aren't really representative of the general public.For example, I'd guess that Dan Pepper, Leonid S. Knyshov, and Miguel Valdespino all have excellent credit (and I mean that statement as a compliment). If these individuals had poor credit, they might not view the finance manager with such disdain. In my years in finance, for instance, I helped dozens of people get car loans despite serious financial problems caused by illness, family problems (divorce can kill credit ratings), dead-beat parents, etc.Granted, I'm not saying that finance managers are God's gift to the car buying public (they're not - they're often quite annoying). I freely admit that many of the products sold by F&I managers are overpriced, and that people in this role often resort to sales tactics that many bristle at.Still, it's not really accurate to say that F&I managers have to go. For a lot of people with less than perfect credit, a finance manager is a personal banking advocate.With that defense of F&I managers, I'll roll on to my answer.The one aspect I would change? I would get rid of unknown price mark-up.Every car buyer's biggest fear is getting taken - paying $1,000 too much. As a result, consumers universally distrust dealership salespeople. This leads to chaos and nonsense.Chaos in the sense that everyone in the building is working against one another:Consumers aren't willing to listen to advice or suggestions from people they perceive to be liars. If a dealership pro gives a consumer a genuinely good piece of advice like "hey, don't buy the V6 - the V8 gets the same damn mileage but has higher resale" (or whatever), consumers are just as likely to ignore that advice as accept it. Even to their detriment.Consumers often lie to salespeople to try and manipulate them into giving a better price..."I can get this same car for $500 less at dealer X" or "Dealer Y offered me $1,000 more for my trade." These are bald-faced lies, and they only serve to facilitate bad actors.Salespeople have learned from experience that consumers can and will lie to their face. Thus, salespeople come to justify bad actions...they'll mislead a consumer on the phone, tricking them to come in for a deal that doesn't exist. They'll lie about what a car can or can't do, and justify that action by telling themselves that "The customers are lying to me every day."Many sales managers are strong with the "dark side" of the sales process. Instead of being adept at building relationships and finding win-win scenarios, they're adept at manipulating inexperienced consumers. Since there's a general atmosphere of mistrust in a dealership anyways, these "dark side" experts are celebrated when they should be admonished (and fired).and nonsense like:stupid sales gimmicks (the old "push, pull, or drag your trade-in" gimmick, the "buy one car get one free" gimmick, etc)confusing and misleading rebates (you only qualify for this rebate if you're a veteran, this one if you're student, and this one if your last name starts with a "Q")intentionally obscure jargon and documentation (seriously, why are lease agreements so complicated? what's with all the fine print on your standard buyer's order)We can get rid of all of these things by Mandating that dealers tell consumers exactly what they own their cars for. Every buyer is told precisely what a dealer owns a car for (to the penny), and then a mark-up percentage is added. This mark-up should be the same for every new or used car on the lot - no more, no less.This mark-up should be the same for every day of the current month.My plan would cure all the concerns regulators have about dealers taking advantage of the poor or disenfranchised. It would also eliminate the most adversarial aspect of the transaction process, take away any incentive to lie or manipulate consumers, and facilitate trust. It would force dealers to focus on making the sales process enjoyable and educational rather than painful and daunting.If dealers weren't selling enough cars, they could lower their mark-up percentage at the start of the next month. If they didn't have a lot of inventory, the could raise their percentage.If consumers didn't like the price, they could shop elsewhere or wait for a better deal...but they couldn't ask for a discount, because the rules prevent discounting for individuals. Everyone gets the same deal every month.Will this happen? Probably not. Scion's "pure pricing" concept is very close to what I've described, but it's not popular with dealers (it's hard to make a lot of money in this scenario), and consumers don't trust it much anyways...even when a brand emphasizes that they're one price and dedicated to fairness, many consumers argue for a better deal. I also know that Toyota has considered moving all their dealers to a system like Scion's "pure pricing" system, but again it's just not very popular. Dealers see this sort of pricing system as a threat to their margins, and would likely revolt.Still, it would cure the automotive retail industry IMHO. Consumers could relax, dealers could focus on developing good and ethical sales staff, and everyone would get a fair deal regardless of race, education, or finances....a guy can dream. :)