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Friday Mailbag: A bad BMW dealership and car shows

Big weekend for me. Let’s take two questions; one for a bad BMW dealership, and one on how to start a successful car show.

If you’d like to participate, drop me a question at mike@machineswithsouls.com. As always, you’ll remain anonymous.

Question

Hi Mike. I really like attending the Fall Cruise each year, it’s one of the few shows that I can get to enjoy the car on the road.

How can I organize my own event? Do I need permission, police, etc? Thanks!

– Luke

Answer

BMW M3
Getting up for work < getting up for car shows.

Thanks Luke. The Cruise is now entering year seven, and I never expected it to grow as it has. Check out the history of the event here.

I’ll answer your questions backwards. First, pick a location and call that town. You’ll most likely need an event permit if it’s in a public space. I don’t think you need to worry so much if it’s just a few cars, but anything over say, 20, and you might draw negative attention from parking lot owners and/or police. Better to be safe than sorry. Permits are usually around $150.

Once the date and permit are secure, you may also want to get event insurance. Some locations require it, but in case something does happen to the property, you’ll be glad you have it.

Finally, you’ll need to market the event. At first, this website and the cruise were separate entities, but after both grew, it seemed to make sense to combine them and brand the show as MWS. Give it a theme, maybe a logo, and spread the word on forums and social media.

Finally, be organized! No one likes to drive all over creation, or go to park somewhere only to find you’re not allowed. Plan for as many contingencies as possible.

The main thing is for people to have fun. Some shows are awesome, some less so. But overall, if people enjoy themselves, then word will spread and you’ll grow each year.

Have fun on Sunday!

Question

Mike, I recently visited a local BMW dealership and was shocked at the treatment I got. First, no one approached me when I came in. I was refused a test drive. Then, the car I wanted (an M440i) was marked up by $5,000 and they wouldn’t budge on the price.

I left frustrated and upset. Why is buying a new car so hard, and is there anything I can do to actually get a BMW at MSRP? Have you received some bad treatment over the years?

-Brad

Answer

bmw-m850
Delivery day is thrilling, but be sure you get the deal you want.

Brad’s email was even longer, but I think we get the gist of what happened.

I was 26 when I decided I would take the plunge and purchase my first BMW. I had absolutely zero experience with the brand or cars as a consumer at that point. So I walked into a local dealer in my typical uniform: jeans and a T-shirt. What I experienced was simply a joke. They didn’t take me seriously (no test drive, even though an E90 M3 was right out in front), and so I took my business elsewhere. Clearly, their loss.

There’s the service departments too. I once got the E92 back with an extra 30 miles that couldn’t be explained. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told a place to not wash the car, only to find fresh swirl makes in it upon picking it up. The list goes on.

Now, the world has changed, and it seems that customers no longer have the upper hand when dealing with, ahem, dealers. But unless you absolutely need a car, you can and should walk away. Like He-Man, you have the power.

BMW dealership tips

  • There’s still no reason to pay over MSRP for any car that isn’t extremely rare. If one place won’t budge, move on to the next.
  • Expect to be treated with respect. If not, move on.
  • Bring someone you trust with you, either friend or family member. They can provide a good sounding board at the moment of truth.
  • If you’re not sure, for any reason, walk away.
  • It might be their time, but it’s your money. Act accordingly.
  • You don’t need to stay local. Broaden your search to a state or even national level. Many dealers will ship the car to you.
bmw-m850i-white
Dealers make more money from service than selling a car.

Sometimes a fight isn’t worth it. If you purchase many cars from the same place, maybe skip the argument over the last $250. You can catch more bees with honey.

Lastly, even after everything is said and done, there is a minefield to navigate. You do not need nitrogen in your tires, ever. It’s debatable that you need an aftermarket protection plan – I have one on the M3 for wheels and tires only. Even your APR rate. I’ve had dealers try to sneak in a higher rate than what was promised, claiming they were allowed to do so. Check everything. Then check it again.

As a whole, BMW has been pretty good. Try going downmarket and see what happens. Am I thrilled when I get an X2 as a loaner? I am not. But at least I can get a loaner. And I have a great relationship with my current BMW dealership in central New Jersey, so it’s possible to be treated like a human.

It may take a little time and effort, but the car you want at the price you can accept is out there. I hope you find it!

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Email me at mike@machineswithsouls.com with any questions. Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls

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