Editor’s note: The following story appeared Tuesday (Feb. 15) on www.dealernews.com, “the voice of powersports retailers online.” The story pertains to a new website serving consumers in the boating and powersports markets. RVs are to be added later.
A new consumer service set to debut online within weeks is promising to share invoice and MSRP pricing information for boats, powersports and later recreational vehicles with anyone who visits the new website, www.seedealercost.com.
The site pulls information from a variety of third-party sources and is organized similar to Edmunds.com or other price/valuation sites.
Consumers can look up various makes and models of vehicles to find out manufacturer specifications, invoice cost and MSRP. Registered users can save information for later reference and comparison; guests can request to get their information via e-mail in printable PDF form.
Each product information page includes a disclaimer about potential inaccuracies and explains that the invoice price does not include shipping from the manufacturer, dealer prep, taxes, title, license or other fees, nor does it include any wholesale incentives (program support, additional discounts, rebates, etc.) the manufacturer may be offering to the dealer.
The site will use proprietary software two years in the making to gather ZIP codes to feed lead generators for OEMs and dealers, and e-mail addresses for sales contacts. Leads will specify the consumer’s information, the product and configuration they are researching.
OEMS and dealers will have opportunities to advertise regionally or nationally and subscribe to the site’s lead generation engine. Most of the revenue, says Dave Taylor, company vice president, is expected to come from advertising.
Leads “can be transmitted in real time to the lead subscriber, who is the manufacturer. They would receive the leads in real time, as would their dealers,” Taylor says. “The lead subscription is very low cost because it is not the primary revenue on the site.”
The company owns about 650 URLs that feed www.seedealercost.com and “the amount of hits has been phenomenal,” Taylor says.
News of the site raised hackles in the marine industry, where dealers say their business aren’t the same as car lots. Amid a flurry of comments on industry discussion boards and news sites, the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) sent a letter to boat OEMs asking them not to participate.
But the site founder, whose name has not been revealed, believes the industries haven’t kept up with how consumers shop. While some dealers fear the site’s information will lead to swarms of customers demanding lowball prices, Taylor says the information is really as much about pricing credibility as publishing the lowest figure.
“The industries haven’t really kept up with consumer expectations in that information gathering, shopping process,” Taylor says. “Consumers are tired of the negotiation game. They want more of a no-pressure, nonconfrontational process. Consumers also want to be sure they are not getting taken.”
Taylor declined to say whether or which OEMs have signed up with the site, but says the company has been meeting with them and “we are happy overall with the conversations.”
Taylor says the boating industry misunderstood the Web site (perhaps because it initially was to be called paydealercost.com?). He plans to attend Dealer Expo to meet with powersports dealers, who he hopes will be more receptive.
That remains to be seen. A handful of dealers Dealernews queried say they wouldn’t appreciate having their invoice information readily available to consumers, but could see some situations where it might be help rather than hurt.
“I’m a salesman, so I don’t want anyone seeing my invoice. The truth of the matter is that it’s my business,” said a salesman who asked not to be identified at Fun Bike Center in San Diego, Calif. “I like to make fair deals, but I have to make a profit. It certainly wouldn’t help.”
But the site might also reduce dickering on slow-moving merchandise. “I think it would help on stuff that wasn’t moving. At least people would know that was as low as you could go,” he says.
Others expressed similar sentiments.
“I certainly wouldn’t be happy about seeing it. It’s not anybody’s business to see what we pay for our machines, simple as that,” says John Worley, owner of Stumpy’s Yamaha in Neptune, N.J. “It’s not like you are working at 40%. You are making maybe 15% to 20%. Profit is what keeps us in business.”
Taylor says www.seedealercost.com could set a price floor that might actually help dealers.
“It brings some of the craziness out of the sale,” he says. “We’ve had car dealers tell us that consumers don’t come in asking for crazy $10,000 discounts (after checking price sites) because they understand what the baseline is.”
Worley says it could work that way, and supply and demand will still rule the market.
“If I have 15 or 20 of them I haven’t sold in several months and someone comes in asking for invoice, I might sell it for a few hundred bucks over invoice,” he says. “If it’s a machine that has been sitting here for two days and I can’t get enough of them, I’ll sell it at retail.”
Most OEMs either didn’t respond to queries or had no comment, but a Polaris spokesperson says the company has been approached.
“Websites such as Kelly Blue Book, NADA, etc. have this information already and there hasn’t been much impact, however it doesn’t take into account current promotions, hold backs, etc. that may be offered by the manufacturer,” says Polaris spokesperson Marlys Knutson. “At this time we don’t plan on participating and will watch how it evolves.”
MIC president Tim Buche says the industry is up to any challenge the site might present.
“I would be surprised if most buyers don’t already have an idea what a vehicle costs when they go to buy it,” he says. “With cars, there’s all sorts of trim levels and options. There are a lot of different versions in a model family.”
The new website might encourage powersports dealers to do off-the-shelf customizing to create unique packages like what automakers offer, Buche says.
“I don’t see it as changing our world. I see it as another challenge that the dealership has to undertake to validate the price they may offer product,” he says, suggesting dealers accessorize or customize for their showrooms. “Dealer A may have a different version of Dealer B’s model, but both came the same from the factory. Take a great product from the manufacturer and personalize and customize it for your showroom. Most people want those accessories and customization. Why not take your inventory and get it onto motorcycles. Now you’ve got a different MSRP and cost structure for that vehicle.”
Powersports dealers also rely more on relationships with their customers than auto dealers, Buche says.
“The importance is for those dealers who think they are merely selling a commodity, that is often not the dealership that riders want to hang out with,” he says. “Riders are smart enough to know that dealers have to stay in business. Dealers have to pay fair wages. They have to make a fair profit.”