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adventures in car buying, part 3
April 2, 2012 1:18 PM   Subscribe

"mandatory" options on a new, built-to-order BMW...is this a permissible business practice? I am in Vancouver, BC.

I want a BMW 328xi Touring (the 3-series station wagon).

In Canada, the base price is $45,700. There are a few option-packages available, one being the "Executive Package" for $2800. The BMW Canada website let's you "build your own" as just the base model without the Executive Package. I don't want the Executive Package -- it's not just an issue of money, but rather the gizmos included with it will annoy the hell out of me for the next 10 years while I'm driving this car.

When I placed the order with the local dealership, they had no qualms with me not taking any options. We did it as a factory order, built exactly to my specification, as what I wanted (manual transmission and no Executive Package) was not in stock anywhere in Canada. The next day, the dealership called back saying that BMW was only willing to order this car WITH the Executive Package. I.e. the $2800 "option" is now "mandatory". So I told them that I don't want that shit in the car. They responded by saying that I can pay a special "customization" fee (BMW ordering code: ZSP) of $450 to exclude the items that I didn't want.

To recap, this is what BMW Canada wants me to pay:
- $45,700 - base price
- $2,800 - mandatory Executive package
- $450 - exclude the Executive package
Total: $48,950.

I have done some research and confirmed that the local dealership is not lying -- all other dealers, some inside sources, and some bimmer forum posts all confirm the same. It is BMW Canada's fault. The dealership feels a little bit sorry for me and is offering to absorb the $450 ZSP fee, but I'm still paying $2800 more than I should for shit I don't want!

So...what the fuck? Is this legally permissible? How can I get BMW Canada to play ball and just charge me the base price?

I have already spoken to the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of BC, and the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan, and neither agency deals with this specific issue. They suggested talking to the Better Business Bureau...and I just rolled my eyes.
posted by wutangclan to Work & Money (33 answers total)
 
Why wouldn't this be legal? They are not obligated to provide you with a custom built car any more than McDonald's is obligated to customize you a burger.

It might be bad business practice, but it's not illegal.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:26 PM on April 2, 2012


Tell the dealer that you will not pay more than $45,700 for the car.
posted by rhizome at 1:27 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here in the US, I'd tell the dealer what I was willing to pay for the car I wanted and make it clear I wasn't willing to pay more than that or get less car than what I want. Then I'd be willing to walk out when they can't do it. Then I'd fax what I want to other dealers near enough to me that I was willing to get the car and see what happens. If I got no bites, I'd think about changing what I was asking.
posted by cmm at 1:27 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, to be clear, here's my problem: if it's an "option", and clearly advertised as such on their website, why can they force me to take it? Isn't that deceptive advertising?
posted by wutangclan at 1:36 PM on April 2, 2012


It's a pricing mistake. You tried to order it, they told you it the price was wrong and gave you the correct price. Either buy it at the right price or pass on it.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2012


I don't know why everyone's so hostile, the problem is with the concept of a "mandatory option."
posted by rhizome at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lots of cars have "mandatory" options. If you want a Honda Accord with a V6 engine, you need to buy one of the upper trim levels. If you want a V6 Toyota Tacoma, you need to buy the extended cab. If you want a navigation system in most cars, you need to buy the leather seats. You can find an example of this from every carmaker, and there is nothing even slightly illegal about it. They decide what they are willing to sell, and if you dont like it you dont have to do business with them.
posted by twblalock at 1:52 PM on April 2, 2012


Short version:
The dealership will do anything they can to sell you a car. This does NOT include trying to screw you over by saying they cannot find the specific car in a specific trim level. They will buy that car from another dealer somewhere else in the country and have it shipped if they have to. They want to sell you a car.
However, they have to order the car from BMW. BMW sells it to the dealership, who then sells it to you.
If BMW won't sell it to them, they can't sell it to you.
This often happens when it doesn't make sense for BMW to prep a car for sale in Canada when they will sell so few of them (Canadian cars have to be prepared differently than American cars). So to save money, they'll only allocate resources to building so many of that model to Canada, and the ones they do they will all option the same way to save costs in the factory.
The 328xi Touring is not a hot seller in Canada by any stretch, so my guess is they're willing to eat the lost sales for people who want that specific car without the Executive package when they know they can likely convert MOST of the people who want one into buyers of the Exec package.
posted by smitt at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter how you look it, you have no recourse here. The terms of service on the website go on at length about how they are not responsible for the accuracy of any information on the webpage, and how individual retailers are allowed to set their own pricing anyway. They are also under no obligation to even carry every possible version of their product, let alone able to provide it at any given time. You're confusing advertising a particular configuration as 'available/in stock' with possible order options of product that as of yet does not exist. Not the same thing.

The only part that's even slightly iffy is their ability to get it if you pay the extra fee, but it's likely they would actually have to refit an existing car which obviously costs them money. 10-1 odds that BMW can't sell enough with the configuration you want to justify shipping any over. Short version: it's sloppy practice but it isn't nearly deceptive or blatant enough to get a regulator involved.
posted by vohk at 1:59 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only part that's even slightly iffy is their ability to get it if you pay the extra fee, but it's likely they would actually have to refit an existing car which obviously costs them money. 10-1 odds that BMW can't sell enough with the configuration you want to justify shipping any over. Short version: it's sloppy practice but it isn't nearly deceptive or blatant enough to get a regulator involved.

What they're doing is ordering it with the Exec package, then figuring out how much they have to pay their service department to remove all the components and replace them with parts that closely match the un-spec'd model. Odds are they're eating a lot of profit offering to do that.
posted by smitt at 2:01 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


This may not be an option for you, but my brother recently got a BMW through european delivery, and was able to get exactly what he wanted for less money (somehow there's fewer fees) than if he'd bought here (in the US.) So that may be worth looking into.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2012


If it's illegal, it's likely to be illegal because of this law, the Competition Act. I'm not a Canadian lawyer, and I'd suggest that the most valuable responses in this thread will likely come from Canadian lawyers or people who otherwise have experience with the Competition Act.

For what it's worth, you've asked a reasonable question, although it might be tough to say you were actually misled by BMW's practice.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2012


it's likely they would actually have to refit an existing car which obviously costs them money.

It's a factory order. New build.
posted by wutangclan at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2012


thewumpusisdead, I looked into European delivery, but there is no pricing/tax/fees loophole for Canadian residents. Same price. Just a "special experience"...(I grew up in Europe, so not special for me).
posted by wutangclan at 2:07 PM on April 2, 2012


You've acknowledged the rarity of a 3-series wagon to begin with in your other threads. BMW won't retool to build your one-off Canadian-spec wagon without the Executive package. They could be any multitude of reasons for this, and I could only speculate.

BMW sells just over 11k 3-series models in Canada each year. A miniscule percentage of those are wagons.

If BMW won't make it, you won't get it. Buy a used model, a different car, or negotiate the price down to what you want to spend.
posted by smitt at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2012


[Folks, including the OP, just answer the question and take side discussions/complaints to email, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2012


I'm not Canadian so I'm not sure but the internet seems to suggest that maybe you could complain to Advertising Standards Canada or The Competition Bureau
posted by ghharr at 2:23 PM on April 2, 2012


wutangclan: "It's a factory order. New build."

So they take a brand new car with exec package, and while still at the 'factory' (re: prior to delivery), refit it. An irregular method of building it doesn't change anything AFAIK. There's no other sensible reason why they would need to charge you for the package if getting one already configured the way you want is an option.

Either way though, it's a moot point. It's the difference between 'perfectly understandable' and 'they're being dicks'. The issue at hand is whether or not the 'build your own' website app qualifies as offering a specific configuration as available and on sale, and it does not.

(To be clear, not a lawyer)

Case 1 (what you think you have): FutureShop flyer from your local store lists one BetterMousetrap (Model 123T) for $19.99 between day x and y. Legally (in Canada), they must have at least some 123T in inventory and available at the listed price during the dates listed, or offer a raincheck. Even then, if they are unable to bring in that specific product again, they're off the hook.

Case 2 (what you actually have): Bob's Custom Hammer Shop website lists leather as a possible handle material you can request as part of your order. Unfortunately, when you try to place the order, Bob informs you he is unable to get leather handles at this time. At no time did BCHS represent a hammer with a leather handle as in stock and available. BCHS is under no obligation to provide you a hammer with leather handle at the standard price.

See what I'm getting at? And that's even ignoring the general declaiming of responsibility present in the ToS.
posted by vohk at 2:26 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


So they take a brand new car with exec package, and while still at the 'factory' (re: prior to delivery), refit it.

No.

It is well-established that BMWs with the infernal iDrive are practically impossible to refit without it or vice versa. The wiring for all the various modules has been put in and can't be changed -- they'd have to rip out the dash, the seats, centre console and all the fittings and practically redo the interior from scratch. They're not willing to do that, obviously.

I was walked through, in detail, how their manufacturing and supply chain management system works. They showed me their systems that can track every single vehicle on the production line that has been allocated for the Canadian market. Each car has status numbers 1 to 50:
- 1 means no work has started
- 50 means it's a finished car.
- 11 (or something like that) is before the tranny goes in -- a decision must be made before status 12 as to whether it's going to be a manual or automatic.
- 15 (or something like that) is before the iDrive goes in.

The dealer was very clear that they never redo any work that has already been done, and they don't refit completed cars. If you want changes made, you have to decide ahead of production. The lead time for custom ordering is one calendar month before actual production (assuming quotas aren't full), and delivery to the dealerships usually 7 weeks thereafter. The factory can build whatever BMW Canada orders. It's just BMW Canada that won't play ball.

Anyway, fine, I get it: I am SOL. Pay the extra money I will, but grudgingly so.
posted by wutangclan at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2012


Why pay the extra money if you feel so strongly you are getting shafted? Is buying a car different in Canada than it is in the US? Do you actually pay the base price?

Here in the US, I'd totally walk in and tell them what I was willing to pay. Whatever crazy shenanigans they have to do in order to get me what I want isn't my problem. They need to decide if it is worth it. If they say no, I can either deal or walk away.

They want to sell you the car for as much money as they can. You want to buy the car for as little as you can get it for. They probably only slightly care whether you pay them grudgingly or happily. They probably want you to pay slightly grudgingly or else they made a bad deal!
posted by cmm at 3:11 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is possible they just don't have a way to manufacture the car in that configuration. The line that does manual transmissions can only do the executive package.

It is also possible that BMW Canada is worried about you bailing on the deal and them getting stuck with a car that they can't sell. Perhaps there is a way to contact them directly and give them some assurance that if the car arrives as you specified, you WILL purchase the car.
posted by gjc at 3:45 PM on April 2, 2012


It is possible they just don't have a way to manufacture the car in that configuration. The line that does manual transmissions can only do the executive package.

No.

I test drove one with manual and no iDrive, albeit 2nd hand (2010 model). I almost bought it, but someone else scooped it up before I could.
posted by wutangclan at 3:53 PM on April 2, 2012


It seems like you're already convinced what they're doing is illegal? I think you need to talk to a lawyer at this point, several answers above offer plausible explanations
posted by Patbon at 4:17 PM on April 2, 2012


When I sold new Nissan's here in the US, every car we ordered from the factory had to come with floor mats. Even if we custom ordered it, it came with floor mats. It had something to do with agreements with the vendors that made the floor mats (they weren't made by Nissan) so even though it was an "option," it came with them and the customer paid for them whether they wanted them or not.

I'm sorry if this is a stupid question but why won't you just buy a different car (an Audi or a Mercedes or something)?

Maybe before you preferred the BMW but now that it will cost you an extra $2,800 maybe a different make is a better fit.
posted by VTX at 5:57 PM on April 2, 2012


You could consider ordering your car through BMW USA and importing it.
posted by parudox at 5:57 PM on April 2, 2012


When I sold new Nissan's here in the US, every car we ordered from the factory had to come with floor mats. Even if we custom ordered it, it came with floor mats.

In my experience, the "option" here is a choice between carpet and rubber (or otherwise) mats, which is within the common definitions of "option." However, a non-optional item is usually called a "feature," and should be identified as such. At the end of the day I'm sure it'd be blamed on whatever CRM they use, though.
posted by rhizome at 6:08 PM on April 2, 2012


You could consider ordering your car through BMW USA and importing it.

Seriously considering doing so.
posted by wutangclan at 7:25 PM on April 2, 2012


Have you contacted BMW Canada? Usually they'll have some press flack who can either give you a reason for why it is like it is, or who can get someone who can override whatever local idiocy is preventing you from resolution (generally so that they can issue a press release about their great customer service).

Aside from that, man, it's a short drive across the border.
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 PM on April 2, 2012


There's no profit for anyone involved in building this car for you. Either change your expectations or find an American store who can get you the car you want and pay to import it. I doubt you save $3k tho.

(I used to work in this business. My spouse does work in this business, and has worked for a BMW store.)
posted by smitt at 9:05 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be careful . . . . importing from the US can be expensive and a real pain . . . . my sister had to pay thousands to make changes to her car which were required by Transport Canada when she moved back to Canada from the US with her 1-year old Mercedes. The changes had to be done by Mercedes, and were ridiculously expensive.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2012


Have you tried shopping it around? Not many people are buying cars these days, let alone brand new BMWs, and dealers are getting pretty hungry. Offer $45,700 for the car the way you want it. If the dealer won't bite, walk out and keep shopping until you find someone who will. I can't imagine you'd go through that many BMW dealers before someone takes the deal.

I sell copiers. If I have a Model A that I usually net $2000 on a sale, and a buyer offers a price where I'll only net $1000 and it's clear they're willing to walk, you can bet your ass I'll make the deal. Now, they're not going to get the red carpet treatment like the customer who paid full price will, but they'll get their copier and I'll get at least some profit that I otherwise wouldn't.
posted by xedrik at 8:31 PM on April 3, 2012


Xedrik, what are you basing your info on? BMW has been posting all-time sales records in the last couple of months.
posted by wutangclan at 8:29 AM on April 4, 2012


Guess it's just regional. We have several car dealerships as clients and they've all had to tighten their belts, lay people off, and are worried about the days ahead.
posted by xedrik at 10:23 AM on April 4, 2012


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