Like many Americans, I recently decided that I wanted my next vehicle to be an electric vehicle.
After reading as many EV-based articles as I could find, spending endless hours watching EV-related YouTube videos, and wanting to capitalize on the high trade-in value of my current vehicle, I decided to join the ever-growing group of people who were considering making the jump.
According to a June 2022 study by the EY Mobility Consumer Index, 52% of global consumers are now looking to buy an EV, up 20 percentage points from just two years ago.
I decided to be a part of that 52%.
Sadly, what I thought would be a dream purchase turned into a nightmare.
But let’s start at the beginning.
I’ll spare you most of the boring details of just how much research went into this decision – I was reading through as many reviews and subreddits as humanly possible – but I narrowed down the field to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 in the end. My reasons were as follows:
- It qualified for the original $7500 federal tax credit that will change at the end of 2022
- It had a unique exterior and exterior design that I thought looked great
- It came packaged with two years of unlimited 30-minute charging sessions through Electrify America’s network of charging stations
- It was “affordable” in the relative sense, with its entry-level SE trim starting at around $44,000
I was initially open to other vehicles, such as Tesla’s Model 3 and Kia’s EV6, but those four bullet points above were the most valuable to me, and no other EV besides the Ioniq 5 fit into what I was looking for. The Model 3 wasn’t eligible for the federal tax credit, and the EV6 did not come with two years of unlimited charging, for example.
I remember becoming irrationally excited when I realized that I was going down the road of purchasing a 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5.
It was then time to start hunting one down.
One of the many upsides to buying a Tesla is that the buying process is insanely straightforward: you go to their website, pick a vehicle, choose your options, and order it.
The company constantly informs you of any and all production updates, and eventually, your new Tesla is delivered directly to you.
It’s that easy.
Hyundai, I found out, uses a more traditional approach to car buying.
Seeing as how EV sales had surged 60% in the first months of 2022, according to a report by Automotive News, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I realized that I was going to have to be lucky and find an Ioniq 5 sitting on a dealer lot somewhere.
So I went to work.
I logged onto every Hyundai dealership in the southern California area.
To my surprise, I found a fairly large number listed as being available on lots – with nary a mention of any markups or dealer-added accessories. While a handful of websites specifically mentioned markups or forced accessories, those were dealerships that I could easily avoid.
From the looks of it, it seemed that I stumbled upon plenty of dealerships near me selling at MSRP.
I was excited. I immediately made a few calls to these dealerships, citing each vehicle’s particular inventory number to expedite the process.
Curiously, every single person I spoke to – all responded to my enthusiasm with a variation of the same thing: “Oh, that vehicle is in transit/spoken for/not on our lot.”
When I asked them why this information – this extremely vital information that is crucial to anyone interested in buying a vehicle from their dealership – they invariably told me that sometimes the website doesn’t get updated as much as it should.
Each time, I would follow up that statement with an obvious ask of my own:
“I’d like to purchase an Ioniq 5 today. How can I do that?”
Apparently, the waiting list is months long.
I was aware that this particular EV had become fairly popular, bolstered by fantastic reviews. Obviously, joining a waiting list wouldn’t solve my problem of wanting to purchase an Ioniq 5 that day – or even that week. I was dejected, but I understood that maybe I had waited too long to get on the EV bandwagon.
What I didn’t understand was the straight-up deception that nearly every dealership’s website was using when advertising these vehicles.
Phrases like “on lot” or “on-premises” did not mean what they should mean. The new meaning of those phrases was essentially “out of luck.” How dealerships are able to get away with advertising vehicles that don’t have in their possession, I’ll never know.
Alright, no problem. It was clearly time to get creative.
Fasten your seatbelts. This is where the fun begins.
I decided I had to become a little more proactive in my quest. So I started visiting dealerships in person and trying to develop a relationship with the salesmen there. After all, if they saw with their own eyes that I was serious about buying an Ioniq 5, I might be able to purchase one sooner than later, waiting list be damned.
I collected enough business cards to make a small mountain on my desk.
Out of that pile of cards, three salesmen called or texted me with encouraging words within 24 hours. “It’s great to know that you’re serious about an Ioniq 5,” texted one salesman. “I’ll keep you in mind when the next allocation comes in,” said another.
The last salesman seemed the most invested. We went back and forth, and he assured me that my persistence and obvious interest would help – apparently, a lot of people on waiting lists are people who have an unknown level of interest. Some people just want to test drive their first electric vehicle, not necessarily buy one.
So after a few text messages back and forth, he told me the process. Their dealership does mark up the Ioniq 5 by $5,000 – but only for the upper trim levels, not the base model. I told him I was only interested in the base model, gave him a few preferred color choices, and was told to keep my phone near me for the next few weeks – these cars go fast.
Weeks went by. I was wondering if the waiting list was just too long to overcome.
I wasn’t giving up yet.
I scoured Reddit and found morsels of hope: a few dealerships have more allocations of Ioniq 5’s being delivered on a regular basis, so I would have a better chance at those locations. So I kept visiting dealerships, a few increasingly further away from my home base of San Diego.
With each visit, I became increasingly more focused – or desperate, depending on how you look at it – on buying this EV.
One particular salesman at a Los Angeles-area dealership seemed to be swayed by my persistence and seriousness about my quest, and he told me there was a way to move up the waiting list.
“Oh, that’s great!” I remember saying. “A deposit? A purchase agreement? I can put money down today.”
No, that wasn’t what he was talking about.
Instead, I was told that $3,000 would ensure I would get an Ioniq 5 from the dealership’s next allocation. “We don’t do markups here, so you’d be paying double that elsewhere. This way it helps me out and you move up the list.”
“Venmo, Cash App, whatever.”
He was asking for a bribe. I was flabbergasted.
There was zero chance I was on board with that – it didn’t matter if that dealership was in control of the last Ioniq 5 on Earth.
Despite that particular brazen attempt at selling me the electric vehicle of my dreams by a shady 20-something in a polo shirt, I was undeterred.
Rattled but undeterred.
Over the next few weeks, it was an endless cycle of scouring dealership websites, seeing “on lot,” rolling my eyes, calling the dealership despite my best judgment, and hanging up the phone after being told there were no Ioniq 5’s available.
In the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, one of the salesmen from my neverending pile of cards gave me a call. He sounded excited. In turn, I matched his enthusiasm. This was a good sign.
He told me that somebody with a reservation for a base model Ioniq 5 changed their mind, and I was the first person he called. To say I was overjoyed was an understatement – he asked if that particular color was fine with me (it was), and that was about it. My next step was simple – sign the purchase agreement and put a holding deposit down. I was told that the vehicle would arrive in the next few days, and I’d be behind the wheel of my very own EV that same day.
He sent over an email that contained the purchase agreement where I would print it, fill it out, and send it back to him. Then, I’d fill out the rest of the necessary paperwork when the vehicle was delivered to the dealership.
Everything finally fell into place. The search was over, right?
Of course it wasn’t.
I printed out the agreement and saw that a $5,000 market adjustment fee had been added to it – in handwriting. A market adjustment fee that he proudly told me his dealership doesn’t do, during our conversation no more than two weeks earlier.
When I asked him why there was an added fee since it was a base model and I was specifically told that his dealership wouldn’t do that, he responded flatly:
“Sorry, but that’s just the market today. My boss made that call and I can’t do anything about it. I’ll have no problem selling it to someone else if you’re not interested anymore. This is your best chance at getting one at this point. Everybody is adding markups.”
I blocked his number to prevent me from going on a profanity-riddled text rampage.
I was devastated.
My dream of EV ownership had quickly turned into a nightmare.
I realized I had to accept the reality: I wasn’t going to buy an electric vehicle anymore. The search was the same no matter what day of the week it was. Lies, deception, added fees – oh, and bribes. Can’t forget about that bribe.
It wasn’t worth the hassle, the frustration, the anger, or my time.
I was done.
What’s worse is that I couldn’t help but wonder how many people have succumbed to these tactics without even knowing it.
I wondered about the number of people who are taken advantage of each day by this horrible process – would that added markup fee just slip right by one of my parents, making them none the wiser? How many people don’t catch something like that?
I was fed up.
As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in my outrage. The FTC is reportedly going to become more involved in deceptive practices, according to a report by car enthusiast website Jalopnik. Here’s what they had to say:
“In June, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a set of rules prohibiting shady dealership sales tactics that obfuscate a car’s true cost to a potential buyer. The targets range from false advertising — like when a website lists a price that in actuality has a wealth of discounts attached to it that the customer may not qualify for — as well as surprise, last-minute fees for packages that some dealers assert are non-negotiable.”
So there may be hope for the future after all – whenever that may be.
Of course, it wasn’t surprising to see this headline on the same site a few weeks later:
“Surprise: Dealerships Don’t Like the FTC’s Rules to Make Car Buying More Transparent”
In fact, my experience has become so common that an altruistic soul on the Internet started Markups.org – a crowdsourced tool that shines a bright spotlight on all markups occurring at dealerships around the United States. It’s an invaluable tool when it comes to sifting through all the bad apples and deceptive practices.
Anyway, after being summarily beaten down from the whole ordeal, I took stock of my situation and decided on my next step.
In the end, I decided I still needed a new vehicle. After all, my current vehicle was out of warranty and was due for new tires, brakes, and a thorough inspection. But it was also in great shape, and I wanted to take advantage of its current value, which was just a few thousand dollars below what I had paid for it.
I texted – texted! – my contact at Palm Springs Hyundai and asked if they had any new Tucsons on the lot.
They had one. One Tucson. It was physically there.
I told him I’d buy it.
Over the next 24 hours or so, we exchanged texts back and forth, and I’d supply him with any information he needed. It was breezy yet professional.
I made the drive to Palm Springs the very next day. When I arrived at their beautiful, modern dealership, I took a seat at one of their high-top tables near the entrance and worked out the rest of the transaction that we couldn’t do over the phone, such as my payoff information from my previous auto loan.
I signed a few papers that were brought to me in between checking Twitter and responding to texts. To be honest, it was as casual and easy as participating in a fantasy football draft.
After that was taken care of, I was led to the finance office.
Inside that finance office, there were no unnecessary add-ons aggressively suggested to me. There was no high-pressure selling. The finance manager was a joy to work with, and I was out of there in about 10 minutes as I couldn’t help but think this is how every dealer should operate.
And before I knew it, I was driving home in a new crossover SUV – gasoline-powered – that had even more options and features than the electric vehicle I was originally lusting after.
Well, except that one feature, of course.
Looking back, I was most excited about the prospect of owning an electric vehicle before I started this whole process – when it was just an idea in my head.
To be honest, my excitement level decreased every step of the way until I became jaded, angry, and frustrated. It wasn’t fun; it was just a reminder of everything wrong with the current electric-vehicle world.
Let my ordeal be considered a warning to anybody out there who is considering buying an EV:
There may be markups.
There may be bribes.
There may be questionable dealer sales tactics.
There will be frustration.
If you can handle those roadblocks – and have an unnatural amount of patience running through your veins – then you’ll be golden.
As for me, I now can enjoy my new gasoline-powered vehicle without being subject to the well-known downsides of EV ownership – anxiety range, varying charging rates, and speeds, and an astronomically high monthly car payment, to name just a few. It even feels like the best time to buy has already passed, as manufacturers like Ford are slated to increase the prices of their EV offerings by thousands of dollars starting next model year.
I’m still hopeful that I’ll be an EV owner at some point.
But as for now, gas stations – and peace of mind – are in my future once again.
And that’s fine by me.
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