Let’s say you want to test drive a Bugatti Veyron which is near $2 million in price. I assume there would be a lot of people who would love to pretend they are in the market to buy one just to get a test drive in one.
Do dealers of such expensive cars require you to prove you can actually afford to buy one and are a legitimate customer before letting you in the store?
Cars like that are custom ordered, you generally don’t buy them off the lot, so in many cases there is nothing to test drive in the first place.
As you go down in price, maybe to something like a Porsche GT2RS for $250,000, you might find a dealer that has one unsold in their showroom. It’d be exceptionally rare for them to allow a test drive for a walk-in customer - the eventual buyer paying that much for the car expects it to come with delivery miles only. If pressed and you seemed credible they’d probably offer you a test drive in a lower end and/or used model.
Below maybe $120,000 test drives are pretty common. But there’s no law that a dealer has to offer one - if they don’t think you’re a serious buyer they’ll just find a way to politely say no, they won’t ask you to prove your income or anything.
If you’re a celebrity or you’ve purchased expensive cars from the dealership before, things are different and they might decide to let you drive whatever you want if they think you’re going to throw some money around.
Bugatti is kind of a special case - I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a demonstrator car that they ship around the country to show off to celebrities and people who have put down a deposit, etc.
Oh…there are definitely car dealers with these in their showroom. I live in Chicago and there is a dealer in the Gold Coast with a dozen such cars on display in their showroom. I have walked past them many times and stood at the window drooling.
I also cannot imagine buying a $2 million car without driving it first. But then I am not nearly wealthy enough to buy such cars so maybe those people buy such cars without ever driving it first.
Our local McLaren/Bentley/Lamborghini dealer is just down the road from me, and walking distance from my usual pharmacy, so I like to wander in when waiting on a script. They are very friendly and quite happy to have random punters who clearly have no chance of ever buying a car looking. I asked about the balance between “impulse, buy off the floor” and custom build and wait for delivery. The answer was that it was about 50/50. Waiting 6 months versus drive away makes a big difference. The floor has a mix of new and used cars (used are mostly on consignment from their owners) and a few used cars of marques they don’t sell (Aston Martin DBS superleggera in one corner) that may have been traded. They had a McLaren Senna on consignment.
They actually seem to have a 720S demonstrator. But I think it travels the country to other dealerships in the company, so you couldn’t drive it as a walk-in.
I very much doubt that asking for a test drive is the start of negotiations. You might expect to be offered one when it is clear you are serious and already some way down the negotiation. It is also clear that they build relationships with enthusiast owners. For many, cars are leased, and it becomes, not so much a purchase, as an exchange of one car for another, with maybe small adjustments to the finance package. You might go for a very long time, with many exotic cars this way.
Years ago I decided I wanted to test drive a Smart car, and the only one in the city I lived in at the time was at our only high-end importer (think: $95k BMWs and such, not $400k Lambourghinis). I drove up in my junker, stepped out in my jeans & tshirt, and told the sales guy that I merely wanted to test drive the Smart car simply for my curiosity, had no intention of buying one, could he pretty-please let me do it just for the lulz, if he was in a good mood that afternoon, etc.The salesman was exceptionally nice and polite, handed me the keys, told me to take it out onto the highway so I could open up the accelerator, and he’d be available if I had any questions. 20 minutes later I returned, thanked the guy for his time. With a smile on his face, he thanked me for my patronage, said that if I ever changed my mind and decided to buy one, I knew where to find him.
An overall surprisingly positive experience. Although I imagine if I’d come in asking about test-driving a $95k BMW and not a $23k Smart car, the experience might have been different.
If you can afford a car like that and are not a sports star or drug dealer you probably have the business skills to expect to negotiate anything. The margins on luxury goods are huge. Of course there is room to negotiate. Dealers might be hoping to sell a car a month. Cutting a deal will mean an extraordinary difference to their bottom line.
Even on a custom build you would expect serious negotiations. Not floor mats. How about you throw in the optional carbon fibre body pack? You can typically option another 25% onto the base price. The margin on those options is huge. The dealer can take a serious cut in the margin on those and still be well ahead. No different to any new car really. But when the carbon pack, sports exhaust, carbon brakes etc can be heading well past $50k on the base price, the incentive to cut deals is big. Many people consider it sport. It is the slubs that have no idea that the dealer is milking them that pay list.
No different to any car dealer, a floor model is eating money big time just sitting there. Closing a sale can mean major cash flow. Just because it is big money luxury goods doesn’t change the business model. They just like to give the illusion that rich people find it rude to negotiate. Which is a good trick if you can get away with it.
Hah! Around 1990 a local car dealer called “The Toy Store” had a used Ferrari 328 for sale. A friend and I decided to check it out at lunch. We drove there in my 1 year old BMW 325i. We were wearing nice clothes, The Ferrari was sitting in the front window and we pulled right up to it. The salesman was standing there watching us get out of the car and stroll in. We walked around the car a bit, checking her out, as we casually talked to the salesman about the mileage, warrenty, etc. I went to open the driver’s door and it was locked. The salesman just stood there with his arms folded and never even offered to unlock the door. We didn’t fool him one bit.
And that’s exactly why he did it. Even if you can’t afford it, and he knows it, you might have rich friends/colleagues/bosses to whom you could recommend “that place with the really nice salesguy.” Sales is all about chumming the water.
Also, as we’ve gotten less formal in our dress and mannerisms it’s probably a little harder to tell the difference between folks who can and cannot afford your expensive product. Here in Bellevue and Seattle for example there are likely a large number of upper middle class or just plain rich tech industry folks who are just milling around in shorts and t-shirts. You could miss out on some real sales if you got snooty about appearance around here. I doubt any of the expensive dealerships are making those sort of mistakes anymore.
But your point about the network effects is on target too. I actually keep this in mind as a hiring manager at my software company. Even for candidates who clearly aren’t at the caliber we need for hiring, I take the time to answer their questions and create a positive impression of the company, both as a place to work and against the product that we sell (it’s developer tool adjacent, so developer advocates for it in other companies is useful in our sales pipeline).
The cars you describe might be at the dealership, but they’ll be in the showroom, behind the big glass walls. It’s not that they can’t get them out for a test drive, but it’s a big production, and will def give them time to check you out before you get the keys. And at that level the salesman is going along.
When the Tesla R was brand new I went to check them out. Test drive was available, but the salesman did the driving. Honestly, I was pretty accustomed to high acceleration as my Dad is a car guy. 12-cylinder Jag, Mitsubishi 3000, that sort of lower level vroom cars. But when we got into the Tesla the salesman asked me to turn on the stereo, then he hit the accelerator. I couldn’t lift my head off the headrest, much less reach the stereo buttons. I’m certain I would have cracked it if I’d done the first drive on my own.
A key to all this is what you drive up in. They knew my Oldsmobile - though a “luxury” car - was not in the same category. He probably only took me for the ride because I was young and cute at the time.
OTOH, I remember reading a story around the time of Mike Tyson’s first bankruptcy. He was driving from New York to Baltimore, and got sick and tired of having to change gears. So he pulled into a Pennsylvania car dealership and traded his [super high-end sports car] for an automatic Jaguar.
Wish I could recall the details. I want to say it was a Ferrari F-50. Whatever it was, that dealership had one on the lot for however long it took to sell.
Nowhere near the same range but when the Cadillac CTS first came out I was working for GM as a marketing support agent in a call center. Generally we’d get a crack at the cars first but the CTS didn’t get into our pool cars until later (although I guarantee you I drove an H2 before you did!) so I stopped in at a local dealership. Told them I could in no way afford the car but explained what job I did (and our department was considered a pre-sales group and we funneled interested people to the dealerships) and asked if there was a sales person around who’d like to accompany me on a test drive and in exchange I would give him or her the lowdown on the specs for the car, which nobody had yet. An older gentleman obliged me, I took him on what was probably a bit of a hair raising test drive and answered all his questions about the car. I like to think he had a very nice holiday season from the commissions that resulted from his new expertise. That was a bunch of fun.