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Wow... and it's a dealership auctioning the car off. Interesting. The car for auction is based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA. The contact person listed is Scott Bell. A simple Google search found an article identifying Scott Bell as a sales consultant for Tuscaloosa Toyota.
I've written to them asking for their thoughts on the ethics of auctioning their inventory off on eBay while thousands of loyal and patient Toyota customers around the world continue to wait for Prius deliveries. The auction description indicates that the dealership will be closed this week (that's the Christmas spirit, eh?), so their response, if any, will be slow to arrive. I'm curious to learn what Toyota USA thinks of this so I'll be contacting them tomorrow morning as well.
If anyone else is interested in asking their own questions, you can find contact info for Tuscaloosa Toyota at:

http://www.tuscaloosatoyota.com

And Toyota USA's phone is 800-GO-TOYOTA

Drive happy,
Moo :)
 

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There is a difference between an individual doing this and a dealer. Dealer is there to serve customers of Toyota, and I am certain there is someone who has been waiting for a car like this and would be happy to get it at MSRP. I believe that Toyota has indicated that they do not like dealers charging extra for these cars, and most don't. This dealer seems a bit unscruplous and everyone should complain to Toyota, so they can stop this practice from spreading and damaging their image.

An individual, on the other hand, is in it for himself. If he can turn a tidy profit on a high-demand car, good for him. He is not harming Toyota in any way because he is not their sales agent. This is capitalism at work, like it or not.
 

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This is bad and I think Toyota is in the middle, or in other words, between a rock and a hard place. From what I've heard in the past, at first Toyota lost money on the Prius because it wanted to make this remarkable car affordable. Affordable as it was in my opinion, many potentilal buyers could not buy it. Then I heard and read that later, in 2001 and 2 and 3 the profit began growing to where it became more like a successful enterprise for Toyota. I don't think Toyota appreciates the fact that it held down profits to interest potential buyers only to have some dealers now drawing the profits Toyota could have been making. There really isn't much Toyota can do about it, because it wants as many dealerships it can get. More dealers equal more sales. Now that's what I call a rock and a hard place.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I support capitalism, in most cases, although I have experienced it at its worst: price gouging on supplies, etc., after natural disasters. No, I am not comparing the Prius shortage to natural disasters. I am just pointing out the fact that pure capitalism is not always the best arrangement.

In this case, it is bad PR for Toyota. They are introducing a new(er) technology and product and I would expect that they want to have it succeed. Having a dealer hoard a car (they could surely move it to another dealer who has a waiting list, or make some other arrangement), and then sell it to the highest bidder is PR at its worst.

I wonder why the winner of the auction wants it that much, but that is their choice. To each his own, I guess.
 

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Toyota doesn't make it easy, but you can find an e-mail link by navigating like this: toyota.com>FAQ>corporate information>contact information>e-mail toyota.

Here's an actual link (I think):

http://toyota.custhelp.com

Their 800 number transferred me to the Toyota Customer Assistance Center, but I don't have time to wait on hold right now.

I hope you will all take a minute to write to Toyota, USA and to Tuscaloosa Toyota and let them know what you think about this eBay auction--positive or negative.

Drive happy,
Moo :)
 

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Thanks for the link-it worked fine on my computer.
I am in total agreement with the dealer/private party differentiation. What this salesman is doing is definately outrageous and unethical. Though no lawyer, I can't help but wonder of the legality of this as well.
Assuming this particular dealership is having a tough time moving their allocation, I find it hard to believe other dealers in the Southeast wouldn't be interested in this car for customers on their respective waiting lists.
As upset as I am, I would be furious if this car were outfitted with my preferenced options package and color!!
I'll let you know Toyota's response when I receive it.
 

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veggivet said:
Assuming this particular dealership is having a tough time moving their allocation, I find it hard to believe other dealers in the Southeast wouldn't be interested in this car for customers on their respective waiting lists.
For everyone complaining about the final price of the auctions, stop and look at the starting bid price and think about what MSRP is for a #9 Prius. If they were trying to stick it to someone, do you really think the auction would have started at $15,900? Ebay is an open market at work. The dealership isn't asking anyone to pay more for that Prius -- the people who bid this thing to $30k (or more) are doing it because they choose to pay that much. If you're a dealer, and somebody comes to you offering you thousands over MSRP, I'd call you crazy to not take it. "A fool and their money..."

IMHO, Scott Bell & Tuscaloosa Toyota are just being smart. Their first 2004 sat on the lot for more than a week without drawing much interest. :shock: (I saw it sitting on the lot the first Sunday it was there, and spotted it driving by a few other times.) Scott thought to try Ebay, thinking about his previous Prius customers, and how most of us already know at least as much as he does about the car. The rest is history; they've managed to sell every Prius coming their way since then. Some is probably from the free publicity from the listing, thanks to everyone who's up in arms over the listing. Still others are people finally making it to the T's in the national dealer listing. And you know what? I found all this out last week sitting in his office chatting after missing a test drive by three hours. Sold & delivered the last car on hand earlier in the afternoon. :( He never once said anything to me about asking more than MSRP.

FWIW, Tuscaloosa, AL is a college town (University of Alabama) of about 80,000 people. The handful of older Priuses in town seem to be driven by students & faculty, and not many others. If you lived here, you'd understand the lack of demand for the car locally; the buying audience who "gets it" is either poor (students) or very small (faculty). That's my impression, at least.

Flame on, but even not already knowing Mr. Bell and the folks at Tuscaloosa Toyota (who sold me my '02), I'd think Ebay is a smart move for any dealer that the '04 hounds haven't found yet.
 

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Is it legal---Yes

Is it Ethical---Not in my opinion

Is it the 'Free Market" at work---It could be interpreted that way, but it's sure a twisted version. Once a manufacturer has established a system of marketing a product that's agreed upon and generally followed by all parties involved for both the sake of the customer and ultimately the sake of the dealerships as a whole and someone goes out and corrupts that system it can be damaging to both the buyer and seller.

Imagine the widespread dissatisfaction and ultimate potential harm to the Prius name as well as the Toyota name if this kind of 'highest bidder' mentality took hold. Initially cars would sell well, but at what ultimate cost? Thus, the ethical stance I take. It's legal, and will benefit some, in the short term, let's hope most others are more far sighted.
--evan
 

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award said:
Flame on, but even not already knowing Mr. Bell and the folks at Tuscaloosa Toyota (who sold me my '02), I'd think Ebay is a smart move for any dealer that the '04 hounds haven't found yet.
Award,
With all due respect, I think your post is disengenuous. The '04 hounds wouldn't be hard for your friend Mr. Bell to find, should he truly desire such a remedy to his remarkably unique situation. Also, as most people here are well aware, since the auction is protected by an undisclosed minimum price reserve, the starting bid is meaningless when measuring Mr. Bell's ethics or intentions. Likewise, your position that the eBay auction is really just clever advertising which has resulted in the rest of Tuscaloosa Toyota's unloved Prius inventory finally being sold is equally moot. After all, it is stated in the auction description that the vehicle is subject to prior sale, so he could easily cancel the eBay bidding and sell the car to one of the local customers he is now turning away. Or he could contact another dealer just about anywhere in the region, or country, where anxious buyers are ready and waiting to make a deal. In fact, a simple message posted here would likely find him a buyer by tomorrow morning.
This is not a flame, it is, IMO, a reasoned response to an insincere post. Mr. Bell may be your friend, he may even be you, but one thing I believe he is NOT, is a simple, small town Toyota dealer innocently trying to make an honest buck. To claim otherwise is naive, at best.
Drive happy,
Moo :)
 

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Just because a car sits on a lot for a week without drawing much attention doesn't necessarily mean no one was interested in it. Perhaps those who did inquire about it didnt want to pay over MSRP. Who knows? Whatshisname :roll:
 

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It is painfully obvious that Toyota's distribution system does not do an effective job of getting customers the cars they want in a timely manner. It's also apparent that there's a vocal bunch of folks here that dislike the idea of any dealer trying to cast a wider net for customers (i.e. Ebay) who want a particular car.

Preferencing doesn't work, and it sure looks to me like we already have "widespread dissatisfaction" -- pick any number of threads here or elsewhere for evidence of that.

Ebay is unpopular for at least some part of the customer base, but not all -- otherwise it would not have been bid up to $30k.

Don't get me wrong: I never said I liked the Toyota distribution system or the Ebay approach. On the other hand, giving away guaranteed sales is not going to pay the bills and keep you in business. What else would you propose to get the right cars to the right people? If you've got a better idea, tell Toyota.
 

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At the very least, Toyota could ship Prii to those dealers who have customers on waiting lists, and not to those who have none. I assume this dealer had no one on his waiting list. If he did and that person found out about the auction...how strict are the gun laws down there?
 

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internet ordering

award said:
It is painfully obvious that Toyota's distribution system does not do an effective job of getting customers the cars they want in a timely manner. It's also apparent that there's a vocal bunch of folks here that dislike the idea of any dealer trying to cast a wider net for customers (i.e. Ebay) who want a particular car.

Preferencing doesn't work, and it sure looks to me like we already have "widespread dissatisfaction" -- pick any number of threads here or elsewhere for evidence of that.

Ebay is unpopular for at least some part of the customer base, but not all -- otherwise it would not have been bid up to $30k.

Don't get me wrong: I never said I liked the Toyota distribution system or the Ebay approach. On the other hand, giving away guaranteed sales is not going to pay the bills and keep you in business. What else would you propose to get the right cars to the right people? If you've got a better idea, tell Toyota.

I take it that you got your 2002
sometime in 2003, when the 2002s
came off of the internet ordering
system and were available off of
dealer lots...

For the rollout of the 2001 and 2002
Prius, Toyota used an internet
ordering system. You placed your
order off of a Toyota web page, and
then you went to your dealer who
finalized your order on another web
page. Then you waited about 4 months,
and your specific car was sent to
your dealer. Prius were only sent
to dealerships that had an order for
one, and only with the color/options
that were ordered at that dealership.

there were the occasional "dropped"
Prius, where the person who ordered
their Prius decided to not get it
when it finally arrived (money
reasons, got another car already,
whatever...), so usually the dropped
car was offered to the next person(s)
down on that dealer's list. If it
wasn't sold within a short time, it
was sent back to regional to reallocate
to a dealership that had an order
for that car.

there was some abuse of the system,
with some dealers ordering cars for
their family members and the like
to have extra cars on the lot for
a markup, or dealers selling your
ordered car out from under you to
someone willing to pay over MSRP,
but Toyota really frowned on it
when a complaint was filed with
Toyota customer service...

However, you knew that the car that
you wanted was coming your way, and
the timeframe given when ordering
was usually accurate. Depending
on deliveries (where you were in
the country), you could predict when
your car would come in, and usually
people that ordered after you didn't
get a car before you (unless they
got lucky with a dropped order...)

Toyota stopped the internet ordering
system for the Prius in Jan. 2002, to
give it to the Rav4 EV rollout. Then,
the Prius became a regular off-the-lot
purchaseable car, distributed through
the regular regional allocation
system. (This is how the 2004s are
being done now, too...) It's really
hit or miss to find the car that you
want.

(Toyota resurrected the internet
ordering system for the 2004 Prius
Pioneer orders (people who bought
their classic Prius that way), but
then Toyota didn't actually use the
internet ordering system for much
other than marketing purposes ("look
how many previous owners want the
new 2004 Prius!"), and just sent
out the first 2004 Prius shipments
willy-nilly through the allocation
system, and several dealerships that
did not have Pioneer orders or TRAC
program cars received 2004 Prius to
sell off-the-lot, while other dealerships
had a long waiting list of Pioneer
orders (and may or may not have gotten
cars to match those Pioneer orders)...)

Toyota - please bring back the OLD
internet ordering system from the
2001-2002 Prius, and actually ship
the cars where you've got the orders
(unlike the Pioneer shipments)!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
well.....$30K was the final number.

I hope he or she is happy with the deal, I know the dealer is :roll:
 

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moocatdog said:
Toyota doesn't make it easy, but you can find an e-mail link by navigating like this: toyota.com>FAQ>corporate information>contact information>e-mail toyota.

Here's an actual link (I think):

http://toyota.custhelp.com

Their 800 number transferred me to the Toyota Customer Assistance Center, but I don't have time to wait on hold right now.

I hope you will all take a minute to write to Toyota, USA and to Tuscaloosa Toyota and let them know what you think about this eBay auction--positive or negative.

Drive happy,
Moo :)
Well, I posted this on December 22nd. Not surprisingly the nice foks down at Tuscaloosa Toyota have yet to return my e-mail. I am disappointed that Toyota USA has neglected to respond as well. I've been very busy of late but as soon as things settle down I plan on calling their customer service center to see if I can get a human to talk to me. Did anyone else call or write to either place? If so, did you receive a response?
Drive happy,
Moo :)
 

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I e-mailed Toyota customer service soon after the eBay auction was ended to let them know that one of their dealers had just sold a Prius for 30k, as I as well as many other customers were patiently waiting for their dealer's allocation to arrive each month. My exact words included, "do you know...do you care?"

After a few days ( it was around the holidays ) I got a pretty standard, 'thank you for contacting us and we have no control over how are independent franchises disposes of their inventory' response. They suggested I continue to work with my local dealer; I've been tops on the list for 6 weeks now.

At this point, after reviewing the posts on this site quoting mileage in the low to mid 40's, I'm sticking with my MINI for this winter ( fine with snows on although it kills me to have it covered in salt ), and am seriously considering the Lexus 400 h when it arrives later this year. I think its driver comfort level will be much better than the Prius, unless Toyota really upgrades the seat options. I'm hoping the mileage will be up in the mid 30's. I also think that if and when I order, not preference, my Lexus, it will come in exactly as ordered, and will take less than 6 months! I don't mind paying the extra $s.
 
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