Hooniverse Asks: What's the Worst Car Maker Website Build and Price Tool You've Ever Used?

The Web has reinvented the car-buying experience. Where you once had to go to dealer after dealer appraising each’s inventory and perhaps settling on less than the ideal choice, you can now build your car on a web site, see the MSRP of that construct, and then see which dealer in your area has a close approximation of your dream machine. These are truly wonderful times in which we live.
Except when it’s not. Some of the build and price sites are diabolical in their inscrutability, their lack of logical progression and limited description, or, perhaps worst of all, their use of Flash. All you want to do is dream, and what some manufacturers give you is nothing but nightmares.
Has that been your experience in general, and has there been a particularly egregious example that may have gone to far as to turn you off an entire brand? What is the worst automotive build and price site you’ve ever used?
Image: Lancia

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  1. Kiefmo Avatar

    All of them! But it isn’t actually the fault of the website. It’s the fault of the manufacturers who want to package everything. Want the kickass audio system? Sorry, you have to upgrade to the Premium model for that, which includes a mandatory automatic trans and sunroof, whether you want them or not.
    Buying a truck and want the biggest engine, but want a regular cab/short bed? Sorry, that’s only available in regular cab/long bed. Don’t even ask us about axle ratios anymore. If you want different from what’s packaged with your selection, we’ll be happy to sell them to you and install them for you at a cost of many dollars that aren’t rolled up into your loan!
    I guess I’m answering a different question from what was asked — “What’s the worst example of forced packaging on a new vehicle?”
    I’ll answer the actual question now.

    1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

      To be fair to the manufacturers, when they did have a checklist, there were over 6 million configurations of the Ford Ranger.
      It wasn’t just the manufacturers begging for the rise of “mas-customization” it was the dealers. How can you be sure to stock what the people want? If you are competing on price with another dealer and theirs doesn’t have the bedliner, and the customer sees no value in it, you have to eat that money, or convince a customer of its value.
      When cars are built with limited options, dealers are more comfortable with their inventory and customers can truly compare the deals they are getting.

      1. Cameron Vanderhorst Avatar
        Cameron Vanderhorst

        So what you’re saying is, we have another reason to dislike dealerships and their outdated business model?

        1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

          Which part?
          The fact that you can drive in, buy a car and drive off in it that day?
          If you want to order it the way you want, you would wait 6 weeks for domestic and up to 4 months for imports.
          Also, as what happened frequently for GM dealers who couldn’t remember what was standard on 1SA vs 1SB, etc. dealers would forget to order cruise control, A/C, automatic transmissions, etc. If they can’t get it 100%, I can’t imagine the headache the customers who didn’t read (and there are a lot of them) would be when they got a car and forgot an item they wanted.
          Dealers take a lot of shit for the tactics they employ, and deservedly so. But the risk they put up with for inventory and floorplanning 200+ vehicles should not be taken lightly.
          It was bad for business (for manufacturers, dealers, banks and customers) to have too many optional items for cars. Packaging makes sense.

          1. theskitter Avatar

            Fair points.
            One approach would be to start with the loaded model and have custom orders deselect, with a YES and NO list.

          2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

            Bundling makes sense over 99% of the time.
            99% of cars are sold from dealer stock. Those buyers accept that what is available might not be 100% of what they want, but have conceded before they ever set foot on the lot.
            For someone willing to order and wait, compromise is less palatable. If I can get X and I can get Y, I should be able to get X and Y together. If I can get Y with Z, I should be able to get Y without Z (assuming they are not related systems, like a back-up camera and an infotainment screen).
            This is the frustration as a buyer, but most will suck it up and just order the closest they can to what they want.
            A fraction of a percent of potential buyers will walk away.
            The manufacturer has no incentive to cater to that fraction of a percent, when the administrative costs associated with a truly custom order aren’t offset by the profit.
            I understand why I can’t, but I still want to be able to order a vehicle with options a la carte.

          3. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

            And you’re not wrong in those feelings. If you are building/buying a new house, you want to have input as well. Both are big ticket items with daily life-impact.
            I get it.
            What I argue is that the model simply can’t work like that. It’s been proven.
            If you had a loaded version of the car as a demo and someone orders, patiently waits for and then receives a lesser version, who’s to say that the model they get will feel and drive the same way? A loaded truck for example may have off-road suspension a significant difference from standard. How many models does a dealer then need to keep in stock for the average Joe to get a feel for a car?
            The other issue you run into is interoperability issues.
            For example, the 2003-08 Toyota Matrix in XRS form had two volume packages (a third had Nav, but it was rare) one with a sunroof, the other with big wheels. Toyota strictly forbid dealers from putting bigger rims on the sunroof cars, so they were kept with 17″ instead of the 18″ upgrade. Customers were incensed. They could not figure out why Toyota wouldn’t have a “fully loaded” option.
            After selling many more sunroof cars, we started to see strange problems when they came in. Big U-shaped cracks in the windshield. When we called our regional rep about the issue, and told him the car was still stock, he asked us to look at the wheels and see if they looked like they had the same mileage as the car. Turns out many times, these guys were taking the 17s off, putting on 18-20″ rims and the reduced sidewall, combined with the less rigid roof was flexing the windshield. It had been a known issue for Toyota, so they never allowed anything over 17s on the sunroof cars.
            So in summary, many times it’s because the business model is most profitable, less-confusing and simpler for everyone involved if the packaging model is followed, but sometimes it may be because of interoperability issues.

          4. Kiefmo Avatar

            This is what I was getting at. I don’t care what the dealership orders to keep in stock to sell to people who want a new car *right now*. They’re free to have their order packages if it helps them do their jobs.
            But I am willing to wait for exactly what I want, and I used to have that option. All of this optioning is handled by databases and software, not by a bunch of underpaid flunkies locked in a windowless room, so I don’t understand why adding complexity hurts anything but my willingness to buy a new car.

          5. Sjalabais Avatar

            Waiting for your own individual build is very common outside of the US. Considering that hardly any place on earth has cars as cheap as the US, a normal household’s nr2 biggest investment after housing also ought to be a perfect fit.

          6. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

            It’s a different buyer though. Americans are extremely impatient when it comes to car buying.
            I’m not saying there shouldn’t be custom orders. The only car I ever bought new I ordered myself and waited for 8 weeks to get it.
            That being said. We are outliers here in the universe of Hoon and relying on my experience in the business, most customers are happy to drive the car they eventually purchase prior to making that tens of thousands of dollars commitment.

          7. Tiberiuswise Avatar

            I’d short sell the stock of any manufacturer that catered too closely to lunatics like us.
            Also, there is no end to how badly a lot of customers suck at being customers. How many times has someone insisted that they want an oddly optioned car and then later complained that they couldn’t hear the non-premium radio with the windows down, didn’t realize how hot it would be without A/C or eventually couldn’t re-sell it with a crappy radio, no A/C, and leather seats.

          8. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

            There was a TSB for the rear windows for the Highlander when the first generation was on the market.
            If you drove above 35 mph with only the rear two windows open, the buffeting is so loud and unbearable it is amazing.
            I couldn’t figure out why it would even be an issue, I mean who drives around with your rear windows more than halfway down with your front windows closed?
            But if an owner complained there was a fix. It was a sticker that went on the visor. It said that if you were opening the rear windows to first at least crack the front windows.
            I kid you not.

          9. Sjalabais Avatar

            Stickers like that, together with warnings that coffee is, indeed, hot, have done more harm to the image of the US than a lot of realpolitik ever could do.
            I agree about the impatience of the US car buyer, from what I’ve read at least. It is utterly fascinating. Even buying a used car cheap is planned a lot around here. I waited two months to get the 25% discount I asked for on my current Honda, confident that the private seller wouldn’t get a better offer. People I know who buy new are waiting up to a year on popular cars. Then again, I was born into a country where a downpayment for the Trabant 601 lead to receiving the vehicle no less than 18 years later at the worst…
            Come to think of it, I prefer the US model.

          10. Citric Avatar

            Oooh, I know why you would do that, if you were carrying a big unwieldy object and it was just slightly too big for the area. So you might roll down the rear windows so you can fit the exercise bike you’re transporting in the car without worrying about breaking the glass.
            Hyundai Elantra GTs also have crazy buffeting if only the rear windows are open, as it turns out.

          11. Krautwursten Avatar

            I’d rather wait a couple weeks for a car than be forced to buy some ridiculous package full of stuff I don’t want for the one thing I do. I mean, it’s not like buying a car is an impulse decision like picking a movie at the theater. At least it shouldn’t be. Who the hell gets up in the morning thinking “okay, tonight I want a different car standing in my driveway”?

          12. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

            More people than you would think. They go in to take a look at a car that might interest them and they leave in that car. We had shopping carts available at our dealership so that people could clean out their old car while waiting for the new car to be prepped, cleaned and finished with paperwork.

          13. smalleyxb122 Avatar

            If the crap that you don’t want is less than the incentives that you are eligible for by choosing from dealer inventory, you might as well take the free extra shit*. You’re gonna be paying MSRP for the one you order. If you’re “paying me” to take the floor mats that I don’t really want, I’ll take ’em. Plus, I get to have my new car right away.
            *as long as the extra shit isn’t an “upgrade” to what you’d prefer e.g. automatic instead of manual.

          14. mdharrell Avatar

            “Who the hell gets up in the morning thinking ‘okay, tonight I want a different car standing in my driveway’?”

          15. JayP Avatar


  2. Kiefmo Avatar

    I gotta say, nissan.com is pretty terrible. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was actually run by a DNS squatter who tried to extort Nissan motors into paying an exorbitant amount of money for the site.
    Then again, nissanusa.com isn’t that much more better.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      If I remember correctly, the “squatter” owned the domain name first, and, Nissan is his name (Uzi Nissan). But yeah, he acts like a total d-bag.

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        Yeah, I call him a squatter because he isn’t using the website as anything but a platform for Internet-finger-wagging at Nissan motors and spammy-looking ads. He doesn’t appear to have anything to sell, and the general public only thinks vehicles when they think Nissan.
        If the IETF could have an Internet Police version, B.S. like that would not be stood for.

        1. dukeisduke Avatar

          He does computer repair, but yeah, it’s probably time to give up the domain name.

          1. Kiefmo Avatar

            Odds are Nissan offered him good money for the domain name and he stubbornly sat on it, and only then did Nissan sue him. I’m not in favor of him being *forced* to give it up if he won’t budge, because I’m all about sticking it to the man, but in this case, he shoulda took his money and runned… over to nissan-computer.com, which makes more sense for his business anyway.

  3. Hermann Avatar

    Back around 2006~2007, Aston Martin had a 3D configurator that required a very heavy plugin to be installed.
    It rendered horribly and it never worked right. The colors were weird and every change you made to the options took way too long to load, if they even loaded.
    Whenever you had conflicting options like checking Alcantara Seats and then you wanted heated seats, it prompted an error of conflicting options and instead of asking if you wanted it to change the conflict for you, it just prompted the error saying you can’t have Heated Alcantara Seats. You had to scroll back up and find one of the seat options that didn’t conflict with it.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    I remember that according to the GM Silverado configurator in 2011, my truck shouldn’t exist. The limited slip was not available with a V-6. My window sticker says otherwise.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      One does wonder what a dealership with clout can push through that isn’t a standard available option configuration.
      If I want a base work truck with the smallest engine and the tallest diff ratio, I should be able to get that! Maybe I’m never towing, only hauling, and it’s mostly highway, so why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy max empeegees!?

    2. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      I would wager that many configurators are completely separate from the actual ordering guides.

  5. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    I’m old enough to remember when Dodge was http://www.4ADodge.com
    I have seen numerous bad configurators.
    I still hate Carsdirect.com for their as they don’t limit the options to the way you would find the cars on the lots. It’s a severe oversight as it makes certain customers feel like a dealer can get them exactly what they want. Given it’s not a manufacturer though.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Yep, and they had 4AJeep.com, too.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    Aston Martin. Every time I use their configurator I wind up with drool all over my keyboard. I’m tired of buying new keyboards because of their configurator.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      You need one of these:

  7. mdharrell Avatar

    Initially I had such high hopes….

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I could see them mailing you a box of blank punch cards, which you would use to program the configuration on an IBM punch card machine, and then mail back.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        That’s probably too complicated. My limited grasp of French leads me to believe they prefer simply to do business by word of mouth. Sort of like Bristol.

        1. dukeisduke Avatar

          The drawing doesn’t do it justice.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            Nothing does.

        2. Vairship Avatar

          Well, 125cm3 isn’t much interior room but it offers 2 temperature settings, decapitates you entirely automatically and offers “2 places – 1 coffee”. There’s probably a YouTube video about that…
          They guarantee it until 1am and you’d better have large credit. Plus their catalog is gratuitous and demanding.
          I trust this translation has been helpful?

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            I don’t know about helpful, but I won’t call it misleading.

  8. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    Living in the country I had dial-up for many years, so all that flash was impossible to run. All I wanted to get was a pdf brochure and many sites would not present a simple link. So put me in the group the group that hates them all.

  9. Sjalabais Avatar

    In general, every configurator that hides prices is annoying! A proper pricelist should be an essential item accessible at all steps along the way. I also dislike configurators that force you to follow a certain prescripted way of optioning the car (can’t have a look at interior choices before paint colour is chosen etc).
    Also, does the Lancia above have different colours on the front and rear doors?

  10. marmer Avatar

    Audi used to be way worse than Mercedes and BMW, maybe it’s better now. I wasn’t too impressed with Bugatti either. The RR and Bentley ones are sort of fun. When I ordered my Audi I was told six weeks but it took six months. I don’t know anyone who waited longer for a special order. And I totally get the sunroof and big wheels issue. I’ve heard of that before; it adds enough weight to the top of the car that some manufacturers feel that it makes the car too top-heavy if large wheels are supplied.

    1. JayP Avatar

      I waited 3 months for my special order A4tqm in ’97. But I was talked into the sunroof and 6 disk changer.
      But I’d go to the dealer and prowl the lot for cars that were really, really close to what I ordered and blamed the dealer for screwing me. They weren’t and they didn’t.
      But those were good times.

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