Pre-Orders Were Bad for Gamers, Are Worse for Drivers

We’ve come a long way. Many people put a lot of trust in automakers these days. I can’t recall another time when getting a car was as easy as buying groceries or flowers online. This, unfortunately, has led to a situation that ultimately impacts drivers in a negative way: pre-orders that turn into long delivery times for new cars and waiting lists. How come we’ve collectively agreed to wait years for a bland, non-exclusive car or truck?
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If you're among the people that enjoy the pre-order phenomena, stick around for a while. The ideas and facts expressed below might help you to better put things into perspective. If you're against pre-orders, then continue reading, as this piece might offer you a different view. If you're neither against nor for pre-orders and waiting lists, then maybe you'll find out new things about the current market. Anyhow, just bear with me for a couple of minutes.

Firstly, pre-orders have proved to be ridiculously risky for gaming studios. Take the most recent, globally known fail as an example: Cyberpunk 2077. Its creator, CD Projekt Red, was seen up until the launch of this futuristic videogame as one of the few entities in the space that still had respect for paying customers. The Witcher enjoyed wild success and still remains one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences. That’s why people had high expectations. When Cyberpunk 2077 came around and was delivered after two major delays with pressure from shareholders and from fans, it unfortunately flopped. The game was announced in 2012 and was finally delivered to customers in late 2020 with major bugs and compatibility errors. That sparked a massive refund movement. It led to CD Projekt Red’s stock fall and the clients losing faith in the Polish studio.

It was a mess.

That’s what happens when an unfinished, unpolished product is published. I bought and enjoyed the entire Witcher saga, but, luckily, I’ve avoided disappointment with Cyberpunk. It took them a whole year to fix it, and it still retained some issues to this day.
It's no different when it comes to new vehicles
Secondly, this exact same thing is happening with cars. But here, to me, it feels like it is ten times worse. A vehicle isn’t something that you can just simply return. You buy one because you want it or because you need it. Neither scenario allows for a comfortable refund, as the procedures are way more complicated than just losing access to an electronic copy of a certain game. Of course, this is available for those buyers that kept the process going and didn’t ask for the initial deposit of $100, $500, or $1000 back.

What’s even more frustrating and, to a certain degree, hard to understand is that certain automakers had the guts to deliver to customers - that were going to pay over $100,000 in the end - cars that had major flaws, different sets of wheels, cabin quality problems, panel gaps and software glitches. You may think I’m hinting at Tesla here, but it’s not the only carmaker that has done and is still doing this. The level of irresponsibility is hard to comprehend when you think that money you pay is, in fact, your own time invested in gaining it. A company is luring you in with their offer and then gives you a sketchy product. It's not right, and it shouldn't happen.

But wait, there’s more! Pre-orders are also heavily impacting how automakers are pricing their cars. BMW and Mercedes-Benz announced this year that they don’t intend on switching back to ramping up production and cheaper prices. They’ve discovered people are willing to pay more and more for premium cars and noticed that many customers don’t really give up on their dream vehicles just because the delivery time is longer than expected. And this behavior has extended to smaller companies or non-premium carmakers like Renault or even Dacia – the latter having joined the pre-order craze all the way back in 2010. They’re actively prioritizing costlier vehicles because profit margins are bigger.

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Thirdly, let’s say pre-orders were useful for carmakers and customers. Companies can know in advance how popular a certain model is and will adapt to satisfy the needs of the market. It would be a solution that can prove itself lucrative for all parties involved. But that doesn’t happen.
The harsh reality
Instead, opportunists try to get their hands on vehicles that are popular and then flip them for a cool 20% or 30% net profit. That’s how we end up paying a lot more for vehicles. And this is on top of what inflation, scarcity of important parts, and supply chain troubles did to pricing. It’s insane!

Moreover, new companies like Rivian tried to trick their customers that accepted crazy delivery times into paying a lot more or losing some options. Fortunately, the backlash here has returned things to normal. Now only new customers will have to enjoy a heftier price tag.

Other automakers are launching special editions for new models that cost more and have nothing to show as extra than some design gimmicks. Customers are once again tricked into believing they can get something good with better equipment but end up with the same cars for a lot more money.

Fourthly, let’s say you’re a small business or a worker that needs a car for transportation. You think about buying a Tesla, but you want a more practical vehicle that’s also friendly with the environment. It’s the F-150 Lightning that you find suitable in the end. Well, you can’t get one now because Ford accepted 150,000 pre-orders and must honor them before sending enough trucks to dealers.

Even Acura wants you to pay in advance for the 2023 Integra, and that’s just a “disappointing revival.”

Finally, there’s not much that we can do. We can’t simply stop buying cars, and getting a new one will still feel like a chore for at least one or two years. We need them, we want them, we like them. Automakers must take responsibility and end this circus now. We’ve been through enough globally. If well-known carmakers don’t take the necessary steps to normalize their offers, then the likes of VinFast or Voyah will gladly take their place. This can’t go on forever.

Editor's note: The writer doesn’t own shares in any of the companies mentioned in the article.


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