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The Boston Globe

Opinion

TOM KEANE

Is the auto franchise system a lemon?

If you want to buy a $25,000 television — and they do exist — there are a number of approaches you might take: Find a retail store that carries it, shop online, or even go direct to the manufacturer. But if you want to buy, say, a new $14,000 Ford Fiesta, your options are limited. You can’t get it from the manufacturer, nor can you purchase it online. Conventional retail stores can’t carry it either. You have only one choice: an automobile dealer.

Buying a car is the bane of every consumer’s existence. There’s that cringe-inducing moment as you walk into the showroom and a salesman (and it’s almost always a man) sidles up, suddenly your best friend, offering you a seat and coffee, eager to hear your life story. There’s the opaque pricing and the fake negotiation — “Let me check with my manager” — and the relentless push for more options, extended warranties, dealer add-ons, and dealer-provided financing.

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