And here's the great part about the car deal
: I got it for $200 under the invoice price. I got the advice on how to approach a car negotiation from fightingchance.com ("in a commodities-based market, play the suppliers off against each other to get the best price"), along with about 10 pages of market research on every company whose cars I was considering.
"Holdback" is a percentage of the MSRP of a car that the manufacturer pays the dealer for every car sold; basically it's built-in profit for the dealer on every car, and it seems to average about 3% of the MSRP. If an Acura dealer sells an RSX for invoice price, he will still make about $700 from holdback.
A dealer might want to ensure a good Customer Service rating, or move cars quickly through their dealership to ensure that the factory will send more, or he might be close to making a quote which will ensure a bonus from the manufacturer on every car sold that month--whatever the reason, sometimes dealers are incented to move cars quickly, sometimes below cost.
So, I faxed about 20 dealers and mentioned that I wanted a good deal because I knew about the built-in profit on every car sold. I got quotes from about 8, and called them from high bid to low. I call the dealer who offered $1300 above invoice and told him about my lowest bid--$500 above invoice--and instead of telling me to go for it like a bunch of others did, he offered to sell me the car for $200 below invoice... damn sweet.
So, again: if you buy a car, check www.fightingchance.com. Their prices are reasonable (I paid $75 for info on five cars), their tools and research are invaluable, and not only will they most likely save you money, but they will make the process entertaining rather than stressful. Seriously--I have heard that the process of negotiating to buy a car can be a really nerve-wracking experience, but I didn't even have to step in a dealership, and I had these guys kissing my ass while they outbid each other for my business. Fantastic.