Help! Please Share Your Input on Auto Dealer Advertising Assessments

Ford Explorer price msrp destinationOn June 17th, I tweeted and posted I’m Buying a 2011 Ford Explorer in Madison, WI. Who Wants my Business?.

I’ve reached an agreed price on a 2012 Ford Explorer, but with a dealer about an hour away from Madison, WI. It’s a great story, and I really want to tell the world, but I have one small problem and…

I need your input

Anyone who’s bought a new vehicle from a dealer knows there are some charges that are unavoidable, such as tax, title and license fees. In addition, you will always pay a destination charge, which is the amount auto manufacturers charge dealerships to deliver a vehicle from the factory to the showroom.

The destination charge is right there on the window sticker, and as you can see in the image above, it is also shown on the manufacturer’s website.

Here’s the problem

After reaching an agreed price for the vehicle and options, which I knew would would have the destination charge and tax, title and license fees added to it, the salesman emailed me the build sheet. After a close inspection, I found two additional charges:

  • Fuel Charge – $67.07
  • Adv Assessment $546.00

When I asked about these charges, I was told:

These are charges that come from Ford which are billed directly to the dealership for the vehicle. The Fuel Charge is the fuel that is put into the vehicle at the factory and allocated to each car. Advertising Assessments are the national advertising dollars allocated to each vehicle from Ford.

What really bugs me is that the last four vehicles I’ve bought have all been brand new (two Fords, a Honda, and a Nissan), and none required me to pay an advertising fee. In addition, Ford’s own website didn’t list this fee, and it doesn’t appear on the window sticker.

I was a little bitter about the surprise charges, and tweeted this on June 27th:

They told me the charge was not negotiable, so I agreed to it and placed the order for the vehicle. However, I’m not finished with my beef over the Adv Assessment.

Time for your input

I look at it this way. If the dealership is going include a line item to charge me $546 for advertising, I don’t think they should benefit from any “advertising” I might do on their behalf. For example, I’m considering the following:

  • No specific mention of the dealership in any of my blog posts or tweets
  • Block blog comments from readers mentioning the dealership
  • Delete past tweets where I mentioned the dealership
  • No free advertising: no dealership decals, license plate brackets, etc on the vehicle

Is this a reasonable position for me to take?

Is there a better way to handle the situation that could work to our mutual benefit?

What would you do?

Edited to add: I’d like to clarify that the salesman I worked with was nothing but professional and transparent. He’s new to the sales position, and was just the messenger regarding the Adv Assessment. I don’t blame him in any way for the timing of revealing it to me. I have no doubt that he was just following the guidance of his GM and the usual workflow of the dealership. He’s a great communicator and I’d recommend him to anyone who asks.


  1. Gary says

    When I buy from Wal-Mart, McDonalds or Lowes there is no Advertising fee’s. That’s like adding the electric bill or new she’s on to the car price. It’s business, Bull Sh*t. You can add it, but I want a exact line item deduction from the price of the car or add it onto the trade-in price.

  2. Laura McConnell says

    I know that this was posted a while back, but I actually work for a Ford dealership. Be very wary of this dealership that you are talking about. At my dealership there is no such charges, which makes it sound to me like the dealership added these fees, NOT Ford! At my dealership, we break everything down line by line so that you know what you are paying for (x amount for the car, y amount for the tax, z amount for the tags, etc..), but I have never seen anything like these fees before. It is the companys responsibility to pay for their advertising, not the consumers.

  3. Schoro says

    As a Realtor for many years , we as Realtors have to disclose up front to our buyers how much renumeration we make (law of agency) and on the contract what fees the buyer has to pay to buy a house, the car dealers should be required to disclose up front at the very least, all fees in the transaction and have them listed on a separate disclosure form to be presented to buyer to sign , and this should be done before signing any contract to purchase a vehicle. Thats the honest way to do things.. and if the buyer does not sign the disclosure form, the dealer cannot proceed with the sale… simple…IN my opinion, the car dealers are in direct violation of the Law of Agency which includes all transaction where there is a client relationship present. The government should be forcing the car dealers to comply, the government is not protecting the public in this sector, they force the Realtors to do this, it should be the same for car dealers, after all purchasing a home is the biggest investment of most peoples lives, purchasing a car is second…

  4. JJ _ says

    2 separate Des Moines area dealers are attempting to pull this same trick on me right now yet other dealers don’t mention it so adding it after the fact is bogus. The problem is that invoice prices are now well known and they are true. The only $ dealers make that any average Joe knows about is holdback which in the case of Ford is 3% of total MSRP (with options added in). So they’ve started this “advertising fee” BS as a means to bring back the old days of an uneducated consumer. Sad, very sad. It’s bogus as an additional fee. If a dealer of any manufacturer charges an advertising fee, it should be under $100 in my experience and even that’s a gift. But it’s a manageable gift. This is robbery at it’s finest and is the latest trend in dealer trickery. How they sleep at night I’ll never understand.

  5. John says

    I would never pay ANY dealer advertising fees. Why should I? It’s the dealer’s business. Let him advertise it.

  6. Laurel says

    ALL businesses include expenses in their markups, or they wouldn’t be in business long. They’re just not usually this conspicuous. Usually they’ll be buried in some other fee or are part of the overall margin. I suspect that the “new” salesguy was anxious for the sale and didn’t want to inflate any of the other charges (so his price would look lower), so he thought he was being more “transparent” by itemizing those charges separately. As you can see, he didn’t do anybody any favors. Paying directly for a company’s advertizing is shocking and sure to get noticed – and not in a good way either. If this is dealership policy, they certainly should be encourage to re-think this. You could be instrumental in that by showing them your blog.

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