Confessions of a Car Man


The Monroney Sticker

I was driving through a parking lot the other day when I noticed a Honda with the factory window sticker still on it. What gave me pause was that the car was at least a couple of years old. It had license plates on it, bugs on the front bumper, and the sticker was well into the process of fading away.

“Oh, one of those,” I thought. You see them every once in a while, a nut whose idea of keeping a new car new is keeping the window sticker on it long after the new car smell has faded into history.

This got me thinking about window stickers or Monroneys as they are called. They’re named after the Oklahoma congressman, A.S. Mike Monroney, who sponsored the law requiring them in the late 50’s. Before the advent of the Monroney sticker, car dealers could ask whatever the hell they wanted for a new car just as they do with used cars today. Somehow the government decided that wasn’t a good idea, and thus began the era of the new car window sticker.

When I got into the business in 1970, Monroneys weren’t required on trucks. They had a listing of equipment but no prices. I don’t remember what they were marked up, but 20 to 30 percent sounds about right. Later, the manufactures voluntarily started adding prices to the stickers, but the dealers generally ripped them off. It wasn’t until sometime in the mid-70s before trucks finally came under the Monroney law too.

Today Monroney stickers are easily removed and given to the customer upon delivery; a simple razor blade and window cleaner will do the trick. But when I first started selling cars there was no way you could save the sticker for the customer. It was as if they used the same glue they would later use to attach the tiles to the Space Shuttle on those suckers, and getting them off was a real bitch.

The best way of getting the job done was to let the sticker soak in window cleaner for a few minutes before you attempted to remove them. The process would sometimes take the entire time the customer was in F&I signing up. (No going to fill the cars up with gas in those days!) You couldn’t use a razor blade alone. You had to have one of those scrappers used for removing paint in order to make sure it wasn’t going to be an all day job.

My brother had a little side business selling those scrapers to the salesman for $5.00 a piece, and he would occasionally pull a little surprise inspection to make sure you had one in your office. Why? It wasn’t a moneymaking thing; he wanted to make sure the customer didn’t go off the lot with the sticker still on the car. It wasn’t safe, and he didn’t want the customer to show the sticker to friends and family who might suggest he paid too much money for that Ford LTD.

Later, it was the pack sticker he was worried about. By the late 70’s we were selling Datsuns. The cars hardly any had any mark up in them at all. Every dealer packed the price, and everyone was using a pack sticker. We didn’t want the customer to later come out of the ether and realize he paid over Monroney for the car.

What you had was an automotive conundrum. Glue technology had advanced to the point where with a little finesse you could save the Monroney, so what do you do? Do you give the customer the Monroney? Do you give him the Monroney plus the pack sticker and hope it didn’t come back to bite you on the ass?

Fortunately it wasn’t a big deal not to save the stickers because in those days people hadn’t yet gotten in the habit of expecting them. You had to be a little sly about it though. The best technique was when you took the customer to finance you’d introduce them to the F&I manager and just as you left you’d casually mention that you were going to get the car ready for delivery and remove all the stickers. Then you scooted out of there before they could think about asking you to save the Monroney. Worked like a charm.

Today the customers expect to have the stickers. That’s not a bad thing. If I were buying a new car I’d want it too. But it’s now a different world. For the most part pack stickers have fallen by the wayside and it isn’t very often that you sell a new car for over sticker. So there is no conflict there. It’s a shame though. I wish the days when trying to hide the stickers because you made a nice pop were still here.

Talk to you later,


P.S. Any of you remember the pack stickers that were designed to look just like the Monroneys? A great Car Man idea while it lasted. Unfortunately the government didn’t agree.


Anonymous said...

My favorite pack sticker story was about a Toyota Supra, hard car to get at the time. Among many other things, the pack sticker included an entry for ADP - $500 or so. I asked the manager about it. "Oh that? Additional dealer profit." Ah, the good old days.

Jim Camery said...

Even taking the sticker off for the customer is borderline illegal. US Code, Title 15, Chapter 28: (c) Removal, alteration, or illegibility of required label
Any person who willfully removes, alters, or renders illegible any label affixed to a new automobile pursuant to section 1232 of this title, or any endorsement thereon, prior to the time that such automobile is delivered to the actual custody and possession of the ultimate purchaser of such new automobile, except where the manufacturer relabels the automobile in the event the same is rerouted, repurchased, or reacquired by the manufacturer of such automobile, shall be fined not more than $1,000, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. Such removal, alteration, or rendering illegible with respect to each automobile shall constitute a separate offense.

Cars Graphic said...

Well, since they know the facts about the different online stores that sell these stickers stickers for your car, maybe. Before making the final to make sure you understand exactly what you get in the store and you will understand how to apply decals or stickers on the car.

Tia Chapman said...

Such an interesting post. I don't have any idea actually about this Monroney sticker. I was even shock about it, so good that it is not implemented these days anymore. decals stickers

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the REAL REASON for the monroney sticker.......?????? The REAL story is because of a car dealer named Bill Bull. He showed a 1958 Ford about 2 months before it was supposed to be released to the public.

Anonymous said...

Find bill bull and he can show you the newspaper articles from new York and la because he was the first person in the country to show that vehicle

Anonymous said...

Great story. I was actually able to sell a new car over sticker in 2006. I told the customer that the price in the sticker was AFTER the rebates.

Anonymous said...

lol up until about 4 years ago one place local to me was still putting a $1000 dollar "market adjustment" on their pack stickers

Anonymous said...

Now I know I'm correct assuming almost all new cars salespeople are ex-cons.

Mike Gasaway said...

The author of the article said before the Monroney sticker a dealer could charge "whatever the hell he wanted." Note: MSRP or Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price. A dealer can still ask whatever the hell he wants. As a sales representative I sold a Nissan GTR which had an MSRP of $93,000 for $103,000 or ten-thousand dollars over MSRP. The truth is a vehicle will sell for whatever the market will bear.

Rich said...

I have a 1963 Foprd Futura Converible. I am looking for someone who could reproduce the Monroney Window sticker for my car. Would you know of someone?

Neal Abel said...

My name is Neal Abel and I started a company putting used car Monroney Labels on used cars in December 1989. I took it to 19 states and 1,600 dealerships and sold the company in 2000 to AutoTrader. I called my Company Rolling Maronie because we produced Monroney labels in vans. The Monroney sticker was started and the bill Sponsored by Mike Monroney from Oklahoma because service men came back from World War II and the the Korean war and had lots of cash. Automobile Dealers were asking high prices for the cars taking advantage of the shortage in cars and the built up cash from being out of country. So a law was passed stating that the M.S.R.P. asking price had to be on the car window. It was not introduced to light trucks till I believe 1998. I hope that answers the question about why.