Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Miserable Car Experience

As much as I really like bikes, I've always had a bit of a fascination with cars too. I like to drive, I like fun cars. It's really an odd thing when I think about it. I subscribe to Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Automobile. I generally read them all cover to cover. So, when it comes to looking at cars, I guess that I would consider myself pretty well-informed of what's out there and available.

As much as I like the idea of being a single-car family, I know that at some point there will be a second 4-wheeler parked in the garage. Prior to filling that second stall, we'll look very carefully for just what's going to be parked there.

Saturday morning I volunteered at Roseville City Hall for their open house. Saturday afternoon we went out to look at a couple of vehicle options. We went to Hopkins Honda where we have had wonderful service during both of our previous Honda Odyssey purchases. Both of which purchases were on the heels of miserable experience and service at Buerkle Honda.

Last fall, we'd done our research on buying a sedan. Prior to going to the dealership, I'd done my research on the Acura TL. I looked up on White Bear Lake Acura the fact that they had some special pricing going. We went to the dealership had an initial good contact with sales manager who gave us a ballpark figure on price that was within a few dollars of what I had seen online. The sales manager apologized that he was busy and that a different sales person would help us when we returned from our test drive.

When we returned, we were super impressed with the car. When it came to numbers though the sales person that we sat down to talk with pretty much gave us the sticker price and told us how the numbers quoted by the sales manager were out of line and that he couldn't do that. Never once was there any mention of the on-line specials... So, we walked... and will likely not ever go back. So, we wrote off White Bear Lake Acura.

We had miserable response from a number of dealers when looking for our BMW. Poor or unresponsive, uneducated sales people who failed to follow through on requests or give honest information. Then we had our experience back in May with Sears Import where we wrote off the likelihood of buying something through them.

I've been keeping an open eye on the listings of used Mini's. It'd be a fun second car. Prior to buying our R32, the Cooper S was in the running. The VW finally won because it had AWD, more power, and a little more room to breath.

So, yesterday after our visit to Hopkins Honda and great service from Joe, we had a real gem at Luther Westside VW. I'd seen that they had a Cooper S with lower mileage at a decent price. I had thought that the price was somewhere around 18,500. When we showed up to look at the car, it was in great shape. Super clean, and as I mentioned low miles.

A sales person was quick to great us. He told us all about the car and what great features it had. He was quick to quote the price of $19,900 as he deciphered the "special code" on the window inventory tag. He obliged with the keys for a test drive.

Anika and I took a longer test drive and were greeted by Rick when we returned. There wasn't much "salesmanship" on his part, though we were obviously interested in the car. Honestly, I'd really like to have a Mini as our second car. We walked from the dealership with Rick's card and talked on the way home of just what it was that we thought we wanted for a second vehicle.

What really ticks me off about the whole thing though is the fact that when I got back home, I looked up the price on the car we had just driven. On line, the price was $17,995. One would have thought that Rick would have looked up the price on the car while we were out and had been excited to inform us that he was wrong on the price initially and that it was instead $2000 less. Instead, I think he was more content in the fact that we'd not questioned the higher price and he could get away with starting at the higher price should it come down to negotiating price.

So, chalk up another bad experience at a car dealership. Write off Rick Larch at Westside VW. And maybe the whole car-buying experience as further strengthening my interest in riding my bike.


Anonymous said...

Whenever I've purchased cars from a dealer, I was turned off by the lack of straightforward pricing. Ok, I see the sticker price is X. Based on my research and my own finances, I'm willing to pay X-Y. The salesperson scratches his head and says he has to go talk to the manager. He comes back after like 10 minutes and tells me the best they can do is X-Y+Z. We go back and forth like that for an hour before we come to an agreeable price. I find it hard to believe that the salesperson doesn't know at the outset what the actual bottom line price is. Why do I have to go through a middle man when I'm really apparently dealing with the manager? Why can't I just talk to the manager if he has to OK every point of negotiation anyway? Obviously, the 'ask the manager' bit is a scam, intended to make the customers think the salesperson has no authority over pricing.

Of course, I think I'm a pretty tough negotiator, and I realize that car prices are fair game for vigorous haggling. I have friends who feel intimidated about dealing on price or even asking questions about the car's history and mechanical condition. One guy told me, "I wanted to get a better price, but I thought the salesperson might get mad if I tried it."

I thought my old man had a good strategy one time. He wanted a pickup truck with a certain set of features. He went to five dealerships in one day and asked for their best price, letting them know about his strategy. In the end, I think he got a pretty fair deal with minimal negotiation theatrics.

Reflector Collector said...

I have had second thoughts about posting about Mr. Larch. The more I think about it, I have no regrets. Either he is dishonest or incompetent.

Either he is not very interested in working for the sale by researching and providing more information about the vehicle we expressed interest in or he knows about the car we were looking at and is looking to take advantage of us. A simple comment when we returned from our test ride like “while you guys were out, I looked up the price and was wrong about the price I gave you, it’s actually $2k less.” or “we have another yellow one with more miles, but a little less money, would you be interested in looking at that one?”

A little straightforward approach with just a hint of eagerness to work for the sale would have gone a long way toward earning some credibility. (No cheesy sales-talk required.) There are too many choices out there for finding a car. Fortunately, we are willing to do our research and we are patient. (Two arch-nemesis of car salespeople)

Keeping the feelers out to people we know and extended acquaintances. Hopefully we can find something private party from someone who is not interested in getting screwed by a dealer if they were to trade.

Anonymous said...

Buying a car is an emotional expericence, especially if your a car guy. The buyer is always in control...make the seller work for it. Sure he probably knows the price and his bottom's a game...treat it as such. If I'd have seen the price after leaving I'd made a call or returned with the listing. Put the sales guy back on his heels. Ultimately the final decision is yours.
I always try to be honest right from the start. If I'm just looking I let him know. If I'm buying that day it gets serious and I stick to my guns...but I've also done my homework upfront.

Reflector Collector said...

Anonymous is right... the car-buying thing is an emotional game. I would go so far as to say almost all shopping experiences are part of the emotional game.

In reality, as much as I think that I'd like a nice car, it makes much more sense to just find a good runner and not get hung up on the "fun" factor. Dollar for dollar and after 25+ years of riding my bicycle, I cannot find much that matches for the enjoyment factor anyway.

The less I spend on a car, the more I can justify spending on things that I actually really like: bikes, bike parts, bike clothing, bike trips, etc.

I'm turned off by the game of displaying a high price to give people the impression that some sort of discount is a "deal." Everything you buy can be found cheaper somewhere else. Retailers need to learn that and be prepared with their best foot forward and service to back up higher prices. If not, I think that they lose credibility. I might be somewhat of an idealist, but that matters to me.

Blog Archive