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How (Not) To Sell A New Car - 28th June 2009

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Ford Kuga VW Tiguan Mitsubishi Outlander Subaru Forester Horsham Car Centre

As a result of the deep personal loss mentioned elsewhere (report coming soon) I needed to buy a new car and decided to try and improve on the 29.4mpg I was getting before the ’incident’. In an age of recession and industry decline, how hard could it be?

I first spent many hours online, especially on the brilliant and the Fifth Gear website to shortlist a selection of suitable cars – diesel, manual transmission, around 40mpg, 4WD on demand, reasonable cargo space and £20-23k. I’ve been a loyal Jeep customer for several years since tiring of the Land Rover reliability issues and could see an improvement in fuel economy by switching from Cherokee to Patriot. So I had a benchmark for comparison and a forthcoming offer from Jeep for a serious discount on a new one, leaving a few days to see what everyone else would offer.

Beginning with Ford and their attractive Kuga in Titanium trim at the upper level of the price range. The large dealership only had one Kuga (Zetec) on-site but I felt sure sourcing wouldn’t be an issue. As a relatively new vehicle and in low numbers I wasn’t expecting much of a deal so was impressed by an opening offer of £2,000 off the window price – but in an attempt to pull me on-side the salesperson then told me all prices had been revised up recently to allow for such generous offers. No help there then. There was no suggestion of a better deal in the air and the salesperson soon lost interest. I’ve never heard from them since.

Straight over to Volkswagen then to look at the Tiguan in SE trim. This time there were several to look at and a couple with sold signs suggesting recent successes for other customers. The salesperson was excellent, took an interest and employed a new example of deal avoidance – no access to the database today. I had no idea what sort of a deal was on offer so could only leave and await the follow-up phone call. That came the following day and was a pretty good effort which again I could move no further. Good enough for the bottom of my shortlist still but I wanted more.

May I remind you here that I am a real customer driving a hired Grand Cherokee with real money in place and no car to trade in. I’m looking for any outlet willing to make me feel as though I’m getting a good deal.

Next call was Mitsubishi to see the Outlander in Warrior trim. The dealership only had the higher spec Diamond in but the salesperson was very helpful/hopeful and willing, and then came up with the second example of deal avoidance by database. So again I would have to wait. In their favour I got several calls over the next few days, each time revising the offer in an attempt to find a deal. Good effort but somehow the most expensive throughout.

Over to Subaru to see the Forester and I had high hopes as I knew national sales aren’t too good. But I wanted the relatively new Boxer diesel. The opening offer was pitiful and the promised call back never came so, losing all faith in our fine country’s sales abilities, I turned around and headed for Jeep and their offer of "Trade Prices".

The test drive was enough to convince me I was likely to stay with Jeep again so I was looking forward to the money I was about to save off a new car. The Trade Price presented was £1,795 off but with full road fund licence and paint cost added straight back in – so less than £1,000 off list price constitutes Trade!

In desperation I called in at Nissan (no, really) to see the 4WD diesel Qashquai, in any bloody trim. Unfortunately the vibrant, nicotene soaked gnome who bounced over to help didn’t seem able to tell me a single word of truth and the conversation felt so ridiculous that I didn’t even bother with a test drive. A cup of tea at home never felt so welcome.

Many hours visiting car dealerships, supposedly ripe for actually selling their stock and I am astounded that nobody really tried to sell me anything. They listened, smiled, nodded, showed me the same price as the list catalogues and then LET ME LEAVE! I now find it hard to generate any sympathy for them.

Needless to say I returned to the internet and started to look for deals – hooray for Horsham Car Centre, they actually want to sell cars. One email and one phone call with them and I had bought my new Jeep Patriot – no haggling, no false starts, they made a sensible offer that met my expectations, £5,000 off a delivery miles, pre-registered ’09 model. I had to travel 200 miles to get it, but the savings more than made up for that small inconvenience. I never thought I’d be grateful but I must say the whole transaction from start to finish was delightful and I would recommend anyone call them first and not waste time with the stallers and avoiders. Looking around the forecourt it was clear that they were there to make sales and I fully expect we’ll get my wife’s next car from them, then mine, etc...


Update: an addition to the Avoiding Making an Offer by Blaming Access to the "Database" chapter of the Car-sellers Handbook is the "Call Back Rules of Engagement" – after no further contact (I mean you Ford) all dealers except Subaru called me back exactly three weeks from initial enquiry to see how I was getting on..! I can only imagine that whoever trains these people in sales used to give out phony advice to teenage boys about not calling the girl back after a date.

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