I think someone once said that the most stressful events in your life are moving house, finding a job & bereavement.
Let me just add one more ‘life event’ to this list – Buying a new car!
Maybe classifying this as stressful might not be entirely correct, but it’s certainly introduced me to the mystical frustrating world of the car manufacturers showroom and the type of staff that are employed to work in them.
I’d had a couple of second hand cars recently that hadn’t quite been what you could call ‘reliable’. In the past I’d always managed to source a well-looked after bargain that served me well. Most of these cars in the past had been bought for less than £1500 and had been useful tools. Whether travelling across Europe in a crusty Saab 900, driving through rivers in a Land Rover Discovery or trekking up and down to Scotland in an old Volvo Estate I’d generally managed to have pretty much trouble free motoring.
This year though I’d suffered with endless mechanical woes from sticking brakes and whining axles to knocking suspension joints. But the final nail in the second hand motoring coffin for my trusty old Ford KA was a complete failure of the steering system. The car still ran fine, but sounded like an angry chainsaw and needed around £600 spent on it to get it sorted. I took the decision to scrap my faithful old friend in the end and waved a sad goodbye to it just recently as it was unceremoniously craned onto a lorry and driven away to the great car breakers in the sky.
I was now left driving around in a 15 old Toyota Carina which was perfectly fine for my daily commute but had more miles on the clock than the space shuttle. So, the decision was made to buy a brand new car. I needed a car that would be reliable and under warranty for many years as I’d had enough of fixing annoying little things and panicking every time a car went in for its MOT and the possibility of rather large (how bloody much!) repair bills. This is where the joy of choosing a new car began.
First stop was obviously the internet to see who had the deals. (Just a note here to major car manufacturers: VW & Fiat in particular.) Please make sure your websites are easy to use and quick to load. I have a very fast fibre broadband connection and some of the websites are really clunky and slow, full of redundant widgets and badly laid out so I always end up visiting parts of the site where I can buy a roof rack for a van. Useful!
Honda were great, had friendly staff and I test drove the Jazz. However, it was just a little out of my price range for the model I actually wanted. The lower specification models having about as much appeal as a nursing home, and are mostly driven by people that are in a nursing home! So, back to the drawing board and Fiat. My local garage had no one free to talk to me so I sat in several cars in the showroom, opened the boot, played with the glove box, moved the seat up and down and all the usual stuff you do in that strange manner when you view a new car. It’s a little bit like trying clothes on except without a mirror to see how you look in it. Still, Fiat and the 2 staff working in the dealership were doing something far less important that asking me if I needed any help and advice so I went home.
The Audi A1 took my fancy, but having walked into the Audi dealership and viewing the car the sales staff were looking at me as if I was some kind of lowlife because I wasn’t looking to buy a ‘premium range’ vehicle that Audi are known for. If I’d happened by chance to have kicked a badger in the face in their car park I could understand their contempt! Continuing in the Germanic vain VW were next on my hit list and I’d seen the UP. Quite a small car, but it had its appeal, even if it would make me a typical middle class London car driving chap. I’d chatted to the sales staff who could have doubled for estate agents and I had the pleasure to inform them that yes: I’d really like the UP as they were advertising it everywhere across the net with great finance deals. They took my details and I said I’d be happy with the high specification UP with alloy wheels and electric windows. Fine Mr. VW said: “You can have one in sometime around March 2017” Good job the guys in there weren’t Germans themselves because I was thinking of something pithy to say about Dresden!
Ok, next stop Ford. I’d just scrapped my KA and looked at the new one. It was so small compared with the old one. Oh well. How about the Fiesta? Personally I thought it was poorly built inside and really wasn’t keen on its weird interior features. Plus, The staff were one step up from the bottom of the evolutionary ladder and weren’t bothered in taking my enquires seriously so off I trotted to Fiat again! I sat in the 500, opened the boot, played with the glove box, sat in the Punto, sat in another 500 and still Fiat couldn’t have cared less. I actually really liked the 500. Small, trendy and largely impractical for my needs, but there was something about it I liked. I went home again disappointed without having any input from Fiats sales staff again!
Next door to where I work is a Peugeot garage so I nipped in to have a look one lunchtime at the 208. It was just a little too ‘French’ and had a square steering wheel. Citroens didn’t take my fancy either because they fall to bits and smell of cheese. I have pretty much the same opinion of Renault, as everyone I know that owned one said they spent more time in the garage being fixed than actually driving them. As much as I like visiting France and drinking their wine, when it comes to their cars the French makers could just Va Va Voom off.
First thing Saturday morning at 9am I walked into the aforementioned Fiat dealership to sit down and discuss purchasing the 500. Guess what? No staff once again to deal with me. I actually took my coat off sat down and made an effort to actually look like I needed help. I walked back and forth in front of the staff wafting brochures and kept sitting in the 500 slamming the doors and the boot. No matter how interested or ‘helpless’ I looked I still wasn’t dealt with. That was it … Fiat were then crossed off my list with a note in red pen to mention their ineptitude in a blog!
Less than two hours later I was signing the paperwork to buy a new Vauxhall Corsa Limited Edition from the really friendly, helpful, attentive Evans Halshaw in Borehamwood. Proving that car dealers really can make a difference to the customer when you are making one of life’s biggest financial decisions and not being treated as if you were simply buying a kettle from Comet. Thank you Vauxhall & Evans Halshaw!