Thursday, April 24, 2014

Car Dealers Get a Clue

Now that I've ragged (deservedly) on Toyota dealers and cars, let me hasten to note that other dealers have accumulated their share of poor service and poor quality, too.

My dad bought a 1972 Pontiac Firebird, which was lots of fun to drive, except for a few problems. (1) The car  had only a two-speed automatic transmission, giving us 14 mpg. (2) From day one, the power brakes required that we just about stand on the brake pedal to get the car to stop. (3) The car began overheating regularly a few months after we bought it.

Naturally, the car was under warranty, so we took both issues to the Pontiac dealer. The brakes check out okay, they told us, and as for the overheating, well, it's summer now and the weather is hot. Lots of people are having overheating problems.

When the warranty was over, the dealer said, "Your brakes are crystallized and need to be replaced, and we'll look into that overheating problem, too."

That, and the fact that the original set of tires lasted only 14,000 miles (remember those cheap-o bias ply tires on American cars in those days?) caused my father to trade the car in.

The first car I bought myself was a 1977 Buick Regal. I was going to get another Chevy Nova to replace the 1969 Nova my dad had given me, but after price shopping, I discovered the Regal was only a few hundred dollars more. I ordered it through the mail, might  have been via Consumer Reports, (I've forgotten), and it was to be delivered to the Buick dealer in my town (Corona, California). The car arrived and the Corona Buick dealer refused to accept it. The $125 or so paperwork fee was apparently not enough. So, I got a call from a Buick dealer in Pasadena, and had to drive over there to pick it up.

On another occasion, I went with my dad to shop for a new car. We went to a Chevy dealer and found a reasonable car. However, the salesman wasn't very flexible. We made what I thought (and know now) was a very reasonable offer. The salesman left us to "talk to his boss" to see if the deal was okay. Unfortunately, my dad, not realizing that the sales booth was likely bugged, said to me, "You know, I'm not going to buy very many more cars, and I can afford this one." (He was getting up in years.) So the salesman and sales manager come back into the office, and the sales manager says, "Your offer isn't good enough. The best we can do is $----." I thought that was way too much, might even have been over sticker, so I convinced my dad to shop around a bit more. On our way out the door, the sales manager said, just loud enough for me to hear, "Next time, bring money."

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