The color is…
But remember, as Billy Bragg said “It’s not the color of the car, but what goes on beneath the bonnet.”
Capitalism is hilarious. It’s hilarious in the same way that a joke that’s killed millions of people can be hilarious. You know what I mean. At any rate, I found myself in the belly of the beast this past Saturday when my lovely Missus and I had to go buy a car. My old car, Knox, aka Fort Knox, had pretty much shit the bed. That car was over 7 years old, and had over 125,000 miles on it. It also needed new brakes AND a new transmission. (For the past 8 months to a year, the reverse has been a real problem…not engaging when put in gear, slipping etc. The other night the Missus and I were treated to a 25 mph drive from Regent Square all the way back to ours because the car wouldn’t get out of first.) It was time for me to give him up, simply because at this point, continual repair would have led to merely putting off the inevitable chore of purchasing a new vehicle. The way I saw it, being currently in between work, it was better and easier to get all of this ironed out now. I won’t have to worry about a less than reliable car when I’m working again. That’s a headache I’ve had for too long.
So, it fell to us to sacrifice a Saturday to commerce. I had done a good deal of research on what I wanted/was-willing-to-deal-with and we ended up getting out to what I THOUGHT was a dealership only 2 miles from my home that sold Toyota Corollas. You see, the short list made it down to the Ford Focus, the Toyota Corolla and the Pontiac Vibe. Why? All are made domestically (I think the Toyota is actually Canadian) and are all made by Union labor. The three choices all have mileage over 30 mpg, so that was good. I wanted that as my basis. Being Union made and good (over 30) mpg are always my go-to qualification on a car purchase. It’s why I went with Saturn some 7 years ago. Of course there were others on the wish list…a Mini Copper (but over 25,000 seemed a bit much…) and a hybrid (but the Toyota’s, at least, are at a three month wait in Southwestern Penna.). I decided to go with my original thought, Union made, and go from there. I know Toyota’s run forever, so I started with that. The dealership I went to has SEVEN branches in the Pittsburgh area, and I went to a Ford branch, NOT a Toyota branch. Perhaps it was laziness, perhaps it was not wanting to drive another 30 miles, perhaps it was our salesman, Bobby’s, way with words, but we stayed. We knew a Focus was going to be cheaper than a Corolla anyway, so we just went with it.
Anyone who knows me and my Missus SHOULD know that we LOVE the movie Cadillac Man. Part of the reason why I love the film is that on a very real level, for me, it lampoons the whole notion of capitalism. What could be a better setting for such a situation than a car dealership? On the way to the place I made a joke about how the salesperson (in this case Salesman Bobby) was going to actually say “What do I have to do to get you into this car today?” HILARIOUS, right? So cliche. But our Bobby, he was a sly one and tweaked it a smidgen. His line was “What do I have to do to get your business today?” You see, it was JUST different enough, but it still made me almost laugh out loud.
Bobby was great because he did ALL of the things you’d want. He bought us cans of pop. He punched the door of a model we were looking at to show how tough and dent resistant it was. GOLD! One especially brilliant bit was the “I would be remiss NOT to tell you about THESE cars” thing. Bobby had us look at a Malibu, another Focus and some SUV thing. It was pretty great. He also did the whole running back and forth between the “managers”/”guys upstairs” and us with offers. All the while he was saying things like “I’m gonna really hit ’em hard on this. I want your business today, so I’m really gonna hit with this and not let them raise this price on you.” Again, brilliant. It was just us and Bobby against the bastards upstairs. Hell, they even had to “call the general manager” at one point because the offers we were throwing around were so crazy! I have no idea if ANY of that actually happened, but it’s what Bobby TOLD us was happening, and hey, that’s special enough, isn’t it?
After a test drive and more talking, and running around we ended up choosing a demo model. It was the actual car we test drove, that one Jimmy (another salesman a the dealership) had been using. It had 3000 miles on it, so we got a nice price reduction for that. I opted for (and this was possibly a mistake) an extended warranty that bumped our monthly payment to just over what we wanted it to be. I had promised myself that the next time I bought a car I wasn’t going to skimp on the warranty (which kid of bit me in the ass the last time I did this whole thing…I ended up needing the extended warranty and I had to pay lots more out of pocket). We had to go into the little finance room and sign 200 papers and then we got to drive home in our new car.
Ahhhhh, to grease the wheels of the economy. It seems that at every economic slump, I end up making huge purchases. Such is my way, I suppose. At the very least, know that car sales are still what you thought they were. Some things don’t change…not in Pittsburgh, anyway.