Our family and extended family are all car people. It is a rare vehicle that lives it’s full life in our stable. I can’t think of a single vehicle that we drove from the showroom until it was hooked to a salvage yard to await it’s turn in the crusher. The game has changed, with internet pricing and the ability to have a vehicle evaluated, assigned a rating, and shipped to your driveway from somewhere in America being examples of today’s marketplace. I am old school and enjoy what Sharon refers to as the “dance of death” as you haggle with a salesman over a car you have seen, driven and evaluated personally. So we smiled broadly when Kaelin, our grand daughter entered the fray. Our job, approved by her parents, was to simply accompany her to look at a car in Springfield that Kaelin had found. Little did we know what we were in for…..
There are a number of Subarus in our family. Brand loyalty has never been my strong suit, but we like the offerings from this Nippon company. After researching extensively, and with deep consultation with her folks, Kaelin began looking for a pre-owned Subaru to replace her beater (an older Subaru) to take to Kansas City where she was to pursue her first employment opportunity after college. At a franchised dealership in Springfield, she found a newer Outback that looked promising. We arrived at the dealership to find an exceptionally clean and well maintained Outback, priced at the upper level of its value range. You guessed it, she fell in love with the car and decided to purchase it. After a quick consult with her folks, Sharon and I were asked to guide her through this process. Miss Kaelin then entered her first “dance of death”.
To get Kaelin on the right track, I told the salesman that we were not going to give them their asking price, and armed him with the number that was more appropriate. Kaelin gained a deep appreciation for the haggling game, and the extras that we demanded such as the removal of two door dents and painting of the rear valence that was scratched. After an hour or so, we came to terms and Kaelin was delighted with her first car deal. She learned to brush off the myriad of “great” opportunities, such as a lifetime clear coat protectant and extended warranties. Financing was easily arranged with her pristine but limited credit rating and substantial down payment and she was the owner of the Outback. Sharon was on deck and accompanied her to the meeting with the F&I folks to sign the paperwork. Kaelin sat through a second assault with offers of a number of great options and opportunities. She was learning and brushed them off.
We have all been here. Cars are an integral part of American life. I have written before about the enchanting lure of the internal combustion engine (yes with it’s carbon footprint and destruction of the world wide eco-system). America is within easy reach on our deteriorating road system and freedom is a button push or key turn away for a very mobile people. Our first vehicle purchase from a dealership is not easily forgotten. The margins today are narrowed considerably from days past as the internet has dramatically increased the competitiveness of a multi-billion dollar industry. This industry is driven by the delivery of cars and trucks, one at a time, to a customer from a dealer. Each of us will arrive at our final earthly resting place in a vehicle, hopefully not a damned Tesla with it’s thousand pound battery, rather a carbon spewing chariot courtesy of the genius of Henry Ford.
Thank you Kaelin for allowing us to share in your first retail car buying experience. Your innocence, kindness and trusting nature will serve you well in your lifetime. It will also be tested in sales offices as you seek new chariots to freedom. Lee Iacocca, an icon and master of automobile retailing, said “never let a deal walk”, advice to salesmen that is timeless. We are proud of you! He didn’t let you walk……and he didn’t get his price either. Enjoy that new car and be safe. We love you, kiddo.
Have a good week!