Unfortunately, for this week’s article, I have to report some unpleasant news. As any of us knows, sometimes, the minute you enter a automotive dealership, you are subjected to a world of nonsense and deceit. So was my latest automotive buying attempt.
My husband and I, whom, as you can imagine, have owned many cars and been to many dealerships in our lives, decided a mere three weeks after getting his new car, that maybe I should consider changing out my current everyday driver for something new. No problem, right? People do that all the time. I have alway liked the look of the RANGE ROVER EVOQUE, in fact, we both have. When my husband was looking a few years back when they just came out, he came this close to getting one. I cannot recall the reasons he ultimately didn’t choose it – probably something about availability – and he ended up getting something else. Nonetheless, it made such a positive impression on us, that a few weeks ago, when we started up our new search, it came up again. Since its introduction, I have covered it extensively here – always in a positive light. So I went down to my local dealership and took a look. They had a few, but as is the norm for most dealership stock – of any make – , only in silvers. whites and blacks. I get it – those are the ones most people tend to buy, and so fittingly, those are the ones dealers tend to stock. I asked about a new for ’14 color – Zanzibar, and was told that they would only be getting one in, but it was spoken for. I looked around the lot, thanked the salesperson and was on my way. Although we are already into the second month of the model year, no information was available on changes, no color chart to see the new colors. Nothing. But I am a patient guy, and I was certainly in no rush. A few weeks went by, and then last weekend, we decided to check back into the dealership. We made up our mind that we would go for the Evoque.
Once again, at our local dealership, we walked in. One of each model was on the floor plugged in to keep electrics going. Now remember, Land Rover is a pretty hot commodity these days. TATA, the Indian company that now owns LandRover and Jaguar has been very successful at turning out some pretty desirable vehicles, and sales have followed despite the planet’s general overall economic turndown. If you have a prestige product, and you do it well ( unlike Ford’s Premier Auto Group debacle ), you may in fact be recession proof. If you can turn a Ford sourced frame and engine into the wildly successful Evoque, then you are doing your job right. And personally, I am delighted by all the latest Land Rover/ Range Rover offerings. And have been by the older ones as well. I have publicly celebrated their latest great strides right here at The Vehiclist. On the show room floor, a top of the line Range Rover, with the executive rear seat package – in a fetching tan color interior caught my eye. I saw it outside when I first visited in December, and here it is on all its glory. Upon closer inspection, my husband noticed a 30,000 market value premium attached to 136K price tag. Thats right, they are asking 166 thousand dollars for this car. Whatever. I understand market forces, and if there are people out there willing to shell that kind of money out for the privilege of driving the car right now, they probably are in Los Angeles – or Dubai. So go for it. Admittedly, it is a small niche. People shopping at that price range fall into two camps. Those that have the money because they are smart about money, and those that have the money because it they have more than they know what to do with it all, and for all intents and purposes, it has ceased to have relative value. I don’t need to tell you which group Range Rover is hoping to attract with a 30K premium. But I’m not mad. If you can get it, then why not. As it happens, my husband and I can pretty much afford whatever car we want. And if I really wanted a Range Rover, I am sure we could get one, although I have never paid list price for a car, so a market value premium is out of the question. And never mind that that vehicle had been sitting on the lot since December, making its market value a somewhat moot point with each passing day, but whatever. This is not a story about supply and demand. Nor is it a story about Range Rovers. I wanted something smaller and with a four cylinder engine – The Evoque was the one for me. This time, no one talked to us. it was a Sunday, and the sales people were busy with other customers. True, not even the receptionist greeted us, and I saw the salesman I talked to weeks earlier. Maybe he didn’t see me, but we looked around for a half hour, looking at the freshly arrived 2014 Evoques, and finally grabbed a brochure and left.
At home we decided after building one online at the company website, that should we do an Evoque, ideally it should be in a British green ( they call it Aintree) with a brown/tan leather interior. A classic combination, and one available in the Prestige model. But of course, rarely dealers stock this, and I figured I would take something out there, a combo that appealed to me, whatever it was. I would be flexible, and we would just see. And that is when, after an online dealer inventory search of the southern California stock, that we found the color combination we wanted. An hour away in Orange County, the perfect combination was just waiting. I called the dealership on Tuesday, asked to speak with a new car salesperson and was connected to an affable man who told me, yes, the car was there, in an off lot garage, and to see it, I should call him when I came down the next day and he would make sure it was on the lot so I could look at it. I explained that I was coming form Los Angeles, and I would call him after lunch the next day, and come by to see it. Now I don’t make it to Orange County very often, and since this dealership was in Newport Beach, I asked a friend who lives close by to go with me. I would have lunch with him, and then we would look at the elusive green Evoque.
Wednesday came, I drove the hour down to Newport Beach, had a lovely meal with my friend at a place called Fashion Island, and perfectly, the Land Rover dealership was practically just next door. I called the salesperson, told him I was coming, and he texted back that he was there. Minutes later I met him and he showed me the car. As he did, he stopped, and announced that he wasn’t sure he could actually sell me the car because I lived in Los Angeles. What?!?! Be he took my info and took me on a test drive, saying he would inquire with his manager to see what the situation was. The car was parked in the back with about 8 other Evoques. During the drive he showed me the milage – 61 miles – and said this was a demo car. The car was lovely, and very nice to drive. Once we were done, I said I liked it and would take it. I would give him a deposit and come back on Saturday with my husband to do the deal.
But he still had to make sure he should sell it to me.
As a gay man, I am sure I have been discriminated against before, though I doubt, never for being a Los Angeleno. This was going to be a first for me. First of all, he could not take a deposit. Although it showed my seriousness, they cannot take a deposit on a car that is not under contract. I get that. They said their policy was first come, first serve. Fine. Anyway, he explained, the car had been there for a couple weeks, and it hadn’t sold, so it was realistic to assume that during the weekdays, till I came back on saturday, those two days in-between, no one would come by to get it. Ok. But they still had to figure out the matter of how they could sell the car to me. He came back and said saturday wouldn’t work, because the person – a finance person, who, if I understood correctly, actually lived in LA, would be there on saturday, and it would have to be this person who actually sold me the car. What?!?! It was becoming clear that sense had left the building, and they didn’t really want to make a sale. I told my salesperson that this was sounding incredulous as me and my friend looked at each other wondering where the hidden camera was. He agreed, frustrated, and took me to see Joe the manager. Joe sort of exasperatedly explained that indeed Land Rover had a policy, meant to protect franchises, and to help them build sales in their own territory, of discouraging sales from outside their own markets. Ok. But here I was, a U.S. citizen, not even crossing state lines, and they had to figure out how to sell me a car? He told me not to worry too much about it – that it happens all the time, and they would figure out a way. My salesman said he would get back to me.
As I drove an hour home, I was still scratching my head. I had never encountered this before. I have bought cars out of my tax area, out of my state and out of my country. But this still didn’t make a lot of sense. Things failed to get any clearer after Joe told me that my local dealer was all part of their automotive group, and that maybe they could do something there – sold from Orange County, but delivered there. Again, if this was all the same group….???? As I drove home, I had time to think ( and maybe that is the real reason they discourage traveling to other dealerships): Why, when I called on tuesday and told the salesperson I was coming down from Los Angeles specifically to see this car, didn’t he tell me then, that he may not be able to see me the car, and save me a trip? Why also did he tell me the car was off lot and would have to be retrieved, if then when I drove it, he pointed out that it was a demo and had 61 miles on it? I get that purchasing a car is a sometimes a needlessly daunting game of shells and bullshit, but admittedly, I was beginning to sour on this.
That evening at home, as I was explaining the days peculiur events to my disbelieving husband, the phone rang. It was my salesman form Newport Beach. He called to tell me two things. He wanted to know if I had noticed the sign on the car advertising the running special – $549 a month. I had in fact, but wasn’t foolish enough to expect to pay that. Those deals always involve a down payment ( cap cost reduction), and personally I think it is stupid to do that on a lease. You pay for it one way or another, and frankly, it is easier to spread it out over the course of the lease, but I do expect to take advantage of the manufacture’s incentives and money factor offered to to dealership to make that offer happen. But he said not to expect to pay that. I am not sure he meant that moving the car to my local dealer – and the costs involved – would negate that deal – even though my local dealer was offering the same deal, or if it was because he was going to hit me with a market value premium, which as you know isn’t going to fly with me. I asked if he wanted to do the deal with me right now over the phone – and he laughed and said no, so I am still in the dark as to why I should not expect to get an advertised offer, even if I wanted it. The next thing he said, was that Thursday was his day off, but that either he or Joe his manager would call to try to coordinate the specifics of how they can sell me this car. I am unclear, but I think he was saying that he would come to my local dealership, and that he would drive the car up, and that they would handle the deal. I know dealerships swap out or trade vehicles, so maybe this is the solution to their problem, but I don’t know exactly what they have planned. As for the call with the arrangements – the call they said I would be getting thursday? I am still waiting for it.
If you are a long time reader of this blog, you may remember the piece I wrote about the horrible sales service I experienced at Beverly Hills Audi. ( HERE ) It was an article picked up by a lot of media outlets, so you may have read it elsewhere as well. In it I implored my readers to expect fairness, honesty and competence when dealing with salespeople in purchasing a new car. I wrote that if at any time during the dealing process, if you are dealt with rudely or if your bullshit detector goes off, walk away. Shitty service is shitty and should not be tolerated. Unfortunately, shitty service, deception and outright fraud are defining experiences most buyers have come to expect and dread when purchasing an automobile. In all honesty, I cannot say that my experience at Newport Beach Land Rover has been shitty, but it hasn’t been good either. I have taken this entire thursday – a day spent waiting for a phone call – to think about how crazy yesterday was, and how needlessly hassled everyone is just to get a car in a color I want. Never mind the Newport Beach Land Rover website says they have the best stock of any franchise, you just can’t get one if you don’t live in some predetermined perimeter. Even if those other franchises are theirs. Never mind that I was told I would not be getting an advertised deal, never mind that all this moving the car around is going to cost money – money they will surely try to pass on to me. Never mind the car I want is the demo, and by the time it is driven up to me to make the deal the odometer will exceed 100 miles on it. The bottom line is, I just don’t think buying a new car should be this complicated. I can’t help but remember my words from the Audi dealership article, and the nagging feeling that I am setting my self up for more stress and most assuredly a fight over the deal. This purchase has disaster written all over it. I like the car – and in fact I may really love it – but at the end of the day, even I car I may love isn’t worth this much hassle.
When ( if?) Joe the manager or the salesman calls me, I am going to tell them I am walking away. I can’t in clear conscience continue to mire myself in this, when I have been an advocate for upfront fairness and respect. I owe it to my readers, and I owe it to myself.
Maybe I will wait a while ( there is, after all, no rush ) and I will order an Evoque exactly the way I want it – an elusive coupe that no one seems to stock? Or maybe I will just get something else. I can wait until the fall and see what new thing strikes my fancy. But either way, I can assure you that I will work with a dealer that wants my business, rather than one that seems hellbent on setting up roadblocks and ensuring a stressful experience. Life is too short and there are too many choices out there.