Floyd Norris had an interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times about the state of the auto industry. He notes that car buyers in general are coming back and, as he shows in the second graph, there’s been a sharp uptick in consumer purchases.
But I’m not one of these buyers, and am not going to be for quite some time in spite of the fact that my current car is almost seven years old and that I’ve never had a vehicle this long before. The reason? Somehow the experience of buying a new car has become even worse than it was before the economy in general and the auto industry in particular tanked and it’s simply not worth my time or frustration.
So I’m voting with my feet…and wallet.
It’s not for lack of trying on my part. As I first described last May, I’ve made several attempts. But the most recent…which have occurred over the past four weeks or so, have been even more infuriating. They’ve included salespeople who:
- Know less about their products than I do
- Don’t know who to ask when they don’t know the answer to a question
- Think it’s my responsibility to find the person in the dealership with an answer
- Don’t return phone calls
- Don’t get back to me even within a day of when they promise
In one case I walked into a dealership knowing what I wanted and prepared to buy, but after 30 minutes couldn’t get a salesperson to work with me.
In another, the deal being offered didn’t add up. I don’t mean that it didn’t make sense; I mean the numbers literally didn’t add up. When I pointed that out, they were unwilling to change them.
Online sales have been just as nonsensical. When I get a response at all, the e-mail I get about a particular model says nothing more than come on in. (Note to online sales people: IF I WANTED TO COME IN I WOULDN’T BE CONTACTING YOU VIA E-MAIL!). In several cases the car I wanted and which supposedly was in stock didn’t actually exist. Twice I was told that the car shown on the website had been sold more than a month earlier.
And all of this was as true of dealers for foreign and domestic manufactures.
I’m not sure whether the problem is fewer qualified people wanting to be salesmen and women because there’s less money to be made, dealerships cutting back on training and quality control to save money, or a total disdain for the consumer.
Here’s my bottom line: if auto companies want to sell more cars, they had better realize that the buying experience is as important as the quality of the vehicle.
In the meantime, I’m going to start learning more about quality repair shops.