Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The WOMAN drives the sale!!

So, while we walked around the car lot, looking at various vehicles, wondering what would be the best choice for us, why did the fast-talking salesman mostly look at Amber? It’s not that Steve ignored me. He just didn’t think I was that important. Even though cars are supposed to be the guy thing. They’re advertised in sports sections and on TV during Miami Vice or the Superbowl. “Irrelevant,” Amber said as we eased out of the parking lot to take our Vauxhall Meriva on its maiden voyage. “The guy may have the purse strings but the woman drives the sale. And they know that. All she has to do is to fall in love with the car, or shake her head, and it’s all over.”

Our trek started at the Arnold Clark Toyota. Mr Clark, a white-haired gentleman, owns the empire of second hand auto stores that stretches all over Scotland. Iain (my brother in law) said that he sees Arnold at church every now and then. The salesman at the Toyota store, a tall pleasant looking chap in his fifties, also named Ian, listened as we described our dream car – a station wagon, known over here as an estate car, cheap, economical on the gas (petrol over here – which costs about $7.00/gallon). “I’m not sure I have exactly that,” Ian said to Amber. “But if you went to the Vauxhall dealer, he might.” We took a four door hatchback out for a spin. “Nice ride, but it doesn’t have rear window visibility like a station wagon, or its storage capacity,” Amber said. I pointed to a second car that was only a year old, and cheap. “Bad vibes,” Amber said. “Probably bad karma too.” After spending over an hour with us, Ian gave us detailed directions to the Vauxhall place. “I don’t need to sell customers their car,” he said. “A Toyota car sells itself.” He told us that he had been an insurance salesman, but the stress almost killed him. After a kidney operation, he decided to sell cars. He likes Toyotas and enjoys talking to people.

At Vauxhall we found Steve, a wiry twenty something salesman, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a little scattered. He showed us a large (American size) station wagon, and some SUVs (known over here as MPVs). Amber climbed into a large one and smiled seeing the view and huge hauling capacity. Paul might want to haul a load of manure (known over here as muck.) But fuel economy? “Forty-five mpg,” Steve said. (A British gallon is 20% larger, so we’re at 37mpg-US) Impressive. “It’s a diesel,” he said. Doubting Thomas as I am I asked for documentation. While Steve ransacked his office for some brochures, Amber and I stood in the showroom and stared at a Meriva – smaller than an SUV but with the tall structure, and great for storage. “I have a diesel like that in another store. I’ll transport it here for you,” he said. Then he clapped his hand to his head. “Wait a minute, I brought some in last week. Let’s look at it.” He led us across a field of cars to the target. “It’s half a year old with 4,000 miles. Diesel with a 1.7 liter engine.” Asking price is 9,800 pounds, but he promised to get the price down for us. It’s fuel economy. 65 mpg on the highway (54 US) – a little worse in cities. In a country where fuel prices really hurt, manufacturers have no problem delivering fuel efficient cars. Even SUVs.

It drove smoothly. We both loved the view and the space inside, and that the car is small enough to maneuver on the narrow roads, and easy to parallel park. A little noisier than the gas models, but not unreasonably. Putting my nose to the tailpipe I could hardly smell the exhaust. I looked under the chasis and under the bonnet (the hood). Very clean all over. Steve got the price down to 9,495 ($17,000) – out of the door. Close to our budget limit, but we like the car. We sealed the deal, though we can’t drive it away for a few days, until our new insurance company sends over proof of insurance. The dealer also needs to spiff up the car for sale and check it out mechanically.

“Not a bad experience,” I said to Amber as we headed back into town. “Now let’s go and apply for a UK driving license.” Yes, you need to take a theory and practical test.

But that’s another story.

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