Muschamp Rd

So my mom bought a car today

August 25th, 2006
Volkswagon Logo

After talking about it for a long while, today my mom and I finally went to a car dealership that was open to try and test drive a new car. First we spent the morning stripping the finish off our garage door, but that is a tale for another blog posting.

This is the second time I’ve gone with my mom and she has bought a new car and both times I came away shaking my head. Although dealers have tried to improve their image it still can be a trying process but what really amazes me is my mother says one thing before we get to the dealership then does something completely different. Her thought process baffles me.

When I buy something or want to buy something particularly a big ticket item, I research it, find a vendor, discover the price, and then save up the money to pay for it. So before we went to the dealership I carefully researched Volkswagen TDI Wagons both the Jetta and Passat version. I learned they no longer make a TDI Passat Wagon, but that turned out to not matter because my mom had changed her mind about wanting a wagon at all. Plus she was willing to buy and actually would prefer a demo or a lease return. Unfortunately TDI Passat Wagons are rare on the used market.

My mom's new Volkswagen Passat

We went to Courtney and after running some errands we went to the local Volkswagen dealership which was really busy. Eventually we learned that they had no TDI Passats at all but had numerous TDI Jettas. These however would be the last they would be getting in. California has changed its emission standards forcing Volkswagen to re-engineer their TDI engine for the North American market. We couldn’t take a test drive right away because all the salesman were occupied but I got some propaganda and we could open the doors and trunks and what not.

The rear seat of the 2006 Passat

Eventually a salesman came to help us. My mom insisted on only test driving a white TDI Jetta. It had all the options and my mom had supposedly decided she didn’t need leather or a sunroof. We also learned there were two other white TDI Jettas off the lot, but the salesman wasn’t sure of exactly what options they had. Just for comparison it was decided we would test drive a lower end Passat. I had read on the internet how the Passat was roomier in the back seat and it is.

The Passat we were going to drive was blue and had these aftermarket rims my mom didn’t like so we test drove an even more expensive one which was dark metallic grey. My mom had repeatedly stated how she wanted a light color car this time and we came to get a diesel but there were no Passat TDIs on the lot so we test drove one with a gas burning engine.

The engine of my mom's new Passat

Not surprisingly the more expensive Passat is nicer than the Jetta and more comparable to the Maxima she currently drives. Of course it was the wrong color and not a diesel. It also had leather interior and all the trim options which my mom had said she didn’t want. It wasn’t the most expensive Passat possible as it only had the 4 cylinder engine which was the most fuel efficient, which is why we test drove it.

It was decided we would sit down and figure out the cost with the special financing and lowered price. We also had to let someone test drive our Maxima which is a 2000 and has a lot of kilometers on it. However it is well maintained and it is the SE edition so it looks sportier than the Passat and has the fancy rims, breaks, even a spoiler as part of that package. I was surprised when my mom bought it as it was second most expensive Maxima possible.

Just like last time the value offered on our trade in was a lot less than my mom expected. The value was given as three numbers, the maximum value, minus a discount for extra Kms leading to the offer. We talked about selling it privately and the salesman kept insisting we were saving the tax so their offer was really worth 1.13 times more.

So ultimately he goes to the back and returns with a larger number which was still well short of the maximum supposed value of a 2000 Maxima. My mom however thought her car was worth even more and was willing to drive it longer especially considering all the money she had spent maintaining it. After more talking, all the time I’m getting hungrier, not saying much just brooding, the general manager comes out says he has made some phone calls and even though their first offer was what the car was worth and he’d already come up he was willing to come up a bit more. This was still deemed not enough by my mom and if they hadn’t had my mom’s car keys we would have left.

I of course was thinking about who had the best BATNA, what the utility function of the new Passat would be versus the existing Maxima, my mom’s willingness to pay, all the stuff I studied as an MBA. We hadn’t even gotten to financing which is where I thought I might be some use. My mom kept insisting her car was worth more to her and she was willing to just leave, I said we could think it over at diner and come back in the morning.

This is actually my most successful negotiating tactic. It isn’t even a tactic, I really get tired of haggling and wouldn’t mind thinking about it over a meal. When I bought my digital camera I did this and the guy immediately lowered the price before I’d walked out of the store. I still went and had lunch and came back and bought the camera at the lower price. When I bought my car stereo exact same thing, just say you’re going to leave and think it over and they often will lower the price.

We couldn’t leave, but the general manager supposedly made some more calls and was willing to put our Maxima on the lot and if we would buy this car right now, today, was suddenly willing to give us a value greater than the original maximum value of our trade in.

The center console with dual climate control

One thing I did try to explain to my mom during this whole process was there is a lot of incentive to buy new cars right now. This is due to troubles in the global auto industry particularly at GM. As a result GM is offering a lot of special prices and financing options which some other manufactures are matching or at least forced to compete against. Although this was likely a factor there may have been other reasons such as the arrivals of the 2007s or the end of the month which induced the general manager to give us an offer which surprised even our salesperson.

So even though it was brand new, not a demo or a lease return, not a TDI diesel, it wasn’t even white, my mom now has a new car. Even after we agreed on the trade in value and thus the final price, the amount of money we paid to Volkswagen still increased as we were talked into some care package and an extended warranty.

Driver's instrument panel

A big reason we were buying a Volkswagen and not another Nissan down the street was the service department. My mom had ceased getting her car serviced at Riverside Nissan and was so dissatisfied she wasn’t willing to even buy another Nissan at a different dealership. The Volkswagen dealership on the other hand has a service manager which numerous people including my deceased grandfather swore by.

I still think the Maxima looks better from the outside. The Passat has a nice interior with some well designed features. It probably is a little slower but it will get better gas mileage. It has a large trunk and cool center console and instrument panels. It has dual climate controls and an in-dash 6 CD changer which the Maxima didn’t. My mom also liked how the seat adjusted higher than the Maxima. It is the oddest and usually minor features that impress my mom.

I told the General Manager how I was surprised my mom didn’t buy a diesel and despite insisting on a white or silver car bought one that was only slightly less of a darker metallic grey than her Maxima.


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