Buying Our Next Car: Step Two

Buying Our Next Car: Step Two

Assisted by your comments, I’ve narrowed the field, added a couple of models, and made further forays into the jungle of terror that is dealership e-mails – with mixed results. Here is where we are now.

1. 2011 Honda CR Z EX (new) MSRP as built: $22,106 Miles: 0
Still in the game, although I remain suspicious of the hybrid technology and the overall enthusiasm to be engendered by the driving experience. A test drive will be needed.

2. 2012 Ford Focus SE (new) MSRP as built: $20,610 Miles: 0
Appears worthy of serious consideration. I have looked at one in the metal, and although a bit weak on testerone-inducing looks it will do.

3. 2009 Volvo C30 T5 R Design (new or used)
I know I would love this car. The challenges are price (do I want a monthly pay-ment on a near 30k car?) and 6 speed manual shifts are rare. Most seem to be boring silver, which is also an immediate failure on the buyometer.

4. 2012 Honda Civic Si (new) MSRP as built: $23,385 Miles: 0
Probably out, as the looks do not excite, it would be pricey, and the stupid wing on the back is not an option or even a delete option, apparently.

5. 2012 Fiat 500 (new) MSRP as built: $17,530 Miles: 0
Probably the leading contender, if I could find one. They are just now trickling in, and a car that is both new and new to the market can have reliability issues and suffer from dealership greed jacking up the price. In addition, my subtle e-mail campaign has revealed ugly truths about the local dealer, who evidently place all of their eggs in the basket of having you physically present so they can work their charm.

To some extent this is understandable, as I deal with e-mails from “customers” at times who are essentially trying to get a firm price quote they can use to negotiate with a dealer in another state where they intend to buy. In other words, they want a firm price commitment that will not be used, and are thus using the dealership’s time in a less that forthright manner. Stuff happens.

However, in this case all I asked – 5 times – was if they had a red 500 with sport wheels and a five speed. This was not a negotiation but a simple question that should have been answered.

6. 2006 Honda S2000 (used)
A very nice car, but probably out due to cost, a rev-happy engine with the torque of wet toilet paper at street rpms, and the fact that I really like but do not need a convertible. The optional bolt on hardtop is spendy and rare.

7. 2002 Chevrolet Corvette (used) $24,880 Miles: 29,042
This has been consigned to the scrap heap of teen age lust, which I evidently still retain. Susan really disdains the car, and her opinion matters a great deal, so it is out.

8. 2008 Mini Cooper S (used) $25,900 Miles: 23,621
Still a valid consideration, as the one I chose for an example is only one of dozens and there are several for less $. Fuel economy and terrific driving enjoyment may yet win out over dated looks and been there and done that ennui.

9. 2000 Porsche Boxster S (used) $25,950 Miles: 24,044
Both Susan and our son Will pointed out the disastrous running costs of our previous Porsche, which may be a scoche unfair, but Will mentioned that I hated the stigma of driving a Porsche and the reactions of people to it, and that is valid. Still tempting, but probably a no.

10. 2011 Mazda Miata MX 5 Touring MSRP as built: $28,500 Miles: 0
Spendy, but I really like the car. Might be a contender if this search goes deep into the fall. When the rain returns and the 2012 models begin to need floor space there will be deals to be had. December 31st would be the best day to purchase.

11. Added – the Kia Soul. Inexplicably, I think this is really a cool car. It is also reasonably priced, and comes in “Ignition,” a wild orange shade that appeals to my twisted brain. The Kia Forte 5 door and Kia Koupe will also be examined, although the Forte is dull. Not sure the Soul or the Koupe can rev up my buyometer sufficiently to purchase, but a test drive will put the mettle to the pedal.

12. Mustang Bullitt – probably in the same fantasy world as the Porsche and Corvette, but every time I see one rumble buy (2008) in the dark green with no wing, etc. I want one. Hard to find with low miles and a price I am able to bear, I am afeard.

I have considered many others, as well, which are not listed here. Some were rejected because of cost, some because they are only available with a CVT transmission (whoever made that call should be shot) and some because… to the anguish of salesmen and designers everywhere, they fail to “grab me” in that inexplicable mix of factors that cannot be explained.

As a next step I went out and purchased a Consumer Reports guide to all the new cars. As it turns out, I am in the middle of a product cycle, and some of the 2012 models coming have not made it into print. There is little information on either the Fiat 500 or Ford Focus (none in the case of the Focus), my two most probable leading contenders. It did bring to my attention the Hyundai Veloster, which alas is not on sale yet. “Patience,” as we would like to have said to Romeo and Juliet, “This will all work out.”

A close reading of the guide with a keen eye peeled for hp figures and weight and all of that statistical stuff does make the CRZ look better and perhaps slides it up a notch.

Meanwhile – further adventures in e-mail:

A local dealer responded, and actually proved to be able to read! No sarcasm intended here, as I was hoping to find someone with the gumption to actually read the first articles on this project. Bob from Chuck Olson Chevrolet Kia commented on the Corvette and the weirdness of seeing his own words in print, and by doing so has moved to the head of the class. So far it is not a very bright class, but kudos to Kia Bob! I will schedule a test ride when Susan calms down from the final week of 5th graders and is able to think and speak rationally on a consistent basis.

Also had a phone message from Doug’s Lynnwood Mazda, where I worked part time in customer relations from 1998 to 2000, and the nice man skipped over the part about my wanting to communicate only by e-mail, and made no reference to my having worked there, so he fails the reading test. However, an e-mail from the Internet guy was very helpful, so bingo – they are back in the game!

I reached a state of détente with the Fiat dealer two miles from my house, when I simply e-mailed them to let me know when they had the car I wanted and I will come and look at it. This inconceivably complex message was received and agreed to enthusiastically.

Honda of Kirkland redeemed themselves with a thoughtful e-mail as to the Civic Si, so they to are back on the field of sales batter. An advantage for Honda of Kirkland, the Fiat people, and Totem Lake Ford (who I have not dealt with yet) is that the Honda dealer is 6 blocks from my wife’s school, and all three are within 5 miles of our home.

In case you are wondering, I do not prefer e-mails because I am trying to “trap” dealers into juicy e-mails that will be grist for this little mill, as that would be tacky. The only reason is that I hate talking to people on the phone!

Next step: Continued vigilance of all print and Internet ads, and drive tests in a week or two. Stay tuned. Are we having fun yet? 

Copyright David Preston 2011

About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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