Sometimes Wikipedia cracks me up.
The Toyota Previa… “failed to steal any significant share from the Chrysler minivans due to its high price, odd Asian styling, poor fuel economy, terrible horn, and weak engines.”
Note to Toyota engineers. Work on that horn! The old ones apparently weren’t horny enough.
The car business can be a pain for three distinct reasons.
The first comes from the cars that you sell. Botched repairs. Unhappy customers. Surprises that just seem to spring up and bite you in the ass. I can deal with that.
The second comes from people in the industry. Employees and contractors with productivity issues. The unending myriad of regulations and paperwork. Continuing ed classes with little relevance to reality. I can deal with that too.
What I can’t deal with is…
Within 50 feet of getting out of my old 74 Chevy C10 I hear a familiar voice.
“Hey Steve. How are ya?”
A 6 foot 7 inch monstrosity of a man pats me hard on the back and dislodges the few cobwebs that remained from a 5 AM wake-up call.
Editor’s Note: This is the second part of the series. The first can be found here.
Certified pre-owned vehicles are rapidly becoming the favored new car alternative in the marketplace.
Sales for March 2013 are up over 21% from March 2012 to 190,065 units. Sales for the quarter were nearly a half million units to 497,647. Up nearly 10% from a year ago.
Coffee. Old magazines. Quiet murmurs of conversations. I am stuck in an old office with two dozen other people who are awaiting instructions from a young tattooed lady with a clipboard and a shrill nasal voice.
“Follow me!”, I hear six inches from my ear. It seems like the perfect moment to have a rendezvous with the doctor, the dentist, or the job interview. Or at least someone who doesn’t instantly give me an instant flashback to my New Jersey upbringing.
Not this time. I’m in…
The 420,000 mile Ford truck. The 420,000 mile Chevy truck. The 420,000 mile Camry. The 420,000 mile Accord.
I have covered all of these brands and models to the point now where I just hope, wish and dream of a different vehicle to highlight.
A few months ago I finally had a pair of Saturns make it to the top. A little before that there was a 90′s Altima that handily beat nearly 7000 other cars and trucks. This week…
“I wouldn’t buy a car at an auction. They’re all junk!”
Bad transmissions. Blown engines. Cars that smoke, drink and hang out with the bad boys thanks to all different types of leaks and spewage. This is the general stereotype that most uninformed consumers have of those cars at an auction.
Most folks look at auction cars as vehicles that are worth more dead than alive. Every malady and defect is assigned to these ‘red light’ vehicles that are sold as/is with no warranty.
But do you know what is the #1 issue of those auctioned off trade-ins here in the Atlanta area?
Press fleet vehicles are full of little surprises.
A rap CD with a certain word used 200 times in a three minute song.
Then there are the unusual litany of condoms, leftover roaches (the smokable variety), and paternity results that no doubt tell you more about your peers than you ever thought possible.
Finally, there was a trade-in that topped them all. I called it the Thelma and Louise car.
A thick book. A banana. Two year old sneakers. A backpack.
Then there is an oversized laptop that has to be wrapped around the zipper line of the backpack in order to fit.
I’m headed for the Hartsfield International Airport in Clayton County, Georgia. The most visited airport in the United States, and a second home for me way back in my traveling days.
10 years ago I traveled over 200 times a year to various auto auctions throughout the country. My job was to inpsect, appraise and liquidate over 10,000 vehicles a year for an auto finance company. Travel was almost instinctual back then. I could sort out all my personal belongings for the road ahead without any wasted space or thought.
This time, I’m hopeless.
Good, Fast and Cheap.
Feel free to pick any two when it comes to all things cars. Consumer. Retailer. Rebuilder. Doesn’t matter. You always get a choice of two out of the three.
Don’t believe me?
Good. Cynicism is always a solid first step in buying any used vehicle. Whether you are kicking the tires at a lot as the end consumer. Or listening to the urgent chant of an auto auctioneer trying to sell the mediocre remnants of a rental fleet at a wholesale dealer auction. Everyone pretends to offer you a great deal.
But truth and reality in this business, at all levels of this business, are two very separate things.
Let’s take all those great deals I get from the auctions… good, fast and cheap. Sure. I do get them all. Just almost never in the same car.
Another day at the office. Like most drones on a Friday afternoon, you’re wasting your time playing on the Internet. Thanks to a mid-level job that requires more presence than productivity.
The smell of slightly burnt coffee and the din of florescent lights is already starting to kill your weekend mojo. This is the time when you usually take a bit of the vodka that’s hidden under the lock and key of a nearby file cabinet, and mix it into whatever drinkable substance strikes your fancy at the soda machine.
You open the drawer and…. huh? Who put some Colt 45 malt liquor in there? Ice cold. Wow.
You pause for a second. Pop it open, and before you know it.
A lot of folks may look at their early teenage years with fleeting moments of fondness.
Friends, birthday parties, fun and games. Not to mention a healthy variety of mischievous activities to help keep life interesting between the endless classroom lectures and local social drama.
I don’t remember 99.9% of it… which is no doubt a good thing since my life was pretty much in a counterclockwise hormone ridden tailspin by the time I hit the big 1 3.
But I do vaguely recall one unfortunate thing I never could avoid.
Some things in life are just plain goofy when you start thinking about them a good bit.
Consider the lyrics to the Lynyrd Skynyrd anthem”Sweet Home Alabama”, coupled with Forrest Gump dancing with his childhood love.
Or Born In The USA as a song frequently used to further political candidates. When the lyrics point straight at the constant screwing of the common man by the powers that be.
Finally we have the Honda Accord. A car renowned for quality, and yet, enthusiasts bitch about it more and more with every succeeding generation.
I’ve enjoyed for a couple of years now the articles you’ve written for TTAC and the insight you give on used cars and the business you work in. Since you do provide your contact information, I thought I’d write to ask a question relevant to my used-car-shopping situation.
Local propaganda almost always serves to screw the little guy. With rare exception, it never fails to do so.
“We need a new stadium!”, cries the billionaire whose team already got one just two decades go. “Please pay for it John Q Public!”
“Hey! What about me?”, screams the local electric company CEO. “We really need to double the monthly service charge for our local residents to manage our costs. But let’s also throw in a double digit rate reduction for those who use a lot of energy. Like the billionaire and his businesses. After all, they create the jobs out here!”
And the story drones on. The trash company that owns a multitude of companies that have virtually nothing to do with trash, wants to hike your bill. Because they need to hit their numbers. Just like everybody else. The insurance company. The gas company. The local government. The state government. Heck, every local monopolist and oligopoly is thrusting their well oiled lobbyist machines right at your shrinking wallet.
Guess who else is doing it now? The auto parts stores.