Salesmen, Beware Of The Backseat Boys

David Sacci
by David Sacci

In 2001 during an early evening with a piercing December chill, Jason splayed the salesman’s grin when Dad and Son showed up in a warm showroom. Well of course he’d be happy to let them try a new Passat, “but first can I get a copy of your license?”

Moments later, Jason pulled up to the glass front doors in a black B5. He hopped out and assumed the passenger seat. Ten-year-old Son scurried in past the back door and settled in the center of the backseat with a commanding view forward.

Despite his 30 minutes of interactive product training, salesman-Jason wouldn’t be the expert in the car that evening. He didn’t stand a chance against the ten-year-old in the back. That boy’s bedtime stories came from Consumer Reports and Road & Track.

As Dad secured himself in the driver’s seat with the Teutonic click of the seat belt, the boy was already reaching forward from the back seat to show off the seat heaters.

“You can roll it to turn on the bun warmers, see!? And look, if you move the lever to the side you can shift the gears like a manual car!”

“Son, put your seat-belt on so we can go,” Dad said over his shoulder.

Salesman Jason racked his brain for Passat arcana that would put the boy in his backseated place.

Jason prescribed Dad and Son an anemic test drive route with a quick hop onto and off of the highway. Soon, salesman and boy sounded like an old couple.

Salesman: “And this car has…”

Boy: “…190 horsepower!”

Salesman: “So you can get up the driveway when it snows …”

Boy: “…this car has four wheel drive.”

During the drive Jason had a difficult time getting a talking point or a question across without Son finishing the salesman’s sentence.

Salesman: “And if you move that dial up there…”

Boy: “…you can open and tilt the sunroof!”

Salesman: “And if you pull on the handle…”

Boy: “…it goes back into the roof softly!”

When the three rolled back into the dealership parking lot, Jason mustered as genuine an expression he could stomach, turned back and said, “Hey kid, you seem to really know your stuff. You probably know…”

Boy: “…more about this car than you do? It’s child’s play.”

By virtue of going to Road & Track night-school, Son knew more about the Volkswagen, and every other automaker’s lineup, than any salesman should ever need to know.

At the end of the day, Jason focused on selling to the front-seat driver when really he should have focused his efforts on the fifth-grader in the back.

Instead, the boy in the back settled on an Acura TL.

Join the conversation
2 of 53 comments
  • Sinistermisterman Sinistermisterman on Jun 11, 2012

    My father is another of those who almost NEVER listened to his son when looking at purchasing cars. I say almost because he finally admitted to me that he knew naff all about cars and wanted some help for his last purchase. I asked his preferences, drew up a shortlist, got him in contact with a half decent dealer (a mate of mine), got him a test drive and bingo. He got what he wanted. 70,000 miles later he is still as happy as a pig in sh*t.

  • AJ AJ on Jun 12, 2012

    Sounds like I need to find some kid to go car shopping with, just to irritate the salesman. LOL Nice story.

  • Lou_BC My kids drove around in a 2 wheel drive Chevy Colorado crew cab I bought off a neighbour when they were moving to Alberta. We kept it 4 years but sold it recently due to various engine codes popping up and the engine sounding more tired. It was one of the inline 5's known to have soft valve seats. All I had to repair was new front brakes and rotors, a wheel bearing and a battery. Both kids wrecked a tire clipping a curb. My oldest backed into it with his pickup which required a grill and headlight replacement. We bought a 2008 Corolla as a replacement for my 19 year old. It came with 4 new summers and a set of decent winter tires on rims. We'll run that until it looks like it will implode/explode. My oldest currently has 3 Cherokees (2 for parts), an F150 "Jelly bean", and a Mercury Grand Marquis. Insurance is very expensive for young drivers. That's why beaters can save some money. I haven't put them on my new truck's insurance since that would add around 90 per month in costs. I'll add my oldest to it temporarily so he can use it to get his "full" driver's license.
  • Arthur Dailey I grew up in an era when a teenager could work pumping gas or bussing tables and be able to purchase a vehicle for a couple of thousand dollars and drive it with 'uninsured' status.If a parent advised on the purchase of the vehicle, they would most often point us to a large, stripped/base version, domestic sedan with the smallest possible engine.These cars generally had terrible driving dynamics and little to no safety features, but were easy to work, had large bench seats/interiors and not enough power to get out of their own way.
  • MaintenanceCosts I'll guess: 3rd owner, never did even basic maintenance, major component failed, car got towed from the apartment complex parking lot, no one bought it at auction because the repair bill exceeded the value.The chrome pillar appliques support this hypothesis.
  • MaintenanceCosts I'm generally in the "I want them to have all the new safety stuff" camp, but new cars are both too fast and too isolating these days. They mask speed enough that a new driver can get way in over his head without really realizing he's even going that fast. This is especially a concern with my youngest, who wants to do everything he does faster. (He has zero fear tearing down hills at 25 mph on his little 20" wheel bike.) I'm hoping for something that is slow and communicates speed well, although I'm not quite sure there is any such thing in today's market.
  • KOKing I test-drove a used Equus Ultimate (the one with all the back seat doodads) that was a trade-in at a Ford dealer, and although it was VERY nice to be in as a Lexus LS with Ultra Luxury, it was supposedly in a minor fender-bender that probably wasn't repaired correctly (like a pinched bus cable or something?), and random features didn't work at all.I think this car suffered the same problem in the US that the VW Phaeton did, and probably would've done better if it was badged a Genesis from the get-go.