[personal profile] kittenscribble
K finished test-driving the Insight and pulled it into a parking spot at the dealer's. We got out, ready to switch drivers. Instead, the salesman took the keys and asked what we thought.

K said he thought his wife would like to drive it too.

The salesman looked mildly surprised, but nodded, and said he'd pull out the car for me.

Peeved by the assumption that I a) wouldn't want to drive the car, and that b) I wouldn't be able to back out of a perfectly normal parking space, I proceeded to drive the Insight much more aggressively than I normally would -- speeding down straightaways, whipping around corners. And thus I got a much better picture of what I liked and didn't like about it.



I really wanted to like the Insight. It was small, like my '99 Corolla, which meant that I would be able to park it easily. It had the hybrid coolness of the Prius, but was cheaper and had a nice big steering wheel (one of my minor issues with the Prius was that its steering wheel was absurdly small; it felt like driving a toy). The gas and brake pedals were exactly as responsive as I liked. But unfortunately, the seats in the Insight were uncomfortably firm and angled in a way that I just couldn't settle into, and when the steering wheel was set at a comfortable height for me, it blocked the digital speedometer display. (Aside: why have we moved away from analog speed displays? I much prefer needles on dials for readings, to get a good idea of my rate of change in speed, but none of the new cars seem to have the analog displays any more.) Not to mention that the car had virtually no pickup (the poor engine roared whenever you tried to get it to accelerate, and didn't accelerate very fast at all despite all the fuss it was making), and the A/C turned off whenever you came to a stop -- a good energy-saving idea, but not a great feature in 90+ degree heat.

So we thanked the salesman for his time, told him we didn't want the vehicle, that we weren't interested in looking at other vehicles, and that we'd be on our way.

But there must be something I can do for you, the salesman said.

It's not you, I said, it's the car. I don't like how the seats feel, and when I have the steering wheel at the height I like, it blocks the speed display.

You can adjust the steering wheel, he said.

But then it's not at a comfortable height, I said.

I've never heard of this problem before, he said, as if the fact that he hadn't heard of the problem made it automatically less of one. And you don't like the seats? Have you tested other cars?

I admitted to having tested the Prius.

Yes, he said dismissively, Toyota makes soft seats. But do you want to fall asleep while driving your car? Honda makes firm seats, for people who like the driving experience. And the headrest is there for whiplash protection. I will get you a price quote.

When he was gone, K leaned in to whisper: I don't think he noticed that we drove up in a Toyota, and he's basically telling you that you'll be uncomfortable in any Honda.

The guy came back with a very nice price quote; it would have been quite appealing if I was at all interested in the vehicle. The guy also came back with his manager, who proceeded to talk our ears off. He started off with tales of how the husband would try to strike a deal for a certain car when the wife really wanted another one, how they'd always come back later to get the car the wife really wanted, etc. We listened patiently. Then he proceeded to quote us an even better deal than before.

We said that it was very nice, but we just weren't interested.

Name your price, he said. Give me a number. We'll see what we can do. I know you came in here near the end of the month, looking for a deal, we just need to get the 2010 cars out so we can get the 2011 cars in, we can give you a great price, just give me a number.

I said that honestly, we just didn't want to buy the car.

Well, he said, what's wrong with it?

I told him about the seats and the display.

Well, who's going to drive this car? he said, looking towards K, even though I had been doing most of the talking.

I am, I said, peeved again.

He, too, asked what other cars I'd driven, as if I had no basis for comparison. So I mentioned the Prius.

He promptly started busting on Toyota's reliability, and on how their parts were expensive and basically had planned obsolescence built in. We had someplace to go and I was trying to be polite, so I held my tongue. (But oh, what a rant I could have given him about how the global nature of parts manufacturing and distribution meant that anyone -- Honda, GM, whoever -- could be the next to suffer driving problems, unintended acceleration or otherwise, and how the human error intrinsic in software engineers meant that anyone could have bugs in their code, just waiting to be discovered.)

He didn't make any claims about Honda's reliability or parts affordability, and I didn't ask.

He finally got around to asking me what car I currently drove, so I told him. Thus ended the Toyota rant.

I thought that would finish the matter, but he then proceeded to go on at length about the benefits of leasing vs buying, how cars promptly lost value as soon as you drove them off the block, etc. This would have been interesting had it not been a) irrelevant (when I buy a car, I buy it intending to run it into the ground; I'm not looking at it as an investment -- there are much smarter investments out there), and b) unwelcome; we wanted to leave. When it seemed like he was winding down, I put on my baseball cap, getting ready to go.

You're a Capitals fan! he said, delighted, and proceeded to yammer on for a while longer before we left. Eventually, we finally escaped into the muggy heat and slid into the soft, contoured seats of my battered old Corolla.

I thought we'd never get out of there, I said.

I never got a pitch like that before when I was test-driving cars by myself, K said.

I guess my takeaway is this: I think we got at least some of this treatment because we were going car shopping as a couple. This is by no means universal (we had a perfectly reasonable, no-pressure time at the Toyota dealership) and could conceivably be limited just to this particular dealership, but I think the guys had one particular way of dealing with married couples and could not get themselves out of the groove, no matter what signs we gave them otherwise.

My other lesson is, as [livejournal.com profile] paleotheist told me, "Sometimes you just have to be rude." Next time I'll just get up and go. I definitely had better things to do with my day.

(it's Christine)

Date: 2010-07-27 12:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wow - those are some pushy sales tactics. When a customer says s/he doesn't want the car and lists reasons why (anything other than price), that's when you stop trying to sell it and look for the next sale, because this one's just not going to happen.

If it makes you feel any better, P didn't test drive any of the cars I was trying, and the salespeople didn't try to hand over the keys to him either, so maybe since K drove it first, they assumed it was for him, so that part might not have been because you have tatas. Though the carmax salesman who was little-ladying me "you don't want the Toyota - it makes too much sense for you" was lucky to leave with his head still attached.

I would have left when he went to get a price quote. =)

The Cube has an analog display. Looks like the Leaf does not though, but if you're looking for a Hybrid, you could test that out in a few months when it's available, but keep the digital display in mind. Image

Re: (it's Christine)

Date: 2010-07-27 12:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
"It makes too much sense for you"? Really? Dang. And re: pushy sales tactics -- really, the further I'm pushed, the more I tend to push back out of sheer cussedness. I don't know why anyone would want to browbeat someone into making an expensive purchase like a car.

I thought it would've been a hint when the salesman asked for a driver's license and we both pulled one out, but I guess that might've been too subtle. We drive each other's cars pretty often, so I definitely wanted K to be okay with it as well.

I'm tempted by the Leaf, but I can't go all-electric unless we get a house with a garage... or I convince the townhouse association to start putting in charging stations. :) I think the hybrids might have digital displays in part to make them look more "modern."

Date: 2010-07-27 01:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lilmymble.livejournal.com
lol - we recently went to look at small SUVs at the Laurel Carmax and had almost the opposite experience. We went to carmax first so we could compare the Toyotas and the Hondas together. Even though we both have happy corrolas the Honda Pilot was a better ride - at least for the 3-4 year old models. They had us pull over halfway through the test drive to switch drivers (though we did have to request it). And afterwards they took us back, gave us the trade in quote for V's car and, maybe it was because carmax is no haggle, but we said we didn't think we'd be getting anything today and the guy (who had spent about 2+ hours with us) said OK - have a nice day and walked out. The end. We both sat there stunned - I've never been able to leave a dealership that quickly. He didn't even ask what we liked/didn't like or try to make other recommendations or anything. It was crazy.

Date: 2010-07-27 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
That's awesome! Even the Toyota dealership (who let us go with a minimum of fuss) made us at least sit down and repeat to a manager that we weren't going to buy anything that day. I'll keep the Laurel Carmax in mind when just going out for test drives again.

Date: 2010-07-27 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pseudotheist.livejournal.com
Yeah, definitely test drive at CarMax. It's like their purpose in life.

Date: 2010-07-27 01:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lilmymble.livejournal.com
Also - I frequently have that problem with the steering wheel blocking the display when it's at a comfortable height when I'm looking at cars. I drove my sister's Landrover a couple times and it was an increasingly irritating issue.

Date: 2010-07-27 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
Good to know I'm not the only one.

Date: 2010-07-28 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bkleber.livejournal.com
I, too, have had that steering wheel problem. Go figure. I also have short legs and a long torso, so I have trouble getting the seat, pedals, and wheel all in an arrangement that I find comfortable.

Yeah... obnoxious, pushy, and chauvinist... great trifecta there. I've run into similar stuff when out with female friends, a lot of people we interact with look to me assuming that I'm the one in charge.

A couple weeks ago I was at Home Depot with a very attractive female friend, and got asked by at least half a dozen Orange Aprons if I needed help. Usually, I'm lucky if I get one such offer on a Home Depot trip. I mentioned that, and my friend looked at me bewildered. "You mean they don't always ask you if you need help like that?"

Date: 2010-07-30 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
I had a brush with the "life is different for attractive people" phenomenon too. For one of my school projects, I partnered with a supermodel-gorgeous, slender blonde Russian chick. I met her at a Starbucks and doors were held open, seats were given up, and we got free refills of our coffee. I was astounded. She thought this was normal.

Date: 2010-07-27 01:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pictsy.livejournal.com
I would love to see their research on uncomfortable seats keeping people awake.

Date: 2010-07-27 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
Ha!

Actually it sounds like some sort of grad student research project waiting to happen.

Date: 2010-07-27 03:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lilmymble.livejournal.com
They actually did an episode of Better Off Ted (which is hilarious if you haven't seen it before) on a similar subject. They determined that ridiculously uncomfortable chairs may increase work productivity, but will eventually lead to madness.

Date: 2010-07-27 02:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] msteleute.livejournal.com
So frustrating!!! The only auto dealership we didn't get a run around with was Antwerpen Nissan on Automotive Drive in Clarksville. If you ever want to try out a Nissan go there!

Date: 2010-07-27 02:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
Maybe I can hold out until the new Nissan hybrid is available. I haven't tried the Altima yet either; thanks for the tip on the dealership!

Date: 2010-07-28 01:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] phlee76.livejournal.com
That is a crazy story. I can not believe they would treat you that way. I would have been so angry and I would not have given them that much of my my time. You are so nice!! I've dealt with pushy sales guys before... I've even seen them get red in the face after saying no a hundred times but to try to push a car on you that he didn't even think you needed to test drive?! GRRRR!

I say pick the car you want and if its a Honda go to a different dealership! Oh and I would have totally said ... I love the car, you are the reason I'm not buying it! But that's just me being snarky. :)

Date: 2010-07-30 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
The crazy thing is that I would actually consider going back there if I wanted a Honda, because of the very low price quotes. Fortunately it's not an issue...

Date: 2010-07-28 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mediaprophet.livejournal.com
That was aggressive! Yikes!

Also, running a hybrid into the ground gets very expensive because of the batteries. He might be right about leasing if (more accurately, iff) you're looking at hybrids.

Date: 2010-07-30 10:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
That's a very good point. The hybrid battery does set a different bound for "ground" than other cars. I did a little bit of research, but the history just doesn't seem to be there yet to establish accurate battery lifespans.

OTOH

Date: 2010-07-30 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_life_for_the_hybrid_batteries_used_in_the_Toyota_Prius

Date: 2010-07-28 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snidegrrl.livejournal.com
How do you feel about non-hybrid cars that get relentlessly good gas mileage? I know this is crazy talk but have you thought about trying a Hyundai? If you're getting 45 miles to the gallon, you're still doing pretty damn good. You might not want a car that small though.

Also do you drive stick?

With Love From A Former Incredibly Efficient Car Owner

Date: 2010-07-28 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snidegrrl.livejournal.com
Oh and the only time I have gotten treatment like that at a dealer was a Toyota dealer, the Bowie one. I was looking at Echos, alone, and it was BRUTAL. I had to be rude.

Date: 2010-07-30 10:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
As I am learning, rudeness is sometimes called for. :(

Date: 2010-07-30 10:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
I like cars that get good gas mileage, but hybrids seem to have the edge in emissions, which is why I was looking harder at them. And I'm definitely looking to upgrade to a car which can actually fit normally-sized people in the back seat. :)

I drove stick a little bit when I was just learning to drive; I remember liking it, but I haven't done it in a decade.

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