[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.
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July 2011

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