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When fly-away new-car deliveries go wrong

Let me tell you something about Henry David Thoreau: he never bought a new car. How do I know this? Well, there’s the minor detail of his having died 23 years before the arrival of the Patent-Motorwagen—but there’s also the fact that he once wrote the following, “I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/19/avoidable-contact-vw-phaeton

Excellent story! However, the Audi A8 is built with an aluminum space frame, so calling it a platform mate to the Pheaton and Flying Spur is a stretch in my view.

You could have taken pictures at Delivery, especially if executing a lease…

That being said, however, a lease on a car is not the same as a lease on a house.

Last new car we bought was a ford Taurus station wagon in the late 90s…

My father in law helped us with the negotiations, and found that they were trying to stiff us for a battery (just the difference of $125, not as a line-itemized list) for it since it had sat at their lot and nobody wanted it.

We’ve bought 2 used cars from dealerships since then. My experiences with both of those brought me to my current understanding of the car market, call them guidelines for regular people, not the insanely wealthy or rich.

  1. If you need a vehicle for transportation, best to not ever buy new.
  2. If you need a vehicle for transportation, best to never lease new.
  3. If you need to buy a used vehicle for transportation, best to have a mechanic check it out and buy from a local person (assuming you don’t have to finance.) Buying from auctions, sometimes the same caveats. But, be ware most auction houses (at least around these parts) charge a % premium on top of the winning bid. The auto auctions that dealers go to usually don’t have that.
  4. Besides having a mechanic check it out, stay away from vehicle if it is over 12K miles/year. Unless hybrid, then stay away if it is over 24k/year or batteries are older than 8 or 9 years. Unless diesel, if you can stand the smell and sound, then say, 24k/year if all belts have been rigorously looked after. Service records help on this, again your mechanic should be able to tell the difference between a good belt and a bad belt.
  5. If non smoker, try and find a non-smoking used car. Go ahead, try.
  6. Dealerships should only be used for hard to find parts, and service that you can’t get performed by yourself or some other local reputable mechanic that you can trust.

If everybody followed these 6 rules, I wonder if the auto industry would finally notice that people are getting fed up with being taken for a ride.

Great story and I assume great cars. I’ve looked at them on and off but coming from Audi, I have a pretty good feel for what maintenance can be on top of the line models once they have depreciated to my radar screen.
That said, I have flown and driven a fair bit, San Fran to Maine, FL to Maine, recently GA to Maine last year, but only from private parties. Having bought and sold a few dozen cars, only one came from a dealer early on and while a painless transaction, it was still enough to last me for a lifetime. Looking forward to more tales.

For what it’s worth, I’ve owned three Phaetons and all have been good experiences in general. First one was a lease in MD on a demo the dealership owner drove, which I owned for three years. Somebody tried to break into it one time and could not break the rear window glass because it was so thick. The trans was bad as it was in most of the first cars off the line and fixed under warranty. ($12000 repair) Second one I flew to Chicago to retrieve, and after a month somebody made me a crazy offer on it and it was gone. The third was a 2004 W12 in Michigan that had literally been driven be a little old lady and had been given the warranty service for the front suspension and the transmission, which were issues on the 2004 run. Black with tan interior. I put a deposit on it based on pictures from the salesman’s phone as they had not posted pics to their web site yet. Your senses do not work correctly in the W12, there is no sense of speed. On the way back to NC from flying in and picking it up from Michigan I set my personal speed record and bounced it off the 155 limit for the tires, which it got up to and back down from in a much shorter time than I expected. After my wife rung up two tickets in it I put it on Ebay and it was gone for more than I paid for it. Even after a profit I would still rather have it back. The car control/entertainment system is way out of date but the climate control, which gets no fanfare and is something you never notice is the best ever designed in any car. If I could find another W12 in that condition I’d fly anywhere and drive it back.

I like the argument that the under appreciated car salesperson gets beat down on price by a consumer that is happy to pay “full blown” retail for everything else in their life. I don’t believe its true. The customer who walk into the showroom, picks out a car, and buys it with little or no negotiation is the customer who lives life that way. Today’s bargain savey consumer will buy all of these thing online, where you can shop price vs features online without the hassle and wasted time of traveling “store to store”. These buyers will want to do as much of the car purchasing experience as possible online, where they can take their time, price check everything, and only head to the dealership for final sign off and delivery. As long as everything goes according to plan, these customers will not complain at the dealership, because they hate the car buying process and want to conclude it as quickly as possible. I have, for a decade, been as strong advocate of ending the “stealership” format for purchasing new cars. It’s outdated and consumers (especially millennials) hate it. The showroom experience should consist of a non commissioned “host or hostess “ whose job is to present the features of the cars and handle test drives, the rest of the purchase experience would be done online and signatures would be electronic, just like efiling your taxes. Today, most consumers view cars as appliances. They should be purchased in the same manner.

The last new car I bought was in the ’80. I’d just moved from Los Angeles to the country, 10 acres and dirt roads, outside of Denver and I need a 4-wheel drive, Subaru was recommended.

On a Monday I went to 3 Subaru dealers, told each of them the model and equipment I wanted, no trade-in and I’d be paying cash.

I told each of them that I was going to get pricing from 3 dealers, on Wednesday I’d call each of them to get their price and I’d buy that day from the one with the lowest price.

When I called one and got the price I said “If yours is the lowest price I’ll call you back.” The third one I called, actually the local dealer, had the best price and I made arrangements to pick it up later that day.

Within 30 minutes the other 2 were calling me asking why I hadn’t called, because you were not the lowest, all of a sudden they were offering a lower price than they had told me. I told them I was clear about what I was going to do, you had a chance but for a couple of hundred dollars you lost a sale, your greed cost you.

I could have saved a few bucks going with one of them but I don’t like to reward bad behavior and I would stand by my commitment to the local guy who played by the rules.

Since then I’ve only bought used cars from private parties.

Always have a “plan B”!

Some people here are talking about buying at dealers in the 1980s or so. I remember going to a Subaru dealer - every single car had vinyl roofs and “undercoating” as dealer add-ons, and he claimed “they come that way,” which was patently untrue, and then said “all the customers want them that way” and “we can’t sell them unless we add” the vinyl roof and undercoating. He would say anything, in other words, and the cars were way over list price. This was during one of our fuel crises. I asked how much extra he would charge to remove the undercoating and he and another salesman asked me to leave in a very intimidating way Years later, buying a factory-certified Honda Accord, after I agreed on a price, the guy in the office (whatever he’s called, the one who sells extended warranties and and financing and so on) was going on and on about selling me “wheel insurance” for about $500 and I let him go on, only to remind him at the end of his pitch that the model Honda I was buying had steel wheels. But some salesmen are honest. The last new car I bought was a manual transmission Plymouth Acclaim in 1992 (yes - there were such things) and the salesman warned me that the moment I drove it off the lot it would lose half its value! He was looking out for me, but the car was very heavily discounted and lasted 170,000 miles before I sold it, still running.

While it is true that Millennials hate shopping off line, and dealing with sales people, the irony is, that my daughter and most all of her peers cannot afford to buy new cars anyhow. In fact just yesterday I was reading an article in a financial publication that said auto loan delinquencies are at an all time high, and the largest percentage of those 90 or more days late were held by millennials. Guess it’s hard to cater to a group with lack of funds, although I do prefer to deal with the majority of sales people for as short a time as possible.

I retired last year from car sales after 25 years in 13 different stores. I like the comment " some salespeople are honest ". I was attracted to the business because of Saturn, which was a great way to do business, one price and transparent, I loved it. I went on to work at many old school stores. I always tried to do the right thing as best I could, I had many customers that appreciated this but many people do not. Everybody is an expert on the car business, but they have no clue what is going on and need someone honest to help them, way more than they know. Dealers have endless tricks and are constantly come up with new ones. The business is changing fast with the new age of transparency, but I can tell you dealers are fighting it tooth and nail, the old ways have served them well. Salespeople are really getting beat up, I struggled to make a living the last several years after being a top producer for years. Glassdoor says the average salesperson only makes $30,000 a year now, and I worked with many struggling to make $25,000. It’s always been a tough job, but you used to be able to make a decent living, somewhere along the line dealers decided they didn’t want to pay salespeople anything. They have massive turnover because of this, this is all by design. They keep hiring anybody and telling them they can make $100,000 a year. Most commissions on new cars turn out to be " mini deals " which usually pay $100 - 150. The average salesperson sells 8 - 10 cars a month, you do the math. Believe me the dealers are still making theirs.

The past is kind of irrelevant with regard to buying a new car today. Fair market value for a trade-in is online, the dealer invoice information is there too along with factory incentives. Today, nobody walks onto the lot with no idea what the difference between trade-in and purchase values are. When dealers stop wasting hours of customer’s time trying to squeeze that extra $200 out of a $25,000+ item, maybe the car buying experience changes and they’ll sell more cars. Turn and earn. Two tips to first time buyers-- 1.) Get your trade-in value first before you agree on the price of the car you are purchasing. Trade-in value is the only true unknown in the equation. 2.) Always take a second set of keys with you. When the appraisal comes in 25% below what you think your car is worth, or “talking to the manager” takes more than 5 minutes, you can get up an leave without waiting for the salesman to “go find your keys” that are in his pocket. You won’t touch your car door before the price of your trade-in suddenly jumps up significantly. Tip for sales personnel-- if the car buying experience is the usual game it has been for decades, expect to see your sales dry up. You are chasing the current generation to ride-sharing. Think about that, one car for all those people.

interesting article and kind of sad some of the other comments on the auto industry, firstoff id have to say that taking this kind of car on a track is just silly,its a 5000 lb car, you are just going to smoke your brakes as the writer mentioned,smoke your tires after one day im sure and the writer is just lucky he got his bearings replaced under warranty, why in the heck would you take a luxury cruiser onto a track,yes,its powerful,but,just silly.on the other note about auto sales and the meager salaries they earn,its a crummy business,my son is going through to be a automotive tech at a ford dealership,a few years ago i made a deal on a friday to trade in my excursion on a ford flex,when i went in monday to do the paperwork and the swap the used car manager had “changed his mind” and asked me for another 1500 dollars, i flatly refused and walked out the door, i was reminded what the auto industry is like,i had thought it would have changed,but no,same silly games,same unprofessional greed.its no wonder so many buyers opt to buy online today.