Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Let's play "Car Dealer"!

Cue music – theme from Jaws
Fade in to scene:

A large and airy car showroom. The floors and walls are blindingly white. Brightly coloured, shiny cars are scattered around like gleaming candy. Seth Rogen, complete with geeky spectacles, stumbles in and looks around him in wonder.

On the side, a shadow fills a doorway and Charlie Sheen steps into view. He is wearing a loud checkered suit and has slicked back hair.

Sheen (in a booming voice): Can I help you!

Rogen (timidly): I’d like to buy a car? I need something practical – my wife just told me she’s pregnant.

Sheen wraps his arm around Rogen’s shoulders.

Sheen: It’s your lucky day! Just got in a brand new Ferrari – you can drive it away for only $100,000!

Yes, we exaggerate, but this is the picture painted by many car consumers. Dealers are portrayed as “sharks”, who want to make a quick sale – and will do anything to sell a car. Car buyers say it’s like stepping into a boxing ring. But what do the car dealers have to say about it? After all, there are two sides to every story.

Cue music – theme from Psycho
Fade in to scene:

A small and tidy car showroom. The floors and walls are clean but could use a little paint.  Cars in all colours of the rainbow are neatly arranged by size and shape to make best use of the space.

At the front entrance, a shadow fills the doorway. John Malkovich strides in, looking at his watch.

Malkovich (impatiently): Hey! Anyone home? I’m looking for some service.

Ryan Reynolds runs in, wearing a shabby shirt and tie, and towelling off his hands.

Reynolds: Yes, sir. I was just cleaning up the garage. How can I help you?

Malkovich: I want a car. It has to be sexy and reliable. I have three kids and they all have to sit separately. Plus a dog and a mother-in-law. And it has to be good on gas with new tires and a set of snows. Oh, and I can only spend $1,500.

Far-fetched? Well, car consumers can be guilty of expecting the impossible – and they don’t do their homework. Before anyone sets foot in a dealership, they should do a reality check on their budget and research some viable options.

Really, there’s no need for the car buying process to be adversarial. Ontario (and other provinces) has a Motor Vehicle Dealer Acthat sets out the rules for car dealers. The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)  administers the Act and ensures compliance. Car buyers can find protection, assistance and information through resources like Car Help Canada as well as Consumer Reports, the Lemon-Aid books, and a host of weekly car sections in all of Canada’s major media.

And you might even be able to find a Ferrari for under $20,000 if you look around the internet. It’s the car consumer’s best friend. Both Sir Frances Bacon and the official Google blog say, “Knowledge is power.” Use it … wisely.

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