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Monday, December 26, 2011

SAFETY IS AN ACCESSORY: THE MODERN CAR PURCHASE

Hello World,

My buddy booked a car recently and I had the opportunity to be around him and see what he had to go through to book his first car. It was a short experience but it was a surprisingly funny experience. My buddy had a quotation in hand and he was looking for options to choose from. Now we did not have to go through the soap opera style “Make/Model Selection” oratorical extravaganza where on the hint of a yes, people would go ranting about how good the fender of a specific make can withstand a monster truck crash. The model and make in this case were finalized without all this trouble and we were out looking for options from different showrooms, hoping we might get a cheaper deal. We were hoping to negotiate something we thought we knew and understood. We should have thought otherwise. 

It was a bright Sunday morning. Me and my buddy went for a cricket game (where I got out in the first ball and still the guys let me play…they thought I can bat…bad guess…apparently..) and were driving back home with the objective of stopping by a showroom on the way. Now it has to be noted that me and my buddy, two 27 year old guys, were driving in Chennai, looking for a showroom, without knowing if there was one in the route we were driving. I guess that explains why we’re buddies since 9th grade. There is a dialup directory service running in the city, which essentially is yellow pages on phone. Sitting as the pillion rider, I was handed over the responsibility of calling and enquiring about a possible car showroom in that area. My buddy had a hunch there was one in that neighborhood. I dialed the service from my buddy’s mobile and asked for a car showroom and they responded there was one indeed in that area. With me and my buddies, hunches always led to trouble. This one was a little different. So I believed. 

We got the number of the showroom and I gave my name to the guy on the the other end who gave us the number. So the confusion begins right there. Wonder why my randomness alone does this every time???  Me too….  So we finally reached the showroom which surprised us with a capacity crowd on a Sunday. The sales executive greeted us with great respect and began the proceedings. Now, for those who do not know, speaking to a car salesman is like listening to Spanish radio in a meditation hall. You can’t speak a word because it is a meditation hall and you can’t understand a word because you don’t know Spanish.
After yawning three times, I decided not to force the salesman use profanity in his workplace. I started making attempts to listen to him like I was a ham radio enthusiast searching for a lost frequency. As the salesman was explaining the accessories that they provided along with the car, I came across the sound that was quite similar to “LEFT SIDE REAR VIEW MIRROR”!!!!!  I have no idea what the salesman talked for the next 20 seconds, for I was stuck with the idea of rear view mirrors as an accessory for a car. It is true, given the Chennai’s traffic and Indian driving scene, nobody uses rear view mirrors but from the car-maker’s perspective, rear view mirrors are dire safety needs for any vehicle. I was telling myself….Welcome Home Tiger. 

Pulling myself together after this “kiss-the-electric-eel” experience, I got back into conversation with the salesman, not knowing that the ride was yet to begin. It started with the financing options. He went from bank to bank, flat to floating interest, down-payment to what not in this world…….me and my buddy were staring at the salesman like two 2nd graders staring at their Principal. I should say there cannot be a better way of explaining the financing options in a consuming way. This special episode lasted for well over 15 minutes…that’s 5 minutes more than my usual attention time…but I was zoned out all the while….trying to figure out what the salesman was lecturing on. 

After the end of the financing spitfire, me and my buddy randomly chose one of the options offered simply because it had the least rate-of-interest, just to get the salesman move on the next topic…or anything that we can nod like a human for. Apparently we chose the worst financing option. The salesman’s face brightened and that told me we just stepped on another landmine of a lecture. I was right…I am always right when I get in trouble…wonder why…..

When asked for a good discount, the salesman readily agreed, much to our amusement, and then when he gave us the quote, we were at the verge of thinking to opt for a different model. He said yes to the discount but added all the “Accessories” and brought the quote well and above my buddy’s budget and then installed the discounts, clearly telling us that he is a car salesman and we are not humans. When offered a good price, he said he had to enquire before he can confirm and demanded a “spot-booking.” Well, forget the booking, we were ready to clear the spot hoping to find another showroom to get another quote. 

Later that day my buddy booked his first car, in a different showroom, where we learnt that the financing lecture we had earlier that day was a total “Voldemort-is-a-Puppy” fairytale. From the marketing perspective, in an attempt to give the customers a feel of getting more for what they pay, car manufacturers have added the necessary elements of a car into the additional accessory list. Now people like it when they know they get more for what they pay (which again would be more accordingly), but is it ok to have the really small yet important aspects of a car in the accessory list, forcing customers to pay for something they deserve as a paying customer? To me, from the marketing stand-point, it is weird to note that, rear view mirror is an accessory that the customer can choose if the option was to live, while the sun-film on the windows came as a free-gift due to year-end sales promotion. The big surprise is...it is Maruti that is doing this.


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