IT'S TIME FOR DEALERS TO COME CLEAN WITH U.S. AUTO BUYERS
by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- When it comes to cars, there are very few "elites."
Millions of Americans driving a Ford Focus, a Hummvee, or a Rolls, are just like me: gullible, greedy, and stupid about cars. I've been fighting the same fight for more than a decade, or since whenever Ford took over the famous Jaguar nameplate and turned it into a Taurus with a different hood ornament. At that time there was a marked improvement in frequency-of-repair and reliability of Jaguar. Heck, they turned a notoriously breakdown-prone British luxury car, into a pretty good full sized Ford.
Stay with me... . Like most things automotive, this idea will cost you money.
But maybe not.
When my radio show was syndicated at night to 86 cities, I publicly made a proposal.
I repeated it on local shows in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale/Miami.
I have repeated it since then until I am blue in the carburetor, with the blessings of my morning host, Doug Stephan. My little daily business segment goes to about 300 radio stations, and Doug Stephan's "Good Day" is the 9th most-listened-to radio program in the nation.
I have never had a listener react negatively to the proposition:
"I would gladly pay $5,000 more for my next car if I never had to pay a single dollar for repairs, deductible, routine service, loaner cars, etc. Nothing. Never. As long as I own it."
Okay, lots of people probably think this is a crappy idea. But they never called.
Think about it: I didn't say 3 percent or 10 percent or a sliding scale. I implied that the listener with a $12,000 Toyota Echo, a $36,000 Chrysler Pacifica, or a $85,000 Porsche would shell out five grand.
Ford actually tried something like this with the Jaguar. Some "Platinum" after market service contracts which are "bumper-to-bumper" claim this.
In reality, there are exclusions such as "routine wear and service of tires, brakes, filters etc.; power windows and antennae; LED gauges, and, as my favorite and only wife found out twice in two months, "computer chips" in ignition keys, steering column locks, and ignitions. In other words, there are thousands of dollars in exclusions which the automakers count on when they sell you a new car at "employee discount" or "less than sticker" prices.
The closest model for every carmaker is Bob Turner Ford Country in Albuquerque. Bob has a beauty parlor and barber shop in the service lobby, one of the better Southwest Tex-Mex restaurants next to the service bays (often giving discount coupons or free coffee and snacks to waiting customers), a comprehensive free shuttle around the city, and an Enterprise car rental office (well, not free, but where I once rented a "loaner" for five bucks for the day).
Think about your cars and those of your friends.
Why do they still talk about the Corolla which lasted for 12 years, or the Nissan which ran and ran with nothing but a tune-up and oil change for 15 years? Why are most of the auto love stories about a previous generation of Japanese cars?
Americans loved the Maxima, but not the Impala; the Camry and not the Malibu; the all-wheel-drive Subaru and not the Focus.
It always has been, it is now, and will always be about service and reliability.
Talk to people.
When the old car starts running $400 a month in repairs it doesn't pay to fix it. You go back into debt in an "upside down" deal just when you were making your last car payment.
I know people who never hauled a bale of hay or a refrigerator who buy new F-150's and would rather give them to kids, nephews, and charity than ever sell them. Is it possible that the F-150 is the global champion in vehicle sales because it is - forgive me, Lord - actually reliable!
Do you ever see a 3/4 ton, four-wheel-drive GMC Suburban for sale in the paper used (okay, maybe a rusted 1987 from Key West)? Who would get rid of one? No one? Does the owner care if gas is $1.27 or $3 per gallon? No.
At various levels all the big ad campaigns are scams: