As you may have read here on the site in the last few days, it looks like my ’06 GTO will be arriving at the dealer quite a bit earlier than originally anticipated. Of course, none of this was ever an exact science. But GM really picked up the pace this year, and that leaves me somewhat in the lurch — needing to sell my WS6 to make enough money to actually buy the goat, I couldn’t afford to screw around. I needed to get that Trans Am to move, and not in the usual pedal-mashing way.
Originally I thought I’d just finance most of the GTO and then pay it down when I finally did sell my Trans Am for around $15k or so. However, Apple and I eventually found that option to be undesirable. Most car loans today are of the “simple” type, and allow you make extra payments or pay off early with no penalty. However, they do not re-amortize if you pay down half of the principal a few months into the loan. Put another way, your payments don’t go down, the length of the loan just shortens. This was not what I wanted. I wanted to redistribute the remaining payments so that they would be more manageable. But the only way to do this, I was told by the various lenders as I investigated, was to refinance. Meaning possible title transfer fees and a higher interest rate. No thank you.
So the table was set. No new GTO until I sell the Trans Am. All the money I can get has to be in my hand before I do the deal. So, we started talking about what I could bribe McNamara Pontiac with to get them to hold my car on the lot for a few extra weeks until I could sell. Not that I really wanted to do that, because then I’d miss the Red Tag Sale (and a $2,200 savings). My other option, of course, would be to trade in. I knew I’d get less, but how much less, exactly? $10 or $11 thousand would be manageable, but $5 to $7 thousand would not. Yet I got value estimates on the Internet that ran that entire gamut. McNamara won’t even give me a ballpark figure unless they can see the car in person, which is understandable. What to do?
I decided to swallow my pride and take the WS6 to DeVoe Pontiac here in Naples for an appraisal. To quote Ripley, “It’s the only way to be sure.” Or somewhat close to sure. Well folks, here’s where it gets entertaining. Read on.
You may recall that I test drove a goat at DeVoe last summer, and the outrageous “Dealer’s Suggested Retail Price” markup job they were doing with $100 pinstripes and crap like that. Okay, so how do I get these nuts at DeVoe to give me an appraisal? Pretend to buy a car, I soon learned. This morning I called up their used car sales manager and asked if I could get someone to appraise my trade-in vehicle. There was a very long silence, then the guy gruffly asks, “Uh…are you planning to trade the vehicle in here, sir?” I said yeah, I was interested in a new GTO but the deal hinged on what I could get for my trade. Immediately the dude lit up like a bulb and gushed for me to immediately bring my car over because they would be DELIGHTED to look at it. Hah, okay pal. I’ll be over later.
This afternoon I dropped in and the ruse was in full swing. The guy who greets me is a new car salesman and I explain what I want to do. He starts taking down the particulars of my WS6. It’s clear he knows nothing about them from the questions he is asking (you know, asking if it has equipment on it that comes standard on Trans Am, things like that). Immediately makes a big stink about the tiny shopping cart dent in my left rear quarter, rubs his finger prints all over it and then seems fixated about looking at the plastic gasket around the fuel filler neck for some weird reason. I tell him the shopping cart incident happened years ago and I never knew anyone I could trust to fix the dent without making it worse. “Oh, I do,” says the salesman casually like suddenly it’s no big deal. He drops the keys in the used car manager’s office and, while we wait for the appraisal, takes me over to look at the new GTOs.
I play it casual, not talking about a particular color/option set that I want or anything, just kinda half interested. They have a brand new Torrid Red ’06 on the lot, which is the first ’06 I’ve seen in person, so I take a liking to it right away just for curiosity purposes. The only other goat there is a Cyclone Gray ’05 that’s already tagged as sold. I recognize the car from my previous test drive, which means it’s been sitting on the lot for five months. The Torrid Red is very pretty, same kind of red as on my dad’s WS6, but perhaps with a bit less orange to it. The interior is black, the gearbox is of the “slush” (auto) variety and the wheels are the ho-hum 17s. In other words, I wouldn’t buy the car even if I was there to pick one up, but I ask to start it up anyway because I just can’t get enough butt time in the GTO seats. This time I try some features I always forget to try, like the power windows, and the new-for-’06 power door lock switch. I also closely examine the new darkened taillights that just came out this year. They are really beautiful. Oh, and now I see what everyone means when they talk about the “disco ball.” I thank the salesman, lock the car up and hand him the keys back.
As we’re walking around the lot, I start playing games. I love this shit. None of the sales staff at this dealer knows much about the GTOs, so I always get a kick out of asking questions about it to see how much they know. (The last time I was there, we had fun for a few minutes trying to figure out how to turn the fog lights on.) But the guy I was talking to today wasn’t terribly informed about the other products in the Pontiac lineup, either. He kept calling the Cyclone Gray goat “Galaxy,” which is the name of a color on the Vibe if I’m not mistaken. I asked for funskis if he had any of the new V8 Grand Prixs on the lot, and the guy started scratching his head and looking around as if he had no idea what a Grand Prix GXP is. He may not have even realized they were putting eights in the Grand Prix now. “Uh, you can tell it’s a GXP if it has heat extractors on the front fenders,” I say light-heartedly. Hoo boy. Oh, they had an absolutely beautiful new Bonneville GXP with the Northstar V8 there. It was a pearlescent white metallic, seemed pretty loaded, and was on sale for under $33,000 — not bad.
About this time they want to take me into the office and find a car for me to buy. Of course the sales folk at DeVoe are eager to do business with you the same day you walk in, so they really like to go at you in a friendly but yet accelerated manner. One guy pops out of an office and says that they only have two goats on the property but that there are “lots” available at other dealers in the state. Ten, to be exact. Wow, that’s not a lot. I know for a fact that McNamara alone has more than that right now. Then we discover that he’s talking about ’05s. I want an ’06, I say. He makes a face like I asked him to pull Mars out of its orbit and serve it to me on a hoagie roll. “Not many ’06s around yet. They’ve just started trickling in.” Actually, the second boat shipment just docked so there are probably over a thousand ’06s in the country by this point, but whatever.
I tell them exactly what I want, figuring they’ll never be able to find it. They do some searching and find a black/red ’06 with a manual transmission and print it up for me, quite proud of themselves. I notice it does not have the 18″ wheels that I said I needed, which they neglected to mention in the hopes that I would not see that. Of course I do, but I don’t care because I’m not buying a car from them. I’m just playing along until I can get that all-important trade-in value. The salesman who’s been leading me around says, “If it were me, I wouldn’t want a car with a red interior, but hey, if that’s what you want…jeeze, do they even make leather in red? Is it like fake leather?” Uh, no, it’s leather, dude. It’s called dye. They dye it. Y’know? “Oh yeah, I guess they’d have to. You know that means it’s gonna fade big time, man. It’ll probably even come off on your clothes!” Wow, I better tell the thousands of enthusiasts over on LS1GTO that their red interiors might melt off on their butts. Is there a TSB out for that? (In case you haven’t caught my sarcasm here, the only GTO they had for sale had a black interior, so they were doing their damndest to sour me on the red interior and thus get me to consider it. Sorry, guys — you fail at life.)
Finally I’m ushered into one of those claustrophic car dealer office cubicles and shown the paperwork. Here’s the selling price. Here’s the Red Tag price, uh huh. And here’s your trade-in value — what the fuck…? FORTY-EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS?!
This isn’t gonna do it, I tell the salesman, which I figure earns me the understatement of the decade award. I can pull Blue Book trade-in estimates far in excess of that all day. “What kind of condition are you putting in?” the guy asks. Excellent, I respond. “Even with that dent and scratches and everything?” he chuckles. That’s right, pal — the dent that you scoffed earlier would be cake to fix. And what other scratches were there, exactly? (Secretly I wish for a time-traveling device that would let me return to 1999 and use a 10-pound sledge to cave in the skull of whoever put that dent back there in the parking lot of that Publix on 436 and Howell Branch. I still have flashbacks to that day every time I’m tempted by a vacant parking spot right up near the door of a building. Reason alone to park out in lot “Z.” I have no apologies.)
So after I get done saying very calmly that $4800 is tantamount to knifing me in the back, the salesman disappears, saying he’ll be right back. Oh, I get it. They’re going to play their Hide in the Finance Office For Hours to Make Me Nervous game. It’s amazing how easygoing you can be in the face of this kind of treatment when you’re not planning to buy something, and you’re the only one who knows it.
While he’s having his secret pow-wow with his boss, I wander around the showroom, checking out the admittedly cool Torrent, the sweet-hot Solstice and the new Buick Lucerne, which marks quite an improvement to the Buick lineup. An old man is investigating the Torrent, talking about how he used to buy American cars but now he buys Toyotas because the fit and finish of domestics went down the commode. The salesman who’s with him is trying to cater to the old dude’s sense of patriotism by telling him all kinds of stuff about how Toyota doesn’t pay their workers jack squat for health care and so on, basically guilt tripping the old man. Then he opens and closes the door on the Torrent and says “Just listen to that finish.” Yeah, will it still be sounding like that in three years’ time? I note quietly to myself that only 50% of the Pontiac Torrent’s componentry is sourced from the United States. It’s assembled in Ontario. The engine comes from China. The transmission comes from Japan. (For the record, I have never experienced an economy Japanese slushbox that could shift worth a crap. Give me a good old 4L60E anyday over a high-tech, fifteen-million-gear Japanese auto.) But my Trans Am came from Canada and my Goat’s just floated in from Australia, so I’m used to the globalization. The money gets back to GM, which is what counts.
My salesman is back. “Okay, I’ve managed to get you a little extra on your trade-in.” The trade value is now up to $5200. WOW, it’s still shockingly low; would you like a candy cane for your efforts? I know what they say about people seeing a lot more value in their own possessions than anybody else will, particularly a car dealer, but this is patently absurd. I think I would take my deposit back and not buy a GTO at all if it were either that or a $5200 fucking trade-in.
I express more displeasure. Again the salesman says he’ll be right back and disappears. Hee hee, this is getting amusing. I fiddle with my Motorola E815. I have a picture of Apple set as my background image. She’s so cute! In the cubicle next to me, an old, gravelly-voiced man and his wife are grousing to their salesperson about their current (or previous) car, and how it was hit by some “goddamn kid” and all the doors and quarter panels had to be replaced, and yada-yada goddamn this and that, and the kid’s mother this and the sheriff that and he should be in jail now bah. Okay, yeah…I’m sure the sales guy really wants to hear all that. They express reservations about the navigation system in whatever car they’re looking at, worried that if it works through OnStar, they’ll be tracked via satellite by some secret Men in Black at the OnStar offices and their privacy violated. It’s amusing to hear the salespeople adjust their MarketingSpeak on their own products in the face of customer attitudes like this. “Oh yeah, it’s just like big brother!” the salesman agrees whole-heartedly. Suuuure, pal. He then goes on to say that if they get the nav system and don’t order OnStar, then the navigation doesn’t work through OnStar. Idiot — your in-car GPS navigation system doesn’t work through OnStar AT ALL. If you have OnStar, they track you with their own system, whether you have an in-car nav or not. Sheesh.
He’s baaa-aaaack! This time my sales rep reworked the figures to include my $1,000 GM Card earnings, my $6,000 down payment and is now giving me $5,600 for the trade. Okay, with increments this small, I am going to be here until I’m thirty-six before they give me a fair value. I explain that I had run the numbers with my wife (she’s my boss, you know) beforehand and I’m gonna need $9,000 at a minimum for my trade or I can’t do the deal. I know they’ll never give me that, so I might as well leave now and go back to selling my car privately. The salesman seems amused that I think I can make that much, even on the private market. I tell him about the guy who was perfectly ready to buy my car for a whopping $15,000 until he, uh, forgot my phone number. Yeah, that’s what happened. “So are my keys in the car?” I ask, pointing at the (hey, very gorgeous) WS6 parked outside the showroom. “No, Dennis has ’em. I’ll be right back.” Sales guy disappears again. Uh oh, I think he is giving it one last-ditch attempt to win my business today. Let me go study the Solstice literature, this should be good.
“So what’s for dinner tonight? …That sounds good. Why don’t I stop and get a bread or something…or like a Texas Toast. So you can make garlic bread.” — Actual quote from a guy on the phone in the cubicle next to me. Wow, this is starting to get boring. I think I’ll collect my keys, my Trans Am and go home.
This time I’m called into the finance office. The keys to my T/A are sitting right there on the desk, so I grab them before somebody thinks to use them as a bargaining chip in some macabre reality show game. For a dose of irony, my salesman says, “Hey, you know that girl from Naples who was on Survivor? She won a Torrent.” Wow, color me totally fucking amazed, dude. Then I’m treated to the official word direct from the sales manager’s mouth: They’ll give me $6,000 for the trade and that’s the absolute last word. Because yada yada yada, I won’t bother to retype all the excuses they gave for how much money they’re gonna have to put into the car in order to sell it, because you’ve heard them all already. Of course he also trotted out all the reasons why private selling is a bitch, because of the people who call and then don’t show up, the taxes you pay, the advertising fees, having to be at home when people come over, etc. All of which sound like they were lifted right from the Car Buying Tips webpage. Of course, I already spent the ad fees, already cleaned up the car and already work at home so sitting around all day isn’t exactly difficult for me, so these arguments fall on deaf ears.
Wow, they have a damn good pumpkin roll in the lounge. My sales rep’s wife made it, apparently. I have some while I consider the manager’s words and then pull the old “pass-the-buck” routine, well known to negotiators the world over: “Well, I gotta take this up with my wife, but she’s already told me no GTO until I get at least nine grand in cash.” The dealer knows they aren’t going to give me that for my WS6, so they let me walk out. They remain cordial the whole time, though, which is appreciated. On the way out, a guy shows up with his son who looks about 18, in this beautiful orange metallic C6 Corvette. The guy walks into the showroom and buys the Solstice sitting there, which was probably marked up about 5k over sticker knowing DeVoe, then drives it away (with his son piloting the Vette) while I am standing there talking. Wow, welcome to Naples, where we like it rich.
So yeah, I know that the dealers in this area have a reputation for jacking up the fees and low-balling on the trades. Everyone on LS1GTO agrees. I think there are three other guys from southwest Florida on the board who bought their goats from non-SWFL dealers, heh — two of them from McNamara, in fact. Still, I can’t help but find myself smarting from the experience, and it does little to bolster my confidence that trading in is a viable last-ditch option. Now it looks like I’ll be stuck calling up McNamara and begging Roger to hold my car on the lot for as long as it takes to sell my WS6, even if I have to bribe them with another deposit.
But although I may be in a pickle, I realized one thing: I’m glad I chose McNamara. I’m relieved that I found another dealer with a guy as smart as Damon from Red Holman. A guy who knows his stuff. A guy you can converse with about goat lore, giddily complete each other’s sentences about the latest rumors heard on LS1GTO and through the internals at GM. And best of all, a dealer whose staff knows its product, won’t screw you financially, and wants to help you get the car you want. If they don’t have what you want, they offer to order it from Elizabeth, Australia. Never once did I hear that come out of the mouths of the guys at DeVoe. If they can’t make a buck today, they don’t care if they make it at all. It’s this kind of crap which will keep people from buying GM cars long after GM’s product quality assumes world class status, and it’s depressing. But while last night I was regretting doing a long-distance car order, now I’m patting myself on the back. I’d rather put up with the trip — even two trips, at it looks like I’ll be making — than deal with this kind of schtick.
Oh, there’s a delightful little postscript to this elongated anecdote. On my way home, I stop off to buy one last Christmas present for a family member. As I wait in the left-turn lane, several cars make left turns out of the driveway I’m aiming for and dash to the center of the road, where they wait for traffic to clear on the other side. This means my view is essentially blocked, so I’m stuck sitting there until they move. One of these folks is a middle-aged guy on a little Vespa scooter. Dang, dude, you must have a couple of big brass balls to ride something like that around in Christmas shopping traffic in southwest Florida. Suddenly Vespa guy waves at me to get my attention, and gives me a thumbs-up with a great big grin on his face. He likes the Trans Am!
Wow, I always said people notice that car all day long when it’s clean. Guess it’s a characteristic of black. Oh, and those cool stripes. I give him a thumbs-up in return, and then, after recovering my wits, I grab my FOR SALE sign and hold it up for him, nodding my head like, “You want?” He makes a gesture like “Ohhhh, no” and laughs.
Oh well, I tried, right? At least it’s nice to finally get some respect.