I was reading my newspaper recently and came across an article written by a woman journalist who was celebrating the demise of the, as she called it. ‘shiny suited car salesman’ whose sexist attitudes have apparently in the past been responsible for women being urged to do things like ‘discuss their purchases with the man of the house’ before making a decision. This article set out some, to me, quite eye-opening statistics for the UK market in new and ‘pre-owned’ (it’s what they call second hand here) cars. The internet has liberated people to change their purchasing habits when they buy a car. In the days before the internet dominated our buying approach, the average Briton buying a car made five visits to a dealership before making a purchase. Now, most of us do our research on line. You can choose your new car, sort out the finance for it and arrange the part exchange of your old car on line and even arrange delivery without setting eyes on a single shiny suit. Footfall in car dealerships in the UK has apparently fallen in the last few years from 30 million to an anticipated 15 million this year and a projected seven million in 2018. What a revolution! It is said that the second largest purchase we all make after a house is a car and we are moving to doing that without any human interaction – amazing! Or is it? When I bought my current car, I did what in Scotwork we teach – I enriched the deal by talking one to one with the dealer and getting a few extras to make the purchase just that bit sweeter and more personal. For Jane, my wife, the important extra was a fluffy teddy bear dressed in a T-shirt bearing the manufacturer’s logo which she introduced as ‘just one more thing’ as my pen hovered over the contract papers!
Have you ever tried to negotiate with your laptop? Let me tell you it doesn’t work. I wonder if this move to internet buying is really something which works to the advantage of the sellers much of the time. Their headline on the website may be price but what about all of the other things we value when we buy that shiny lump of metal to sit on the driveway and make a statement to our neighbours? Is it important to have it picked up and dropped off when it has its annual service? Will they throw in a fluffy teddy?
Are we prospective car buyers being put in a place which serves the dealers’ aims and reduces our negotiating scope? I really don’t know, but I suggest that the next time you want some new wheels, you should do your research by all means but take the time to have a meeting with the man in the shiny suit and see how much he wants your business and if he has got your equivalent of a fluffy teddy bear to ensure that you give it to him.