By BRENWIN NAIDU
Even if the product isn’t out of this world, it seems the decision you make when buying a car is ultimately influenced by the competence of the car salesman or woman you’re dealing with.
Well, this is what I observed recently after a browsing through some dealerships in Jozi – on the prowl for a reasonably priced, funky hatchback. Maybe I’m gullible, but on one occasion – thanks to the salesperson, I found myself seriously considering something I never would have before. In another instance though, I was deterred by the salesperson – even though the vehicle had already established itself as a favourite on my list.
First, I visited the local Fiat dealer. Because the Fiat Punto meets the criteria: it’s affordable, practical and pretty stylish.
There I was: scrutinising those models on the floor, peering into their windows and giving their tyres a light kick – as is customary when car hunting. A long while later a salesman with a glum expression lazily walked up to me and asked if I’d like to see what the Punto’s interior looks like. He shuffled back with the keys in hand. Naturally, I asked a ton of questions – but Mr. salesman seemed unwilling to answer. He handed me his business card – but I “lost” it somewhere. Suffice to say, I probably won’t be getting from point A to B in a Punto sold by him any time soon.
Next, I went down to a General Motors dealership, just to see what the hype was about all that red tag stuff. I drove and reviewed the Cruze last year and I was smitten by the car’s looks and level of features. But the price is too dear for me, so I went to GM to see their budget offerings.
As I stepped onto the showroom floor, I was swiftly approached by a friendly saleswoman who shook my hand firmly, smiled broadly and dazzled me with her cherry-sweet demeanour.
Then she showed me an example of the new Chevrolet Spark, sporting a white shade of paint. In retrospect, it looked pretty unflattering – but at the time, under the saleswoman’s spell, I though it was the most awesome colour ever. “Would you like to drive the vehicle?” she asked in a friendly tone of voice.
My heart and mind had been stolen – I didn’t protest though: to quote Robbie Williams, “I didn’t lose my mind, it was mine to give away.”
Strolling back to my office, I thought that this Spark would be perfect for me: she would beautify my parking spot and be the envy of my mates with their mundane Japanese models. I thought about the positive connotations the word spark has. Spark conjures images of something special, something igniting. I remembered my dad’s aunty, affectionately known as “Aunty Sparks” – because she was a real livewire. And it was a little spark that set that bush alight in The Bible, right?
But away from the stronghold of Ms. saleswoman’s charms, I had time to think it over with a clear head. I realised the Spark is a pretty ugly car. With those big headlamps and stubby nose, it has a face like a surprised spaniel – it’s a total dog compared to the pretty saleswoman.
Apart from this, I think it’s too small. Let’s not fool ourselves – size counts, especially if you’re driving in Jo’burg traffic: nobody wants to get bullied around and cut-off by other motorists in something as dainty as the Spark.
I’m sure the Spark is a quality product – just like the Cruze and the Lumina. But it just doesn’t grab me as the latter two do.
So until I win the lottery, the only high-voltage thrill I’d go to GM for is that given by the sparky saleswoman.