After 10 years, my Volvo needed to be replaced. I don’t drive that much, so a car is less important to me than a new computer, for example. But I do live in LA, where having a car isn’t an option.
I wanted to buy American. I’ve never owned an American car before, yet given these economic times, I thought supporting US jobs was an important thing to do. And I did my homework, taking more than a month to narrow my decision down to four cars.
As I’m sure you know, what “American” is can be debated, so I ended up with a couple of cars on my list that have a greater connection to US jobs than did some of the American cars I considered.
It’s not important that I ended up with a Hyundai Sonata. What is important is that my experiences at a couple of Ford dealerships turned me off completely to that brand.
The first Ford experience was in Santa Monica. The very first day I started looking, I stopped in to just look at a couple of cars. I was told that all the sales people were in a meeting and no one could help me. This was on a Friday at 1PM. How is it that you leave no one on the floor at all? When the president gives his state of the union address, one cabinet member gets left behind. They couldn’t do this at the dealership? The woman at the desk was less than helpful: there was no literature out and when she called for someone to come with some, they never came; after 10 minutes of waiting, I left, never to return. (The receptionist’s comment: “Well, what do you want me to do about it?”)
While the Marina Ford dealership at least had someone on the floor who was nice and a manager who seemed engaged, and the Valencia dealer had a lovely salesman (who, for whatever reason, seemed a bit inflexible on price), it was the Galpin Ford dealership Sunday afternoon that sealed the “can’t-buy-a-Ford” deal.
Yes, we were greeted before entering the showroom. I was looking at test driving a Fusion. As we started our drive, I asked the salesman if there was anything he wanted to tell me about the car. His answer: “If you’re interested in it after you’ve driven it, I’ll tell you more about it then.” What? Don’t you want me to fall in love with the car when I’m driving it? Sell me on all its cool features?
The car was actually a bit more comfortable for me to drive than the Sonata. Not by much, but enough for me to consider exploring price, despite his off-putting sales style. So…
First, they didn’t have a car with the options I wanted – just the more expensive package was available. (And if I wanted that options package, they could order it, but he said it would take 8-10 weeks for it to arrive. When I got my Volvo, they didn’t have the car with the options I wanted at the dealer I bought it from; they arranged for me to get the car from an unrelated dealership in a town close by.)
Next there was the nearly $600 in car-alarm related features that I didn’t need – which was a Galpin thing that you just had to accept. “We put it on all our cars because our customers want it” Well, I’m a customer who didn’t want it or need it. I had no option – and it seemed like it was just another way for them to make a profit.
And then there was the extra closing costs, that if I remember correctly, ran another $400. The one item that got to me was the $102 to prep my car for delivery. That’s washing the car and filling it with gas – something every other dealer I’ve ever visited throws in for free at the time of sale.
And finally, the guy didn’t even know all the incentive programs Ford was running at the time or he chose not the mention the big “year end event” promotion terms.
We were then asked, “If you don’t have any other questions, I have another person waiting for help in the showroom.” No hand shake, no business card, no good-bye.
As we were driving back to the Hyundai dealer, my sister who’s spent most of her life in sales, was recounting the worst bits of this over and over again – something she’ll only do when the situation is egregious. Shockingly bad is all I can say.
And it doesn’t matter to me how many times the salesman said Galpin is the largest Ford dealership – this isn’t the way that you get someone to support an American (or any) company. In fact, it epitomized the “ugly American” stereotype that Europeans often accuse us of: boorish, superior, with a bit of stupid thrown in for good measure.
While I’m not a mystery shopper, if I were, this isn’t a report I’d want to get if I were the client. Am I soured on buying American wherever else I can? Certainly not. But it’s unlikely that next time I shop for a car Ford will even make my list, which is a shame. You can have the best product around, but if you have a lousy representative, it’s all for naught.
P.S. Can you tell me why the name plates on Chevy and Ford need to be so ugly? And big? On the Chevy in particular, it was a real turn-off.