Colin Alcock

Verbal Ramblings.

Car showroom or finance house?

Over the last couple of months I've been looking at an alternative to my ageing motor and that has meant both online research and a few visits to showrooms. OK, it's a few years since I've done this, but I was amazed at the lack of interest sales staff show in actually selling cars. I have made a number of visits where I've climbed all over the model I'm interested in and not one salesperson has approached to help (or hinder) my exploration. I've been elsewhere, where I've been guided to the appropriate model and nothing has been said about its qualities or suitability for my purposes. The sales person not even bothering to take my name or contact details. And everyone wonders why sales this March were so low.

Of course, I do realise the reason for all this. You've only to look at the promotional material in the showrooms. Gone are the technical and factual details for each model that you used to find. All you have is banners and stickers for personal finance, manufacturers' contributions, enhanced trade-in and the like – provided you take out a contract where you rarely ever get to own the car, unless you make some massive final payment. Want to pay up front? They don't really do any deals for that, you can't have your £1000 reduction, sir, unless you take out a plan that costs you £2000 over list price.

It's the way of the world. Push more and more people further into debt and appeal to those who are ready targets. The young and impressionable. Take out the practical electrics like electric rear windows, door mirrors and cruise control and shove in bigger speakers and social media connection (which you shouldn't use anyway, when you are driving) to make the whole thing a mobile beats box. Oh, and keep the costs down, by detuning the engine, throw away the spare wheel, and pretty it all up with scrub-off-in-time, liable to fade, coloured decals or a different coloured roof, which will be out of fashion by the time you want to resell the car. Except, of course, you won't; because you will be talked into exchanging it for the latest model or an upgrade, at an even more costly personal finance package.

Has the car industry forgotten there's still a good few mums, dads and aged P's who want a car that is comfortable, economic and gets you places quietly and efficiently, with plenty of boot space for kids' and grandkids' paraphernalia? Some will say that's why there's a growth in the 'every one must make one' SUV. But unless you buy a big one, are you that much better off. They all seem to have roof rails ready for the top box, because the boot isn't big enough. Still they do cost a bit more and you can win more on the finance stakes if you're a dealer that sells them.

So there you have it. Sales staff who know to the last penny how much your personal finance will cost and how many different phones you can connect on board at the same time: and not much else. And certainly no real effort to sell any cars. Just the finance, if you do all the fact finding work yourself and decide to buy one.

Today was typical. After research, I've two cars in mind. In one showroom I appeared to be invisible: in the other a salesman did guide me to a vehicle parked in the corner of the forecourt (because a new showroom is under construction), but offered no information on the car, whatsoever, and only as I was leaving the site did he mention I might want a valuation on my car. Too little, too late. And I was in the mood for buying. But not now, I may as well keep my reliable old model. Maybe for another year or two.