Category Archives: Cars

Ford Tortoise

I’d been meaning to get a new car for years, to the point where Mrs Bison refused to engage in any conversation about what I might buy, on the grounds that a) she didn’t care, b) she wished I’d just go and buy one, and c) did she mention that she really didn’t care?

Part of the problem was that I really wanted an SUV because I’d got used to the higher seating position, and my joints don’t favor sedans after soccer games. But I also wanted a sport sedan, because I wanted to drive something that felt alive again. I really wanted something classy, like an Audi, but I was fucked if I was going to lay out the best part of 60 large on something that was going to get dinged in a mall car park the week after it arrived. So I ended up buying nothing.

Well, the best part about my new job was that it came with a company car. Not necessarily one commensurate with my monumental capabilities, you understand, but a company car is a bit like sex – not something you turn down when it’s free. So to cut a dull story short I ended up getting a Ford Taurus, because it was an AWD option which I could get with all sorts of equipment. It has a navigation system, which is great, but it also has fancy alloy wheels, of the type which practically guarantee that if I park it in the wrong part of Chicago I’ll be coming back to a car on bricks. In fact I might not want to stop at the lights in certain parts of town.

So what’s the new Taurus like, I hear you asking? It’s not bad, but you can tell it’s a Ford. I got a black one, and it looks great, although once you’re inside, the narrow slit windows make you feel like you’re piloting something from the Wacky Races. And the drop down plastic holder for your shades doesn’t fit right – the plastic hangs down, a tragic reminder that in a car that probably sells for close to forty grand, Detroit still can’t quite get the basics right. The rain sensor windshield wipers have various settings, all of which are guaranteed to be exactly wrong for whatever precipitation is falling. You either get the annoying squawk of rubber across glass, or you peer out through the frosted windshield, trying not to kill anyone while you wait for the next sweep.

I have to say, though, that it’s been great in snow, in spite of the low profile tires. And the stereo sounds good, especially when you turn it up loud enough to cover the squeak from the armrest. But best of all, I won’t be boring the living shit out of my spouse with tales of potential car purchases. Lucky her.

Copyright © 2010 Edward Bison

Scum Alert

It has been observed that car buying is one of the least pleasant experiences most people will have the displeasure to endure, and this is to no small extent because of all the cunts you meet along the way. Generally they work in sales, and although there are undoubtedly some very pleasant, honorable car salesmen out there (somewhere), in general you would be hard pressed to find a bigger bunch of devious, lying twisters.

I don’t know about the UK, but here in the US you are better off avoiding the car-lot sales experience altogether by contacting the internet sales department at each dealer. The idea is that these people just field internet requests and they respond with simple quotes, usually much better than you’d get from the bloke on the forecourt because they are dealing with so many enquiries from people who are clearly comparing quotes between dealers that they need to be competitive, and they can’t hard-sell you by e-mail.

So Mrs Bison decided that she wanted the Honda; I set to work e-mailing about 10 local Honda dealers and asking for their quote. Almost all of them responded quickly with a quote, but one just sent me a note inviting me to come in and show them what price I got from someone else so they could beat it. Yeah, right. When I followed up and stated that, no, I wanted a quote, I got an e-mail which included the following delights:

“The Internet Department at [Wanker Honda] operates completely different than any Honda Dealer! We have the lowest processing / documentation fees. Just $99 compared to $149 – $250. So you can see that your short drive to see me (2 minutes from Chesterfield Valley) is already putting $49 or more in your pocket. And this is of course before I get started on the best possible “Internet Price”. I’m serious when I tell that I don’t get beat by the other dealers when presented with a written quote.”

Only a complete retard would fail to spot the obvious flaw here – since all dealers pay the same price then sure, this clown will “beat” the offer you get from anyone else, but only just. He won’t participate in the process – won’t even give you a price quote of his own, so why the fuck should I give him the last look? That privilege is reserved for the local dealer who did the test drive. And the processing fee? It’s pure bullshit. Most dealers add one on but it’s just an attempt to pad their margins. His “deal” is basically “I’ll only fuck you three inches up your arse instead of six”. The pitch goes on:

“…so in otherwords are you willing to drive all over town for the best possible deal because of an e-mail that you received stated one thing and after driving to purchase what you thought was the best deal actually was a bait and switch. [Wanker] Honda has the best selection of vehicles! If you view my website you will see that we have the cars in stock. When I say in stock I mean on my lot! One of the local Honda Dealers is showing cars on their website that they don’t have or just coming in. The sales people and Internet Department were telling the buyer that they had the car! Then when they arrive the car wasn’t there. They try to up-sale you to another model of car.”

OK, spot the professional selling approach and fine grammar (if you can). This is the new car sales department and all I’ve done is request a price THROUGH HONDA’S OWN WEBSITE! In response I get this load of ill-written bollocks. It just gets better:

“At [Wanker Honda] we add the least amount of equipment to our vehicles. In most cases our customers want certain items. We put together a “Protection Package” and charge a small fee for it. One of our fellow Honda Dealers charges $895 for the same equipment that we charge $299 for.”

Again with the rubbishing of the competition! And as for the “least amount of equipment”, let’s try zero. That’s right, don’t put any of the overpriced shit on the vehicle. It already comes “well-equipped” and I’ll buy it “raw” thank you very much (just the way the other dealers quoted it) because I know the $299 is just to pad your margins again.

Bear in mind that I know the invoice price the dealer pays, plus I know that they have a 2% holdback on top. If there were any dealer cash incentives or rebates I’d know that too. I know what other people are paying, from internet research, and I know that I’ll stand a better chance of a good deal at month-end when someone will be trying to hit their numbers. However it won’t be at “Wanker Honda”, where their “internet” sales department won’t even quote you. This, by the way, is Honda, who I had alleged in my last post to be one of the better auto manufacturers when it comes to managing the dealer experience. Apparently not in all cases…

So I called “Wanker Honda” today and they still wouldn’t give me a price, except to say that it would be between “MSRP and invoice” which means nothing, since only a moron would pay MSRP and almost no-one is likely to get below invoice on a new model Honda. They did say they would beat any price I brought in (documentation required) but when I asked by how much, they responded that if it was a good price they might only match it, not beat it. Hmmm. Seems like a bait and switch to me. In fact I’d be inclined to follow the only good piece of advice that “Wanker Honda” included in their e-mail:

“My question to you is …… would you purchase a car from a dealer that lies to you from the beginning?”

And my answer to you is “No, motherfucker, I wouldn’t.”

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

The Hard Sell

Yesterday was spent trolling around car dealerships down on Manchester Road, looking for potential new vehicles for Mrs Bison, on account of her old Nissan Altima being a – what’s the correct term? – ah yes, piece of shit. We had some idea what would be worth looking at but the purpose of the trip was to narrow that list down. After all, everything looks great in a two-inch square photograph on your computer but unless it’s a Pontiac Aztek it’s not until you stand next to some of these things that you really appreciate how ugly/plasticky/crap they are.

Times are hard in the US auto market. The credit crunch has slowed down the flood of people buying cars they don’t need (with money they don’t have) to a trickle, and a lot of dealerships are hurting for business. This is Memorial Day weekend so a lot of them had their lots festooned with balloons, and free hot dogs for potential customers. We didn’t call at all of them but when you pulled up at most you could see the salespeople gazing hungrily at you, as though you were fresh meat and they were a starving carnivore. The scene was depressing – rain-soaked asphalt with blue and red balloons blowing sadly in the wind and a smoking hot dog grill; hardly a customer to be seen. You would barely be out of your car before they’d be on you. One dealer had construction going on and their lot resembled a building site, so they were billing this as a “Special Construction Sale”. Any excuse…

Of course there were exceptions – some manufacturers just do a better job of putting out good product and managing their dealer experience. At Honda, for instance, there were no tacky balloons or “Memorial Day weekend sale – everything must go!” signs, but plenty of customers.

By the end of the day we were ready to test drive a couple of things. The hungry salesman at one dealership accompanied us on the drive and when we returned he attempted to close the deal. Apparently their General Manager was there to make sure “all deals went through”. In spite of my pointing out that we hadn’t driven other potential options yet and therefore had not decided to buy this one, let alone to buy it from him, he continued to press us to buy it. I’m not sure whether this reflected his stupidity, or that of his usual clientele, some of whom would presumably fold at this point and buy something.

He kept pointing out features and trying to see what it would take to get us to buy. I pointed out that there was nothing he could offer that would make me buy without more reseach.

“What do you need to know?”
“If I decide to buy this I’ll put it out for bids through the internet to make sure I know what the real best price is, and I’ll check dealer rebates.”
“Why? All the dealers get the same price so we can do anything they can do. We’ll beat any price.”
“Sure you can, but until I know what that price is, what’s the point of negotiating?”
“We’ll give you the best price.”
“And how will I know that? Will I just trust you to be kind to me?”
“I’ll show you the paperwork, what we paid for it and everything.”
(This works on some people who don’t understand about dealer incentives, holdback, etc, but I wasn’t going to get into a debate about it.)
“No. If I decide to buy this I’ll come back when I have the information I need and then we’ll talk.”

Obviously he couldn’t just let us walk off.

“I’ll just have to go inside and tell my boss and the General Manager”

This usually results in someone in a less cheap suit and cufflinks coming out to repeat the same sales pitch over again, so I gave the salesman some advice.

“No problem – you do what you have to do. Just understand that if they come out and try to put the hard sell on me I’m going to tell them to piss off. OK?”

Not surprisingly no-one came out. We then went to the Honda dealer and drove something nicer that didn’t come with a pushy cunt attached. This morning Bison Daughter proceeded over breakfast to put the bite into us about how we needed the EX-L model with the leather. She exhibited a level of persistence and reasoning that was quite remarkable for a ten year-old; I think she picked it up from the dealers yesterday. Certainly she doesn’t miss much – her closing argument was: “You may as well pay the extra for the EX-L because you said putting money in the stock market is like pissing it down the toilet.” Makes you proud…

By the way, I found this Car Dealer Confessions gem today which is absoultely on the mark. In fact I actually had someone years ago ask me for my watch as a deposit when I was buying a used car. Now him I did tell to piss off.

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Why Pay More?

It’s always funny, when gas prices jump by fifty cents, to hear everyone talk about how this will get people here more interested in fuel economy as part of their car-buying decision process. Sure enough half the crappy car commercials on TV are now including some pitch for the fuel-sipping thrift of their particular vehicle, all the way down to “the most fuel efficient V8 pickup on the market”. Never mind that an extra dollar a gallon is nothing compared to the veritable arse-fucking that consumers in Europe experience every time they go to fill up.

It’s true that there seem to be people out there prepared to pay for extra fuel economy – just look at the sales of the Toyota Prius. It’s worth pointing out, though, that people who buy a Prius aren’t buying economy, or making a rational economic decision based on sound analysis of costs; they’re buying a fucking big badge that says “I’m a caring earth-lover”. The Prius sells because its whole image screams “tree-hugging, gay-marriage supporting, carbon neutral vegan” right down to it’s upturned bathtub scarab-like shape. Honda also had a hybrid version of the Accord but no-one bought it, not because it wasn’t as good a car as the Prius but because you couldn’t tell it was a hybrid – it looked just like any other Accord. Those cardigan-wearing nancy-boy Prius lovers are as guilty as anyone of basing their purchasing decision on image rather than fact.

Image is the major factor in automobile purchasing, even in the age of internet-driven fact-comparison. Why does anyone buy a Hummer H2? Is it because they need the rugged off-road capability that Hummer guarantees, to ensure they make it home? I think not – in my experience you are unlikely ever to see an H2 with so much as an ounce of mud on it. It’s just a big toy, partly a chance to drive something like one of the Tonka toys you’d play with as a kid, and partly a penis extension. The same thing goes for your average BMW – all the car magazines jerk off over the car’s superior handling and performance at the edge but for your typical buyer, who’s driving in a straight line at 40mph to the office, it’s a badge of recognition, a way of saying “don’t confuse me with the kid in the Chevy Cavalier”. You’re buying the badge on the back. Maybe people buy a Dodge minivan because they really believe that it will stop their kids hating them, like in the commercial.

I saw a review of the Scion xB the other day. This is the boxy Scion vehicle that was just rounded off a bit and freshened up for 2008. It has a 2.4 liter engine developing about 160hp and 160lb.ft torque, which is to say that it goes OK. It has a basic but practical interior, the sort of thing that would have been considered quite luxurious a few years back. And here’s the kicker – it could be yours for less than seventeen grand. New. This is the less well-explored aspect of fuel economy: If you drive 12,000 miles a year and get 20 miles to the gallon (remember, this is the US!) you’ll buy 600 gallons of gas. If gas prices jump a whole dollar it will only cost you an extra $600 per year. Should you get 25mpg instead you’ll save 120 gallons of gas; at $3/gallon this is a whopping $360 per year.

So, assuming you need to change your car at all, the first thing the economically-minded among you should be looking at is the cost of the car, not the mileage. If you buy a Prius you’ll probably pay about $24k. You’ll get an extra 20mpg versus the Scion which will save you about 180 gallons of gas, or $540 a year. So after thirteen years you’ll have saved enough money to justify the extra cost of the Prius, not adjusting for time-value of money and not doing the calculation exactly with tax incentives included, because frankly I can’t be arsed. Plus you’ll have spent thirteen years driving around in an upside-down jelly mold with a perpetual virtual sign over your head saying “WANKER”.

For the cost of an Acura TL with optional navigation system you could buy a Scion xB, a map and enough gas to keep you going for ten years. And bear in mind that an awful lot of vehicles come in around that price range, and are never asked to do more than driving to the office, the stores and the gym.

So am I going to buy a Scion? Am I fuck. It’s not that it isn’t a good car, and I might be able get over the boxy shape, given time. It’s not even that I need the 300hp that’s available in most of the things that I actually want to drive. The problem is that the Prius weirdos have it right in that people judge you by what you drive. If you want a job where you ask “Do you want fries with that?” drive a Scion; if you want to be considered for the Senior VP position maybe a BMW 540i is a better bet. That jump in salary pays for a lot of gas. Plus, someone drove me to lunch today in a car with heated seats, and I have to say that force-heated testicles on a cold day is something I could really get used to. And that’s not an option on the Scion, unless you spill your Starbucks…

Car Buying

I’ve now confirmed that, having passed the age of forty, I’m constitutionally obliged to buy an old sports car, or a new sports car, or at least to lust after a sports car. It’s a mid-life crisis requirement, apparently. The big problem with this is the whole car buying experience (and the money, of course, but let’s leave that aside for the moment). People tend to fall into two categories – those who decide what they want, go out and buy one, and those who do exhaustive research into what they should pay, different models available and negotiation strategies before they go out and buy one.

My problem is that I know the auto industry is desperately trying to fuck me in the arse every time I go near them so I’m not going to show up and try to buy something without knowing the facts; unfortunately I hate doing the research because it’s boring. What’s the point in having a mid-life crisis if I’m going to spend it in front of the computer checking data on

When we first moved to the States I had to buy two cars, but I didn’t have any idea how far my salary would stretch, or what stuff was going to cost, so I was reluctant to go out and splash on something new and shiny. I also don’t believe in borrowing unless I have to, which is a limitation when you don’t have piles of cash lying around. So I started out looking at pre-owned things in the “around $7,000 range”. I might as well have said “show me something crap that I’ll really hate” because dealerships disgorged the worst, old-fashioned, dreary vehicles for my inspection. The trouble was that, coming from Europe, all the models were different. By this time the US automakers were making decent cars but the ones on the pre-owned lot were, by definition, examples from previous years, and they were largely shite. One salesman proudly offered us something (it might have been a Buick) that was black on the outside but had red velour upholstery and a red vinyl dashboard. It looked like something you’d be buried in. Mrs. Bison actually laughed out loud when he opened the door.

I ended up with an $11,000 Taurus which was a good solid car, and easy to buy because everyone had some on their pre-owned lot so you could compare prices. This meant haggling with salespeople, which was still a novelty and therefore less of a total and utter pain in the arse than it is now. They would literally run after you when you walked away; one specimen even asked me to give him my watch as a “good faith” gesture so he would take my offer to his boss. I have no idea what that was supposed to achieve, other than making me get up and walk out, dismissing him as a wanker.

Nowadays the only fun part of the car buying experience is thinking about what you might want. Having to actually decide, research what you should pay and start e-mailing dealers’ internet salespeople to get prices, is just dull. Plus, when you buy you have eliminated all other possibilities – all the pleasure is gone and you are left with the aggravation of trying to park it in spots where the dog-buggeringly stupid women and old people of St.Louis can’t ding it when they throw their car doors open.

The other thing I have to consider is the wonderful St.Louis winter. Anything fun (Porsche-like) will be instantly transformed from road-hugging automotive joy to slithery ice-sliding, loose bowel-inducing, white-knuckle disaster on wheels. This means you either have to have two cars or pick something more sensible. And once you start thinking about what’s sensible, before you know it you’ll be buying a family-friendly crossover vehicle with plenty of luggage space, good fuel economy and lots of legroom in the back. By which time you might as well just kill yourself and get it over with.

In the end, choosing a new car is not unlike choosing a new wife. The looking, not the finding, is the best part. And for a lot of people the looking doesn’t go much further than pictures on the internet. On the subject of which, I’m off to Edmunds to look at some car porn.

Copyright 2007 Edward Bison