Ford, Road Test Special, Vehicle Acquisition

Road Test Special: Buying A New Vehicle – Is It A Pleasure or Painful? I Put My Own Money On The Line To Find Out

Iain Shankland,

I Go Under Cover And Put My Own Money On The Line To Find Out

Every day, many people purchase new and used vehicles over the internet through eBay and other similar sites. In fact, eBay claim they sell just short of 1,500 vehicles EVERY DAY! That’s over 500,000 per year. Now I’ve bought plenty of things over the internet, but a new vehicle is one thing I don’t think I could ever do. I do lots of research and comparison shopping before I buy and the internet is used 99.9% of the time to do that, but I have to see and touch things before parting with my cash – especially anything over $50.

So why am I even mentioning this if you know I won’t be giving you my experience of purchasing a vehicle over the internet? Well, I did use the internet to purchase my new vehicle, but I also touched and drove it before handing over my money. Let me explain…

What Does An Auto Journalist Buy When It’s Time To Get A New Vehicle?
When I can drive almost any vehicle in any price bracket, you’d think it would be quite easy for me to make a decision when it comes time to buy my very own vehicle – but it’s actually quite difficult.

Like almost everyone, I can only spend within a set amount of money, BUT there’s also my own sense of value to deal with too. For example: Do I like BMW’s? Yes. I love BMW’s. Could I afford one? Probably – I could really squeeze the budget to lease one, assuming I could get my wife to agree to it. But would I buy/lease one? No chance. Why not? Well I’m not flush with lots of disposable cash, and as such I’d look at a similar car that is just as good, but a lot cheaper: Acura TL is what comes to mind. Further down the price-point and a whole pile of good vehicles appear: Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, Camry, Accord..and the list goes on and on.

Then we have a problem most other people don’t have: why would I spend a lot of money on a vehicle that I only get to drive occasionally? I use my car to go from one test drive to the next. It spends most of its time in a parking lot in the Toronto area – not my driveway. If I need a van, I book a van for a week. If I feel like driving a sports car – I book a sports car.

So my wife and I determined price was the most important thing – that solved a lot of issues right there. We were going to keep the price down to around $15-17,000. There was room to go higher, but we were going to stick as close as we could to that target. That still opens up a slew of new and ‘previously loved’ vehicles.

OK, without going into mind-numbing details, we decided on a Ford Ranger Sport Supercab 4×2. My wife wanted something small that she would feel comfortable with and I wanted something I could use and abuse, but it had to last for about 10 years+ without having to worry about major repair bills.

The internet was invaluable when it came to doing research. I found that most people bought their Ranger and replaced it with another one – several times. It held its value and repairs were quite rare. The price varied wildly with no discernible reasoning when comparing the year and kilometres.

Deciding on the actual year and low kilometers led me to – what would a new one cost? Do they even have any left, because they stopped making them in 2011? The answer was Yes and Yes. There was also a $5,500 rebate and $1,000 in aftermarket products or $750 cashback – Bonus! Clickety-clack on the calculator and wouldn’t ya know it – it’s very close (within $2,000) to being the same price as a used one with more than 50,000 kilometers on it! No-brainer, that’s what we’re getting.

Deciding on the dealership was almost a slam-dunk, but we also had a lot of good experiences with our local dealership in Grimsby. Back on to the internet… I filled out an online form detailing what I wanted and let the dealership earn my business. First one to respond get’s to be the dealership of choice.

Less than half an hour later I’ve got a full listing of the chosen truck along with a comprehensive cost break-down including monthly payments if I chose to go down that route… Wow!

Jim Brickell at Ed Learn Ford Lincoln – it’s your deal to lose!

[Grimsby Ford got back to me 29 hours later.. they didn’t have any on the lot, but obviously, they didn’t think an internet inquiry was worth getting excited about].

Let The Fun Begin
When I was picking out my truck online, I went with the Vista Blue one..but if I’d gone ahead and purchased it, I’d wouldn’t have gotten what I wanted. I didn’t realize it, but it didn’t have the Power Group (power windows, door locks, mirrors and keyless entry). Score one for Jim, he picked up on the fact I’d priced-out the wrong one. No problem, there’s plenty out there … we’ll just choose another one right? Wrong!

Ford stopped making the Ranger in 2011, even though it has a 50-60% market share and outsells all other small pickup trucks combined, and they aren’t replacing it – you have to move up to the F-150.

The down-side was – there was only a select number available with the options and colours I wanted. If you want a bare-bones truck with a manual tranny, there’s still plenty out there – for now. I wanted a medium blue or dark red one with an automatic along with the Power Group, rear sliding window and tinted glass. Black, silver and white were out of the question for my colour choice, so in all of Ontario there was a bright red (Torch Red) one -at Ed Learn Ford- and a dark red one (Toreador Red) somewhere out in the London area. That’s all that was left – 7 in all of Ontario with my criteria. The Toreador Red one had additional items such as tilt & cruise along with limited slip. Even though the Toreador Red was $950 more expensive, that’s the one we decided on and went down to Ed Learn that evening to seal the deal. We did the paperwork, paid the deposit and so the truck was mine – or so we thought.

Because it was a dealer-trade, the other dealership had to agree to part with the vehicle. But in the case of this dealership (Mt. Brydges Ford), playing nicely with others is just not what they do. First of all when a fax was sent to them requesting the truck, they returned a fax the next day with “not available” scribbled on it. Then they wouldn’t return phone calls and voice mails to Ed Learn Ford when they were asking for clarification. After 3 days the receptionist finally said it was sold. In the mean-time, I was getting fed up waiting and called the dealership directly. I asked if they had the truck and was it available for me to come in and purchase it the next day. Yes, it’s available and he even put my name on it as tentatively sold.

The next morning a different salesman (Chad Miller) called to confirm the truck was available and when would I like to come in and get it. I told him I’d put the deposit down at Ed Learn and I’d like it to be dealer-traded to them. Then it suddenly appears the Dealer-principle (Ron Kok – how appropriate) was showing it to one of his friends and they were somewhat interested in it, hadn’t driven it or put a deposit down, but he was pretty sure they could be guided into another Ranger they had on the lot. It was virtually a done deal – he’d try and get it for me.

Up until this point I hadn’t told them or Ed Learn that I was an auto journalist – I wanted to keep it quiet for the sake of this story. Only Ford of Canada’s PR department knew I was buying this truck. So I told Chad who I was and that I’d mention them in a positive light in my article if he could get me the truck I really wanted. No problem – it’ll happen he says. I called Jim at Ed Learn and told him they were going to let me have the truck after all.

When Ed Learn called to make arrangements for the dealer trade, they were stone-walled again. Mt. Brydges wouldn’t return phone calls and faxes. I phoned the dealership to see what had happened over the past 2 hours but couldn’t get the right person on the phone. I phoned and left a voice mail. After an hour I called back. The receptionist said: “He’s outside I can get him to call you back – oh wait – he’s just come in the door. I’ll pass you over to him.” After being on hold for 2 minutes or more, she comes back on the phone and tells me: “I must have been mistaken – it wasn’t him after all.” I hung up. I immediately called Jim at Ed Learn and told him I’d pick up the Torch Red Ranger they had that evening.

Iain Shankland,

The Conclusion
Although at times it was stressful, in the end I’m very happy with the way things turned out. While many people purchase vehicles sight-unseen over the internet, I’m just never going to be one of those types of people. I just can’t stand the thought of being just a little bit out of control and I don’t like surprises.

Dealing with Jim and Ed Learn Ford Lincoln was a treat – from the beginning right through to when I got my keys and drove off.  MT. Brydges Ford on the other hand was an ordeal. As long as I hadn’t picked up a Ranger from Ed Learn, I was still a potential customer – of their dealership.. I could have easily driven to their dealership and purchased directly, so why did they lie to me? Why did they refuse to return my phone calls? Obviously, they don’t care about the customer or potential customer. They have no scruples or morals when it comes to dealing with other dealerships or more importantly – the public. From the owner, to the salespeople, to the receptionist that answers the phone – lying to anyone and everyone is part of this dealerships’ DNA. If that’s what happens at the front-line – what are they doing in the Service and Parts Departments – especially considering the Service Manager and Business Manager are related to the owner! Would you buy or take your vehicle there for repairs/service? I know I wouldn’t go within 100 kilometers of the place!!

They go into a special place in my file of life: the Scumbag file.

Post script: I got a message on my voice mail from Chad the Mt Brydges salesman a full week later, wanting to “explain” the situation. The truck I wanted had actually just been sold to the people the owner was talking to. Hmmm why should I care now? And seriously – a week later?!

Copyright © 2012 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

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