Monday, 26 July 2010
TRY SELLING CARS
I once sold one like this
Anybody who writes about cars should try selling them. A spell in the motor trade will show buyers care little for 0-60 times, understeer, top speed, bhp or the ratio of bore to stroke. They don’t know mpg, mph, ABS, PAS, ECOnetic or Duratorq. All that matters is if mother can get in and out. Or (see BMW item below) whether there is room for the dogs. I had people choose cars on how big the ashtrays were. Colour was vital, a sunroof essential, price negotiable. One catchy gadget, a lever that wound the driver’s window in one movement, proved a clincher. Was the boot big enough to carry samples? Somebody refused a car with carpets – smelly and unhygienic. Small buyers were a problem. So were tall ones. Never had an automatic? Try one now sir; goodness me no something else to go wrong.
Some customers would have nothing “flashy” at any price. They wanted to be anonymous, invisible. Others wanted only the garish and bought cars with chrome grins. Better if it looked American. It scarcely mattered if a car went quickly, so long as it looked as if it might. You could tell on demonstration drives, if prospective buyers watched the car’s reflection in shop windows, they were hooked. Back then Japanese cars were regarded suspiciously, not just because of what happened to our lads in the war, but they seemed flimsy. Germans cars were OK. Germans were engineers.
Prejudice? We were a Wolseley family until a disastrous 6/80 overhead camshaft gave trouble. Mother forbade Wolseleys. Father bought a 3 Litre Princess Vanden Plas instead, a bit upmarket, mechnically identical to a Wolseley 6/99. Mother didn’t do camshafts but she liked wood on the facia.
My brief spell in the Glasgow motor trade taught me more about car buyers than years of research. It was a brief spell. I wasn’t good at it. I was young and it was a rough ride, yet showed me that buyers were conditioned more by what chums told them in pubs, than what they read in The Glasgow Herald. Notwithstanding the purple prose of JB McLaren. Or me.