Back in February me and my wife decided to buy a new car. We have lived in São Paulo for a year now and managed without a car – just using public transport – but with the beach and mountains so near, a car really offers up a lot more options for the weekend. We have rented in the past, which is fine, but needs to be planned – you can’t just wake up on a Saturday morning, see the weather is great, and decide on a trip to the beach.
I have owned several cars before, but never a new one. In the UK, the depreciation on cars is quite severe. In the first year of ownership a vehicle takes a huge hit on the resale value, so I have always tended to buy cars that were about a year old – except for the old bangers I drove when I was younger.
Here in Brazil depreciation is far less of a worry – cars really do retain their value over time so I decided to just get a new one, also assuming that any good car dealer would offer me interest-free credit on a new car if I stumped up at least half the value in cash.
To cut a long story short, we visited a lot of dealers and drew up a shortlist of cars that we liked and were in the right price range. One consideration is that you really need to buy a locally produced car. Imported cars are hit with enormous taxes – a Mini costs about £40,000 here and a BMW 3-series is about three times the price it would be in Europe. Imported cars are real status symbols here – when I walked past a BMW showroom recently all the display models featured bullet-proofing.
What struck me was how different the service levels were in different dealers. Nissan were horrible. Can I test-drive the car? No, it’s too late, come back tomorrow (about 5 minutes after 5pm, when test drives are supposed to finish). The sales guy was a petrol-head who was clearly not interested in talking to my wife about the car and wanted to sell to me – obviously men are more interested in cars?
Hyundai had some nice cars, but were not prepared to offer any kind of financing without interest. Even paying half the cost of the car in cash they wanted to charge 11% on the remainder. Enough for me to walk away – and they also only offer silver or black, what’s with Brazil and their bland car colours? We went to VW and asked about the SpaceCross and SpaceFox – the dealer said he has none in stock, but we can look at the regular Fox as it’s just the same anyway… I liked the look of the Chery Tiggo, and it seemed like good value for a 4×4 SUV, but the reviews are terrible – cheap Chinese rubbish if you believe the press.
We eventually chose the Citroen C3 Picasso. It looks great, has good reviews, comes in blue, has a 3-year warranty, roadside assistance, and the sales guy was friendly – even letting us have a look around at the car when the dog was with us. Citroen also offered 0% on the car if we pony up half on purchase.
We ordered. We had added a load of extras, like airbags (passenger airbag is not mandatory in Brazil for another year), and because we had picked blue it meant that the factory in Rio would have to make one – the wait would be perhaps 40 days. We started waiting, then after a month Citroen called to say that it would be another 30 days on top of the original estimate – strikes at the factory had caused trouble with deliveries and our “unusual” requests meant we were bumped down the list as more regular (black and silver probably) cars were produced.
We went to a few dealers again to see if we could just dump Citroen and get another car, but a trip this past weekend to VW drove the point home. The salesman would not even quote to the nearest month when he could get us a blue SpaceCross… if we wanted black then we could have it tomorrow.
For all the management studies I read about efficient supply chains, I can’t say I have seen it in the new car market here. A customer walking in and asking to buy a car with a big chunk of cash for a deposit should be what these sales guys dream of, but don’t ever think of asking for something slightly out of the ordinary – like getting the car in blue…
Photo by Giovanni licensed under Creative Commons