Tom believed strongly that we should buy only American cars made in America. Because we lived in the Detroit area, he felt we needed to support our local industry. I understood the concept and went with the program, but I happen to love European cars.
This past spring, even though my 2009 Pontiac G6 was still going strong, I acted on my desires and started shopping for a Mini Cooper. The Detroit area only has one of these precious, trendy dealerships where everyone wears black and the waiting room has all the Keurig coffee and purified water you can drink. So I headed there — to a suburb a good 35 miles from my house.
The buying process was stressful. I dickered on the price, style and color of the car over the course of two weeks. I walked out unhappy with the first offer (I found this worked well on previous car purchases). I wanted a monthly lease payment I could live with. I hashed out monthly payments if I traded my trusty Pontiac, and I looked at getting rid of some of the Mini extras, such as an upgraded stereo system and an arm rest, to get the price down. The process did not go smoothly.
One afternoon, I headed to another dealer to test drive a used Mini. The price was perfect, but they could only scrounge up one — it was a manual and I wanted the ease of an automatic. So that day I went back to my sweet 23-year-old, well-meaning Mini salesman to find out what he could do for me. He was clueless, but management, by now noting my affinity for the brand, had reworked “things” and had a whole new vehicle waiting for me. It was loaded with amenities, had four doors and was gray with a black roof and trim. It was beautiful and I caved. By trading my G6, I got the monthly lease payment I wanted. I felt a little melancholy saying goodbye to the Pontiac that was originally Tom’s car, but I finally let it go. The Mini was mine for three years.
The car offers, as promised, a go-kart-like ride and is fun as hell to drive. I felt good in it.
But as I drove home, I couldn’t get the Blue Tooth to work. Now, keep in mind, I knew nothing about operating a Blue Tooth and just figuring out the turn signal on this technology-laden car was challenging. But I tried everything, including spending considerable time with the manual later that day. Still no Blue Tooth. I also realized the car had no CD player. (Mini considers CDs to be obsolete.) I was disappointed in myself that after all those trips to the dealer, I hadn’t even checked for a CD player.
My foreign-car savvy neighbor took a look at my car a few weeks later and declared the Blue Tooth faulty. The car ended up at the dealership for three days. (I was given a nice loaner.) Finally, my service technician, a young, lanky, fashionable lad with great self esteem named Alan called to say the Blue Tooth was fixed. Again, I headed back to the far suburbs.
Life was good — for a couple weeks. When the weather went from summer to chilly, the tire warning light came on telling me my tires weren’t properly inflated. I called Alan to ask what to do. He said take it to a tire store and have the tires properly re-inflated to suit the colder climes. Weather changes can impact these fragile, run-flat tires.
That same day, a drivetrain warning came on. Again, I called Alan who said that was bad and to bring in the car. I didn’t have time for awhile, so I drove it around with the warnings on and ended up taking the car back in two weeks. This time, it was something major, which they fixed. But while fixing it, they found something else wrong having to do with seals. They told me politely that it would be two weeks to get the part from Germany.
At this point, I decided I wasn’t going to let this car stuff get to me. After all, I had another nice loaner. As it turned out, they called me a week later and surprised me that the car was repaired and ready for pick up.
To show my displeasure, I brought back the loaner with an empty tank of gas (it is supposed to be brought back full), and told the service tech the least they could do for all this inconvenience is pay for my gas.The service manager agreed.
I truly believe Tom has a hand in this. He would not have liked that I bought a car made in England.
Meanwhile, the car has been driving great. But this past weekend, the Blue Tooth stopped letting me play music off my smart phone — again. I still had access to the phone though. This morning, to my delight, it played music on my way to work. Tomorrow? Who knows.
I have a feeling this is going to be a long three years. I’m already considering what Ford or Chevy I’m going to buy when this lease is up.
Many years ago, I also supported the Japanese auto industry by buying a Honda Accord. We were buying so I wanted a vehicle with outstanding quality and longevity. It later became our son’s car and he drove it into the ground — running a paint business out of it and using it during law school in Austin. It made it to more than 200,000, a respectable lifespan.