How To Buy a New Car, Part I

2013 Chevrolet Cruze RS

If you are here at The Garage, chances are you love cars. And we share your passion for them. As a car journalist, I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I have a brand new car at my disposal every week. But that’s me. My wife’s 2010 VW Jetta’s lease was coming to an end, and we needed to find a replacement. I won’t mince words-I do not like the new Jetta, which has been cheapened and dumbed down for the American market. Needless to say, the current Jetta, which is selling well, was off the list.


Shopping for a new car is a daunting experience. Apart from your house, or your child’s college education, it is one of the largest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime. Personally, I prefer to lease. Yes, you can argue that I never actually own the car, and you are right. But, like most people, I do not have $25,000 under my mattress to buy a new car.


My requirements were simple. A 36 month lease, 12,000 miles a year, nothing down. Also, I had two things working in my favor. I sold new and used Hondas before I went away to college, so I know how the system works. But the biggest weapon I brought to the table was you, our readers. And I made it perfectly clear that I would be naming names, and fully documenting my car shopping experience. You might think this would have them scared straight, right? Think again.


My wife loves the TV series Hawaii 5-0, and on that show one of the lead characters drives a Chevy Cruze, in a pretty Crytal Red paint job. She fell for the car, and the Cruze was one of our early candidates. I’d driven a Cruze Eco, and came away impressed. I have never owned an American car, but I deemed the Cruze good enough to be the first.


As a member of the auto media, I do have access to employee pricing. Yes, it is a perk of being in the business, but when you are a car journalist, people do ask what car sits in my driveway. And that answer has enough gravity that the car companies are willing to extend that discount to me.


And so, I contacted General Motors offices in New York City, asked, and received, the discount. Authorization code in hand from my printed e-mail, I marched down to Chevrolet of Milford at the end of July. I was given pricing. I said I was not ready to buy, since my lease did not terminate until the end of August. Come August, I requested new pricing. Amazingly, with the 2014’s on their way, Chevy of Milford added $500 to the price originally quoted days before.


The story gets better. Because of my employee pricing, GM gave me a link to see what my discounts would be. For a 2013 Chevy Cruze, I was entitled to a $2,000 discount. Also, since I am a member of USAA, I was eligible for an additional $500 discount, for a total of $2,500 off sticker price. I study the paperwork from Chevy of Milford. My discount is nowhere near that amount.


Frustrated, and feeling like I am being jerked around, I e-mail my contact at Chevy of Milford. I tell him I have physical proof of the discounts I am entitled to, and ask why he is not honoring them. He asks if I can e-mail him the documentation, which I was more than happy to provide. I scanned and e-mailed seven pages of print outs showing the pricing I was qualified for. A day passes. His boss e-mails me, wanting to talk about the benefits of buying a car over leasing one. Not a word of honoring the discount GM promised me. And nevermind the fact I never wanted to buy, I wanted to lease.


Since I was having trouble at Chevy of Milford, I contacted McDermott Chevrolet just outside of New Haven, CT. They had a Crystal Red Cruze like we wanted, and I had requested pricing, again explaining that I would be writing about my buying experience. As with Chevy of Milford, I provided McDermott Chevrolet pages of documentation of the discounts I was entitled to, but the dealer was not allowing. After sending McDermott the documents, three days pass without a word, until the sales guy asks if I am still interested in the car. The answer was a curt ‘no’.


So, Chevrolet of Milford and McDermott Chevrolet refused to honor the pricing General Motors promised me. And I warned both dealers if they did not cooperate, I would call them out. Which is exactly what I did. And, this is the part that breaks my heart. Chevy has never built a compact car I would ever consider owning, until now, with the Cruze. It’s that good a car.


But this is where my world meets your world-in the showroom. I am not at a fancy catered event in Manhattan, or a car show, where the car company has total control over their message. It is the dealership that for the car buying public is the face of the company.Yes, Chevy likely spent a few hundred million dollars developing the Cruze, with thousands of hours of development to make it as good a car as it is. All that money, and all that work was for nothing, because Chevy of Milford and McDermott Chevrolet failed to agree to the terms General Motors themselves had offered me.

I threatened to rat both dealers out to General Motors, and I gave them clear warning. It made no difference. So I followed through with my promise. I let GM’s corporate communications office in New York City know exactly what happened. Horrified, my contact asked if it would be ok if one of her superiors were to contact me. I said that would be fine, and within hours I get a call from the head of Northeast Chevy dealers, stating that the dealers must have misunderstood the discounts. Excuse me? SEVEN PAGES of documents show I was owed $2,500 off of list price. And GM tells me that two dealers did not understand? Do they really think I am that stupid?

Knowing that I am about to disclose these two dealerships and how they were screwing me over, I continued to get phone calls from GM, begging me to reconsider. I think the unreturned phone calls said enough. This could have been very simple, but over the matter of a few hundred dollars profit, both dealers shot themselves in the foot. And the crazy thing is, I told them if they did not honor the discount and screw me over, I would tell my thousands of readers, and the corporate leaders at General Motors about it. And, sadly enough, both dealers proved to be so arrogant and ignorant, they simply did not give a damn.

Fast forward a couple weeks later, and I am sitting on a sky top lounge overlooking Chelsea Piers in New York City. On my right is the Hudson River, to my left, the Manhattan skyline. In front of me is the drop dead gorgeous Cadillac Elmiraj concept car, fresh from its Pebble Beach Concours debut. But GM brass wants to talk to me about the Cruze disaster. I am frank, and honest, and explained that as a journalist, this is my story, and I am sticking to it. In GM’s defense, I said I would mention that the company tried to do good, but in reality, is that only because they knew I was a car journalist? With connections to their superiors?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune in for Part II for the conclusion of my car buying experience.

2012 North American International Auto Show at a glance

Well, the media preview of the 2012 North American International Auto Show has come and gone. It was a bit of an odd year for me, as my duties over at Autoblog Canada kept me in the media room and off the show floor for most of the time. Hell, I didn’t even attend a single press conference during the show! That meant that I was actually able to use what little time I had at the show to shoot some of the highlights while the crowds were at the other end of Cobo Hall.

The night before the show, I was fortunate to attend the reveal of the Cadillac ATS. As cool as the ATS is, the fact that it was unveiled in the studio where Harley Earl and his team built clay models in the Fifties was definitely the coolest part for me. In fact, the highlight of the entire show for me happened during the cocktail party following the reveal, when I spent 20 minutes hanging out with GM’s Global VP of Design, Ed Welburn, talking about the history of the building and the iconic cars that were brought to life within its walls.

Our east coast man, Tom Williams, spent more time on the show floor than I did, so he’ll likely be sharing more insights about the show. I did however manage to get out and shoot most of the show, so my contribution over the next few days will be a ton of photo galleries. After the break, is my first gallery of some of the highlights of the show.
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The Buick Regal

Sometimes I wonder why it is every time I pick up a test car from a manufacturer it’s always a SEDATE four-door sedan! Where the hell are the Corvettes, the Vipers, the Porsche 911s, the David
Saville-Peck Lotus or the M28 McLaren. I know…it’s the senior citizen thing! Do they think that I don’t have a right foot anymore? As I was escorted by Gary Grant…damn that sounds like I need to be cared for, to the General Motors press lot where there sat a nice bright yellow Camaro convertible and a silver Cadillac that looked like it needed some silver-haired-old-buzzard to thrash it around a bit. Right next to them was a rather SEDATE candy-apple-BROWN-four-door Buick Regal. The very nice lady who handles all the press vehicles and the ‘press’ people who want to put the cars through their paces said the Camaro had a minor adjustment needed and would be a several hour wait and the Cadillac was assigned to some other senior citizen reporter that I am sure was about to retire. It was probably Norris MacDonald of the Star. The lucky guy! I didn’t know Cadillac comes with training wheels so Norris can keep it on the road! She said the Buick was ready to go and so was I. The Buick Regal, another SEDATE four-door-sedan…NOT!
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Camaro owners descend on Oshawa plant

Our busy Camaro Homecoming week began with a blast through Ontario cottage country in a pair of 2011 Camaro Verts, and then went full speed yesterday with the first day of the actual homecoming at the GM Canada plant where the Camaro is built.

The last number I heard yesterday afternoon was close to 600 Camaros on site from as far away as New Orleans and they were expecting another 150 or so more cars! Our day began with a tour of the incredible plant and then we wandered the lot, checking out some of the incredible machinery.
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Talk with Cadillac racing live tonight

CTV-V Coupe race car at Detroit Auto Show

Between the American Le Mans series and the SCCA World Challenge, GM has developed some incredible fan loyalties for the Corvette and Cadillac brands respectively. A large chunk of that loyalty is due to the personalities driving the cars. Once upon a time led by Canadian Ron Fellows, Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O’Connell are fan faves in their own right. Now that Big Ron has more or less retired, the spotlight has shifted to Andy and Johnny.

As the team gets ready for the season opener in St Pete’s in March, the team’s social media efforts are likely going to be epic. To start things off, the team is hosting a live chat on Facebook tonight. Fans can chat directly with Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O’Connell.

To get in on the chat, “Like” the Cadillac page on Facebook and then be sure to visit the page from 8 to 8:30 est tonight.

Cool new tech from The General

Those who were around when General Motors began using their very first generation Heads Up Display will recall that many people called it the way of the future. Fighter jet technology being used to make driving safer. The reality was that it wasn’t as good as many hoped it would be and many drivers hated the system. I recall driving a Caddy of some sort that had it and I thought it was rather useless.

Fast forward 25 years or so and GM is still working on visual technology. Now however, the tech has grown in leaps and bounds and looks seriously cool. Engineers are working on an augmented reality windshield that uses a series of cameras to highlight road signs, the edge of the road and even animals. The system even has the ability to display GPS details in the driver’s line of sight. I’m a bit skeptical about the use of external cameras as the ones I’ve seen used for lane departure type systems seem to be baffled by snow and rain drops. If they can find a way to make the cameras work in bad weather, this might indeed revolutionize driver safety in poor visibility.

GM Video after the break via Mashable
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Requiem for Hummer

The Garage reported earlier today that the deal to sell Hummer to Tengzhong had fallen through, and General Motors has started to shut down the brand. While this is an official nail in the coffin for Hummer, the reality is this is a brand that has been in decline for some time. In the short history of Hummer, this was a brand whose star shone too brightly for it last long-term. Circumstances beyond Hummer’s control would conspire against them. Click continue for a walk down Hummer’s death row.

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HUMMER is officially Terminated

The HUMMER brand came to life when Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger convinced the military arm of GM to convert a battle truck into a daily driver for him. The brand became an icon with guys all over North America. A symbol of everything guy. You too can be tough like Arnold, or at least your ride can be.

Then, as the greenies began to take over the world and the world economy went for a massive dive, HUMMER became an icon of excess. HUMMER owners were shunned by their neighbors. Other drivers made rude hand gestures in passing. As the US and Ontario governments took over ownership of General Motors, the HUMMER brand went up for sale.

After a year of back and forth negotiations, General Motors announced this afternoon that the sale of HUMMER to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines can not be completed. This means that GM will begin an “orderly wind-down of the HUMMER operations.”

Like Pontiac, HUMMER warranties will continue to be honored through the GM dealer network and parts will continue to be supplied.

While the greenies will likely be feeling rather smug following this news, there are thousands of families who will be impacted as Mom and or Dad have just lost their job.

Done Deal: Spyker owns Saab

Finally, after months of negotiations, the deal between General Motors and Spyker is done and Spyker now owns Saab. While deals of the transition period have yet to be revealed, at least Saab fans around the world can breath a sigh of relief knowing that their brand will live on.

GM press release after the break
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Saab is Saved!

Whew! When it seemed extremely unlikely that Saab had any chance of survival. Spyker and GM announced a binding agreement for Spyker to buy Saab from the General. The future of Saab has been in question ever since GM announced a formation of a new company with four core brands-Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Saab was put up for sale, and it was a known fact that without a buyer, GM would shut down the company. Saab’s future looked promising when Koenigsegg agreed to buy the company. When that deal collapsed, Saab loyalists and fans had good reason to panic.

Dutch exotic car builder Spyker made it clear they wanted to buy Saab, but this time around GM was being eerily silent to the media. Meanwhile, the rights to the pre-2003 9-3 and current 9-5 were sold to BAIC, a Chinese company. Worse, GM then announces plans to “wind down” Saab operations, even though the company indicated they were still reviewing offers.

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