Sunday, February 15, 2004

acquisitions update, #6

I went shopping for a car yesterday. I ended up plunking down cash for a ... futon. I told one of my colleagues this and he replied, "Well, put some wheels on it and you might have a better product than many models coming out of Detroit."

The futon will be going in the home office I've set up in the RV, making it a home office/guestroom in the case of visitors and also giving me another place to sit and read. I bought a zesty mostly-yellow patterned color with these turquoise pillows that the nutty woman who runs Cottonwood had trouble finding for me because "turquoise isn't a real popular color these days." "Well, if I had usual tastes, I wouldn't be talking to you about buying a crazy yellow futon to put in my residential recreational vehicle, would I?" I did not reply.

Stops on the JFW Automobile Acquisition Tour were at Volkswagen and Toyota dealerships. Right now, VW and Toyota are looking like sort of the Kerry and Dean of the Iowa Caucuses of car shopping, with Honda perhaps being the Little Edwards of the group. At the Toyota dealership: I took a good look at the Prius, which is really a nifty looking car, but it's apparently on an 8-month back order so that automatically disqualifies it from the competition. The Camry Solara was ruled out on the basis of just a walk-around inspection, when I recognized that it was a vehicle that I would likely feel a little silly driving (or like I had passed immediately from my extended juvenility straight to a midlife-crisis). I drove a regular Camry, but it really did feel like a weirdly illegitimate car for me to be driving without a family, sort of like one of those crazed loners who decorates their apartment with picture frames with the original model pictures still in them so that he can create the fantasy of having an attractive, happy, and extensive family/friendship network. So, the Camry has been crossed off the list.

Near as I can tell then, this leaves the Corolla as the only remaining option in the Toyota line. I drove a Corolla 5-speed--the dealer had another customer and just let me take it, without riding along*--and was at first dismayed by how sluggish it seemed as I was taking it down Odana. After taking it a confused half mile where I was trying to punch it up to speed and wondering why anyone ever bought Corollas, I noticed a strange, burning smell and realized that I had the emergency brake on the whole time. Which immediately restored my enthusiasm for buying a Corolla even while I simultaneously ruled out any possibility of buying the particular car I was driving, since God knows what kind of damage I had just done to it. The Corolla then redeemed itself as being a pretty spunky little car.

A strange thing about the Toyota dealer I went to--for Madisonians, I'm talking about Smart M.** on Odana--they didn't seem to have very many cars around. The Camry, I thought, was the best-selling car in the entire Toyota line. There wasn't a single Camry with an automatic transmission for me to test drive. I wanted to test drive a high-trim-line version of the Corolla, and they didn't have one.

Anyway, my visit to the Passat dealer went much better. The Passat is a great car. There were all kinds of little things about it that were better than the Corolla. Problem is, depending on what model I go with, and even with it being less $ over invoice than the Corolla, it's still $6-8K more expensive. So then the question is whether I would really derive that much more extra enjoyment in driving it. I may go to the other Toyota dealership in town and see what they have, and I plan also to go to a Honda and maybe Nissan or Mazda dealer.

I talked to Erin on my cel phone and she said getting a Passat would be almost as bad as getting an SUV. If you get anything that's not near/at the bottom of its company's line, in her view, you are basically just shuttling your cash back to The Man.

* I had not provided my name or any other information about myself to the salesman. As far as I know, he did not see me drive in so didn't see for sure that I even had a car there I was leaving behind. And he hands me the keys to this new Camry and sends me on my way. Can somebody explain to me what security they have against somebody just driving off with the car in this situation?

** The "M." stands for "Motors" of course, but I don't want to type the full name of the place in a post so that some Toyota official doesn't google the name of the dealership some day and see this story about me trying earnestly to test out the acceleration of a Corolla with its emergency brake on.

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