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Consumers, arm yourselves!

2007-10-03 08:11

Morgan Naidu

The South African motorist needs a well-timed kick up the arse for being a lethargic and ill-informed consumer when it comes to the business of buying or owning a car.

Yes, of course its fashionable to rant against the evil car manufacturers that overcharge you or to piss on the banks for their finance charges and fees and even the car dealers who ply you with bullshit before methodically screwing you over.

The fact of the matter is that as consumers we have that final say before pen is put to paper and the deal sealed.

It's a business

If we thought that carmakers were out there to improve our quality of life and bring about world peace, think again. They want to sell cars and make profit - lots of it on both counts and why not, it is a business after all.

Banks? These modern-day mafia string you up and torment you mercilessly with a million systems and processes, charging you a small fee every step of the way before you incur massive debt at exorbitant interest rates. Of course, what would the experience of buying a new or used car be without your brown-nosing new best friend: the dealership's car salesman...

This guy will sell you your car at discount, but add in a few extra "must-haves" which you get charged for anyway; then promise to register your car in the next calendar year only (even though it's "illegal").

My point is that with so much bullshit floating around it's a wonder consumers have not sat up and taken notice as well as appropriate evasive action.

And, before I'm accused of stereotyping the do-gooder car manufacturers, our saintly bank managers and sincere and humble sales personnel, let me just iterate that the basis for my argument is the ongoing correspondence I share with millions of readers, car enthusiasts and consumers every week.

Car buyers and owners have multiple sources of information to turn to in the quest for credible and unbiased advice on the best cars ion the market and what to avoid.

As much as there are plenty of TV shows, magazines and newspapers who are nothing more than mouthpieces for car companies, there are those that exist purely to serve the consumer - you and me.

Ask the questions

As consumers who are either car owners or looking to make a purchase, our job is to arm ourselves with as much information as possible, to seek out opinion and to bear in mind that like backsides, everybody has one.

Yet, it is our duty as consumers, as car buyers, to ask questions - lots of them.

What do you need a car for? Sounds stupidly obvious, yet many will buy a clutch-heavy manual sedan in spite of the fact that some three-to-four hours daily will be spend in stop-start rush-hour traffic.

Confused about residual finance? Don't despair because you share the confusion with thousands of employees of financial institutions - banks included - who do not trust their employers enough to enquire about the various financing options for a car purchase.

Weekly, I deal with new or used car owners who express dissatisfaction over a deal and in many cases the buyers did not even read their contracts until months later.

My cursory checklist with these hapless buyers reveal a sorry tale in which the excitement of taking ownership of the car overwhelmed them to the point that they may as well have bought blindly.

As incredulous as it sounds, I am referring to cases in which grown men and women have accepted all the verbal promises and guarantees without checking that these same promises made it in to the final sale agreement. I am referring to incidences in which customers who thought they were getting a new vehicle actually received demo models.

Then there are the cases in which dealerships and sales personnel rushed through deals to beat the inception of the National Credit Act which would regulate all financial transactions more stringently than ever before.

The sale of new vehicles is not the only area in which consumers were screwed over. Countless car owners experienced ineptness and gross incompetence at the hands of service advisors and maintenance plan administrators who refused liability for certain repairs.

Countless more motorists sat back and accepted it when given the runaround by service centres who did not keep to promised deadlines and who just never bothered to provide updates or feedback on the progress of the service.

Often, by the time these complaints reached my inbox much time had passed and the motorists now viewed these incidences as mild irritations.

More contracts!

Perhaps what motorists need to do is have the car companies, banks and dealers sign declarations in which they promise to give us the same attention, due and care as when they are soliciting our business.

We should force dealer sales personnel to uphold a code of conduct that includes more fact and no fiction.

If service centres take longer than promised with servicing our cars then they should incur the costs of our inconvenience, alternative transport arrangements as well as pay our car instalments in proportion to each late day from the original deadline.

Let's get our own legal documents drawn up that hold these lending institutions, manufacturers and sales outlets accountable and responsible. If they refuse to sign the documents or meet our own legal requirements, what are they hiding?

If you're too lethargic, afraid or indifferent to do anything about it, allow me to introduce my foot to your rear end?


Bullet: Name, set and match!

2012-04-16 16:47

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