OUR new mystery man in the motor trade will be spilling the beans on life in the auto industry every month. Just like Top Gear’s famous Stig we’ve agreed to keep his identity secret – but, despite his protests, we won’t be letting him loose on the test cars…
WITH more than 30 years in this cutthroat industry, I’ve learned a few tricks – and I know that sometimes, whatever your intentions, the cards aren’t always stacked in your favour.
For that reason, I have a very strict rule when it comes to stock: If it’s been on my lot for 20 weeks, it goes no matter what. You’ve all had them – cars that you just can’t shift.
They sit on the lot until the tyres are the shape of toilet seats, there’s moss growing in the roof gutters and a bunch of weirdy beardies have established an owners club in the blasted thing’s honour.
I had one the other week that caught me with my pants down – a tidy previous-shape Mercedes C-Class diesel, finished in sales rep silver, six figures on the clock but only just, and the good book fully stamped by the same Mercedes dealer up to 86k. You’d have thought it would have flown out the door!
In normal circumstances, I might have been tempted to hold on and wait for someone to come and buy it, but if you set yourself targets you have to be ruthless and the Benz’s time had come. So I drove it down the auction, took a bop on the nose to the tune of £350 against its stand-in value, and came back in a three-year-old Corsa – easy meat on a lot like mine.
Regrets? Well, it was a bit tragic letting the Merc go without a profit, and it smarted to take a hit, but I’m a man of principle, and fresh stock equals a fresh-looking lot. Otherwise you’ll end up like my mate, Don – a man so parsimonious with the pennies that in a previous life I swear he was Silas Marner’s financial adviser.
Don simply won’t take a loss on anything – he’d rather not sell a car at all than sell it for less than it owes him, which is why on his lot you’ll see an intriguingly incongruous collection of metal at prices that make Zimbabwean inflation rates easy to understand. I jest not – when I went round to Don’s for a cuppa last week (he pegged the teabag out on the line afterwards, lest it yield another brew) he had three cars in a row, all at £1,995.
They were a ‘51’-plate Mondeo, an S-reg Rover 75 and an N-reg Renault Laguna 1.6 base model. The Mondeo looked good value, the Rover had a fighting chance of giving a return if he pushed it quickly, and the Renault was pretty much ready to be weighed in. Somewhere out the back, he probably had a Montego with a four-figure sticker in the screen…
I tried to explain to Don how he was doing the rest of his stock a disservice by persisting with shocking old rubbish. I showed him the flat spots on the tyres, the cobwebs in the interiors, the peeling lacquer and the expired tax disc.
He listened politely, to the extent I thought I was actually getting through, but I should have known better. I went round again the following week for another brew (it tasted a bit earthy, like the teabag was on its second cycle) only to find the Laguna with its tyres inflated, paintwork polished and interior nicely hoovered, but still with no signs of a price reduction – a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. Sometimes in business, you just have to take a hit – then you might be able to afford fresh tea bags…