ESM’s 2012 Car Buying Predicament #5

I realise that calling this series of posts a “predicament” is somewhat of a dramatisation. Like having to decide on whether to pick a Cheryl Cole or Megan Fox calendar for the ESM office, this is a nice first world problem to have to deal with. But at the same time it is hardly like I’m sat here deliberating over whether to buy a Bugatti Veyron or a Pagani Huarya; everything is relative.

At the end of the previous instalment, I’d been left mulling the prospect of a MINI Cooper Coupe that I had to order within the next 48 hours to get the deal I wanted. In addition, I was also awaiting a telephone call from the Head of Business at Tyneside Audi. These two tales are entwined and interlinked, but lets deal with them one at a time.

The MINI Coupe Situation

One of the biggest problems I had with placing an order for the Coupe was the fact I hadn’t driven one. Stratstone MINI Tyneside couldn’t say when they might have one available, so the only real option would be to order blind and hope I liked it. The monthly payment was also £20 more than where I wanted it to be; this was the reason I’d walked from the showroom.

Lee, the friendly MINI sale exec, came back to me with a solution. He’d slash £21 a month off the payments, and let me drive a Cooper Coupe belonging to his (female) friend. I’d have to do this on a Wednesday evening after work, and then sign up there and then to get the order placed in time. The more I mulled this over, the more I got cold feet and given the money and length of time involved, this was not a good thing to have.

As a result, I ended it with Lee. I explained it wasn’t him, it was me, and that I just couldn’t make that level of commitment right now. This drew a line in the sand for the MINI buying experience, for now. I have to commend Stratstone that despite some initial problems, they were good to deal with. In future I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to buying a car from them, but just not right now. Ultimately, this led to…

The Audi A1 Situation

When I had walked out of the MINI dealership earlier in the week after the price was too high, my first point of call had been to head over to Tyneside Audi. Regular readers may remember the harsh criticism ESM gave this dealership for ignoring me and ESM’s mate Steve, and choosing to speak to a man in jean shorts instead. At the time, I tweeted North East Audi (part of the Benfield behemoth) who run the four Audi Centres in the Tyne & Wear/Teesside areas, and their response was apologetic. In addition, they also admitted they were reviewing weekend staffing numbers “to enable all customers to have a great experience”. As such, expectations were high that there would not be a repeat of last time. Oh, I was wrong.

Whereas on the previous visit the showroom had been quite busy, on this occasion it was virtually empty. ESM’s better half and I spent a good 5-10 minutes checking out the A1 on offer; opening the boot, sitting inside, wandering around it and generally talking quite loudly. But nobody approached. We then wandered up and down the showroom a bit more, looking at the RS3 and R8 Spyder models on offer. Again, salespeople were not forthcoming. After one last look at the A1, and a rather loud exclamation from ESM’s other half, we left. This time we hadn’t even been dissed instead of someone in cut-off denim shorts; we’d just been plain ignored.

Naturally there was no other course of action; I went straight to Twitter. Surprisingly, I got a fairly instantaneous response (perhaps I should have tweeted from within the showroom) apologising, saying there were no excuses and that if I sent them a Direct Message I would get a call from their Head of Business on Monday. Having previously said there were no second chances in this game, I deliberated before sending off my number and awaiting a call.

Monday dawned, and I did indeed get a call from Thomas, Head of Business at Tyneside Audi. He apologised profusely, and explained that they had seriously been undertaking a review of customer numbers vs staffing requirements at the dealership. This was the reason for the “kid in the bomber jacket” (as described by ESM’s other half) being by the front door of the showroom. I explained that being ignored twice was insulting, and that it made it appear that I was not the kind of person whom they wished to sell an Audi to; despite me having previously owned one.

Thomas then asked what car I had been interested in, and wondered if there was anything they could do to try to get me to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves. It was at this point that the idea of a “lifestyle test drive” of an A1 was mooted. This would give me the chance to have the car for 24 hours, rather than the regular 10-minutes round the industrial estate test. He took my details and said he would get one of their sales executives to contact me to make arrangements.

By the time the salesman, Peter, called the test drive was now being discussed as for “a few days”. That would clearly give me a superb opportunity to try out the baby Audi, and help allay any “cold feet syndrome” that I had with the MINI; should the car be good enough that is. There was only one snag; Tyneside Audi didn’t have a 1.4 TFSI (the model I’m interested in) available. Clearly I have a habit of wanting cars that nobody else seems to buy! Peter explained that they may have to order one in via Audi UK (at cost to the dealership) in order to get me one, but this was something they were willing to do.

Overall, I have to admit Tyneside Audi are doing all the right things, and making all the right noises, to try to get me back as a potential customer. Thankfully, this has all been done without the need for me to resort to wearing cut-off denim shorts. As soon as the A1 lands, hopefully this week, expect it to grace these very pages. And Twitter, and probably Instagram as well.

At this point it might be worth noting that ESM’s Mate Steve reckons that the Audi A1 is “a girl’s car”. What this is based on, I’m not so sure, but it is a view he maintains. Funnily enough, it is not one he applied to either a MINI Coupe or Hatchback, which would often be considered more feminine in my opinion. So, in the spirit of democracy, the next post is also going to include a poll to decide if Steve is right, or wrong.

So, in some respects, the predicament has become simpler. The MINI has very much gone out the window, and the Audi A1 emerges as the challenger to win my heart and wallet. ESM is still undecided on the Cheryl Cole vs Megan Fox situation though. Any help much appreciated!

7 comments

  1. The A1 is a girls car my former work collegues wife traded her Audi TT for one and she was 50!. Get down the Skoda garage and do a deal on the Fabia VRs you know its the way to go. If all else fails I see a deal on a Nissan Juke via Mr Dave on the cards! As for the calendar remember Cheryl Cole cant sing!

    1. How about the Suzuki Swift sporting? I know it hasn’t got the ‘prestige’ of the Audi or Mini, but it’s meant to be a cracking drivers car. Evo magazine rate it as one of the best ‘warm-hatches’ out there…

      1. I met Tiff Needell once, in Darlington, when he was promoting the TVR Tuscan Challenge.

        Hmm, the Swift also has a 6-speed ‘box now as well. Could be a contender.

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