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My Car-Buying Saga

A few months ago I blogged a lot about buying a new car. I'd like to glimpse back at that history and provide an update on recent events.

Last year I did some math on auto incentives to prepare myself to make an informed choice between financing or discount incentives. My example was the Buick LaCrosse, which coincidentally turned out to be the vehicle I ordered.

Buick Logo

I didn't start vehicle shopping in earnest until four months later when I realized I wasn't going to do it unless I gave myself a deadline. I used the renewal of my auto insurance as a convenient but arbitrary date. I began the process of researching over thirty models.

I made a list of requirements to guide me, and evaluated forty-five trim packages. Only eight met my requirements. I reduced that list to three before doing test drives.

I took a diversion into auto financing, creating a spreadsheet for comparing incentives, and another one to compare hybrid vs. regular vehicles.

After two test drives I eliminated one vehicle, and after the final test drives I placed a factory order for a a Buick LaCrosse on May 24th. Then I offered my advice to automakers to improve the online car shopping experience.

LaCrosse CXS Logo

I got some bad news on June 23rd: The factory didn't build my LaCrosse before the end of the 2005 model production. This was very disappointing, because there was approximately a month between the time I placed the order and the end of '05 production. That should have been enough time to build it. I would miss the "Employee Discount for Everyone" program, and had to back out of the sale of my current vehicle.

I wrote a letter to Buick Customer Assistance about this, and talked to some people on the phone. They decided not to do anything to turn this frustrated customer into a happy one.

I re-ordered the vehicle as a 2006 on July 22nd. (I had to wait so long because pricing information was not released quickly.) This time the vehicle was built — and quickly! — arriving at the dealership on August 24th. (This rapid manufacture and delivery makes me very curious to know why my original order didn't go through…) I went to see my car two days later.

It's beautiful with all that chrome. It even has a go-faster stripe!

2006 Buick LaCrosse CXS

(click for larger image)

This isn't the car I ordered.

I ordered the "driver confidence package", a collection of seven options. One of them, steering wheel controls for audio and temperature "(UK3)", was missing. This was not an oversight — the vehicle's paperwork indicated that this item was specifically not present. This is not how the vehicle was ordered. (It couldn't have been ordered that way even if we had wanted to.) The factory decided to make this change and didn't even notify the dealership, much less the customer, to ask if it's okay.

It's not. This is totally unacceptable. The factory knew that this vehicle was already sold; that it was going to a real person and not just dealership stock. The factory should get every order right, but especially those orders placed by end customers. Otherwise, why even present the fiction that customers can order vehicles with options they specify?

Give them a second chance? This was their second chance. The first time they didn't build it at all. The second time they built it wrong. I originally ordered in May; it's three months later and I still don't have my car!

Monday morning my salesman is going to contact the manufacturer and get an explanation for what happened to my order. Buick customer service can expect to receive another letter from me (less polite, this time) and another couple phone calls (again, less polite).

For a thirty thousand dollar automobile, I expect professionalism and a commitment to customer satisfaction. I am not impressed.

The irony in all this is that I've been trying to find a buyer for my old car (a 1992 Buick Regal Custom). I had to back out of the sale when the factory didn't build my car. This time, I didn't advertise until the car had arrived. But I advertised before I knew something was wrong with it.

My ad said, "Now that the new car has physically arrived, I can sell this with confidence." Heh. Fool me twice…

At least this time I can cancel before the test drive.

Tiny Island