A little past the Driftwood, just after leaving the main gate of Camp Lejuene and crossing the New River into Jacksonville, there is a car dealership, one of many throughout the town. And it’s not just highway 24 that is full of dealerships, I think you would be hard pressed to find a street in Jacksonville that didn’t have some sort of dealership or used car lot on it. The industry of selling automobiles seems to be major economic sector of the local economy and one that occupies many a store front and strip mall throughout the city limits and beyond. Many marines fresh out of boot camp or straight off of a deployment and flush with cash venture out to these dealerships to purchase a new automobile and these dealers in turn sell them whatever vehicle they want because they know if the marine cannot make the payment, they can go to their chain of command and get their pay docked or the vehicle repossessed. And so Jacksonville’s streets are filled with new automobiles driven by chutsters with fresh high and tights for the ladies.
Our correspondent, feeling embarrassed as of late about his 1996 Nissan Maxima, decided to brave the elements one pleasant spring day recently and went to a local dealership with the intention of buying a car. Here is what transpired…
On a bright and sunny day, with nostrils full of pollen, I drove up to the Volkswagen dealer on Highway 17 on the north eastern outskirts of Jacksonville. Ever since my time abroad on the continent when I visited Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg, I have dreamt of owning a VW of my own. So, even though I knew this was going to be an experiment in investigative journalism, my desire to purchase a new volkswagen was no mere fabrication of my imagination. However, at this juncture in my life, I am in no position to purchase a new automobile and for this article, I feigned my interest for the employees of the dealership.
I parked my car and began to inspect the cars, and was soon met by a tall, slender, middle aged African-American named Mike who gave me a hearty handshake and asked me what sort of car I would be interested in. After hearing that I was looking for a small economic and efficient car, he directed my attention to a used, 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit that was parked on the grass in front of the main entrance to the dealer. He asked me if I would be interested in test driving and I said I would. He excused himself and escaped into the dealership offices to get the keys and left me to admire the fine German engineering.
However, instead of Mike returning with the keys, it was instead a young lady named Nikki who appeared to be in her early thirties and the mother of at least one or two children. She unlocked the car and told me I could sit down in the drivers seat and she began her pitch. Nikki was quite helpful and knew about all the little gizmos and gadgets that those Germans come up with that I would never thought up at all. Like a glove box that can double as a ice chest and seat warmers so my butt can sweat even more during the mild North Carolina summers.
I then took the car out on the road, and drove it for about a mile down Highway 17 in the direction of New Bern and then at the behest of Nikki, I turned it back around and went back to the dealer. Unlike my current ride, the VW accelerated quickly and did not feel like it was about to fall apart into a wild inferno of speed and flashing light. When we arrived back to the dealership, Nikki began to move in for the kill and began to suggest that we needed to get down to in their parlance, “making the car mine.” I suggested that she give me her business card and that I would come back tomorrow with a decision about the car. She told me to hold on a minute and brought Mike back out and he knocked 500 dollars off the asking price they had on the poster hanging in the car. I said I still needed to sleep on it and wanted another day to think about it. He told me that if I needed some more time to think about it, I should do it with the car and I should take it home for the night to drive it around and get used to it and “make it my own.” This did not seem to be an unreasonable request, the VW being far better than my current form of vehicular conveyance, and so I acquiesced to his request and took the car home for the evening on the condition that I bring it back tomorrow afternoon.
I immediately took the car through all sorts of twisty turny back rods in the vicinity of Swansboro and Hubert and had a huge grin on my face the whole time I was driving. However, after playing the Stooges first album through three times and stopping for a oreo blizzard at Dairy Queen, I suddenly panicked and realized that I did not have a comprehensive insurance policy for my current car and I was unsure who would be liable if I got into an accident in this car. I also realized that I really didn’t need a car and had no real desire to continue having this one until the next day. So I took the car back to the dealership and tried to give it back to them. This time I was greeted by the General Manager who assured my that their insurance policy covered the vehicle and he really wanted me to have it until tomorrow, when he was certain I was going to buy it. He also wanted to know what my hesitations were and I informed him I was a cautious individual and did not want to jump into a decision that I might possibly regret and merely wanted another day to consider it. He asked me if the price was holding me back, and said it was a little, and he knocked another 1000 off the price of the car, bringing it from 16,500 originally down to 15,000. We talked for a little while longer and I was able to get him to go down another 1000 dollars to 14,000. I said I would consider this as I went home and crunched the numbers.
By this time I had nearly fallen prey to their salesmanship and was beginning to think that I really did want that car. So, I went home and actually crunched the numbers. I discovered that I could purchase the car for his asking price and also discovered the going Kelly blue book rate for the car and discovered that if I ran a hard bargain and remained steadfast and stern, I could most likely get them to go down even further in price. But purchasing this car would prevent me from being able to make a trip to Europe or New Zealand in the near future and I decided that I would much rather have a trip to Europe than a new car.
It was with much sadness that I returned the car and gave up my phat ride for the day. I remained steadfast in refusing to reconsider my decision and explained to them that at this current juncture of my life I was just unable to make such a large purchase. Nikki seemed sad as I walked away she looked as if she was about to cry, unable to comprehend how I could say no after she had done everything in her saleslady powers to convince me to buy the automobile. Her boss didn’t look to happy either, I think she might have got fired, she had confided to me the previous day that she hadn’t sold a car yet.
After thinking they were going to pull some sly tactics and double cross me and rip me off, the car buying experience in Jacksonville turned out to be no different than it would have been anywhere else. If one goes in armed with facts and knowledge and does not allowed his emotions to be swayed by the tactics of the salespeople, you are in no more danger than you would be in any other part of the country. Perhaps the dealers get a bad rap here because young marines who are stupid and think they can afford something they can’t make bad decisions when purchasing a brand new Ford Mustang. But if you are firm and smart, you can get yourself a reasonable deal here and can be helped by some pretty honest and fair people. Now, I can’t say that about everyone, but the people at National Volkswagen in Jacksonville treated me fair and honestly and did not appear to be trying to take advantage of because of my employer. So, I’m not quite sure why buying a car here in Jacksonville is made out to be such a horrific ordeal.