Replacing An Ailing Car? Check Your Timing

November 7, 2010

From the data found in a recent study by Kelley Blue Book and reported on PR Newswire, there are a truckload of car buyers sitting on the fence contemplating a purchase. It reminds me of the undecided independent voter that each side attempted to reach with endless ads at the end of a campaign. The rest of us think, “How could you have not made up your mind?”

According to KBB, a whopping 72 percent of the in-market shoppers (about one-third looking for new vehicles) they polled said they were undecided on the specific car they wished to buy. Over half of the participants had been in the marketplace for the past year.

 James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said that shoppers are financially driven right now and that they are waiting for the right deal to appear that will get them to hop off the fence. He sees this as an opportunity for the car manufacturers to tailor their year-end marketing efforts to appeal to these undecided buyers. Does anybody know how to spell R-E-B-A-T-E?

There is an auto repair twist to this survey. Over a quarter of the shoppers said they had delayed the maintenance or repair of their current vehicle due to their economic condition. Over a third of the new car shoppers have delayed mechanical repair for the same reason. This reflects the level of scrutiny that motivated buyers are applying to their purchases. For these potential buyers the purchase of a vehicle is being factored into their decision to avoid the cost of repairs: "By replacing, I can avoid repairing" could be the mantra.

Dumping on the dealer a car with undisclosed problems has always been part of the rite of passage to an upgrade of transportation needs. This works well as long as the wheels don’t fall off the wagon.

This reminds me of a fractured axle on a Windstar, a defect that eventually resulted in a recall by Ford. This failure occurred during the Cash For Clunkers program. The owner had been looking for a replacement vehicle at the time. The customer insisted that we have a welder repair the axle. He then had the vehicle towed to within a hundred yards of a dealership and drove the Windstar in, thus complying with the provisions of the program. The point of this is that in the absence of CFC, this buyer would have come up short in the timing of his purchase.

If you are in the market for a replacement vehicle and delaying repairs, be sure to monitor the vital signs of your current vehicle. Otherwise what you thought might make a good down payment or first lease installment may end up as a liability rather than an asset.

[PR Newswire
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