Friday, February 5, 2010

Me and my Toyota Camry, Part I

I drive a 2008 Toyota Camry hybrid and I think the company hasn’t come clean yet.

After driving American cars and having clutches drop out, tie rods broken, being left on the side of the road pre-cell phone and most of all being treated very, very poorly at the dealerships, I had had enough of American cars. I tried my best and I hate to say it even to this day. But they hated me – the cars and the dealerships both hated me. Have American cars changed?

I don’t know. People say they have.

As soon as I was financially able to buy a foreign car, I did. I went to the local Toyota dealership right as I graduated college and I said I wanted a four-door Tercel sedan in that year’s shade of green because I am always drawn to green cars of any shade. I wanted a five-speed manual transmission.

He actually laughed at me. He said, “Good luck finding one of those, honey. No one’s gonna buy a car like that, so no dealer would have one around.” And for a moment or two, every other experience I had ever had buying a car came back to me. Some jerk overweight much-older man treating me like I had cotton balls in my head. I walked out, but I kept the brochure.

I graduated and moved with the Dodge that wasn’t very old, but the A/C stopped working and predictably shockingly enough, the Dodge dealership just couldn’t figure it out. Remember those days? Remember when a dealership didn't want you to come back with problems? I do and even heard a guy at Celozzi-Ettleson in the Chicago area admit it.

So I moved to town I went to the local dealership and I tried again. The salesman’s name was Casey and although he was a little older, he didn’t act like a jerk. He listened when I told him what I wanted and he fiddled around on his computer. And then he said the magic words I still remember:

“Come on outside, we’ve got the one you’re looking for.”

There she was, my green four-door Tercel sedan with a five-speed manual transmission and I fell in love with a car for the very first time. I sold it about four years later to buy a Camry and although I love the Camry, which is a more grown-up car, I still wish I hadn’t gotten rid of the Tercel. I miss me some zippy, tiny car an awful lot.

Here’s the point at which my friend Cindy will roll her eyes and write me to say, “That car gave you a sore back, Caron. Why do you always forget that?”

And she’s right. That car was built for a tiny, petite little woman and so I sold it. The Camry doesn’t make my back hurt.

My second salesperson at this dealership was a woman. She took a photograph of me next to my new, but slightly used Camry. I loved that car and got a whale of a deal on it. A whale of a deal, my friend. My mother-in-law now drives it. It’s old and has lots of mileage and of course, it’s green.

Now I have a blue Camry. I told the very young salesperson whose name I do not recall that I didn’t want a blue car and particularly not that shade of blue. Were they drunk when they decided on that shade of blue?

The blue has grown on me and I get a lot of compliments, but last weekend at the library, I saw a green car in the most spectacular shade of green I’ve ever seen.

Oh, envy, thou art undeniably green.

Here’s a funny thing about that very young salesperson. He noted that I had kept my Camry for a long time. I said yes, I keep my cars for a long time. At this point, I had had the Camry for over ten years, I think. Silly child that he was, he said to me, “Wow. I wasn’t even old enough to get a learner’s permit when you bought that car.”

I laughed because how could you not laugh? But still. How Not to Sell to a Woman Over 40? Class dismissed!

So this young whippersnapper and I go back and forth, back and forth. I am for the first time buying a fully loaded car and I’m excited. I know exactly what I want and I’m not getting everything on my wish list. But I’m rather a … shall we say … frugal person. He said, “Look, what if I give you a really big discount on the blue one?”

I laughed and said, “Why would you do that? You can’t sell that shade of blue to anyone else, can you?”

But he wasn’t lying. He gave me an OK discount and I got 98% of the car of wanted when I walked in the door.

That’s the story of my relationship with Toyota, deeply meaningful as it is/is not. Stand by for page two.


UrbanIdeas said...

I DID like your Camry! But am glad you got a new one as you wanted. BTW... talking about American cars, a Toyota may actually be more American than American brand cars as Toyotas are manufactured right here.

This reminds me of a story. As you know we also have Toyotas. Well My DH is the "driver" for my daughter's dance school at parades. There is that older guy that is at EVERY parade and loves to shout at DH: "Next time get a Chevy!" We all chuckle. Last parade we went to (Thanksgiving Parade), he older man was not there, we missed him!

Rose said...

I hope your story has a happy ending...we had a camry and sold it when it had $150,000 on it. And it is still running fine. We bought a Rav4 to replace it.

I think my brother has had 4 Camry's, and has the avalon now. He has never had a bit of problems with them.

And our Camry at 150,000 miles, we only had to replace the things you normally replace...but much later than is normal.