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New Car for the Family Millennials - An Experience of a Lifetime

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By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

Good news! Daughter No. 1, now post-university, living in Chicago, and married for just over a year, has been offered a new job. We’re all excited for her. After a few conversations about the new job, exiting her former employer, and transitioning to the new we get into another ramification of this opportunity. She’ll now need a car.

Chicago’s public transit system is quite good and functions quite well. With buses, the “L” trains, and then even taxis, bicycles and of course walking many young folk in Chicago do not need to own a car. This is further made workable and somewhat not an inconvenience with the likes of Zip Car and iGo offering short term rentals.

Daughter No. 1’s new job is in the northerly suburbs just outside of Chicago. Yes she could get there with a number of trains but the commute time would be lengthy. So now becomes the task of car shopping.

This will be the first big purchase decision by her and her husband. Even though she will be the primary user…he gets to use the convenience of public transit, his voice is quickly heard with the statement “no girly cars”, and a compact SUV emerges as the target. Knowing they have limited budget, and that the vehicle should be big-city friendly, I put together a short list of suggested candidates to look at: Ford Escape, Volkswagen Tiguan, and the Mazda CX-5 emerge as my first three. Hyundai and Kia models come to mind and the Toyota RAV4. My daughter suggests the Jeep Compass.

I also throw out a list of cars: Ford Focus, VW Golf, Mazda3, MINI (although a little pricey for them). I suggest that four-doors is a good idea vs two when hauling friends or visiting parents. I don't think you need all/four-wheel drive in Chicago, so front wheel drive is just fine. The roads are relatively flat, get cleared of snow quickly, and they won’t be traveling on unpaved or very hilly roads. And, all-wheel drive increases fuel consumption.

After a close look at the Ford Escape, my daughter is not in love with its design. The target vehicle quickly becomes the VW Tiguan…if not American, German is more desired over an Asian brand, so says my daughter. On her request I reach out to a now-retired former Volkswagen executive to see if we can get some help on a Friends and Family program. Yes is the answer.

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The shopping experience takes the young Mr. and Mrs. to two different Chicago Volkswagen stores. The Tiguan S with automatic transmission is being shopped. It’s base retail price MSRP is $22,995. The Tiguan comes very well equipped in the “S” model configuration with its 200HP 2.0-L turbo engine, a 6-speed automatic, power windows, locks, and mirrors, air conditioning, a pretty nice 8-speaker audio system, electric-assist power steering, cruise control, alloy wheels, and a full line up of standard safety equipment. The rear seat is a 40/20/40 split that you don’t see too often.

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In addition to the carpeted front and rear floor mats, the Tiguan Mat Kit includes a set of four high-quality, all-season, black Monster Mats plus a Heavy Duty Trunk Liner with a set of four CarGo Block organizers to help with corralling the stuff in back. EPA ratings are 26 mpg highway and 21 mpg city. Along with the 3 year/36,000 mile New Vehicle Warranty comes the 3 year/36,000 mile No-Charge Scheduled Carefree Maintenance. I pointed this out to the kids to be sure they realized that maintenance costs are already included. Following a new car check after about 30 days, they will need to see the dealer about once a year for service. The convenience of getting a vehicle serviced is very often not given enough consideration in the purchase decision.

Now we get to the challenging and somewhat stressful part of the process, namely, negotiating the price and deciding from which dealer to buy. The kids were armed with lots of data. Like virtually every millennial they did their on-line research. They had retail prices as well as wholesale, they knew there was an incentive program for both purchase and lease customers, and that there were plenty of Tiguans in inventory. They also knew that after the purchase they might be asked to respond to a survey about their shopping experience.

In spite of trying to first arrive at an agreed upon purchase price the sales persons always wanted to present a monthly payment. In spite of telling the sales person they wanted a low down payment the sales person would present a different offer. My millennial kids thought the process was slow, inefficient, even described as dirty, and very frustrating. One sales person became confrontational when they wouldn’t agree to a deal on the spot.

The car selling process is antiquated. Millennials are not buying cars because they don’t need them. The process needs to change to attract them. It could be more like the shopping experience for other consumer purchases. The ability to shop on-line, determine a price, make an appointment for a test drive, and arrive quickly at an agreed upon purchase or lease that meets the needs of the customer can be accomplished in today’s world.

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In the end, “Wolfgang”, the so-named new VW Tiguan S, joined the family. My daughter and son-in-law like their new vehicle and are satisfied. She said it’s very intuitive to drive. They didn’t like the purchase process at all. I drove “Wolfgang” this last weekend and he is indeed a nice, comfortable and reassuring vehicle to drive.

© Larry Nutson