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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

By The Way: How buying a new car revealed a coin’s worth

When I told a dealer I wanted a car with a manual drive, not the semi-automatic that is peddled as automatic in our country. “No, you don’t!” he snapped. Scared of his powers to read my mind, I disconnected and blocked his number.

columns Updated: Sep 24, 2017 09:17 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times
(Shutterstock image)

I’ve been missing in action for a month now, even missing my fortnightly date with this column. And you must sympathise with me, for I had an excruciatingly painful reason. While the world was crumbling under the pressures of Rahul Gandhi’s alleged lucidity abroad, and Narendra Modi was hurtling towards his 2019 fate at the pace of a bullet train, I was buying a new car. It’s not about the money. The pain is in the process.

First things first, I value tradition. So, before some of you ask me why I needed a car when the office cab can pick and drop me, and when there are Ola and Uber dying to give me free rides, I must tell you that I want Chandigarh to retain its position as the city with the highest per-capita number of cars in India, with cars with the ‘CH’ tag nearly outnumbering the human population. And I already owned a car that I wanted to replace, so I was not adding to the mess but just keeping my contribution steady.

As you do, I started with online searches. That led to minor anxiety attacks after I was flooded with knowledge and choices. My first stop was the website TeamBHP that take its cars seriously, really seriously. And the prose is so lucid that you’ll get sucked in. Wrong grammar is not permitted, and SMS slang can get you banned. For 10 days, I read about RPM and torque and turbo surges, and the essential ‘thud’ sound that the door must make when it’s closed. Here, the romance is in romancing the rejected. The passion is almost palpable, and the pull is such that I never got down to visiting a showroom in real life.

Finally, I closed the website with a ‘thud’ when AskCarGuru came along. A bald, middle-aged guy with an endearing lisp and down-to-the-basics demeanour, he makes videos in front a faded maroon curtain. The same curtain, every time. Mostly monologues, and some live question-answer sessions on Facebook and YouTube, but never a car in sight, he manages to share knowledge without ever getting near the vehicles, at least not in the videos. Yet, the dependable uncle gives a run for their money to the more established names of mainstream media whom you find hard to trust these days. A sign of our times? Anyway, it meant I did not visit a showroom for another week. Finally done with research, I visited five showrooms in a day, checking the ‘thud’, collecting price quotes and brochures, and getting visiting cards from salespersons competing even within the same showroom.

This wasn’t the deluge. The real thing was to follow.

Tell me, seriously, who has ever decided to finalise a car based on a sales follow-up call at 8.30 in the morning? The call helped me strike at least two models off the list.

More calls followed, some follow-ups and many from salespersons just taking a chance. “Sir, do you know why no one buys our models? Because, people are idiots! But you, I am sure, are smart,” claimed one, trying to convince me to buy a wannabe-SUV because “its stereo is the best in its class”. Another called with the offer to deliver the car at the doorstep and “two chocolate boxes… Hehe!” And yet another said he could cut the six-month waiting period of the most popular car in the market from by a week. A week, what a luxury!

When I told a dealer I wanted a car with a manual drive, not the semi-automatic that is peddled as automatic in our country. “No, you don’t!” he snapped. Scared of his powers to read my mind, I disconnected and blocked his number.

I ran back to the online guru who he did not find time to answer any of my dozens of questions for at least a week. He has thousands of followers and gets questions by the hundreds. How much can a guy read and reply to? Finally, when I zeroed down to two models — one the latest mini-sedan by a market leader, the other recommended by experts at TeamBHP — I tried again, and my wish was granted. It didn’t help matters, though, because his reply was as uncle-like as possible, “Both are good”, and then he went on to list the negatives of both, pushing me towards a different model altogether.

Meanwhile, I had sold off my old car, and was now craving for it. Fine, it had run more than 1.5 lakh kilometres in four years, and been repaired on all sides twice over, but at least it existed. Now I was riding confusion and using a bike that I’d once bought on whim.

How does one rescue oneself from this? God bless the friend who does not own a car but suggested a simple solution. Toss a coin. The coin selected one, and I bought the other, because that’s how I knew which one I loved all along. I am not telling you which one it is. No, I do not want suggestions.

Writer can be contacted at | Tweets at @aarishc (Views expressed are personal)

First Published: Sep 24, 2017 09:17 IST

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