In my experience, a buyer is in the best position to negotiate when they are willing to walk away. When the buyer does not have to have the item, the seller loses some advantage. This negotiation strategy works with private auto sellers, but I’ve found it particularly helpful with car dealers. But too much coming-and-going led to a problem for me.
Car sales folks are taught to not let the customer leave the premises. Conventional wisdom says that once they are gone the likelihood of returning is slim. The thinking is that the customer is on their way to the competition down the street, and they’ll probably buy there. However, some sales people understand that a deal can sometimes still be brokered after the potential buyer leaves, and a follow-up phone call is made.
A 1999 Mazda Miata is a case-in-point. I wanted to trade my Mazda Millenia COAL HERE on a barely-used Miata at the Mazda dealership in Tallahassee. I was there in person and we were too far apart in price. I went home, but the salesman called me the next day. We crunched numbers over the phone (The issue was my trade-in valuation). We seemed to be getting closer. I went back to the dealer but it was more back-and-forth. They had raised the valuation of my trade, but then raised the price of their car too! I left again.
I really liked this little second-gen Miata, but I couldn’t be obvious about it. The first-generation Miatas were sold from ‘90-’97. These were the cars with the pop-up headlights. I liked the looks of the second-generation cars better. These were slightly larger and heavier- and more powerful. They were sold from ’99-’05. Then, from ’05-’15 the third iteration was sold. These were slightly wider again, and power output and weight increased again. The newest, fourth generation has been selling since ’16. The size was virtually unchanged, and the car has actually lost a little weight.
Back to the story. The next morning the sales manager called me. We quickly agreed on values for my Millennia and their Miata. I went to my credit union and started working on the financing. They told me it would be two, or possibly three days before we could officially ink the deal.
Later on, I drove through the dealer’s parking lot, just to get another look at the car. We were waiting on the credit union. The salesman came out and said everything was good-to-go. The dealer had already talked with the credit union. Done deal. The salesman was screwing my license plate on my new Miata when I realized I had a big problem. Actually, two little problems. Well, not problems, just concerns. In the busyness of the day, I ended up with our four-year-old and six-year-old kids with me, because my wife was out with the other two. They were not part of my usual routine.
We had closed the deal while my two kids were in the showroom play area! When it was time to go, I realized there was no place for them! On the way home, my six-year-old sat in the front seat, and my four-year-old sat in the tiny spot behind the seats that didn’t exist if the top were down. We drove home with the top up.
This was the newer, second generation, larger Miata! It was tiny. Many times, when I got in the car I would subconsciously reach down to slide the seat back. The problem was, the seat was already fully slid back. There was a steel bulkhead back there, no matter how much I pushed, the seat was not going back any further.
But it was a good car, and I enjoyed it. My wife enjoyed it even more – maybe because she is nearly a foot shorter than me. That Miata was one of the smallest cars I’ve ever owned. It is comparable in size to old MGs, Healeys, Lotuses (Loti?), and other little British cars, but it is also close in size to some Italian sports cars too. I don’t think everyone understands how truly small many exotic cars are. I’ve seen my share of exotics and the one thing they have in common is that they are tiny. At Mecum last year, I sat in a Countach, or should I say, tried to sit in it.
Remember Magnum P.I.? Ever wonder why Tom Selleck’s character always drove the Ferrari 308 GTS with the targa top removed? Because of beautiful Hawaiian weather? No – It’s because the actor was 6’3 and his head didn’t completely fit inside!
Perhaps the newest Miata is roomier than the generation I had. I don’t know. I’d like to drive one sometime. First I’ll go on a diet and maybe shrink too.