It was time to buy a new car. The old one was showing its miles; I was finishing up a contract that would put some money in my pockets. As Winter was ready to turn things over to Spring, I started.
In an era of the web and online car companies, you’d think that purchasing a car would be simpler than it was thirty years ago. But it’s not – the internet lets car manufactures produce slick advertising and an array of gimmicks that allows prospective buyers to compare, build, finance and almost take delivery of any car you want, but when you come right down to buying the car – you end up working with a dealer again. It’s back to selecting something from whatever they have in stock or can find through their national (which means 100 mile radius around them) inventory. With the dealer, of course, you get not to be missed experiences of being upsold every imaginable piece of crap, offered deals on cars you never expressed the slightest interest over, and the time honored tradition of going back and forth between the sales person who gives you a price but is powerless to change it and a ‘manager’ in a back office somewhere that tells the sales person what to say. I’d rather hear an Elizabeth Warren campaign speech than walk on a showroom floor.
The internet has a lot of information to help buy a car. Edmunds and Kelly tells you what a particular new car is selling for in your neighborhood as well as providing estimates on your trade-in. All this information the car sales people will disparage as being biased, obsolete, not applicable to your particular city, that car trim, or any day but when the third Wednesday of the month falls on Friday the 13th. But you at least have a ball park number to tell you how much they aim to screw you.
We all need to buy a car from time to time. For most of us, our car preferences evolve as our money making capacity expands or shrinks. I have never had the money to own a ‘power’ car or any desire for wealth parodies like Cadillac or Lincoln. But this time, I was considering something a little sporty; something with a little flare. When you’re seventy years old, you start thinking that this might be your last car. Why not splurge?
Cockpit of a 2019 Infinity Q50. The nifty CD player is right above the temperature knob.
Where to start? That’s where the internet clicks in, fantasy meets reality, and endless frustration haunts your every day. You think Lexus and Infinity make a nice looking car. Their entry level cars have a lot of pop, look good and cost under 40K. So you began with them. Soon, you figure out that these cars are ancient – their current designs date back to 2012. They have engines with lots of power but those horses primo gas guzzlers and very inefficient. Inside, interiors seem nicely appointed but the electronics dated. Both companies listed a CD player as a not to be missed audio feature. Maybe, but who has even seen a CD since 2015? Their computer technology is panned in all the trade rags -how many new functions can you cram into an eight year old computer? Both Toyota and Nissan admit the cars are on their last design legs and expect to replace them in a year or two but for now – well they are elegant old clunkers. Only a dullard who falls for the cheesy sales brochures would buy one now.
On to the Germans. I threw Mercedes out right from the beginning. If you are someone’s great grandfather and want to upscale from your old Buick LaSabre, Mercedes is the right car for you. That leaves BMW and Audi. They make similar cars similarly priced using the same complicated options approach to create the car you actually will want to buy. It works like this: you start off with a basic model – say a BMW 3 series. The price starts at 35K and for that you get a stylish looking car, a peppy engine and a steering wheel. There is a set of primitive looking seats too but it’s obvious you’d never want to sit in them. From there, you build the rest of the car. You want real seats that are at least covered with a quality vinyl – you order the Convenience Package for 1,200 dollars. How about power adjustments on those seats? 800 dollars. Maybe add a sunroof? There’s an Executive Package for that (2,500 dollars) but you’ll get heaters in seats you just ordered too. How about some basic safety technology, say a Blind Spot monitor– twelve hundred dollars. But you can’t order that without getting the navigation system and that’s three grand. All of a sudden you took a thirty five thousand dollar car and made one that cost fifty thousand. And all this stuff and more is standard on the aged Lexus or Infinity.
$35,700 base price but it takes $56,972 to drive this baby home.
At the end of the day, you realize the Germans know how to both make a great little car and rob you blind at the same time. If you were smart enough to pass on either the Lexus or Infinity, you’ll probably pass on the Germans too.
So what to do? Well why not scan the car magazines and see what they recommend?
The top three car publications seem to be Car and Driver, Motortrend and U.S. News and World Reports (I know, who would have thunk). They all split cars and trucks into dozens of different categories, drive them around then rank them by category. The car we’re looking for is in the small luxury/sports category. Is there something they all like? Yep – the Genesis G70. Car and Driver named in one of the Best 10 2019 cars; Motortrend made it car of the year, and U.S News and World Reports ranked it #1 in the small luxury car category. A Genesis G70. Not a car most of us had ever heard of.
When you dive into the specs for a Genesis G70, it’s not hard to see why it got the awards. It has all the stylish looks you want in a sporty car, boasts a BMW breaking 365 horsepower engine, has about every electronic gizmo known in the industry, and runs about the price of one of those starter Lexus or Infinity cars.
So I got on the Genesis manufacture’s site and built the car I liked. It nice dark blue G70, black interior with snazzy wheel covers. Everything else was standard equipment – you name a feature or function you’d want on a well outfitted car and the G70 pretty much included it (no CD player though). At the end of the build process, you press a button that says ‘Find My Car’. All the manufactures’ sites have this button and it just matches the inventory of nearest dealer to the car you built and gets you the closest thing it can find.
Of course it didn’t find the car I built but there was no surprise there – I built dozens of car through five different manufacture’s build tools and not one of them found the car I built anywhere close to where I lived. What did surprise me was that the closest dealer to me that had any G70s was 400 miles away in Macon, GA. What? There’s a Genesis dealer six miles north of where I live. What about them?
Pompano Genesis – There are two G90s in the showroom, both over a year old. The doors are locked on weekends.
Well it turns out that most of the Genesis dealers in Florida don’t have any Genesis G70s. The Genesis dealer near Pompano has been there for nearly a year. Its showroom has two 2018 Genesis 90s on it. That’s it. No one answers the phone when you call them (you leave a voicemail); nobody responds to an email. At first I thought, this can’t be. The Macon Genesis dealer had 23 G70s in stock and they were priced nicely below sticker. So the car was definitely around.
Want to see a Genesis G70 in the wild? Try Macon, GA.
I tried some other Genesis dealers closer to home. Naples had a lot of Genesis G80s and G90s but no G70s. Hopefully soon, they said. But at least they answered the phone. West Palm Genesis said the same thing and they told me why they are hard to find in Florida. It turns out that there is an approval process a manufacture has to go through with the state before they can sell a particular model. For whatever reason, Genesis dilly and dallied in Florida (or maybe contributed to the wrong person in Florida Governor’s race in last year’s election) and only got a license to sell G70s a couple of months ago. Cars should start showing up any day now. Clearwater Genesis, the same; Jacksonville, ditto; Orlando ditto. Any day now. I waited four weeks. Nothing changed. Could come any day now.
After a while, you figure that if the dealer says ‘any day now’ for weeks and weeks, they know they aren’t getting one for a while. I thought about going to Macon and just buying the thing there but then, where do you get it serviced? Not in the Pompano Genesis dealer with no Genesis’s. Driving 400 miles for an oil change wasn’t going to work either.
So after nearly two months of looking, I gave up on the Genesis. After a little web surfing, I found that Genesis themselves made this mess. In 2017 Hyundai decided to make Genesis a separate division similar to what Toyota did with Lexus. Only they stopped shipping Genesis cars to Hyundai dealers before they had the new Genesis dealers set up. (If Hyundai had been a Japanese car company, a lot of executives would’ve committed seppuku by now. But it’s a Korean company. Nothing another scotch on the rocks can’t fix.). And now they have hundreds of Genesis dealers that exist only on paper but don’t actually sell Genesis cars yet.
In the end, it turns out that it is kind of hard to a buy a decent luxury/sports sedan at a reasonable price. You can overspend on a BMW, overspend on a high priced Accord (Honda calls them Acura’s) or end up with a car that will be technically obsolete in a year. And the American car companies are getting out of the sedan business. At this point, I am just about ready to say screw it and start looking at Ford 150s.