Now that I am a fully-fledged legal resident of Thailand, I figured it was time to buy myself a set of wheels, rather than paying money month after month to the nice people at SIXT car rental. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I don’t much like the rented Honda Shitty (which Honda more politely calls “City”) and despite the fact it’s served me well, I’ll be glad to get rid of it.
I’ve been looking around for a few months, not really knowing whether to buy a pickup truck, which 90% of Thais seem to drive, or a real car. Nor could I decide whether to buy new or used. I answered the second question first…
Nosing around showrooms, and checking prices online, I was quite surprised, shocked even, by the high cost of used vehicles. I looked at one pickup truck which was priced at about 50% of the cost of a new one – negotiable of course – and was amazed to see it had already done 350,000kms. They have a hard life. Thanks to the condition of the roads, regular cars have a pretty hard life too, even if they have a low mileage. (I don’t like to use non-metric units, but “kilometerage” just doesn’t sound right!)
So, having looked at a lot of five year old vehicles, for which the asking price was 70%-80% of new, I couldn’t see the logic in not buying something brand new. Aside from which, for a few years, I don’t have to worry about maintenance costs.
For me, it’s rather a novelty. I think my last brand new car was a Ford Thunderbird Turbo in Canada. That must have been 1986 or thereabouts. Nice car with serious turbo lag, but when you wound it up … whoa, hold onto your breakfast. But I digress.
As I mentioned in an earlier article I rather like the Suzuki Swift. And in Thailand it’s very competitively priced. But there seems to be a long waiting list – as long as six months for some models – and that won’t work for me. I also thought long and hard about the state of the roads … not just some of the potholed gravel roads around here, but even the main highways which can be ultra-rough in places. There were several times during my recent long trek north, as I was bouncing around all over the road, when I thought “I’m glad this isn’t my car.”
So, it was starting to look like a new pickup truck was the solution. But what? I know almost nothing about trucks. Correction: I knew almost nothing. Now I can spot the difference between a Chevy Colorado X71 C-Cab and an Isuzu D-Max Hi-Ride SpaceCab from two kilometers away! Whatever…
About eight weeks ago I dragged my long-suffering friend Anna to the Ford dealership in Nakhon Si Tammarat to investigate the Ranger. I’d put that number one on my list simply because I thought it was the best looking. I knew nothing about what was under the hood, what it cost, what sort of options were available, not even if that was what I wanted to buy. I just wanted to drive one.
Up until now, I think the only pickup truck I’d ever driven was a huge Ford F150 in 2006 on mostly sand roads in Saudi Arabia. Now that I think of it, the reason why I was driving it would make a good blog article. Next time.
But, unknown to me, this dealership visit was the beginning of one long culture shock.
Thirty minutes after walking through the large glass doors, across the highly-polished marble floor, and being asked to sit at one of the many tables, served as many cups of coffee and glasses of water that one could handle without peeing, I still hadn’t been allowed to speak. The correct name for the company by the way, should you ever want to avoid it, is “Ford B.P. Nakhon Si Tammarat” and I swear the B.P. stands for blood pressure, because it sure increased mine!
Eventually I had to break into the non-stop jibber-jabbering. “So, what’s happening?” I politely asked Anna. “Can I test a Ranger?” “Oh no” she said “They don’t have one.” WTF #1.
But at this point the salesman seemed to realize I was at least semi-serious and started filling out a booking form, and discussing prices … with Anna. And then finally, seeming very proud of themselves, they explained it all to me! “But, but, but” I kept repeating, in the hope they’d notice I was still there “I’m not interested in buying anything I haven’t driven.” This seemed to be a concept totally alien to everyone in the showroom.
As far as I can figure, if you’ve just spent an hour and a half discussing everything from politics to the price of rice, the sales person is someone you will sign-up as a friend on Facebook, and you sort-of quite like the look of the vehicle in question, you are now honor-bound to buy one! Thank goodness I’m a farang. Different rules apply.
Eventually, with close to two hours wasted, the salesman agreed he would find a Ranger I could test, and then he would call Anna. That took two months. The wait didn’t matter too much because I couldn’t buy anything until I had my visa.
While waiting though, I happened to drive past a Chevy showroom. The Colorado was #2 on my list, so I thought “What the heck, I can do this alone.” And I was at least partly right. The salesman was a really nice guy. He spoke about as many words of English as I do Thai – which would be about ten – but we managed just fine. We did a lot of pointing at things and making strange gestures – and probably strange noises, but it was obvious we were both car guys and he really wanted to make sale, so we communicated well enough.
Eventually though our collective language skills hit a road block, and so I decided I’d learned way more than I had at the Ford dealership, and would go back another day. I never did. Shame. The guy deserved to make a sale, but in the end I decided I didn’t want to spend the next five years driving around in a Colorado feeling envious of all the Ranger drivers I would see.
So, the Long-Awaited Farang Ford Ranger Test Day was set for last Wednesday. Anna and I went one hour south to Nakhon, only to be advised by an attractive but none too bright saleslady that the salesman had gone one hour north to Sichon, so I could test the car there. WTF #2. My blood pressure was returned to almost normal by the statement that he’d bring it again tomorrow.
At this point though, I still hadn’t really discussed models, options, prices, blah blah blah. So, I asked Anna to explain this to the lady, and blah blah blah in Thai ensued. For an hour. Or was it 90 minutes? It seemed like a lifetime. Every time I asked “What’s the price of…?” before I could finish, she’d leap up and disappear. After ten minutes she’d return and then continue the blah blah blah with Anna. Grrrr.
They became ever more chummy as the session continued. I’m sure if I’d understood the language, I would have known more about the saleslady’s sex life than I would about the Ford Ranger. When this had gone on for longer than I could stand, and she’d done yet another leaping up and returning after ten minutes act, I just had to say “Sit there and don’t move until you’ve answered my questions.” Anna chipped in, and apparently explained to the lady in Thai that farangs are very business like!
WTF #3. Getting answers in five minutes is business-like. Taking an hour and half is sloth-like. And that would be a sloth with a hangover. But close on the two hour mark, we had a deal … so long as I liked the test drive. I dunno, maybe it’s all part of the their sales strategy. If you get the customer mad enough he’ll accept any deal you give him, just so long as he can get the hell out of there.
And so Thursday was Long-Awaited Farang Ford Ranger Test Day #2.
Salesman was there. Saleslady was there. Ford Ranger was there. Anna was not. So, there was no chance of any un-needed blah blah blah. I jumped in the driver’s seat. They jumped into passenger seats. I adjusted everything that needed adjusting, well, except for my underwear. I don’t like to do a Rafael Nadal in public. And, with the parking lot being next to a four-lane highway, we set off – how shall I say? – briskly. There seemed to be a lot of nervous giggling from my passengers, but hey, this is how I drive, so this is how I test. And, I made sure I included some rough gravel along with the highway.
By the time we arrived back at our starting point, I swear they jumped out before we’d stopped moving. It was like the truck was on fire. No matter. I was happy. Really happy. It’s a superb vehicle to drive. Very un-truck-like. Good performance, nice handling, pleasant but not flashy interior. So, using a selection of my ten Thai words, probably in random order, I said I would go to the showroom the next day to finalize the deal and pay the deposit. In reality I’d probably made an inappropriate comment about one of the lady’s normally unmentionable body parts, but whatever I said seemed to make her happy.
So Friday, guess what, yes, it was off to Nakhon yet again. So, I can report that two more hours have been spent with wasted blah blah blah and coffee drinking. But five minutes have also been spent finalizing the deal and paying the deposit. If by some miracle the delivery matches the order, here is what will appear in my driveway sometime in the first two weeks of October…
So, from all of this, I hope you have learned: If you ever find yourself in the Ford dealership in Nakhon, just don’t mention the cars!