I've recently undertaken the new car purchase journey for real. My wife's change of employer meant that her Ford S-Max company car was being replaced with a monthly car allowance.
Our journey has had a very satisfying conclusion, but it didn't start that way. With online research done, the list of contenders for a new seven-seater was whittled down to four. Armed with our shortlist, we set off around Peterborough on the May Day Bank Holiday to find the chosen one.
Initially our day became rather frustrating, to the extent that I can see why many manufacturers are pushing their networks to become so process-orientated in what appears to be a drive to standardise the experience.
Our first was a visit at one Japanese marque to enquire about a seven-seater SUV which I already knew wasn't on the market until July. The friendly sales executive said exactly that, followed by "pop back towards the end of June, we should have some information on it then" before allowing us to walk out of the showroom and drive away in our S-Max, just another completely anonymous middle-income professional couple, never to be seen again.
It was quite incredible.
At a second Japanese brand dealership, we were told the seven-seat hybrid MPV demonstrator we required was away with a sales executive who wasn't working the bank holiday. Again we were allowed to leave anonymously.
Unfortunate particularly, because we then wandered across the road to an almost-premium brand dealership which hadn't even been on our visit list. Mrs Rose had suggested it in our research phase but I'd dismissed it as being well outside our budget.
How wrong I was to be proven.
While browsing around a used SUV on its forecourt, we were welcomed by a friendly, engaging, skilled professional. For around an hour he listened to our needs, worked up two PCP proposals that, admittedly, scraped the ceiling of our budget, made a cup of tea for our thirsty five-year-old daughter and let the three of us clamber all over the seven-seater SUV on display inside the showroom, before offering to book us a 24-hour test drive and letting us take the proposals away to think about.
My wife and daughter fell in love with the car. I was impressed by the experience.
We still ventured on to two more showrooms. At one, for a small but growing European brand I actually favoured, we were impressed by the seven-seater demonstrator's features but the sales executive appeared clueless. Admitting that they "don't sell many of these" as their standard fare is hatchbacks, he read through the brochure alongside us before providing one PCP proposal which seemed okay but not especially attractive.
Then, oddly, he asked if we had a decent cameraphone on us. Yes, I replied, expecting him to say we could photo the car. But no, it was to photograph the finance proposal because he wasn't allowed to let us take the piece of paper away. Company policy, apparently.
Incredible. My lasting impression? I wouldn't deal with that dealership if it were the only one within 100 miles.
Our final visit of the day was to a market leading mainstream brand which services Mrs R's current car every six months. Its PCP proposal and dismal discount proved its fleet-focused biggest MPV was well above our monthly budget as a new car. By now it was just past closing time yet the helpful, knowledgeable sales executive found us a low mileage, one-year-old example that looked more affordable and attractive. We said we'd think about it and took that proposal away
A week on, one of these dealerships has taken our deposit. Can you guess which?