For those of you that are my die hard Normandy Lifers you may recall a few posts whereby I have told to never assume anything. Or assume the total opposite to what you knew in your previous life. Living here can sometimes make you feel you are in a real life pantomime or in some sick game show called “Total Opposites” only there is no prize. Nope. Just costly mistakes as no one tapped you on the shoulder when you got off the boat and said “oh by the way, everything you have come to think of as normal and logical eg car breakdown, insurance, tyre tracking and anything else related to living and breathing is defunct”. “Now on your way and enjoy!”. To read more about this warped game I find myself occasionally in and yes, I did say occasionally, as folks I got wise. I’ve graduated to a bit part role in the France Panto that is my life or as I like to call it affectionately (?!) “France. The lost years” you can read about it here.
How difficult is it to buy a car in France do you suppose? Home to worldwide makes such as Citroen, Renault and Peugeot you’d think pretty darn easy. Now before I crack on I’m going to recall some car stories for you. Firstly, I’m not really into cars. For me, the main thing is that you turn the key, it starts, it carries on working and repeat. That, for me, is what a car needs to be. Having said this, I do appreciate a nice car but it’s not really my bag. Although, am not gonna lie, my absolute favourite car was when we had a racing green Mercedes estate and my friend (Claire) can testify to this, that all I banged on about was the boot space. Like, seriously, I could get the kids double buggy in there, a dead person and all my shopping. That car was the nuts and just seeing that Mercedes sign standing proud on the bonnet did make me a feel just a little bit special.
When I was 17 I wanted a Citroen 2CV (I think two tone colour soft top) but the practicalities of driving it on the M23 to work everyday put paid that fantasy. Instead my car history goes something like this:-
Vauxhall Astra – My very first car. Although I did drive my Grandad’s Peugeot squarish 40.. or 30..something for a while but he used to have these wooden beaded seats for his back which used to make dents in my leather jacket! I jazzed up my Astra with some flowery seat covers from Halfords and some other tacky stuff but yarp they were my first wheels.
I passed my test first time around and NO it doesn’t make you a better driver if you fail on numerous occasions!! Do you remember that? When people would proudly say “oh I failed my test first time around but it does makes for a better driver.”. No. It. Does. Not. It means you were shit not only the first time but the second and third time. You were unfit to drive and as far as I am aware they have yet to start dishing licences out of Christmas Crackers. Although sometimes living here it does make me wonder if that is a new thing….! I digress.
I then upgraded to a newer model Astra. It was sliver. It worked and I liked it.
I then bought, with future Hubby, (in fact he bought it and put it in my name #bless) a Ford Mondeo. It was a good car even when I did dent the bumper in the Greens Gym car park in Purley. I also crashed into a stationary vehicle in snowy conditions on the way to work and still got to the train station in time. We liked the Ford Mondeo. Not great for boot space and baby number one’s buggy but nevertheless it drove very well.
Then came the Mercedes. Oh my word. I loved it and the boot space but it was pricey when things went wrong especially when Mr Normandy turned the wheel nut so hard that we had to buy another one for over £300. Yarp Mercedes are lovely cars but you have to have the money for all the spares etc.
Then came the shittiest car I have ever owned and sorry guys it was French! It was a Renault Laguna. I didn’t like it the moment I set eyes on it. It didn’t have a conventional key but a stupid key card. It felt so cheap and nasty inside. It probably should have had roll down window handles rather than electric. It felt like the seats were going to fall through onto the road and it was so loud driving along. It reminded me of a caravan interior. It was temperamental with various warning lights pinging on all the time and we never had any trust between the two of us. I vowed never to have another French car again.
Having said this and if my budget was unlimited, I would love a new Peugeot 5008 hybrid. And so it appears I have gotten over my dislike for French vehicles. I also like the Peugeot estate 308 – I see one regularly and admire it often.
Then the Kia Sedona. I loved it with the sliding doors and the kids were at an age where they could stand upright in it. It also had an TV screen that would drop down so they could watch films with headphones. I think that’s when my continual need for a 7 seater began. It was nothing to look at and irrespective of the fact “it drives like a tractor”- Mr Normandy circa 2005 – I loved that uncool Kia.
And then finally the Volvo XC90. Mr Normandy wanted a Volkswagen Touareg (he is still bitter) but it wasn’t a 7 seater. So ‘computer says no!”. We nearly got a Mercedes 4 x 4 but they were all the chav rage at that time (as well as BMW) and I wasn’t digging the stick gearstick thang. So the 7 seater Volvo it was. Again, I have loved driving it. It has loads of boot space and can get all the bikes in the back together with Monty the dog.
Which brings me to the point of this post (but I only write about once a month so waffling is good right?!) my “Chelsea Tractor” Mr Normandy Feb 2020 is not great on fuel economy.
It’s a great car but I am all over the place ferrying the kids to school and back. I am up at 6.00 am during term time (this, for me, is the middle of the night – even my neighbours who are retired and get up at 7.00 am as standard think it’s early) drive Master Normandy to his school bus stop, back home, to drive the other two to their schools and back again. Repeat in the evening. Sadly, the Volvo has to go. Plus it’s not getting any younger and we’ve already kept it for longer than we would ordinarily.
So we are plumping for a Kia Niro (as in Robert De) hybrid. We have worked out the fuel economy will be awesome saving me at least 200 euros a month. So off we trotted to our local Kia Dealership. Now we had a budget but not for a brand new car – approx 2017/2018. We had decided, what with the increased hassle of importing a UK car (ordinarily far cheaper by thousands), that when all things considered its now on a par just to pay for a French registered car here.
You can read about how to import a UK car in my post here but I should add to this post that people are experiencing a few more inconveniences with registration. Namely, right hand cars need to be physically checked over along with everything else. No thanks.
So off we went to our local Kia dealership. We wandered outside the forecourt that also had other second hand cars for sale. The man came out (nice enough) and we pointed to the new Kia Niro on the forecourt and said we were after one of these but our budget was in the region of X euros. He merely said “non”. No. Nope. That was it. The end.
He didn’t have one. Now anyone that has ever been to a UK car showroom knows full well you are not getting out of there without buying a car for more money than you intended to spend and with a car that you possibly did not want. A UK salesman would have been all over you. You ain’t getting out of there for love nor money and if you’re in South London…seriously you’d probably come away with two cars.
Here it’s buy a car. Don’t buy a car. Up to you. Shrug. Bothered. Or better still “We are not here to sell you anything. Please leave.”
Mildly amused I was with this total unenthusiastic approach to relieve us of our euros, I asked if we could sit in it. Yes we could. There was no sales pitch i.e it does this to the gallon, you have leather trim, blah blah. Nothing. Prior to this I asked how much it was he replied “non”. No I didn’t ask a no, yes question I asked the price. Again I asked and he reluctantly told me (short of saying “we have nothing here for you like a scene from Pretty Woman) that this was hot of the production line and 30,000 euros.
Ok, I wasn’t going to buy it but he may have persuaded me. I am easily swayed with objects that I like for more money than I intend to spend! Not only that there were lots of other cars within our budget but he wasn’t interested in showing us those either.
Pressing on with our slightly deflated excitement at buying a newer car we asked if he could see if any other garages nearby had an older model. Eventually we came away with a garage, number and car that was approx under budget! We clutched our little lead and were told to turn the lights off on our way out. I jest but seriously we couldn’t have felt anymore undeserving of a newer car if we tried. We were like some Volvo XC90 street urchins coming in from the diesel world into a hybrid world that quite frankly did not want us.
On further investigation, I found several garages selling cars slightly over budget but with less mileage so he could have given us one of those leads rather than the under budget one? Albeit they don’t work together these garages.
Like all my little stories about living in France, I am pretty sure I could go into another garage and have a totally different experience but I know of others (not necessarily buying a car) that have said the same thing. There is no further thought in that regard i.e “have you got this” answer “no” and that’s it rather than “but, we do have this which might suit you etc”.
So there you have it, my impression of the difference between a French car salesperson and an English car salesperson. One will be so disinterested as to whether or not they sell you a car the other will rugby tackle you to the ground until you have signed the cheque!
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