Saturday, October 29, 2011

Farewell Porsche...

Today I said goodbye to my Boxster. I drove it to a dealership, signed some papers and left it behind. There is a story here of course, initially it was going to be a simple story. Boy meets car, boy drives car, boy meets new car, boy trades old car in for new car. They live happily ever after.

Well the actual story is far from simple. Let's see, where to begin...and bear with me, this is fairly lenghty...

As you may know, I have a soft spot for the Audi TT. In fact, I am a bit of an Audi fan, this started with the TT and has further roots in a rather epic Audi press fleet event that I did years ago. I will definitely post about that one in the future. I am particularly fond of the Audi RS models. After driving an RS4 through the BC back roads during the press fleet event I was floored by the ferocity and pure brilliance of this car. The RS6 Avant is the stuff of legend. When Audi announced the TT-RS, I was immediately smitten. A 2.5 liter 5 cylinder turbo making 340hp? Wow, sign me up! Sadly, these cars weren't destined for North America so I more or less forgot about it. I would gaze forlornly at the occasional TT-S that I would spot on the streets of Vancouver but that car is just a bit too underpowered to be truly special. Then it all changed when Audi did a Facebook petition to gauge interest in a North American version of the TT-RS. The responses were overwhelmingly positive and Audi decided to bring the TT-RS to North America. This excited me greatly to the point where I started to have bad thoughts about my Boxster, selling it, going back from Porsche to Audi.

About four months ago now, on a whim I decided to call a local Audi dealer, the same that sold me the A4 Avant that so competently transports my little family. I asked what the deal was with the TT-RS, was it coming to Canada? Serendipity struck, the guy on the phone said that they just received two allocations, one white, one black. If I wanted, I could put down a refundable deposit and the car would have my name on it until it arrived some time in October. I could then give it a look and test drive and decide. I thought 'sure, why not' and gave him my credit card number for a deposit on a fully loaded, all-black TT-RS. After that, more details started emerging, Audi had tuned the ECU a bit to increase output to 360hp and 340lb/ft of torque for the North American version and the buzz on the Internet forums started building up. I became more and more excited about this car to the point where I pretty much had decided that it would replace the Boxster.

In mid October I finally got a firm date for delivery, October 21st. A couple of weeks before that, I put the Boxster on the market, which resulted in some interesting responses. Nothing concrete came out of this so two weeks ago now I took it to the Audi dealer to have it appraised for a trade-in. This is where the plot thickens considerably. After dropping off the car with the techies and settling into the waiting area of the dealership, the sales guy came over, wielding a piece of paper and looking quite grim. He showed me the document, which turned out to be a vehicle history report, pointing out some very bad things like a $24,000 accident claim way back in 2005 and several sales at auction. This was one of those moments where the bottom falls out of your stomach and a cold sweat breaks out. I was stunned, shocked and flabbergasted all at the same time. Remember, I bought this car as a certified pre-owned vehicle from an authorized Porsche dealer. I paid a premium for it. Given its history, it was worth about 20% of market value. Other Audi guys came over, gaping at the document and muttering how crazy this was. All the while I was sitting there thinking I was completely and thoroughly screwed. I was told to lawyer up and prepare for a court case. I was asked how I wanted to proceed with the TT-RS. I had no idea how to respond.

After the initial shock had worn off I decided to write a letter to Porsche Cars Canada to explain the situation and nicely ask for my money back. I included all the relevant documents including the signed inspection report claiming a clean vehicle history. I hinted at lawyers. I then couriered it to Porsche and waited. Two days later I got a phone call from a nice lady from Porsche Cars of North America who said they were terribly sorry and were willing to offer $3,000 for my inconvenience. I was momentarily stunned, shocked and flabbergasted again but quickly regained my composure and proceeded to tell her exactly how I felt about that. This seemed to trigger a flight response since she suggested several times I contact the dealership in question directly, bid me a nice day and hung up.

I had already sent a copy of my initial letter to the dealership so I called them, asked for the general manager and proceeded to ask her how she was going to fix this situation. This lady was a lot more grounded in reality, said things like 'I have no idea how this car was sold to you in the first place' and 'I want to help you' that considerably lowered my anxeity levels but I was still very much guarded and almost resigned to the fact that a lawyer was going to be inevitable. She then said she needed to consult with 'the vice president' and he would call me back. It took the mysterious VC two days to get back to me but when he did he was all business. Market value quotes for the car were being rattled off and I was asked if I would be so kind as to email him all the bills for costs I had incurred after purchasing the car. I remember doing this rather hurriedly at 7:45am in the morning while also trying to orchestrate the logistically challenging task of trying to get myself and Kai to work and school, Connie had already left for work.

A couple of hours later in the office, I received another call from the Vice President's favorite business manager who proposed that Porsche would buy the car back from me at market value, the dollar figure quoted as OK, not great but internally I sighed a deep sigh of relief and said I would think about it. He also proposed the interesting fact that I could still trade the car in at Audi and they would in turn bill Porsche. This required several phone calls to the Audi dealer who was taken aback at first but then realizing the need for this chain of transactions in order to sell me the TT-RS, agreed. He also noted that in the seven years in the car business he had never experienced a case like this.

The end result of this sordid affair is pretty much exactly what I had intended in the first place, trade in the Boxster for the TT. I just never thought I'd be experiencing two weeks of an anguishing crash course in used car sales that I'd rather soon forget!

The only thing left to do now is wait patiently for a couple of days longer. It turned out that one of the front brake pads on the TT had become misaligned during the journey from Hungary (that is where Audi builds TTs) to Vancouver. It needs to be replaced, the part is underway. Wednesday is the current expected arrival date. I am a bit giddy. Expect a gushing post soon...

This makes you think though. I am a bit risk-averse, especially when it comes to things to do with money and large purchases. I have always leased new cars since I like the idea of 4 years of bumper to bumper warranty. I decided to get a used Porsche to see how that would go, thought that buying a certified pre-owned car from Porsche itself would be the lowest-risk way of going about it. Well, I was proven wrong in the most thorough way possible. How this happened in the first place is still a mystery. I got several hints of the truth from various people at Porsche I spoke to but never much detail. The guy I dealt with last claimed it was an oversight on their part. Quite the oversight and I doubt it is as simple as that. But the affair is over and I am now the proud owner of a brand new 2012 Audi TT-RS. I don't care about the Porsche anymore.

Will I ever get a used car again? Probably not, crazy as that may sound. At the end of the day this is most definitely a first world problem. It turned out OK and I am much the wiser for it I suppose. I will write it up in the book of experience, stay calm and carry on.

I took a couple of quick shots at the dealer in their shop where the TT-RS is now, awaiting brake pads. Once I have it home I'll take some good shots, but here is a taste:

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