As we walk skip or stumble along the path of life, we meet some interesting people along the way. Every profession has their own mavericks and oddballs, but in my, er, humble opinion it’s the motor trade that seems to attract a more eclectic mish-mash of troubled souls than crowd of random people. It is, of course, the people you miss when you hand over the keys to your demonstrator and leave the job and it’s rare to keep in touch with fellow sales staff.
One such exception to the rule comes from the few happy years selling MG Rover. Neil was a former Business Manager of mine who, after the famous Phoenix crash-landed back into the flames, sold his house, upped sticks and headed out East to Anglia country. Hailing from somewhere not far from Ipswich, he went back to his original profession of painting and decorating vowing never again to work with or sell cars in a dealership.
Out of the many folk I have rubbed shoulders with, he was the most entertaining to bumble along with. Potty about about five-a-side with a loud and often dubious vocabulary, he had a right-footed volley like a canon and a mouth like a canon being fired. Just recalling his persona has me sighing with nostalgic memories and some tales of his sometimes ‘unorthadox’ practices would make your toenails curl. Not your typical car man by any shape of the imagination but he made a living because of one thing alone – he was,and still is 100% motivated by money.
You see, he hates cars, hates the trade, and yet he was bloody good at his craft. To men he talked football and Rugby Union, to women he talked fashion and family life – a man for all people if you will, and this talent is what maketh a good salesman. Neil buys and sells the odd used car in his spare time from his expansive property earning the nickname ’90-day Neil’, owing to the fact his stock is normally the type you or I would run away from and anywhere else would take at least three months to sell his kind of stock.
Require a high mileage Laguna with little service history? Or a Twin-cam Ford Scorpio estate with factory fitted tow bar? Does a Category D 3.0 Omega going for a song make you salivate? If so… I’ll put you in touch. What makes his luck are the people he deals with and a smart salesman always knows who he can pop behind the wheel. He has armed forces personnel quite proximal and there is no easier person to deal with than a rich American with poppy in his pocket.
We recently spoke on the phone when he took in as a part exchange a rather down in the mouth MG ZT-T190 which, in his own words not mine was ‘ as unpolished and unused as Roy Castle’s trumpet ‘. Being pretty leggy (160K), he decided he would use the car as his everyday smoker, and so opted to spend a few bob putting into daily use. This gentleman’s shooting brake is a lovely car to steer about in especially with the creamy KV6 engine so long as everything works as it should.
To be sure and for piece of mind, the timing belts were earmarked for changing but after his trusted mobile mechanic scarpered screaming at the notion of this task, he rang a couple of contacts looking for a ‘mate’s rates’ price. The usual bankruptcy inducing figures came back which almost saw the MG go on eBay for spares. That was until a garage some 20 miles away came back with a quote that not only beat the others by a country mile but was so cheap, his wife had to gather him up from the Kitchen floor.
You see, Neil is quite cute in some respects. His opening gambit to the garages he called gave the impression they would get more work in exchange for a sharp pencil, not the case at all but hey… we like to save some bunts where we can. The girl on the phone from the garage asked if it was a 1.8 K-Series, to which my man replied back that it was a KV6 190 model. They promised to call back which they did and quoted £95 including VAT if he supplied the parts.
Now this is a very fair price for a 1.8, but for the 2.5 V6, which involves a similar eye watering amount of labour and strip down as a mid life refit on a Boeing 747 – It’s unworkable! He told me that he asked for verbal conformation twice before dropping the car off with the bits in the boot and popping to Germany for a family wedding. Getting home again four days later there was still no call from the garage. He called them up and after explaining who he was an abrupt ‘yes it’s done’ came back.
At the garage the owner made a bee line for said former colleague and told him the car was ready and how he has sacked his new receptionist. She had written ZT160 on the enquiry and job card, also, the contact number was written down wrong too. The garage had tried to contact Neil but couldn’t even though they had failed to notice a small pile of his business cards in the recess below the ashtray. Amazingly, they had decided to carry on regardless and fitted all the parts he supplied – possibly working on the assumption they would bag more work in the future.
I questioned if he felt guilty to which he asked me what exactly had he done wrong – nothing I guess. He simply told me it was their look out that they employ such halfwits. My own take is that I would have left the car and not touched it and to hell with the customer – a £600 plus loss is more important than one customer you are never likely to see again anyway.
But that said, Neil was always one jammy bugger anyway!
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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