Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: | posted July 07, 2010 13:30
The used car market in a banner year
Another boom year for the auto industry? Would there be any knock on effects on the used car market then? How goes that luxury car market which went flat last year? But as in any market, there are always the mainstay brands that will sell, come hell or high water.
Despite major inroads by other car brands into the domestic luxury car market - Audi, Porsche, BMW, Volvo, Lexus - the most sought after dream brand is still Mercedes Benz. Historically, the Far East or Asia has always been a Mercedes Benz lake. Though Mercedes, for the past 60 years, may not have sold as many cars as Volkswagen, the other German brand, a Mercedes is treasured beyond its Civil War-proof durability. The latter ensures that even the aged models are still doing million kilometer duty on ravaged roads of what was once the Third World.
Like gold and jewelry, used or pre-owned Mercedes Benz's are a thriving market on its own. Never as formally organized as the commodity-like car exchanges, Mercedes Benz were bought and sold only in select venues. Today's exclusive Mercedes dealer, CATS Motors, is the hub of this lively market. At their pre-owned sales lot, on prime Metro ring road property, to see a lot of elder Mercedes is not surprising. What is interesting, and perhaps indicative, is what owners leave behind to trade up to a Mercedes.
Why is this brand changeover at trade-in or trade-up significant? Perusing the used car lots of the other premium brands, one sees only same brand previous models with some amount of mileage. That's easy to figure out why. Say you own a 2 year old 3-series and your financing is about to terminate. A smart salesman will promise you an attractive offer for your 2-year old car in exchange for the latest 5-series. The difference in SRP may be huge, but not when you chop it down to amortization for 24 months with an affordable down payment, plus a convincing residual value for your traded-in 2 year old car. Though this packs the dealer's pre-owned parking lot, it establishes a floor price for the brand, which keeps up its resale value. Other premium brands do the same, though Lexus is still too new locally to make the market.
But in those pre owned lots, you will rarely see a Mercedes Benz. The inverse of this happens at the CATS Motors Pre-owned sales lot. You will spot a few Chryslers, as the brand was once part of the DaimlerChrysler stable. Of course, 10-year to 10-month old Mercedes Benzes, all lovingly cared for. But there is a plethora of other models - top of the line Audi's and BMW's, though when I made an ocular, they have yet to receive a Volvo for trade in. Not surprising that an Audi or BMW owner may want to change because between German brands, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
What is surprising are the motley brands and models that are traded in. A China made Chevrolet Venture. Hyundai Veracruz. Mazda CX9. This indicates that there's no stopping someone who is smart enough to jump several car classes up when one has the money and loves the brand. There are lots of one-off models to appreciate. A characterful Jeep Commander with the HEMI V-8, in olive drab and with vanity plates. Another HEMI Chrysler 300C with a very Bentley like Brabus chrome mesh grille. Big wheeled C-class and S-class. Pristine demonstrator E-class. Gleaming Chrysler Town and Countries. Graphic detailed Mercedes B-class.
What is consistent with all the cars on this pre-owned lot is not only the daily spic n' span care, but the periodic drive taken by the managers to ensure that the car won't fail or disappoint during a customer road test and beyond. Things are not going to fall apart the moment you take it home.
Appetite suitably whetted, I was tempted by a green 2000 model Mercedes Benz Vito 10-passenger van. It had a turbo diesel, automatic and Blaupunkt audio. I've fancied this model during the days when Commercial Motors imported them from the truck division's plant in Vigo, Spain.
Forlorn with guilt
Coming home empty handed, I looked over my daily drive: a taffeta white 1999 1.3 Honda City. All original, automatic and Crystalline tint all around. Like an old buddy, all that drooling at the CATS Motors Pre owned lot tickled my guilt. For some time now, the City has been in need of a working radio but it turns out tape cassette players have gone by the way of the Dodo. Until Winterpine was able to dig up a brand new old stock JVC unit that was a perfect fit.
Next, the dim old incandescent bulbs were just never bright enough for the interior. After experiencing the designer LED kitchen bright illumination of the Chrysler Town and Country, my car felt like a dungeon. More was the pity as the old City's headlight lenses were turning milky with age. Unlike some car owners, I don't believe in bringing an old car up to present day cosmetic standards. So if my City came with a cassette player, so be it. Besides, there is no less bulky and convenient way than cassettes for recording lectures from AM radio.
But I take exception with lighting as failing eyesight needs supra-natural compensation. Since Man invented energy saving and longer lasting LEDs, then its for my safety. Ditto for HID headlights which should match the restored lenses.
Now these are conversions and not OEM parts as Honda should not be bothered if one wants to take an 11 year old car to 21st century standards. That's what new factory fresh models are for. So who makes them parts? Or to be precise, who knows about them, how to install them and where to buy the parts that still have to be custom-cobbled together. With painstaking tender loving care, if I may add.
When they took my City away, all that was missing was the Paddy wagon. They may have the skill of white coated trained surgeons, but nothing beats loyalty and dedication to the brand. Enthusiasts and experts to the core, Mikko David of the Honda Jazz Club and Nyl Malabanan of the Honda SX8 club, swarmed over my old car like CSI investigators, spotting my minutest neglect but quickly telling me not to worry as there are easy and cheap DIY fixes that they've done before. Mind you, only someone like Nyl can point out to me that the factory parlance for my City model was SX8. My big thanks to them, though I am now, temporarily, sans wheels.