Think small when buying a new car
This year is shaping up to be a terrible time for new-car sales from Panama to Paris via Palermo. Local car sales are off by more than 2...
This year is shaping up to be a terrible time for new-car sales from Panama to Paris via Palermo. Local car sales are off by more than 20 percent while North American sales are down 30 to 40 percent. Everyone is losing money in every vehicle-marketing niche.
The Japanese Big Three: Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are posting record-breaking losses while Hyundai/Kia, are barely keeping their head above water.
Even Mitsubishi, one Japanese auto dealer with a good array of popular products in Panama is starved for new products.
European automakers are losing money, too. Mercedes-Benz sales are down due to the general perception that it makes overly engineered, poor-quality vehicles. Audi, BMW, MINI, Porsche, and Volkswagen are seen as too pricey, when compared with Asian products and Volvo/Saab sales have tanked as more buyers learn that Ford/GM don't understand or service European cars very well.
Deals on wheels. What should Panama buyers do to get the best deals as Chrysler and General Motors go through bankruptcy? Patience saves money. Don't buy for a few months. One dealer tells me new car prices in Panama are currently down about five percent and will likely go down another five percent this fall. Traditionally, new models are launched in October, but the recession has delayed the 2010 model launch until mid-winter or early-2010.
Keep it simple. Buy a new or used vehicle that is relatively uncomplicated, easy to service and sold in large numbers for over a decade or so. This way, independent garages can provide cheap service and parts, which is a flourishing specialty. In fact, the derisive term "shade-tree mechanic" is more a badge of honor than an insult to Panamanian mechanics. Can't find a part? They will make one, or bypass the system entirely.
Think Asian and Ford. Ford has avoided bailouts and bankruptcy. It offers more reliable and better-performing buys because the company started cost-cutting and selling off large chunks of its assets several years ago. The added cash was invested in new models and better quality control that has made some Not Recommended models (Focus 2000-2003 models), Recommended Buys today (2004-2010).
Think small. One genre of automobile popular in Panama is the super-cheap, mini-compact, like South Korea’s Chevy Spark (a Daewoo Matiz clone pirated by the Chinese as the Chery QQ) and the Kia Picanto. These cars are stylish, city-proven fuel-sippers—often, getting better fuel economy than hybrid vehicles. Their 60-something horsepower can get over 60 mpg without sacrificing interior space for four. U. S. sales start in 2011. In Panama a 2009 Chery QQ costs $5,999; a 2007: $4,000.
Chinese Caveat. Although their prices are practically unbeatable, be wary of models imported from China. Owners say they are less reliable than other Asian competitors. European crash-tests rate some Chinese imports as “Poor”; and their assembly quality is generally Neanderthal.
Buy a ‘fresh’ model. Don’t buy any vehicle that has been stored longer than six months. Some may have been stored almost a year in ports, parking lots, and fields where fuel tanks rust prematurely, electrical components and connections corrode, braking systems leak or seize, and rubber strips and gaskets rot. These problems can affect the safety, reliability, and performance of any vehicle kept outdoors, unattended for long periods of time.
Your best protection against buying a new car that has sustained environmental damage or one that has been 'redated' is to make sure the car is 'fresh'. Check the date of manufacture plate that's usually found in the door jamb, under the hood, or attached to the seatbelts.