While the car has always been closely tied to its manufacturing origin, politically, socially and all over its marketing, it shocks me how hard dealerships work to remove all evidence of the assembly process and the long perilous journey to the buyer. The dealer preps a new car for its future owner by removing all of the protective covers and stickers put in place to prevent scuffs and scratches in transit, but they should just leave it alone. Let me do that.
I have never bought a new car for myself. The closest I’ve come was leasing a Ford Focus in college, and it was just a car when I got it, same as any other freshly delivered: uncovered, unwrapped and ready to be driven. The only ghosts of its manufactured past were the charming chemical smell and the untarnished materials laid out in front of me. The dealership probably rolled the car off the truck that delivered it from the port or factory of origin and dug into the pre-delivery process. That usually involves removing all of the transport packaging and coverings, followed by a good cleaning.
When you spot new cars being hauled on one of those semi-truck carriers, you usually see that there are random stickers covering things, tape holding the gas door closed and sometimes even little plastic wheel shell covers to protect the rims. This is all to protect your future car, assurance that you retain all of the rights to damage it after delivery.
While I was at this year’s BMW Test Fest at Monticello Motor Club, where I drove the new Alpina XB7 SUV at more than 150 mph as well as some other new BMW models, I got to see something maybe I shouldn’t have. It was a reminder of how the new car-buying experience could potentially be more like unboxing a new television or cellphone and less like mortgaging your life away for a house.
Here’s what I saw:
A very popular trend on the web over the last few years has been ASMR and unboxing videos, and for anyone who has ever bought something manufactured it’s kind of obvious why. People like to unwrap and peel shit, and they want to open boxes to find out what’s inside. It’s control over curiosity, and our brains go nuts for it. It’s exactly the same sensation as shredding wrapping paper to get at that shiny new PlayStation 5 on Christmas. Oh, to hear that satisfying squeal as the plastic peels away and then to feel the cold, sterile, factory-clean materials for the first time — knowing they will never be this clean again.
So my argument is simple: I want the dealership to pretty much leave the car alone until I get to it. I want to peel the black label off my engine cover to reveal the BMW M POWER lettering, a privilege that lets me step back and ignore the monthly payments for just a few brief seconds. That is a pure ownership experience. Carmakers got to pull the covers off when they debuted the car. Let me pull the covers off when I pay for the damn thing.