We’re all familiar with the not-so-pleasant experience of buying a car in a dealer. When you feel ready to commit to that brand new Honda CR-V or shiny new DAF 600, you’re likely to deal with haggling, arrogance from your sales rep, no car on the lot with the options you want, plus endless hours of negotiation with the finance rep about extended warranty programs, anti-corrosion products, and other useless add-ons to your loan.
You’re also poor, so of course you’ll apply for a loan.
But what is it like to buy an expensive car when you’re loaded? I’ve always wondered about the purchasing experience for the one percent. To find out, my shooter Myle and I dropped in at Decarie Motors, in Montreal.
They’re the oldest Aston Martin and Bentley dealership in Canada, a family-owned business that’s been slinging British sports cars for 70 years now. Our goal: to experience what a typical customer goes through when he or she is about to dish out $300,000 for a brand new British sports car.
When you walk into an Aston Martin dealership, you’re not introduced to a teenager floating inside a suit that’s too large for him or a giant inflatable purple gorilla outside, but rather a Vanquish Volante and a friendly receptionist who offers you an espresso freshly poured out of a machine that’s hidden into the wall behind her.
Suddenly you feel like you’re James Bond and you’ve just entered the MI6 building.
As you sit at the bar in the entrance hall, waiting for someone to come greet you, sipping away your caffeine-injected drink, you’re not exposed to shitty, two-page marketing pamphlets, but rather full-fledged, high-quality books, with stories and high-res shots of the car you’re about to purchase usually surrounded by country club golf courses, stunning architecture, expensive watches, and airplanes.
Because, of course, when you’re buying a Mulsanne, you’ve got a plane situation.
In this sort of dealership, you don’t meet a sales rep, but a sales executive. The latter is, of course, formally dressed in a stylish, fitted suit.
It was then that I realized I should have worn a nicer shirt for this. And also that I forgot a belt.
There are no kids shouting and fiddling with the cars here, and no lineup of salesmen eyeing you out from the distance, jealous that they didn’t get your sale. Because at Aston, there are only two sales executives in charge of selling the cars. And they don’t seem worried about the kind of commission they’ll be making—I wonder why.
Everything has a purpose in this showroom, and nothing interrupts the experience. There are no banners here to announce a monthly special, no distinguishable awards or plaques on the wall to brag about sales figures, and no oversized low interest, bright yellow lettering on the windows either.
If I were to buy an Aston Martin DB11 tomorrow morning—you know, to replace my Honda Civic—I wouldn’t get to drive off with it the same week as I would a $30,000 crossover; I’d have to wait five to six months, and expect 200 man-hours to be injected into my Bond car before I’d get the keys and drive off into the sunset, because all Astons are hand-built on demand.
That’s because at this shop, they only keep show cars and demonstrators, and a very limited inventory. Aston Martin wants to move towards only custom built in the future. The DB11 is only on demand, but you can buy the showroom car if you want one now.
Then again, why should I care about the wait to build my custom car? I’ve got my BMW 7 Series to drive around in during that time.
Before signing the transaction, my sales executive, presumably named Maurice or something, wouldn’t lock me into his under-heated, crappy office to confuse me with convoluted payment plans, but rather have me sit at the bar lounge located directly on the show floor.
This is where I’d choose my preferred paint job, leathers, and veneers for my Aston.
Of course, I would probably spend the entire day selecting the perfect color combination, playing with the miniature versions of my future supercar, carefully feeling all the different available textures.
And ripping my hair out to pick a color for my brake calipers.
After another espresso, I would possibly tell the gentleman that I’m not satisfied with the overwhelming choice of colors that spans an entire section of the showroom’s wall. Because I worked so hard in life, I’d want something “different” to account for it.
Not worried he’ll lose the sale, the man would then tell me that this is not an issue, that anything is possible at Aston Martin. Because of course it is.
He would then turn on the 40-inch LCD screen located next to that colorful wall, and introduce me to Aston Martin’s Q-division (it’s actually called the Q-division!), where another hundred or so color/leather/veneer combinations would be presented to me.
Perhaps one of those will do.
Ah, well, I’d go through a similar process as with the Aston, meaning I’d have to wait five to six months as well, that is if I didn’t want to settle for the one on the showroom floor.
Of course I wouldn’t want that one. And, is it just me, or the richer you get, the more you wait in life?
For my Mulsanne, up to 500 man-hours would be involved in its construction. While my Aston Martin’s interior would be made from the hides of nine different cows, however, my Bentley would walk all over it with 17 variations of Alpine bull skins (or Braunvieh) - because the skin on a bull is less elastic than on a cow, meaning there would be no stretch marks, hence the best possible leather for my ultra-posh limo.
Take that, silly Aston.
My newfound friend would carry on explaining to me that the wood spanning the dashboard and doors of my Flying Spur was made out of one, solid piece of wood, originating from the root of the same tree, and that Bentley keeps a spare piece of that same plank for three years, in the event I’d need one replaced.
Meanwhile, at the Honda dealer, I’d most likely be arguing with my salesperson that the wood trim is in fact fake.
Once I’d have committed myself to a $300,000 Continental GT (after writing many Jalopnik articles), I’d once again sit down with Maurice to customize my Bentley in the Mulliner section of the showroom.
Perhaps I could get my leather in pink? That sure would make an impression at the country club.
Of course, being the successful businessman that I am, I would not want my Aston Martin or Bentley to be in contact with Québec’s garbage natural elements before I’d get to drive it.
Unlike my Honda, which would have spent an entire month sitting in a lot covered in snow, ice, and crow poop, my freshly-built British automobile would be shipped to my dealer in a closed transport directly from England to some sort of climate-controlled and static-free room along with other special order vehicles.
Also, there might be a race car.
While the raciest thing you’ll find in a Honda garage would be a riced-up Civic or weekend warrior S2000, an Aston Martin dealership would presumably have a full-fledged race car being worked on, and the owner would most likely be taking part in some kind of club sports event.
How about a GT4 prepped V8 Vantage?
Once out there in the open with my Bentley, I’d, of course, want to make sure the people working on it actually know what they are doing.
But since I’m rich, no sweat.
The team of mechanics and technicians responsible for fiddling on my Continental GT wouldn’t be fresh graduates straight out of school, but highly trained technical experts culminating over 45 years of experience rebuilding fine British autos.
On average, Aston Martin and Bentley dealers employ only two mechanics, and two technical advisers, but each is extensively trained to keep up with the quickly evolving technology these vehicles are equipped with. Once a technical employee receives their assessment in England, they must follow in-depth, mandatory, monthly training courses that deal with each specific section of the cars.
These employees travel across the world to attend seminars or submit to evaluations which include everything from practical, real-life situation repairs, to actual customer service simulations.
To meet the demands of egocentric fighting winners such as yourself.
Combined, Aston Martin and Bentley spend over $100,000 a year in training for a single employee.
So yeah, these guys know a thing or two about your car. And it’s unlikely one of them will forget to properly bolt your wheel after changing the pads.
When I asked Wesley Rehel, one of the sales executives at Decarie, what kind of customers buy an Aston, he responded with: “Very unique types of personalities. You either have the type of customers who have no qualms about driving their car around Québec, all year long, or even race them.”
“We’re ready to back up a customer who wants to track his Aston.” At the same time, “you get those who don’t ever so much as back them out of their garage. They just want to wake up in the morning and gaze upon their car collection.”
Great, and good for them, especially the track people. They’re doing the Lord’s work. But here’s the big question: if you want one of these cars, how do you buy them? Lease, like it’s a BMW 3 Series? Finance, like that CPO C-RV that’s cheaper than a new one? Or do you pay cash outright like some Craigslist Miata special?
Believe it or not, it’s the third one, Decarie’s people told me. The vast majority of their customers will pay cash. Some will lease simply because they like the idea of changing often. The store will also buy back anything that’s hot—they have a second floor filled with second hand Corvettes, Jags, Porsches and anything else you can imagine.
If nothing else, the place should give you something to aim for in life.
William Clavey is an automotive journalist from Montréal, Québec, Canada. He runs claveyscorner.com.
Special thanks: www.decarie.com