Monday, December 01, 2008

When life gives you lemons,

...sell them at a ridiculously useful discount.

It's become something of a minor tradition for me to post examples of genuinely good customer service here at AnTyx, and I believe it is important, just because the overall level of service in Estonia is so shit. Lately the company I've been most impressed with is Citroen.

I used to read a lot of British car magazines, and they mentioned that Citroen became really popular in the UK, among the youth, essentially for a single reason: it would pay the buyer's insurance for the first year. And insurance for n00b drivers in the UK is ridiculously expensive. So the company is not a stranger to pleasantly practical incentive schemes.

In Estonia, they've countered suspicions of poor reliability by providing a four-year warranty (only Kia has a longer one), and free breakdown cover. Recently, as the credit crunch has halved the new car market in the country, they've gotten creative. At first they advertised their new (and actually pretty good) C5 with 0% financing, which is a bloody good deal. That one's run out now, but their new promotion might be even better: buy a new expensive-ish car until the end of the year, and they promise to cover all your financing payments until the end of 2009 and the year's KASKO comprehensive insurance payment as well. The deal includes registration and and winter tires, so presumably you'd just have to pay for the third-party insurance (which is only about 2-3k per year, depending on your driving history) and the petrol.

If I'm reading this right, it's not just a deferrment of payment - they will actually pay all the costs. Now, obviously there are points here which make the deal far less costly for them than it is practical to you - for example, if it's their own corporate financing scheme, the first year's payments would be mostly interest anyway - but this is still money that you would otherwise have to pay. On something like a decently-specced C5, including the KASKO cost, you're looking at something like 60k off, and a year to figure out how you're getting out of the crisis. Overall, that's a ridiculously good deal. Kudos.

Mind you, it might be the dealership's handiwork. The same company that sells Citroens in Estonia also does Hondas, which have had in-house financing for a few years now, to good effect. Their latest scheme is a fixed, low monthly payment on all new Civic hatchbacks, irregardless of trim level. Obviously there's a difference in the initial deposit, but you can have a really nice (and for that reason, slightly depressingly common) family hatch for only 2900 EEK per month, which is less than my '93 Mazda will end up costing me once I finally sell it.

The Honda deal's nice, but I'm mostly impressed with the Citroen one: creatively offering the buyer a discount that he will get the most value out of, rather than one that will be the easiest for the dealer.

(Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this blatant advertisement in any way, but if either Catwees or Veho Eesti would like to send me a C5 for a long-term test, I promise to be their bitch and say as many nice things about them as they require.)

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