Monday, July 18, 2016

Regal Wrap-Up. It was real, it was nice...

Hello, friends. It's been a while. But it's a good time to catch up where we left off. We wound up keeping the Regal after buying another car. But 16 months later, I find myself in a great mood. I feel as if a 3,700 lb. burden has been lifted off my shoulders. Because it has.

Since taking delivery of the 2013 Regal GS back in October of that year, we added some 56,000 miles to its odometer, exclusively on the roads of the Northeast. Our early days of cruising were relatively carefree, as you may know. The GS's easy power and able suspension were a minor thrill as we dashed about the tri-state (NY/CT/NJ) area. And in its signature red, we got more compliments on the GS than any other vehicle we've owned. The most fun of those were the two straight-out-of-the-commercial "That's not a Buick!" moments we experienced.

These fun times dimmed like an iPhone in the Miami sun, after the first brake service. We did put Lola (named after the "Kinky Boots" lead role) through her paces. After all, we are two guys and CAR GO FAST. But after choking on an $750 dealer bill to freshen the designer Brembo brakes just six months in, I began to feel my first twinge of regret.

She also devoured tires at an inordinate rate. The shallow height of the stock $300 245/40/19's were no match for NY/New England potholes. And the GS doesn't come with a spare - just a Playskool inflator - useless when there's a 2-inch gash on your sidewall. Suffice to say we wore the "O" off the OnStar button, after the four stranded-with-a-flat calls they got from us. Buick should spring for tires with rim guards, too, as all four rims endured bad curb rash.

We eased up on her after that first brake service, driving a little more sensibly. Still, things broke and rattled. Decorative pieces fell off in the interior, and a constant mystery rumble lived in the front end that no Buick mechanic could hear. Both rear bearings had to be replaced. A rocker panel broke. And one of the potholes was hungry enough to eat both tire AND rim. Cha-CHING! Some of the mechanical stuff was covered under the thin 50k-mile warranty. But that ran out before a loud rattle developed in the back end, this one even audible to Buick's mechanics! And six months after the new Brembos, the dealer told us they had to be replaced AGAIN. Enough was enough.

Service from among four area Buick dealers was typical. Half the time, we were promised loaners only to be let down upon arrival. The best of them sprung for an Enterprise rental. More than once, I had to escalate to Buick Customer Care, through Twitter, and I have to say the corporate end is on the ball.

But by virtue of the brake maintenance cost alone, we couldn't get rid of the Regal fast enough. And in doing so, we were reminded of why the American dealership model is foaming through its clenched teeth during its death rattle. Such a dirty, stupid, archaic process.

My new mission was to unload the Regal and replace it with a used car selling for $7,500 or less. With a kid going off to college in a month, I figured I'd rather contribute monthly payments to his tuition, rather than a car that I now hate. In the process, I drove probably 10 cars and entered into negotiations with four dealers, two of which sold Buicks. And it was the Buick guys who gave me the worst offers.

Considering the selling price by a dealer for a certified 2013 Regal GS with under 60k miles is somewhere between $20,000 and $23,000, both Buick dealers offered $13,500, citing of course, the "extensive work we'd have to do for certification". This included, you guessed it, ANOTHER set of Brembo brakes. Textbook devaluation, absolute rubbish, and filthy greed. In the end, I sold it outright to a dealer that gave me $17,000 without buying a car from them. And a check of their inventory shows they will re-sell it for about $21,500.

Good riddance.

Buick's mission is to bring their median buyer demographic down from the 70's. And it has worked, if the press is to be believed. But in the GS, they have created a fussy, flinty vehicle, better made for the 70-year-old Florida driver than Northeast temperaments a generation or two newer.

Mission accomplished, as I look out at Lola's $7,500 replacement. Not as new. Not as fast. But pristine and perfect for my commute and upcoming trips to visit my son at school. And with garden-variety brakes, thank the stars.

The new (used)car doesn't have a blog. Yet. But I know how to fix that.