Does This Car Make Me Look Fat?

Last week, I wrote about how I was puzzled that there are hardly any women who have made a career selling used cars. I thought that once I had gotten that off my chest I could move onto the next issue I wanted to vent about. But during the week, this particular bee was still buzzing in my bonnet, until it really struck me as to why I think women would be such good used car salespeople.

Here’s the reason: nowadays everyone assumes that the car they buy is going to run dependably so the decision about which car to purchase isn’t based on mechanics, but on style”¦whether it will fit their lifestyle and image of themselves. Cars are really just the biggest accessory of our appearance. We “wear” a car as much as we drive it.

Shopping for cars is much more akin to shopping for clothes than machinery. There shouldn’t be used car salesman; there should be used car “stylists.” If dealerships saw it this way, I believe it would change the car buying experience for the better.

Why couldn’t walking onto a used car lot be more like walking into Nordstrom’s? That store personifies service. Sure, I know that the salesperson is going to make a commission on whatever I buy, so it’s in her best interest to sell me something, but there is also the sense that she wants to see me wear something that fits, flatters, and is comfortable. And a really good salesperson brings out lots of good options. Then it’s just a matter of trying stuff on until I find the perfect outfit.

I would love shopping for a car in the same way, where the salesperson, preferably a woman, understands what would suit me, instead of feeling like one of the vampires hanging by the front door will sell me anything with wheels.

When it came time to replace my 10 year old minivan, what I really wanted was a car makeover, a concept a woman understands. I always pictured the way the Caravan looked from the rear and all those rounded lines made me feel very wide. I wanted something that was slimmed down. I test drove at least five different cars before I found one that I literally said, “This fits me. It’s comfortable; I have room to move in it, it matches my image of myself. And I like the way I look in this car.”

Maybe there’s a reality show in the future; instead of “What Not to Wear,” it’s “What Not to Drive.” For instance on one of the episodes, stylists Stacy and Clinton visit a mom who no longer has young kids but is stuck in the past driving a frumpy minivan with juice stains and Goldfish crumbs ground into the upholstery. Because the show is sponsored by Toyota, she gets a check for $30,000 to trade in her old car and guidelines and help her shop for a Toyota that is more suited to her current lifestyle.

She’s interested in a Toyota FJ until Stacy and Clinton show up and point out that is really isn’t a good fit because she still has kids to chauffer around, and the suicide doors are impractical for her needs. There are scenes of Stacy and Clinton riding in the various cars that she test drives, “This Rav4 could work, but I think maybe we should go up a size.” In the end, the mom finds a Highlander that fits her perfectly. She has a new outlook on life and vows never to go back to her old ways.

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