In this, the third installment of our “Shopping for a Car” series, Reiko and I decided to head to Gifu Mazda to see what kind of offerings we could scrounge up there. Having still been impressed with the Nissan Tiida, and less impressed with the overtly masculine designs of the Honda-series models, we were a little skeptical about what we might find with the less-popular manufacturer from Hiroshima. Skeptical, that is, until about 30 seconds after we set foot on the lot.
This dealership pulls out all the stops when it comes to offering great customer service. From having a salesperson run out to the parking lot to meet us and show us a prime spot to park our car, to having an overly attentive group of people who know when to back off and let the customers touch and feel the merchandise. These people know how to treat the consumer.
Outstanding Customer Service
The service that Reiko and I experienced at Gifu Mazda was really second to none. At Honda, although a person met us in the parking lot and showed us to the showroom floor, he didn’t really seem all that “sales-persony.” His language was sometimes far too casual (a big no-no in Japan), and his facial habits put my wife off on more than one occasion. While I have little trouble with this, it’s a pretty big deal considering the amount of money that we’re going to drop on the purchase of a new car.
Gifu Nissan, while offering great service at the end, was very slow to pick up on the fact that Reiko and I were actually looking to buy a car. Perhaps not on the same day, but certainly in the very near future. Any Japanese salesperson that sees someone rolling into the parking lot with a 10 year-old vehicle should know well ahead of the fact that we wish to purchase a car before the next Shakken season rolls around. In our case, it’s August of next year. After arriving at the dealership, we had to ask someone to see a salesperson, and it was almost like we were bothering them with our very presence. Perhaps they thought that we wouldn’t be able to speak Japanese (since I’m obviously not Asian, and some people seem to think that Reiko is from Indonesia or Thailand), but our racial appearances shouldn’t matter so much. Heck, when you’re talking about the difference between a 2-million yen sale, and no sale at all, what difference does skin or languages have to do with anything? Money talks. That’s all a salesperson should need to say when dealing with people who may not have the same ancestry.
Rant aside, the service was completely different at Gifu Mazda. After helping us to a parking space, we were shown to the showroom floor where we were immediately met by a friendly and open salesman. Reiko had already done quite a bit of research on what models she wanted to look at before arriving, and even had the specific colours picked out. After a quick discussion, we were back in the mid-day heat to look at the most expensive of Reiko’s selections: the 2009 Mazda Axela.
Ravishing in Red
The Mazda Axela is a sporty-looking car with lots of power under the hood. The model that we got to examine up close was a nice 16-valve 2.5 liter model with all the bells and whistles that you’d hope to see in a 21st century car. Car navigation, dual climate controls (a.k.a. ventilation flanges), 8-speaker surround, power everything and plenty of space for everyone in the family (in this case, Reiko and I … and the salesman. After the standard practice of sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running, the salesperson hopped in the back and suggested that we take it for a test spin.
This was the first time we had been offered the opportunity to check out the car completely before talking about money. Heck, Honda and Nissan didn’t even consider asking if we had wanted to test drive the Tiida, Fit, or any other vehicle we had received quotes on. Naturally, this would have been part of the second visit, but to be offered this within the first ten minutes of our arrival was quite a bit more than we had expected.
Suffice to say, we took this opportunity to give it a try.
Three other salespeople helped out by running up to the street to make sure that the coast was clear, and then we were off! For the next 2.2 km, Reiko and I were driving in comfort, while the salesperson behind us talked about some of the features and advantages the Axela had over some similar models. The car navigation kept tabs on our current location, the stereo sounded great, the ride was comfortable and, best of all, we had no trouble identifying the dimensions of the car while driving!
Why So Many Cameras?
One of the things that I really don’t like about many of the newer cars is the number of cameras that each model comes equipped with. Cameras to help you park. Cameras to keep tabs on the curb. Cameras to check if you can safely change lanes on a highway. It’s ridiculous! For 100 years we were able to park our cars without the aid of cameras, and now so many people are relying on a silicon set of eyes to help them do something that is perfectly possible with our mind’s eye. How hard is it to properly identify the dimensions of a vehicle you regularly drive?
Wait … after living in Vancouver for half a decade; I know just how difficult this can be for many people. That said I strongly feel that if you can’t determine the size of your car or truck, then you don’t deserve to drive it. People with this problem can either get a different car, or get off the road. When I see a car changing lanes ahead of me, the last thing I want to worry about is whether they’ll run someone else right off the road. When I park my car at the mall, I don’t want to worry about whether people will drive into the side of my car because they’re too busy focusing on only one mirror rather than all three.
Rant aside, with the Mazda Axela, Reiko and I both agree that cameras on this vehicle would be a stupid waste of money. It’s very easy to know where the edge of the car is at all times, and there’s more than enough visibility with the wrap-around windows that come standard on most every car.
After getting back to the dealership, we started discussing some of the options and accessories that we’d like to see in our car. Although it was a sporty model we had test-driven, Reiko and I opted to go with a sedan-styled car. Naturally, we asked for the navigation system (which we have both desired a couple of times in the last few weeks while making our way around unfamiliar places in Gifu and Aichi prefectures), rear spoiler, keyless operation, 19” chrome rims, 24-valve V6 with 6-speed manual transmission ….
Oh wait … that’s what I wanted, not what we decided to get a quote on.
Seriously, though, Reiko and I did opt to go with a sedan-style design as it offered greater visibility behind the car, though it does cost us a bit in storage space. We will definitely go with a car navigation package to reduce the stresses and unnecessary frustration that sometimes comes with going to new places in Japan by car, and we might just get some decent speakers, too. Although I would like to see some of the sportier accessories included, we might need to hold off on those as the base price for the Axela is just a bit higher than we had planned to spend for a nicely equipped new car. Perhaps if I can get my hands on a few hundred thousand Yen, then we can go for the fog lights, multi-color dash display, fully equipped steering wheel and 17” wheels. I know that Reiko would be just as happy driving on 15’s, but the 17’s look so much nicer and make the ride all the smoother.
The Bottom Line
After getting our base model all priced out, we’re looking at about 700,000 Yen more than we had initially budgeted for. The car is almost 3-million, but comes with a really nice warranty system and is designed in such a way that both Reiko and I would be quite happy driving it. One interesting thing to note is that Mazda offers a Buy-Back option on their leases. We can have the car for about 44,900 Yen a month for 60 months (with a 500,000 Yen down payment) and, so long as the car is worth more than 610,000 Yen at the end of the five years, they’ll buy the car back for the full value it’s worth. That said, if the car is worth less than 610,000 Yen for whatever reason, then we’d be out some money if we decide to return the car. At that point, we’d likely just buy it outright and then look at getting a new one if we were in the market for two cars.
After leaving the dealership, Reiko was ready to buy the car right then. However, she’d like to have her father come with us when we do sign the paperwork to make sure that we’re not being suckered into anything that is not necessary. Depending on how well this Mazda dealership performs this month, we might just be able to score some extra discounts: September and March are the two “performance months” were the different dealerships try to out-perform each other for incentive bonuses.
And why not? The service was top notch, and the car was quite a looker. Regardless of whether we go with the blue or the red, I know that Reiko and I will say the car looks good for years to come.
What do you think of the Mazda line? They’re not too popular in this part of Japan thanks to the proximity of Toyota, but they certainly know how to design sexy cars that inspire excitement.
title="j2fi.net | Buying A Car in Japan - Option One: Niisan Tiida" href="https://matigo.ca/2008/08/26/buying-a-car-in-japan-nissan-tiida/" target="_self">Read Option One (Nissan Tiida) here.
title="j2fi.net | Buying a Car in Japan - Option Two: Honda Fit" href="https://matigo.ca/2008/09/01/buying-a-car-in-japan-honda-fit/" target="_self">Read Option Two (Honda Fit) here.