Project Golf TDI

Part 1: A better way to buy your dream car

In the summer of 2010 I decided it was time to retire project GTI and start something new. Being a proponent of an all-diesel future, I thought it was time to showcase just what diesels are capable of. So I set off to find a Golf TDI for a new project car, and this is where our story begins.

I wasn’t too picky; I just wanted a white four-door TDI with xenon lights and DSG. But diesels were so scarce, it was as if I was asking for the world. After a lengthy search, I finally found a car that had my options (plus some others that I didn’t want but was willing to live with) that was slated to arrive to a VW dealer in Cerritos, Calif. After settling on the price, I was told to come pick it up upon its arrival. Giddy and with cashier’s check in hand I drove two hours to the dealership. Once there, I located the car and instantly knew I was the victim of the old bait-and-switch since the car had halogen headlights. Though they tried to cut a deal, it turns out they never had my car in the first place; a dealer in Pasadena did.

I called Pasadena VW and they confirmed they had the car for $200 over invoice. Again, the first thing I confirmed was that it was indeed the correct car. As I filled out the paperwork, the manager came over and tried to tell me that there was a mistake, that the car was really $5,000 over invoice. It turned out that the whole time another salesman was trying to sell the very car I’m buying to some teenybopper on the lot. After threatening legal recourse and pretty much laying on top of the car, I finally got my Golf TDI.

While driving my hard-earned car home, the anger and stress melted away with each torquey pull from a red light. I knew it had all been worth it, especially after 500 miles of sheer bliss before I had to fill up the tank.

Then, before I could even launch the project, the car was completely totaled while parked on the street. Though I now felt like the project was doomed from the start, I was still determined to push through since I had fallen in love with the car during our short-lived tryst. The accident highlighted the fact that although an SUV hit it at high speed and sent it eight feet forward into another parked car, the cabin remained intact. I knew that if my girlfriend or I had been inside that we would have been safe and could have walked away.

Vowing not to relive the dealership nightmare, I decided to try something new—Costco’s auto-buying program. Sure, you buy stacks of toilet paper and delicious muffins there, but cars? After entering my desired options on Costco’s website, I received a guaranteed price that their participating dealerships would honor. Within two days, I was contacted by Rick at Bozzani VW in Covina and told that the specific car I wanted was not available (big surprise) but if I could wait three months he would order it for me without requiring a deposit. Sounded good, but I thought I would never hear from him again. However, he kept me updated and finally the car arrived.

I drove to Covina expecting the worst but hoping for the best. On arrival, I wasn’t swarmed by shady salesmen, but rather greeted warmly—a good sign. Without asking for my signature in blood, he immediately showed me the car, which had been washed and detailed and parked outside. The carpet mats were sealed in the trunk and the front bumper wasn’t drilled for a plate, as I requested. He wasn’t pressuring me to buy the car or trying to sell it out from underneath me, and he even beat Costco’s invoice price. During the whole process, I kept pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. Even the finance guy was friendly and though he offered the standard extras he never bullied me into purchasing them.

I drove home that day elated—and I was more excited about my dealership experience than I was about the car. And I don’t regret going from a GTI to a Golf TDI. I get the same driving exhilaration but with twice the gas mileage. What I do regret was not adding “car” to my Costco shopping list sooner. On top of it all, Costco sent me a $50 gift card to the dealership to spend on parts.

Now hopefully modding the car isn’t as difficult as getting it. The next chapter in the Golf TDI saga is more and better handling.

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