Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to locate and purchase or lease a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid somewhere in the heart of Texas oil country.
Hoping to make Tom Cruise proud, I accepted the mission.
But first, a bit of perspective: in 2005 I had set out to purchase a Mercury Mariner Hybrid. I had done my homework, and knew exactly what I wanted.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is another in our ongoing series of articles in which buyers of green cars describe their experiences. The author is Phil Ganz, of Texas.]
I ventured off to the nearest Lincoln-Mercury dealer. An older gent in a suit and tie approached me with the warm smile of a grandfather, and asked what brought me to the dealership.
I explained that I was interested in the Mariner Hybrid and that I wanted to take one for a test drive.
He put his arm around me, as a grandfather would, and asked, why in the world would I ever want a hybrid?
It would never pay out. It would be full of bugs due to its new technology. And it would have to be special-ordered, because they had never even seen one at the dealership.
Plus, the ‘normal’ Mariner got excellent mileage compared to larger SUVs.
Skip ahead to 2016, and it's a new world—to some extent.
I never did get that Mariner Hybrid. Instead, I got its big brother, the Mercury Mountainer (nee Ford Explorer). So I’ve never owned a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric or extended-range electric car.
At first, I was interested in the Nissan Leaf. I had spent time with one, and believed that it could be the car for me (until, in the end, range anxiety over its rated 107 miles got the best of me).
My first stop, then, was Nissan, through the nearest dealer's Internet Sales contact. I explained my interest, and that I was very familiar with the Leaf, and had already driven one. I was interested in talking about incentives, programs and leases, I said.
I was told the dealer wouldn’t discuss or negotiate any of that until I visited the dealership and drove the car. Internet Sales, not so much.
My experience with a second Nissan dealer's Internet Sales was quite the opposite. They were happy to work the deal over email.
If I wanted to see the car, learn anything about it, or drive one, however, I’d need to deal with their Leaf ‘expert.' Who was on vacation.
Eventually, range anxiety reared its ugly head, and I turned my attention to the Chevrolet Volt. I visited the nearest Chevrolet dealership and was welcomed by another grandfatherly gentleman
They did, indeed, have one Volt in stock, he informed me—and he'd be right back after he went to grab the keys.
One fully loaded Volt, he added, that the dealership would only sell at list price since "we don’t get many”. No Volt ‘expert’ at that dealer.