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Include car dealers when you buy local

I subscribe wholeheartedly to the concept of buying local, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated so many small businesses while net-based giants, including Amazon and Netflix, have thrived.

Some of this is obvious.

Book lovers surely know how precarious the business of local bookselling can be, and buying local is the best way to preserve bookstores.

Buying local has become more broadly appealing and entrenched as a means of using consumer dollars to support local businesspeople and their employees, microeconomic boosterism, community loyalty.

And yet, as the power of internet commerce grows exponentially, the challenge grows harder by the day.

I can't help but think, while watching the pervasive television advertising from all the new internet car retailers, what a miserable experience it would be to buy a new car without first sitting behind the wheel. Buying a used car, sight unseen, is even more unimaginable.

Of course, I don't even like the idea of buying a pair of pants without trying them on first.

People arrange dates online. But would you agree to marry the person, take them home, without ever meeting?

I know we've all had challenging experiences haggling in showrooms, but it goes both ways.

I still remember once accompanying a friend, then an old lady, now many years passed away, when she drove her aging Toyota to a dealer to trade it in, making sure we stopped a few miles away, so she could fill the leaking radiator one last time.

When it comes to car trading, I would still like to be able to look the other person in the eye.

I recently had my confidence in local car buying fortified when the Chevrolet Volt I bought new in 2015 came down last spring with what seemed like a bad case of automotive COVID, if there were such a thing.

Oddly, it was the electric car's backup gasoline engine that stubbornly resisted repair. I don't think even Trump's hydroxychloroquine could have stopped the periodic engine tremors.

Many months later, after as many as a dozen shop calls, the replacement of fuel system components and computer boards, a rebuilding of the engine and two separate visits by engineers dispatched from Detroit, my local Chevy dealer, in New London, finally declared a cure, and the Volt is now humming again as good as new.

(I like to think of Chevrolet's first electric car, an exceptional, complicated machine, as the stage-setter for what General Motors now envisions as a mostly all-electric future.)

The car has more than 75,000 miles on the odometer, and the dealer honored the drivetrain warranty and made sure I always had a loaner when I needed it.

I wonder if the dealer would have tried as hard and been so determined and thorough if I hadn't bought the car there and had ordered it instead from some internet vending machine.

The intoxicating joy book buyers get from shopping in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, browsing, touching, page flipping, drifting in and out of random passages, is for me not unlike the pleasure of strolling a car lot, assessing body styles, peering into windows, scrutinizing stickers.

If you like cars, I can't imagine you would be willing to do that all online, before spending tens of thousands of dollars.

Then there's the glamour of the showroom, all those new car smells. Cars always look better inside, on carpet, under the lights.

But, really, the best plea for helping car dealers is that they are part of the community, employing many of our friends and neighbors and paying a lot of local taxes.

Be sure and consider buying local when you are executing, besides a house, probably the most consequential purchase any of us will ever make.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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