Simon Kelner: I know nothing about cars, and I'm not ashamed of it

Kelner's view

Share

"There is a scene in an old episode of The Simpsons when Homer, seeking to buy a car, walks into a showroom. The salesman sees Homer walking towards him, looks skywards and says: "Thank you, God."

I imagine that the various car salesmen I've been meeting over the past few weeks have a very similar reaction when I enter their lives: it's the first time I've bought a car for more than two decades and it has to be said that I must be the motor world's equivalent of a lamb to the slaughter.

My friends haven't been much help. They say: what's so difficult about buying a car? My response is that's like asking someone who can't swim why they can't just do a quick 20 lengths.

Apart from the fact that I'm not very interested in cars (I know that brings my sexuality into question, but live with it), and I admit that I'm not a very good driver (ditto), I just don't understand the language. The talk about cam belts and brake horsepower and Bluemotion technology might as well be a dialect of Serbo-Croat as far as I'm concerned. Does it have a cup holder? That's the level of my technical inquisition.

To me, cars are a utilitarian method of conveyance, and that's all. And don't tell the marketing men, but they don't say anything about you as a person, unless, of course, you drive a big, black 4x4 along urban streets, in which case what it says about you is not for repeating here.

Even I, however, can see the aesthetic value of cars of a certain vintage, like an old Citroen or an E-type Jaguar. But to my unsophisticated eye, modern saloons all look the same. For example, what's really the difference between a BMW, an Audi and a Mercedes? Or between a Honda and a Toyota? You simply want the one with the best advertising.

Nevertheless, next to buying a house, it's almost certainly the biggest single purchase we'll make, so it's well worth taking seriously.

It was in this spirit that I found myself nodding along to a peroration on the particular qualities of manual and automatic transmission. In truth, I found it all rather baffling, and not a little depressing.

The last time I bought a car, you had to worry about whether it would break down. Every Mini I had, for instance, would simply refuse to go in the rain.

But that was a long time ago. These days, it seems, cars go on for ever and ever, and each salesman will tell you a story about how last week someone brought this particular make in for a service, and it had done enough miles to get you to the moon and back.

Faced with all this technology, my decision was easy in the end. I went for the one which has a piece of kit that I regard as truly ground-breaking: a button you press and it automatically reverses the car into a parking space. Really. Now that's what I call progress!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms