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

Kelner's view


"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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Read Next

I was a Woman Against Feminism too

Siobhan Norton
A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, showing the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau  

Boko Haram is a vicious sideshow - Nigeria's self-serving elite is the real culprit

Kevin Watkins
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn