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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Secondary School Teachers in Ipswich

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...

Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Qualified and/or experienced te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Scottish polls, the clown who saved Iceland and all about oil

John Rentoul
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories