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

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own