Thanks to the generous giving of friends and acquaintances back in the States the last couple of years and particularly in recent months, I was able to buy a car today. Since coming to Taiwan in 1997, it's my first vehicle. Actually, it's my first new car ever. I should be able to pick it up in a few days.
Originally I had planned to buy a good used car, but a very good deal through a strategic acquaintance, as well as making use of work special monies over and above my designated vehicle account, enabled me to make the purchase. Lord willing, in recent weeks I have purchased adequate English-teaching materials, tables and chairs, equipment and other work-related resources to reduce the load on my work special fund for a couple of months. Furthermore, I still have enough left over to cover vehicle maintenance costs until the mission's help kicks in.
The Suzuki brand is well-known in Japan and elsewhere outside the United States for its small economy cars. The Swift is a tiny 1500 cc liftback, but a medium-tall guy like myself can sit comfortably in the front seat. I certainly won't be breaking any speed barriers, but the Swift has a reputation for good gas mileage, which was a consideration for me in today's market.
My contact is a Taiwanese Christian man who manages a Suzuki-owned body shop. He has helped numerous pastors and missionaries buy used and new vehicles through his extensive web of influence which run far beyond his own company and brand. A coworker of mine just bought a used vehicle from a different manufacturer through him late last year. In this case, the gentleman I was connected with was a younger classmate who just took over the top job at a Suzuki dealership this past month, having previously worked with my contact elsewhere.
Though Suzuki didn't lose any money on the deal, I feel a little sorry for the saleswoman who sold me the car and will process it for me (well, not too sorry) . All the commission she would have normally made on a sale were forfeited in this case. It's an especially bad year for new auto sales in Taiwan (January was down 17% from a year ago), but that's how guanxi (relationship networks) work here in Taiwan. My contact assured her that he was very-well connected and would help her make money next time. Maybe I can send some business her way in the future as well.
I suppose I will continue to wonder how much better off I might have been with another Toyota. I've driven three in years past and was always satisfied. This time around I especially had my eyes on the Toyota Yaris, just introduced last year to the Taiwan market. However, many people feel the price is outrageous for what you get.
In summary, I think I made out OK today with the budget I had. Because the car I purchased is last year's model, and because I also bought my first year's insurance through Suzuki, there were several other sizeable discounts that kicked in. However, there were only 5 of last year's model available island-wide in the stripped-down version I bought. So I had no choice of color. It'll be black for me this time around, which will be a little hotter this summer in our semi-tropical climate here. Stay tuned for my next post, when hopefully I'll actually be driving it around...