Car Shopping Observations

As you may have noticed, the Terios post has been taken down and it will be picked up Monday when the title is transferred to the new owner.

I haven’t spent anytime looking at new cars since 2004, when I bought the Terios. I had a car picked out, prior to the Terios sale, but that deal fell through.

Thursday, Natalie and I went to almost all of the dealers in David to get an idea about what was available. I am going to give you some of my observations from that exercise.

First, I made three trips to Grupo Siliba, over the last week, because I thought the Kia Soul was the car I wanted to buy. The first two visits were ordinary, just looking and I did pick up a Kia Soul brochure.

The last visit was memorable. When I went in, there was just one lady sitting at a sales desk texting. She saw I was needing information, but continued texting. After standing in front of her desk, for at least 5 minutes, she finally decided to ask if I needed anything.

I told her I wanted the price for a 2014 Kia Soul with automatic transmission. She got on her PC and gave me a price. She went over to get a brochure, and gave it to me. I told her I had the brochure, but it was a 2013 and I wanted 2014. She said, “No, it is 2014”. I told her there was a huge change between 2014 and 2013 and that was the 2013 model brochure.

She said that was the model they were selling. She said it was 2014, and rotated her PC screen around to show me that it said 2014.

I consider that very deceptive. The screen she showed me did not reflect the model year, but the inventory year. She finally admitted that she had no idea when the 2014 model year would arrive in Panama.

Since then, I have decided that I really don’t want the Kia Soul, but more importantly this experience also convinced me that I want nothing to do with any make sold by this dealer. That includes Mazda, Chevrolet, and Kia. Had I ordered a 2014 Kia Soul from Panama City and then found out at delivery time that it was a 2013, I would have been more than a little upset.

Our second dealer visit was the Suzuki dealer. I was treated well, and saw a couple car models I would consider. I still like the Great Wall SUV, but it is too large for what I want.

The next dealer was the Mitsubishi dealer Excel. When the salesman came out, I told him was looking for a sedan. He started leading me over to one of the SUVs. I said I wasn’t interested in a SUV and would like to know more about a sedan that was on the floor. He said there no more of those models available. I asked about Panama City. He said “no”. It was apparent, if I didn’t want to look at the SUVs that were there, he wasn’t interested in spending any more time with me.

Next we went to the Nissan dealer. I hadn’t realized it, but Excel had purchased the Nissan dealer a couple years ago. However, my treatment at the Nissan location was first class. I was allowed to look, all questions were answered and it was a positive experience. There are a couple models there that I will consider.

At the Tesa dealer, I saw a couple cars that were interesting. Both were Skoda’s. I have no experience with Skoda’s. However in recent years, after they moved under VW leadership, Skoda have had good reviews in Europe. I am not sure how they are reviewed in Panama. I liked the Yeti, but it was a standard transmission. I also liked the Fabia model. Sales treatment was professional.

Next we went to the VW dealer. I really liked the Jetta. Who wouldn’t? The sales lady there was very knowledgable and very good. I wish VW’s small Crossfox had an automatic transmission and I would buy it.

We next went to the Hyundai dealer. The sales rep was attentive, knowledgable and helpful. There were a couple models there I would consider.

Next was Ricardo Perez Toyota. I was disappointed to not be able to see any cars in the showroom as dealership remodeling was going on. The sales lady, that talked to us, was very nice and I liked her. She wanted me to talk Oscar Hernandez next week, because she said he spoke English. I know Oscar and he does speak perfect English, but was at a car fair in Gualaca. There are probably a couple Toyotas I may consider.

Next we went to the Honda dealer. We spoke with Gabriela Abadia, who I know, and she is an exceptional sales representative. I loved the Honda Civic. I did learn something later by researching the Civic on the Internet. In the US the Civic models come standard with a rear view camera. They do not in Panama.

Because of that it is worth noting that cars sold in Panama are not the same as those selling in the US and a reason that bringing in a US model has the potential of being a problem.

It was a fun day. I still have more research to do and then will come some test driving. I can’t do that without Lilliam, who is my purchasing conscience.

So how would I rate the dealers, based on this shopping experience.

I guess I would put it into two groups.

The first would include the dealers for Suzuki, VW, Nissan, Tesa, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda. All treated me like a customer would expect to be treated.

The second group would include the Kia dealer and the Mitsubishi dealer. Both left me with a bad taste in my mouth and may have prevented me from ever considering any of their products.

I didn’t go by the Ford dealer, and probably still will. I also would like to look at the Fiat 500 as soon as I find out where the dealer is. The BMWs are well beyond my means. I also didn’t go to the Chrysler/Jeep dealer.

I have a couple feelers out for clean used recent model cars, but I am not holding my breath for anything coming from that search.

Again, these are just my observations and others may have different experiences.

17 thoughts on “Car Shopping Observations

  1. Don,
    Recently (about a month ago) we bought a Fiat Panda from COPAMA which is on the right side of the highway after passing the Chiriqui Mall. It is past Fertica and shares a large lot with Melo which is the owner of COPAMA. The salesmanship leaves something to be desired compared to my last buying experience (USA) but overall pretty good for Panama. We as you shopped all the stores you mentioned.
    We liked the Panda based on size, economy, price and the fact that it had been in production for about 10 years in Europe. Rated mileage is 54 mpg but having done the mathematical conversion I found I was only getting 45 mpg. We have still not received and owner’s manual but with the help of Google I found and downloaded a .pdf of the manual and upon reading it found that the A/C would consume about 20% of the mileage therefore the spec was right inline. We took the car back for it’s first service (free) yesterday and the only fault we had found was a distinct loud click as the driver’s door window reached the full down position. Upon examination by what seemed to be a very knowledgeable technician who took the door all apart, it was determined to be a broken part within the door which had to be ordered from Panama City. The tech was very careful with covering the seat, steering wheel and floor with protective covering while working on the car and reassembled perfectly within about 45 minutes. Still has the click till we get a call from them to bring it back for the part installation.
    The service manager speaks good English as well as a few of the salesmen. Considering this is the lowest priced model they sell I was really impressed with the service. The waiting room for service is air conditioned has comfortable chairs and flat screen TV. the restroom was clean and close and they had coffee.
    I don’t know about other models of Fiat but the Panda has great headroom and all things considered for the price is the best buy around. I do not know if it is available with automatic but it can be had with 4wd.
    I wish you good luck in your hunt.
    Dick Kesterke

  2. I have found this article vary interesting since I have in mind look for a car vary soon in David. and will like to have some information about financing, is that possible in Panama??? and what are the requirements, thank Jose

  3. I had a problem with the purchase of a used car from Ricardo Perez which is a Toyota dealer. The problem was that they delivered the car to me with the car unregistered and the plate was not changed and run out time was two days after I got it. I thought I was all right for six months and I simply asked about it at another place. Ricardo Perez was unwilling to make it right. They really messed up and it required a trip to Panama City and hours at various places and a little bribe at the police chief to get it fixed. They lied to me, overcharged me, and messed the paperwork up.

  4. Don – we gave you car serious consideration. But in the end decided to stick with a pickup. Up our way everyone seems to own a Toyota Hilux. But they are expensive. We are thinking about the Volkswagen Amorak.

    We were told there were special deals during the fair – heavy discounts and someone mentioned tax free. Do you know of this?

  5. Hi Don. My poor experience with Grupo Siliba is not with the sales dept. but with the service dept. I have owned a Kia truck for 5 years (with another story for another day) and now own a 2013 Mazda doble cabina pickup that I bought used a few months ago from a Canadian returning to Canada. The Mazda was less that a year old when I bought it with low klms. I took it in to Grupo Siliba for the 20,000 klm service last week. I told them that I did not want the air filter changed because I had a new one for it at the farm. I left the dealership to grab some breakfast and was told to return in a couple of hours.

    About 2 hours later I received a phone call from the service manager (a nice lady) informing me that I needed a new air filter. I said no… I would return in a few minutes. When I returned they showed me where a mouse (ratón) had crawled up in the air filter box and died. Yes it was a very stinky mess. They said I should replace the filter. I said how much. The mechanic showed the air filter box with a price on it of $94.50 plus tax. As someone who has sold auto parts my entire adult life I knew that price was ridiculous so I repeated that I did not want a filter as I had a new one at the farm. I said just clean out the dead mouse and I would replace the filter when I got home. I paid the $102.00 for the special 20,000 klm service (basically a glorified oil change) and headed home.

    I stopped by Auto Centro on the way home and bought the correct filter for $10.00. When I got home to change the filter I found that the mechanic had NOT cleaned the dead mouse out of the air filter box as requested but just replaced the original filter. This whole process did not give me much confidence that that the young mechanic who serviced my truck did any of the required 20,000 maintenance correctly.

    Buena suerte Don, as you navigate the rocky road of buying (and maintaining) a car in Panama.

  6. hi Don
    may I kindly ask do they allow you take any car you may be interested in for a test drive, and to go by yourself. The last time I considered buying a new car, the rep would only allow me to drive it around the block. I did not buy that car.
    thankls, cheers

  7. Don, Skodas do really well in Europe as you said , they are good cars…..and they do really well in Rally events…. Ask Rolf about them ,he`s pretty familiar with those….and he is in the ‘know’ being a mechanic since the 50s!

  8. Hi Don, I have a question concerning plates on the car. Apparently each year the plates must be renewed. Do you know how this procedure works? Where can I have this done at what charge? Could you help me out here?

  9. Tags expire on a specific month of the year based on the car. Tags stay the same when a car is sold to another person.

    All cars are registered to a specific district in Panama and tags must be picked there unless the registration is moved.

    Before tags can be picked up, the car must be inspected. There are many places that can do it. Prices are not standardized. I go here.

    Before it can be inspected you have to have proof of insurance coverage and that document must be provided to the inspection location along with the car’s title.

    Once you have the inspection and the insurance forms, you can go to the registration location during the month for that car and the tag should be there. If it isn’t get a document from the office stating that the tags have been paid for and the car is legal to be driven.

Leave a Reply