An Auris or a Passat? Here's what the salesman advised
A winter's evening is a great time to judge the merits of a car dealership. A deserted forecourt and a single light in the office greeted us as we pulled into Joe Lynch and Sons Motors in Athlone. We had the place to ourselves.
A cold call, late in the work day, provides a stern test for any business, especially one where customer care and interpersonal interaction are of such paramount importance. This is not least because places and people often tend to take their eye off the ball a little bit and rush the customer around so near closing time.
On this particular icy evening, Michael O'Sullivan would have been forgiven for wanting to quickly take us through the motions before closing up and settling down to his paper beside a warm fire. At first we were unsure whether the garage was even open, and creeping in through the showrooms toward reception we strained in the half light before a voice came out to greet us.
Michael enquired how he could help. We told him we were seeking a decent second-hand in the order of €8,000-€12,000 -- economical, reliable and with enough space in the back and boot to combine its uses for business and pleasure.
Without a second's delay he led us outside to where the second-hand cars were on show. There were no handouts detailing prices and available cars, but Michael assured us that all the required info was available online along with pictures and tech specs.
We may be a tad old-fashioned in this regard, but in our experience having such price lists on hand makes browsing that little bit easier for the shopper. Having said that, migrating such information to digital formats perhaps befits the workings of such a modern garage, and for us, noting make and models as we went along to be viewed online later was no insurmountable task.
In fact, we found the 'assured used cars' section on www.jlynchsons.ie to be among the most straightforward and helpful we'd come across.
Outside and amongst the used motors, two cars stood out in particular. Both within our budget but at vastly different ends of the spectrum.
The first was a 2008 Toyota Auris. Black metallic paint, hatchback, 100,000km on the clock for €11,500. As Michael took us through it, he drew similarities to a VW Golf; mentioning that with road tax only €180 and with an economical diesel engine, it was sure to suit a first-time buyer or young professional.
Indeed, having previously owned one himself, Michael could vouch for the car's quality and reliability, and added that, as a keen golfer, he could attest that the size of the boot never let him down when transporting gear and clubs. We were certainly interested.
The second car caught our eye from afar, and we were drawn as much to the price tag as we were to the model. A 2007 VW Passat Highline B6, 2ltr TDi 4-door saloon in dark metallic grey. Automatic transmission, and not too many more miles on the clock than the Auris, and a price of €10,500. We certainly liked what we saw.
For a minute or two, Michael's petrol cap was on as he admitted that the Passat went like a bullet and was extremely comfortable to drive. We enjoyed hearing such an enthusiastic appraisal from a clear fan of the Passat, but also appreciated his honesty.
The motor industry is all about small margins and of our two preferences, Michael succinctly compared the vehicles -- the Auris as practical, the Passat as aspirational, not least because of the higher outlays in fuel and tax by the more powerful engine. To the younger member of our group he offered the sound advice: "If you were my son, I'd be telling you to go for the Auris."
As a final virtue of having a Toyota dealership behind a sale, Michael made the point that should an issue occur, you don't have to return to where you bought it. Any other Toyota garage would do.
That degree of responsibility resonated with us, and for a 'real world' customer experience, we would definitely come back to shop here.
Joe Lynch & Sons Motors Toyota dealership Lakeview,
Customer Parking: 8
Customer facilities: 7
Customer service: 9
Models on display: 8