Tony award for tea-making as imports sell like hot cakes
Fitzpatrick Garages Opel, Dublin Road, Carlow
What's the difference between an Opel and a Vauxhall Zafira?
That was what preoccupied our minds as we perused the spacious forecourt area of the Opel Fitzpatrick's Carlow garage on our recent visit there.
As it turned out, virtually nothing was the answer, bar the name and the way the car is marketed in the UK and Ireland. Vauxhall in the UK, Opel everywhere else. But this is what confused us: why then were two versions of the same car – the Opel and Vauxhall Zafira – parked side by side for sale in a garage in Carlow?
Simply put, as our salesman Tony Egan explained, the Vauxhall was brought in second-hand from the UK to meet growing demand for used cars here. The Irish market can no longer supply them in sufficient numbers.
Although Tony said he could see 'green shoots' back in the economy, they hadn't rooted to the same level in the new-car sales area. But the second-hand car market is booming. In the interim, Fitzpatrick's, like many others, are trying to meet second-hand car demand by importing.
However, our brief dictated a far more specific path: to trade in a seven-year-old people carrier against a new or good second-hand. With our seven-seater chariot (235,000km on the clock) it would be interesting to see what we would be offered for a trade-in.
We were drawn to a three-year-old Qashqai with 44,000km which looked in immaculate condition. Too late, Tony advised, it had been sold half an hour earlier.
We had been told the day before by a very clever accountant who has two 131 cars in his driveway, that the reason he went for new cars was that he saved €1,000 road tax because the new versions were only €190 each as against €700 on cars from the Noughties.
With this in mind and little else offering itself from the used-car forecourt, we focused on new Opel models on display. We decided we preferred the Meriva compact people carrier to the more straightforward Astra. For devout people-carrier owners such as ourselves, the Meriva, although smaller, maintained that feel of a big car, with ample space in the back and the boot to carry the full load.
Tony said he understood our thinking and duly recommended the SC1.3 CDTi 95bhp version. Although there were none available for a test drive, he had us behind the wheel of the 1.7-litre model post-haste. We liked it, especially the large glass sunroof.
After our test drive, Tony invited us to have tea or coffee across in the spacious waiting area while he crunched some numbers in his office.
The coffee machine is not our favourite brand of coffee and it was something of a relief when the cartridges couldn't load.
Noticing our dilemma, Tony emerged from nowhere with two piping hot beverages for us – showing the resourcefulness that all good sales people possess.
His number crunching gave our car a valuation of €5,200, and he worked out that we would pay €362 for three years under their PCP (Personal Credit Plan). In all he would want about €17,000 to put a new car under us. But he explained he wanted to check a few things and could possibly ring us if he could get us a lower price. "If you're interested in buying, there's always wiggle room," he said with a smile.
Carlow has several garages. Fitzpatrick's opened its doors in 1995. It's a good place to go looking for a car. Fitzpatrick's was our first port of call in the quest to replace the car that has served us so well. We got a good idea of where the marketplace is thanks to Tony.
And he is on our list to return when we get to the business end of buying.
Models on display:8
We liked: Informative and enthusiastic salesman, good range of new cars and interesting insight into the second hand market.
We disliked: We were hard pushed to find a parking space in front of the garage, and had to move our car later when a space became available.