To the editor:
I read Anthony Lewis' article on Virgin Cars (',' December issue, Page 27) with interest. I work for a global supplier of components to the auto industry, so I have no complaints with respect to the car retail business. I wonder whether you got your information from real customers or from Virgin Cars. You may be interested in my vastly unimpressive experience as a Virgin Cars customer.
The Virgin Cars Web site has received accolades for its appearance and its performance. That and the household name were the reasons I chose Virgin to supply my imported car. However, to bring an old proverb up to date, 'Don't judge a service by its Web site.'
On June 16, I paid the deposit for a new car for my wife, a Ford Focus five-door 1.8-liter Ghia, saving (as the Virgin Web site told me) £3,108 ($4,572). The earliest expected delivery was given as 17 weeks, rather than the 12 weeks that you stated. Six months later, we are still waiting for a firm delivery date. In the meantime, the price margin between the import and the version available in the United Kingdom has dropped below $3,000.
Since I have to sell my wife's car, I could have traded it in to my local Ford dealer, and the $3,000 difference would have been reduced considerably. Because of the delay, I'll have to sell a second-hand car in the off-season. The Virgin deal has become very unattractive.
As the original expected delivery date approached in October, I tried to get a progress report. After many evasive and vague phone calls, Virgin told me the delay was because the Ford plant had closed for a month. Patently untrue. Since then we have suffered a litany of broken promises and unreturned phone calls.
Still without a delivery date, I have just paid the outstanding balance on request. Virgin's promise is to deliver within two weeks of receiving the final balance. We shall see.
There is a lot of skepticism about car-buying over the Internet. I think that my case confirms people's fears. My wife is quite distraught with the anticipation and the letdowns. This new car has lost its appeal now. Without cast-iron assurances, very few people will be prepared to take the risks that I have taken. There are several hundred acquaintances who know of my problems. If my locality is typical, then Virgin Cars is doomed.
To the editor:
I wanted to thank you for the excellent article about our Lear team ('The buying binge is over,' December issue, Page 16). I believe it captured the spirit of Lear and our corporate direction. I want you to know that even my mother thought the article and pictures were flattering - even though she knows I am not as good as you made me sound.