After much thought and deliberation my husband and I decided to purchase a car. The difficulty and uncertainty of getting train tickets impacting our travel plans was the main motivation. Initially we thought used. Not a good idea according to friends. Indians do not routinely maintain their cars. I began an Intranet search on the reliability and pricing of Indian car makes and models.
On May 2 2014, the most auspicious day, Akshay Tritiya, according to Hindus, my husband purchased a Fiat Punto 2014 from the Fiat dealership in Haldwani, Uttarakhand. Our neighbor who my husband respects greatly actually made the initial phone call. Her son is good friends with one of the salesmen. She arranged for the Haldwani dealership to bring the car of our choice to our home in Ghorakhal for a test drive. Though Fiat was not initially on our radar, we liked the car better than any of the other car makes that we looked at. The dealership had just opened up the day before. Since we their first customer, they were motivated to offer us a good price. At the time I also reasoned we would receive excellent customer service in that they were building their business and reputation. We also thought we would be well treated because of our neighbor’s recommendation and friendship with the dealership. After doing a quick Internet check on the car’s reliability we decided to purchase the car. We gave a good faith down payment and requested that the car be brought back to the dealership in Haldwani for final prepping and for remote door locks, seat covers and backup sensors to be installed. After everything was done, only then did we want to take final delivery. The salesman insisted that we keep the car and then bring it in the following Sunday for all paperwork and installations to be completed. We figured OK easy enough. The salesman also said that since we live in Ghorakhal he would assist my husband with the application of getting his Indian driver’s license. My husband has USA driver’s license. He took a photocopy of my husband’s ID and 2 passport photos to start the application.
Sunday we received a call to, “Please come Monday instead.” My husband paid a driver to take him and the car to the Haldwani dealership. On the way the passenger side mirror fell off. The backup sensors were installed. Six hours later the paper work was not completed, remote door locks, seat covers were not installed and the mirror was not fixed. Although requested, my husband was not given a bill of sale, insurance or warranty papers. He came home very disappointed. At this point we were afraid to use the car even with a driver because we are not sure if it was insured. Also here in India there is no such thing as a temporary auto tag. We were informed the auto tag will be sent later and may take as much as six months!
On 5/15/2014 a dealership representative came to collect and was given the remainder of the agreed upon fee for the car. We were told in writing that a service booklet would be provided by 5/20/14, seat covers installed, registration and invoice mailed to us, by 5/20/14. At that time, for some unknown reason, he took the car manual with him. On 5/21/14 the remote door locks were installed at our home. On 5/27/17 the seat covers were installed and a copy of the invoice was e mailed to us.
On 6/3/14 after multiple attempts to contact the dealership in Haldwani – they did not answer their phone and calls went unreturned – as a last resort, we contacted Fiat India informing them that we have no warranty book, service book and manual and now we have an engine light showing and the speedometer and odometer are not working. As far as we can determine nothing has been started regarding my husband’s Indian driver’s license. A month later, he has started the process himself. Fiat India was kind enough to contact the Haldwani dealership. Haldwani stated that they will send someone to fix the car that day. I was elated that we seemed to be finally getting somewhere. Our life has literally been put on hold. We had plans to travel extensively before the monsoon season. That cannot happen now. It is too late in the season and the monsoon will soon be upon us.
Sadly, though not unexpected the person sent by the Haldwani dealership did not show up and did not call. My husband cancelled a Doctor’s appointment in order to be available. The next morning after another round of phone calls to Fiat India we were told that the Haldwani dealership did not exist. Our car was actually purchased from a dealership in Bareilly. The invoice also indicates this. We had not noticed this before. Thankfully, due to Fiat India’s intervention, a person authorized by Fiat India did come that same afternoon to complete the installations and fix the mirror. At that time we received the rest of the paperwork. Our license plate will arrive in three to six months we are told. That is a government thing. However we can drive the car and the car is insured as long as the driver has an Indian driver’s license.
Purchasing a new car is so easy in the States. You decide on a car, make a down payment. A few days later you go pick it up. All paperwork and prep has been done. Final payment is made or financing done, you notify your insurance company that day what make and model car you have purchased. It is instantly insured. The insurance company sends you a bill via mail. The dealership issues you a temporary auto tag. The permanent tag arrives in the mail within fifteen days. Done!