Monday, October 12, 2015

Swapping the cars

DSC05876 (1400x921)When I first took an overseas assignment with my BigCo, a lease car with a bottomless gasoline card was part of my expat package.  I got a 300-series BMW, the first time that I had a really nice automobile.  Up to that point, I had driven family vans, never really understanding how a car might embrace and anticipate me the way my Beemer did. 

Forever after, one sign, one reward, of my inevitable business success would be to treat myself to another really nice cruiser.

In the first year after my startup, Stone Bridge Biomedical BV, formed, I avoided getting any car: public transport was great, DSC05710 (1400x933)I could bike locally, and going auto-less saved me a lot of money.  I figured that I could rent a car a couple of times a month for less than the cost of a lease payment plus garage space. 

But the convenience and freedom of a personal vehicle, especially for Spa or Carrefour on weekends or for trips into the countryside and across the Channel, finally forced me back into the market.

So I leased a Ford Fiesta.  Lease payments ran about 500€ / mo, a parking space another 70 € / mo.

It was worth it, but I made the promise that if I couldn’t do better than a Fiesta by trade-in, then I was not cut out to be an entrepreneur.

The two year lease ended.  ‘Another Fiesta.

And now, three year’s later, the end of the current lease yields . still.  another.  Fiesta.

I have to admit that these are decked-out versions: back-up sensors, DSC05727 (1400x933)folding mirrors, a slightly larger diesel engine for hill-climbing, cruise control, a good audio package.  I do a lot of driving, 35,000 km each year, and it pays to have a few comforts.

And the cars have been uber-reliable and phenomenally efficient: over 60 mpg highway.  (No Fiesta in the US does that: if car companies can, why don’t they?)  They hold the road well, hold their own in traffic, hold lots of boxes and groceries, and hold all of the people and goods that pass through life’s occasional vacations and everyday errands.

I started negotiating the swap in April, well ahead of the July lease ending.  Still, the dealer took until June to close the deal, wanting hard evidence of my business solvency. DSC05878 (1400x1122) In Europe, every auto sale means waiting months for the factory to deliver a new one, so the replacement car is only arriving now, in October.

This transition was nostalgic and bittersweet: the bright blue bullet and I have been through a lot together the past three years.  I gave it a good cleaning and a fond pat, handed over the keys and insurance papers, clocked the mileage and inventoried the scratches.

DSC05891 (914x1400)The new car is a deeper blue and has a shinier dash.  The gauges are luminous blue instead of sullen red; it accelerates more smoothly and sips fuel a bit more lightly.  It refuses to bond nicely with my UK phones.  The car is comfortable and smooth on the highway, if a bit noisy.  I am training it to speak more English than Dutch.

Still, my businesses have only, and again, earned a Fiesta.

‘Third time charmed, I’m certain.

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