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Consumer VIEWS

Sitting in the Driver's Seat on Leasing

January 16, 1986|DON G. CAMPBELL | Times Staff Writer

Thus, on a typical open-end, four-year lease for a mid-size Oldsmobile Sierra (deluxe and with many extras), the monthly service charge, Fox says, would be "about $250. That would put the base price somewhere between $9,000 and $11,000 and, at the end of four years, the resale price should be about $5,000.

"But, we normally charge about the same for a closed-end lease for the same period as we do for an open-end lease. We're pretty conservative, and we don't like the customer to have any unpleasant surprises at the end of his lease, so if we take the position that if we say the car, at the end of four years, is going to be worth $5,000, then we should be willing to take that risk ourselves. It's always negotiable, though, and if the customer says, 'I think it's going to be worth $6,000 or $6,500 at the end of four years, not $5,000, so let's base the charge on that instead of $5,000,' we'll normally go along with it."

Service Important

As with any well-established, new-car dealership, however, Fox adds that service for a leasing company is fully as important as the original sale (or lease)--and perhaps more so for a lessor.

"Our clientele is largely professional and they don't like hassles. We've got 60,000 square feet of service space to take care of them; we give them loaner cars when they're in for servicing, we give them a good discount on servicing, and we'll take on the fight with the manufacturer if something major goes wrong under the manufacturer's warranty.

"As a matter of fact, we take care of your car as if it were our own, because, of course, under a lease, it is. The customer can even buy a service contract that goes far beyond the manufacturer's warranty, and he gets everything taken care of in the way of servicing--new tires, for instance. Everything but the gas itself."

And, not illogically for a Beverly Hills-based auto-leasing firm, a lively market has also sprung up for Atlas in the secondary market--one- and two-year-old "high-line" models.

"A lot of our clientele are high-income people, and they'll only keep a Porsche or a Mercedes Benz for a year or two. Maybe they'll put 3,000 or 4,000 miles on it and then they'll want something different. So, it's a great chance to step into a near-new, high-line car at a lease that's only a fraction of what it would be for a brand-new Porsche or Mercedes."

At any price level, however, shopping for the best lease arrangement, the AALA's consultant Rose adds, is "very much like shopping for a car to buy, because every leasing company is going to be a little different from the next. You contact two or three of them and compare terms for the same make and model of car for the same number of years. And then you consider their reputations and experience and make your choice."

What could be simpler than that?

Don G. Campbell cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to consumer questions of general interest. Write to Consumer VIEWS, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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