A couple months back, I got an assignment to do a huge road trip out West, one that involved scheduling eight cars from eight different manufacturers in cities stretching from San Antonio up to Seattle. To say that this logistic exercise gave me a heightened appreciation for the New England system would be an understatement.
You may have heard this before, people, but it’s true: Scheduling cars anywhere else in the country doesn’t work the way it does here. If you need a car in New England, you start the process by calling John Lawlor. When you need a car elsewhere, you of course talk to the manufacturer, but on the ground you end up dealing with multiple delivery companies, and the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. When I needed to switch from one brand to another, with attendant differing delivery companies, there was often a disconnect—in one case, I showed up to drop off one vehicle and the people responsible for handing me the next one had gone home for the day. In another case, a car was waiting but its keys weren’t, setting me back a day. This is the kind of stuff that doesn’t happen in New England, and we tend to take that for granted.
The closest thing to Mr. Lawlor’s operation on the West Coast is a company called Page One. They made my life immensely easier because they handled all three of the final manufacturers on my trip (Mercedes, Ford and Nissan). When I showed up at the first Page One garage to swap out a car, it struck me that the setup was quite a bit like Bugsy Headquarters—cars from numerous manufacturers either coming in or waiting to go out to press. But when I asked the guy there how many companies Page One handles, he said, “About 60 percent of them.” So, even in the Page One cities, a little less than half the time West Coast journalists still have to juggle cars themselves, with one thing coming in from Page One and maybe something else coming in from Specialty or another service. So, fellow New Englanders, next time a car shows up where you want it, when you need it, from any manufacturer, take a moment to appreciate that.
Till next time,