Myopic Cost Saving with Long Term Repercussions

My brother and I went on a planned visit to a renowned Company’s car showroom looking to purchase a new car for him. (Let’s call it Company A)Our entry in to the company showroom led us to an attractive and impressive presentation of the car models. It was a well-known brand enjoying a premium pricing in comparison to other car brands available for the D segment.

We were greeted by Mr. Shekhar, the sales manager at the car showroom. We decided to take a test drive after completing the required formalities. My brother was the first to take the test drive. During the test drive, conversations were related to cars we had driven and tested before and what we were currently driving. The manager was trying to tell all the shortcomings with their competitor brand Company B. (Of note – Company B currently sells the highest number of cars in India.)

Now, it was my turn for test drive. The moment I tried to press the clutch to shift the car in gear, I found it very hard. When I informed Mr. Shekhar about the clutch, his reply was “Ma’am, this is the biggest advantage of our cars that the driver has to press it very hard and only on fully pressing the clutch will the driver be able to shift the gear”. He continued, “this is not like your existing car which will runs on half clutch too. Our feature increases the life of the clutch plate. This is a cost-saving feature in the longer run”

I was quite impressed with his answer. I obediently followed the recommendation as I was informed – press the clutch full and hard. I was driving on the not so busy road of Wakad, Pune, during evening hours. I still needed to change the gears frequently as per speed and traffic requiring to press the clutch frequently. Within 10 minutes of driving I noticed that my left knee started hurting badly now due to the pressure used for the clutch. The test drive came to an end – to much of my relief.

I am sure that the clutch plate of this car won’t need repair or replacement in the longer run but am sure it would most likely require the driver’s knee to be replaced.

Now, the question is whether buying this car would be cost saving (clutch plate worth Rs. 30,000-35,000) or spending on knee replacement of Rs. 300,000 – 350,000? This so-called “cost saving” feature is almost certain to create daily stress on driver’s knee on Indian roads leading to lifelong health issues…not to mention the hospital stay, medicines, pain, physiotherapy etc – and that’s assuming a full recovery of knee function. It seemed more of penny wise, pound foolish to me. I am happy that the short test drive helped me not fall for the marketing trick with a long-term liability.

There are many such instances in life when we make financial decisions that appear to provide a short-term gain  but end up costing significantly more over time.  I see something like this on a regular basis in my profession.  Often individuals and businesses attempt self-filing of tax returns in cases which may need expert advice. Such cases would save on professional fees but could potentially result in heavy government penalty / fines due to inappropriate filing. To be clear, I am not advocating that we go one route or another, my only recommendation is that when taking key financial decisions, we should think not only about the immediate savings but also about the long-term outcome.

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