The shopping center had seen better days.
Most of its smaller spaces were vacant, long since abandoned with only the leaves left scuttling about on the breeze to give the empty storefronts the illusion of life. Now, only the anchor stores remained. On one end of the complex, a dollar store. It somehow managed to look even more run down than most and had perhaps a dozen cars parked out front. At the other end, a cut rate supermarket — one of those places that sell mostly canned food and dried goods on the verge of expiry — had a dozen more cars sitting at its doors.
Much to my disappointment, a Chrysler 300M was among them.
I know not everyone will share my feelings, but the 300M and I have history. It wasn’t that long ago that I chose a 2003 Chrysler 300M Special as my way of announcing to the world that I had finally made it. I could have purchased anything, of course. However, given the nature of my business, which often involves short-term assignments and long stints overseas, I elected to buy used.
I shopped a lot of different models and, in the end, chose the 300M Special because I loved its looks. I suppose I still do. Finding a banged up 300M in parking lot of that crummy strip mall was a lot like finding my teenage crush working at a strip joint. Happiness merged with sadness, so much promise gone to waste. It shouldn’t have turned out this way.
A quick look at Craigslist shows this wasn’t an isolated incident. The most expensive 300M I could find for sale in the Seattle area was just $6,000. That car was an obvious outlier because most were much less. A few “mechanic’s specials” were even priced at just a few hundred dollars.
A search for other luxury cars built around the same 1999 to 2003 time period tells me that the 300M isn’t the only car that this has happened to. There are dozens of Cadillacs, Lincolns, Chryslers, Lexuses and Infinitis on sale for the tiniest percentage of what they once sold for, too. Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, Jaguars and BMWs fare no better. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
It makes no sense to me. Some depreciation is to be expected, I know, but in an era when the average age of a car on the American road is 11.4 years, how can these cars sell for so little? Are they really that unreliable or does it have more to do with fashion? If they are basically scrap after a decade, why are people still buying them?
On my way out of the supermarket, I decided to give the 300M a closer look and was surprised to find its young, Kid-Rock-esque driver giving me the stink-eye from behind the wheel. Catching him off guard, I asked him how he liked his car. “I hate it,” he smirked, “It’s a piece of crap.”
I silently shrugged and climbed into the Shelby Charger I was driving at the time. But, as I left, another thought forced its way to the surface: Why are older luxury cars the ride of choice for so many scumbags? Someone is going to have to explain that one to me.
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