Vets Need Not Apply

I just discovered that Subaru isn’t interested in selling disabled veterans a new car.

That’s how I came away feeling. Let me explain… A year ago I got qualified for VA assistance to buy a vehicle to carry me and my mobility scooter around. An unexpected and welcome benefit, the VA takes the position that it doesn’t make much sense to give me a scooter that I can’t take with me when I go places. It’s a generous program that provides over $18,000 to purchase a vehicle and modify it to lift a scooter in and out as well as transport it. Actually, I could buy a used vehicle or have one I already owned modified for scooter transport, but I chose to get a new one and pay the difference myself, perhaps with my bank’s assistance.

I decided that I wanted to get a vehicle that would get decent gas mileage and wasn’t the size of an RV.  I checked out a few websites that sold vehicle scooter lifts to see what sort of vehicles they fit into. Rather than seeing page after page of vans, I saw page after page of SUVs. I took the measurements of my scooter and went back online shopping for cargo areas with dimensions slightly larger than my scooter. What I found out was that I had a choice of only three vehicles. The largest was the Ford Transit Connect, which is actually more of a small truck –in spite of their calling one version of it a station wagon. The others were a Ford Escape and the Subaru Forester. Actually, I found a few others, but they had price tags in the high thirty to fifty grand range. Since I try not to own cars pricier than my house, I set my sights on the twenty grand area, and thus the three choices.

The Ford Transit Connect is definitely a contender, but it is kinda big and fitting through my garage door is a matter of a half inch. It has a kind of pop top on it because it was designed as a small delivery truck or mini-bus. The Ford Escape appealed to me, the Escape being in the same family as my Ford Explorer. Before I bought my Taurus I had a 2004 Eddie Bauer Explorer and I loved that car dearly. It was comfortable, powerful, and got pretty decent gas mileage as I blasted around between Spokane and Lethbridge, Alberta. Often at speeds of around 80 mph it turned in about 27 miles per gallon, right about what my Taurus produces. But it held me high off the road, giving me a perspective on the road and the world that was magnificent. In my Taurus I look up at drive thru windows like a waif; Oliver begging for another bowl of gruel.  On the highway, my forward vision is thwarted by anything the size of my Taurus or larger, the Explorer showed me so much more. It also had a great sound system, told me down to the liquid ounce how much gas I had left and how far it would take me, my direction of travel, the outside air temperature and whether there was any ice on the road. It turned my headlights on and off without my ever touching a switch. I loved that car. When it lunched its transmission and was going to cost the value of the vehicle to fix it, I traded it in, getting talked into the Taurus. Actually, I got a spectacular deal on the Taurus and so I shouldn’t complain. But the fact is, it’s just not the Explorer. So I figured that I might find equal affinity for an Escape. The problem was that it was just a tad too short in cargo door height, meaning I would have to remove the seat back of my scooter to put it in the car. That’s okay, it comes off. It’s another step that I’d have to go through when carrying my scooter.

So off I went to Subaru-land to check out the Forester. I called the local dealer to get an idea of what the price would be equipped the way I wanted it, and to make sure they could make the modifications I needed. The VA requires that the dealer install the lift and sell it as a package with the car. I spent the next twenty minutes dealing with a salesman who struck me as  having trouble with the concept of sales. He was excited that I was looking for a new Subaru and spoke of how he would have me motoring down life’s highway in no time at all. Then I explained the lift. They had a lift that could fit inside, that picked up the scooter like a spatula and slid it into place in the cargo hold. This required no real installation, it just sat in the car and used used its own weight and a bit of geometry to accomplish its feat. Whoops! Can’t do that, he explained. The spare tire sits under the cargo hold and if I had the lift in there, I couldn’t get to the spare tire. So, I suggested that perhaps the spare might be mounted elsewhere, what with the vehicle purpose being to carry the scooter. He said no, that wouldn’t work but bypassed an explanation as to why. So I said that we could also use a lift that attached to either a type II or type III trailer hitch. No, he said. That wouldn’t work either. U-Haul, he explained, refused to mount trailer hitches on any Subaru except their most powerful Outback. When I suggested that perhaps another company might be willing to do the job, after all, it was for a scooter lift and I wasn’t going to tow a boat or a house trailer, he simply said no. U-Haul won’t do that.

I gave the man every opportunity to sell me a new car. A brand new, commission paying car, but he wasn’t interested.He found a reason that Subaru was the wrong car for me at every turn. Even discussing the VA payment method seemed to be problematic. I left the conversation to go see if I could do better elsewhere, but then decided that I’d spent enough time as it was. The salesman, and the supervisor he ran to speak with were pretty definite that this wouldn’t work out. Personally, I think they just don’t want to be bothered with the extra effort it takes to put a vet into a Subaru.

That’s okay. There’s always the Escape.