- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2000

Lauren Jones was perhaps the only one in the parking lot of FedEx Field yesterday who knew exactly what she wanted.
"I want the truck with the TV," the 7-year-old firmly said.
Her parents, Lashelle and Gary Brown of Fort Washington, Md., however, were having a tough time deciding just which car they wanted, as they waited in line to test-drive an Oldsmobile Alero under "realistic" conditions: little hills, braking areas and sharp turns, all set up in one of the stadium's massive parking lots.
It was an unusual opportunity for car lovers and car shoppers like the Browns. For $15, they could try any of the 132 cars representing 50 makes and models in an event organized by www.Edmunds.com, an on-line information source for auto buyers.
With the Browns were their three children: Lauren, Shayla, 5, and Gary Jr., 4. "We brought them because we need to see which car is big enough to fit them all in," said Mr. Brown, a police officer, adding that he and his wife had planned to test-drive more vehicles through the afternoon.
In a huge tent set up in the lot, 30 experts waited to answer drivers' questions. All around were fliers to compare prices and features.
What's more, visitors said there was no pressure from persistent salesmen.
"That's the best part," said Christine Laviscount, 29, a claims adjuster from Bethesda, Md.
The heavy rains may have kept some hopeful testers home, but Avi Steinlauf, vice president of marketing, said the difference was small. As many as 2,000 drivers attended the three-day event, he said.
Mr. Steinlauf described his company as "a third party, completely unbiased" on car companies or dealers. The event outside the Redskins stadium in Landover, Md., part of a six-city tour that started in Atlanta, was meant to give customers an opportunity to make informed decisions on "the second most important purchase of all," he said.
"Something like this has never been done before," he said.
A small but steady stream of people trickled into the parking lot.
Eddie and Suzie Jones, both 55, have been looking for a car for more than a month now, and just wanted to avoid the hassle of driving to more car dealerships.
"I just love cars, and this is a great chance to test so many of them at the same time," said Mr. Jones, of Upper Marlboro, Md., adding that he was looking for a BMW or a Lexus.
People clustered under makeshift canopies and waited patiently for their turn behind the wheel. Things were running a bit slow because the rains had forced organizers to stop the test drives for nearly an hour in the afternoon.
Most of the people seemed to be waiting to test-drive the luxury sedans, a lot of them "just for the kick."
"That, and the SUVs, are very popular," Mr. Steinlauf said.
"I've been here for 45 minutes," said John Kemen, 23, a network engineer from Tysons Corner, Va.
It wasn't long enough to dampen his enthusiasm, though. "It's a lot of fun I am here for the adventure," he said, adding that he was not looking to buy anything.
"I wish they had an acceleration lane," said Mr. Kemen, who tried out several cars, including an Audi, and was waiting to test-drive a Lexus sedan.
Not everyone got a ride, though. Lauren, Shayla and Gary Jr. were turned back from the Oldsmobile just as they started climbing into it, because "children under 10 cannot go for a test drive, under the law," organizers said.
A bit of bad luck, but Lauren was willing to take it in stride. Asked if she was disappointed, she shook her head. "No."
After all, it was not the truck with the TV.

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