This wasn’t your everyday new vehicle delivery. The 2012 Beetle, only the second to drive off the lot, was among the final prizes given away by Oprah Winfrey during the last season of her namesake television show. Jackson, a Maplewood teacher and South Orange resident, chose Summit to claim her prize on the advice of her husband Isaiah, a retired police officer.
“Toi and I, we’ve been talking for a week or two,” said Ng about preparations for the pick up, which Volkswagen's corporate honchos planned for today. Ng got the news he would be handing off an Oprah prize earlier this month after a call from Volkswagen headquarters in Virginia to Douglass’ managers.
Isaiah Jackson said his family chose the Summit dealer because of its reputation as a “reliable place” with customers. “I did some research,” he said. Although he and his wife live closer to a dealer on Route 22, they wanted to do business in Summit because of what co-workers and friends recommended.
A friend of Isaiah, a former co-worker who happened to be in the dealership on other business congratulated the couple. “It’s a blessing to get a gift like that,” said Sharice Wilson.
But the journey to the silver Beetle started when Toi Jackson and her close friend Karla Ridley of Cranford got the invite from Oprah's producers to come to Chicago for a Nov. 16 show taping. Jackson and Ridley were selected after Jackson wrote a letter to Oprah about a foundation she created for domestic violence called “Just Breath.” Ridley was her inspiration, she said. They appeared on the show for an episode about personal heroes. All the guests on Oprah's show received earrings, cookware and iPads, in addition to the car. Ridley decided to pick her car up in Linden later in the afternoon.
Although the car was a gift for Toi Jackson, it was clear her husband was going to take it for a spin every now and then. “This is a bad car, man. I like this,” he chuckled just before his wife took the wheel to roll out of the dealership. To mark the special occasion Toi had the priveledge of driving the car out of the showroom doors.
“That’s the first time we ever let a customer drive off our showroom floor,” said Kurt Steger, the sales manager at Douglas Volkswagen. The new Beetles went on sale earlier this month. Steger said the “Oprah” Beetle, which has no special markings and looks like a regular 2012 model, was stored away from the other cars. “We protected this one a lot more,” he said. The only other Beetle sold this month was a red colored model that was bought by a Summit resident.
After slowly rolling off the showroom, and sitting in the lot, Toi Jackson had the smile of someone who, well — just got a free car. She was congratulated and drove off back to South Orange.
Ng stood in the drizzle a while longer to answer a reporter’s questions. He wouldn’t be earning his regular commission on this sale, but that didn’t bother him. This was something they call a “courtesy delivery” in the car business. Even though some patrons and employees were excited by the star power attached to the transaction, for Ng it was just about doing his job. “This isn’t anything different from how we treat other customers,” he said.