Sunday, June 4, 2023

what's new

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new car to replace a car that served me well for nearly twenty years. While doing a little online research before making my purchase, I discovered that the technology available in cars has advanced greatly in twenty years. When I bought my Toyota RAV4 in 2004, my biggest concern was that it had both a cassette deck and a CD player. I didn't know a thing about anti-lock fuel injection or anything else that went on under the hood — nor did I want to know. As long as I knew which side of the car allowed access to the gas tank for self-serve fill-ups (an activity of which I am not too crazy about performing), I choose to leave the down-and-dirty "car stuff" to the experts.

My Toyota RAV4's entertainment center came equipped with a cool little feature that I found fascinating. (Remember it was 2004!) When a CD was inserted into the player, a press of the "TEXT" button on the console changed the monochrome digital readout to display the name of the song, sometimes scrolling across the panel if the text contained a lot of characters. This was cool, in my easily impressed opinion. (As a frame of reference, I was mesmerized by the first fax machine I witnessed.)

After several purchases from Toyota, I decided to give Subaru a try. I had been very pleased with Toyota's products. Over the years, my wife and I bought four of them and the local dealership from which we made all of those purchases was great. Nice, no-pressure salesmen. Helpful and respectful service department. They were responsive and accommodating. However, recently, their customer service began to show signs of slipping. My wife had to return a day after some routine maintenance because a technician forgot to tighten something that caused the door to the glove compartment of her 2018 RAV4 to fall off mid-drive. A week later, she noticed her driver's side headlight was out and the dealership was less than accommodating in her efforts to replace it. What turned out to be a five-minute process by a neighborhood mechanic required an all-day appointment with our Toyota dealership.

I had heard good things about Subaru, so I thought I'd give them a shot. I am not a fan of the "haggling over price" part of buying a car and that process is nonexistent at Subaru. There is a price on a sticker affixed to the windshield of every car and that is the price. Of course, they will discount the car further with a trade-in vehicle, but there's no "what if I pay cash" incentive or "what's your best price?" nonsense. The price on the sticker is the price... and if you don't like it, you get a shrug, a smile and a point to the door. My wife and I discussed what we wanted to spend and my internet research led me to the Subaru Crosstrek, a model that was comparable in size to the RAV4 with which I had been so comfortable. A salesman directed me to a 2024 model on their lot. After a brief walk-around introduction, I eased myself behind the wheel, pressed the "START" button (No more ignition keys! When did that happen?) and took a few spins around the dealership's large parking lot. That was all the convincing I needed.  A few minutes later, we were signing paperwork and making arrangements for me to pick up my brand new car on the upcoming Saturday.

When my Saturday appointment came, my wife and I drove my RAV4 on its last journey under Pincus ownership. I relinquished the title to the business officer at the Subaru dealership. After exchanging handshakes and receiving a several "congratulations," I was led to my new car, ready and waiting in the safety and security of the showroom's sparkling-clean garage. (I never understood the "congratulations" from the sales staff when completing the purchase of a new car. It's not like I won the car. I was paying for it. I don't recall getting a "congratulations" from a supermarket cashier on my purchase of Cheerios.)

Before the garage door was lifted and my life as a Subaru owner began, I was introduced to Eric, the "tech guy" in Subaru's service department. Eric, a friendly young man, took a place in the passenger's seat and highlighted the finer points of the newly-redesigned 2024 Subaru Crosstrek's dashboard.

This is a stock photo.
My car will most likely 
never see mountains.
He ran through the various buttons and levers and mini-joysticks that surrounded the driver's seat. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I was getting my first lesson in piloting a helicopter. Eric helped me link my new car to my cellphone via a Bluetooth connection, technology that did not exist last time I bought a car. (My wife's 2018 vehicle accommodates Bluetooth, but just for phone calls. In six short years, the advancement is mind-boggling for someone of my age group.) He explained all sorts of neat little features that could be accessed by a few touches on the large screen that occupies the center spot of the dashboard. Radio, media player, phone, even air temperature can be controlled from the virtual buttons on the extremely-intuitive and futuristic-looking touchscreen. Eric ran through his little lesson with breakneck speed, pointing and expanding at a rate that I really couldn't keep up with. When he finished, he added that if I had any questions, I could come back and he'd be happy to answer them. As an incentive for a return visit, he offered a $25 gift card to be used at Wawa, the legendary Philadelphia-based convenience store chain that runs circles around your Sheetz and Seven-Elevens. Upon hearing that offer, I happily made an appointment for two weeks from my Saturday pick-up day.

I drove my car for two weeks... mostly — if not exclusively — to work and several supermarkets. Actually, on Day Two, I drove my son and his girlfriend to their respective center city Philadelphia homes, all the while showing off the cool stuff my new car could do. 

I returned for my second "orientation" appointment yesterday. I was greeted by Eric who asked me how I was liking my new car. I told him it was good, much better — and much, much different — than my RAV4. Not being a "car guy," a lot of what Eric explained to me sort of went in one ear and out the other. I do remember being told that the headlights are so advanced that they actually turn toward the direction of a right or left turn to light the way. At least that's what I think I heard. Once inside the car, Eric scrolled through a slew of options available under the category of "Driver Assistance." He explained how to activate each one and described how each one worked. He pointed out three little buttons at the bottom of the rearview mirror that can be programmed to operate a garage door opener. I told him I do not have a garage door opener because I have no use for a garage door opener because I do not have a garage. I also told him that I almost needed his assistance in getting music stored on my phone to play through the speakers in my car. Thanks to YouTube, I was able to watch a video that walked me through the fairly simple procedure.

Gotta hava
Over the course of twenty minutes, Eric gave me lessons in a number of things that I could activate at the touch of a few buttons. I nodded as he explained what each feature did, but honestly, I nodded when my eighth grade math teacher explained integers to me. Finally, he sounded as though he was wrapping his little spiel up. He said if I had any additional questions that I should not hesitate to contact him at the dealership. Then he presented a clipboard and pen before me and requested my signature. After I signed, he handed me a Wawa gift card, as promised — the real reason I made this appointment. As he surrendered the shiny piece of plastic, he told me it could be used for snacks, sandwiches, coffee, anything that Wawa sells. (Dude! I know how a gift card works! I may not understand rack and pinion assisted brakes, but I've been to more Wawas than years you've been on this planet!) "Thank you." I said.

As I pulled away in my brand new car, I turned off two of the options that Eric turned on.

And I headed for Wawa.

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