You Say that like it’s a Good Thing

I think I might have mentioned this before, but it’s just getting worse. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to buy a new car again.

“Look at all the shit we’ve packed in!” the marketers brag. “Techno-gizmos out the ass!”

I work for a techno-gizmo company, and I’m not against techno-gizmos. In fact, I’ve got a gizmo in my pocket that would make Spok weep. It works in my car, so I’m already set, techno-gizmo-wise.

I don’t need:

  • A backup camera
  • Someone to unlock my door from far away
  • Electric windows
  • voice-activated command center
  • phone
  • electric locks
  • ass-cushion airbags
  • dvd player
  • heated seats
  • automatic parallel parking
  • Multi-zone climate control
  • gps
  • etc

To me, all those things add cost, weight, and new points of failure. They do not improve the actual car, or its ability to move me between the proverbial points A and B. They are things I have to pay for that later I will have to pay to fix. (I have a feeling in my gut that a GPS failure will somehow cause my tires to deflate, or the turn signal will go out and I’ll have to pay a thousand bucks for some hoobajoob module.)

Ironically, the only cars I know of without all that crap are high-performance supercars. I can’t afford a car without the accessories. I think that is a reflection of their actual value.


20 thoughts on “You Say that like it’s a Good Thing

  1. Half of those things aren’t just extra points of failure, they’re technologies that will be obsolete while I’m still using the car. Built-in GPS will eventually be useless because my phone or iPad or whatever will have a better, more usable version.

    Are they really still doing built-in phones, or are you talking about bluetooth?

    • Which brings up a good point – the feature I do want is the ability to integrate my own techno-gizmos. I think this just means bluetooth and an iPad-sized shelf on the console with no important controls behind it. The ability to power the iPad would be nice, too. Then I can use the same techno-gozmos in all my cars, and when one breaks, I still have use of the other.

      • I would say USB for the powering—and for connecting some electronic gizmos. The process for hooking up your own car stereo nowadays is ridiculously complex given the existence of USB for over ten years. Though I can see an argument for, at this point, just bypassing USB in favor of bluetooth.

  2. I agree, but you’re just howling at the moon, my friend. I’ve come to accept that I’m driving the last new-when-I-bought-it car I’ll ever own with manual locks and windows. I believe I recently read that back-up cameras will be required in all cars in a few years. And the manual transmission is still with us, but an endangered species.

    A big problem is that we’ve lost the entire concept of the stripped-down model, even in the cheapest classes of cars — my Metro and your first Miata being shining examples thereof. That Miata was awesome: no radio! The mind boggles at that level of chintziness. Even my 1965 IH pickup came with a factory AM radio.

    • In the interest of Science I went to Mazda’s site and investigated what the options were on the stripped-down model. The base trim package wasn’t too bad, so then I went on to the next screen to see what options I could add to the car a la carte. The “convenience package” of options which included a several of the things on my list above was selected by default and couldn’t be unselected.

  3. Just so you can tell Fox News you have a fair and balanced blog, I’ll respectfully disagree. I want a car with all that stuff. You make a good point about extra points of failure, but electric windows and locks are quite old and robust. When you are by yourself in a car, it is so helpful to be able to roll down the passanger window to ask for directions. By benefit of my folks I know that the RV industry has had backup cameras for years, so I feel that technology is fairly robust and also not likely to be a point of failure. And it is just selfish of you to not want a dvd player for the rear seat of your miata ;-)
    I’ve just been sweating while the lovely one had the heat cranked, so multi zone climate control would be nice. And I have tried heated seats and they are nicccce. They also broke and I didn’t replace. So point taken.
    You have a better point about the newer whiz bang stuff being obsolete by the time you roll it off the dealer’s lot. I don’t have a good counter argument for that. It would be nice to have built in GPS because we like ours a lot but are always misplacing it or losing the power cord.

      • I hear an echo from the 1930’s: “These goldurn electric starters wouldn’t bother me so much if there was *also* a hand-crank.”

        Of course, there *was* a backup hand-crank for quite a while, until the technology was proven. My parent’s ’84 Toyota Land Cruiser, I kid you not, had a cut-out in the front sheet metal, allowing you to crank the engine with the lug wrench. Presumably it was a selling point in markets other than the U.S.

        I had a girlfriend, a long time ago, with a mid-to-late ’80s Honda CRX. It had a power sunroof, but there was a socket in the headliner, under a plastic cap, into which you could insert a lightweight crank (stored in the glove compartment) and crank the sunroof open or shut by hand. I always assumed it was for emergency closing, in the case of motor failure.

        I assume we’ve moved beyond that sort of redundancy, but would that sort of backup system satisfy you?

        • Actually, no. I just want to be able to raise and lower the windows without turing on the car. I had a jetta that allowed one to raise and lower the windows using the key in the door lock, which is an improvement, but a simple hand crank would be more convenient yet, and not put a load on the battery when the car isn’t running.

  4. I’ll disagree on three points: electric windows and locks (No more reaching over the seats to unlock the passenger door or roll down the window!) and heated seats. I thought heated seats were stupid until I went on a road trip in a car that had ’em.


    Heated seats are the most effective way of staying cozy (important up here in Canada!), and they’re great for sore muscles!

    • Hey, Nano, I tried to leave a comment on your blog today, but was thwarted because I couldn’t find a way to do it without signing up for something I don’t want. But it is an interesting article.

  5. I have no problem with power windows and doors, as well as heated seats, for those that want ’em. I’d just like to be able to buy a car without those features if I don’t want them. Since we don’t have kids, I foresee always owning one very small car for maximum-mileage errand-running. And as my Metro and before that my Volvo 1800S (not so small on the outside, but dinky on the inside) have demonstrated, in a small car it’s easy to reach across and roll windows up and down and lock, unlock, and open the passenger door from the driver’s seat.

    It’s the loss of choice that bothers me, though I’m resigned to the fact that the Muddled Rambler and I represent such a microscopic market segment that it isn’t worth the automakers’ effort to offer stripped down models to satisfy our spartan tastes.

    • I can certainly sympathize with a loss of choice. That brings up an interesting question – would you be wiling to pay a penalty? More specifically, what if they offered a stripped down version but kept the same sticker price? Not saying thatis fair, or that I would condone, just curious.

      • The penalty concept isn’t uncommon in the high-end sports car market. You pay more for a “special” version that may have a few special go-fast components, but also has some of the heavier luxury items removed.

        I wouldn’t expect an automaker to offer the stripped-down-but-at-the-same-price model, because they’d only sell a handful to wingnuts like Jer and me. I did a little research, and Nissan offers a stripped-down Versa sedan, with manual doors and windows, at a base price under 11 grand.

  6. This post also touches on an important subject, …that being materialism.
    I’ve been lusting after a Ford Flex with all the bells and whistles. It is a stylish family mover, and when I read about the various trim levels the top-o-the-line sounds really good. Ford Sync with navigation, bluetooth, hands free phone, mp3 and usb; glass all-view roof; heated seats; hid headlights; and on and on. I swoon with envy.
    Now, I’ve also always been a fan of minivans, too. And a high end toyota sienna or honda odyssey has lots of bells an whistles and pushes into $40k territory (likewise, the Ford flex is NOT cheap).
    Recently we bought a used (ahem, “pre-owned”) 2004 Sienna for ~$13k and the inlaws bought a used 2009 Flex for ~$28k. I love our Sienna, but here was a chance to borrow and drive the very car I’ve been lusting after. In a surprise, I found myself ‘meh’ by the experience. At the end of the day, things are just things, and I wouldn’t be $15k happier, just poorer. I really like my minivan more for the room, and the sitting up high – above traffic – than the coolness and luxury of the Flex. Besides, the reason children are so skinny and healthy is that half their food falls out of their mouth. I’m very satisfied buying a beater family vehicle to hold an inch of corn chips in the floor boards. It was a good lesson in materialism for me, and “more is not necessarily better.”
    So my friend, you got a point. A good’un at that.

    [what did the bloggcomm used to call those funny typo errors? Anyway – when I first wrote “bells and whistles” it came out as “bless and whistles” which has a nice ring to it. “She was a fun girlfriend – full of Bless and whistles”]

  7. A while back we rented a Ford Focus while on a trip. It had the Sync feature, which was a laugh as we had no documentation. Even without the ability to utilize most of the functions, having a computer screen in the middle of the dashboard is a distraction. If I’d had an owner’s manual, I’d have been trying to find out how to turn the thing off.

  8. What cars these days really need food carts and snack vendors. So many times, stuck on the road, and hunger sneaks up on me. That’s what we really need.

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