Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shopping for a Car: Identifying Interests and Needs




You Betcha!  
Not so Much.

On the morning of July 4th, I headed to the Tri-Cities Mazda dealership. Shelly Fair, "Sales Consultant," saw me in the lot, walked out of the building, and greeted me with a warm smile and handshake.  She established rapport quickly, but gently, asking about my interests and needs.  Which car did I find attractive? Why?  What needs was I trying to meet?


Interest and Needs

Most cars today are well-built, well-designed, high-functioning pieces of technology. Even the more poorly rated vehicles would be just fine to own and drive. So, choosing a car requires focus on the attributes and features that, frankly, fall in what I'd call "lifestyle choices."

Surprisingly, I was looking to downsize from a 6-cylinder to a 4-cylinder engine.   Recently, I got my fifth speeding ticket. After I was no longer "madder than a wet hen," it occurred to me that I had gotten every darn one of them since I bought the zippier Nissan Murano (see photo). Obviously, I can't handle that much power, especially in an area notorious for its speed traps. 

Safety, yes.  Airbags and other safety features are very important to me. I spent five years recovering from a severe leg break that I suffered when I fell off my side porch steps. So, I appreciate design that would keep me from ever having to repeat an extended period of recovery from an accident. 

Next, I don't like cars with a real boxy front end.  I like the smoother, rounder, cross-over styling.  I do want it to look sporty because I do hold some fantasy that even as a disabled, over-weight, recently-turned 60-year old woman, I am still cool. 

And, now that I have settled on finding a red car -- I have become a connoisseur of the different shades of red.  The Mazda CX-5 comes in a a very vivid cherry red that I just don't like -- otherwise, the car would be my first choice.  They call it "Soul Red Metallic."  I guess I want to be cool, just not that cool. 

But, the cross-over styling has made it nearly impossible to see out the tiny triangular shaped back-side window that most of them feature.  I can't tell you how many hits and misses I have had backing up with the Murano.  A back-up camera now compensates for this design defect, as does a blind spot monitoring system that appears on the outside mirrors.   The engineers have solved through technology what they screwed up in design.

I still need a decent amount of cargo room.  During my first several years here -- living back in the woods, a long way from any decent shopping -- I found myself packing my SUV full (overfull) of needed purchases: furniture, lamps, rugs, remodeling supplies, fabric, gardening tools, mulch, and so on. My little house is pretty much a finished project, so the SUV no longer plays as important a role as mule carrier.  But, I still want the option to cart stuff around.  It's just who I am!

I also like a darker upholstery -- not black, but gray.    My Nissan Murano has a sickly-looking beige interior that almost kept me from buying it. 

Next, any car I buy must accommodate my long legs -- in both the front and back seats. And, as my rear end widens (mine, not the car's), I don't find narrow bucket seats all that comfortable.  And, with my disabled left leg, I like sitting more upright with my thighs parallel to the floor.  So, yes, the "8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power-adjustable lumbar support" appeals to me far more than the manually adjustable seats.  My Murano has power-adjustable seats, and yes, it has spoiled me rotten. 
I also wanted a good sound system.  When it takes you three hours to drive to your dentist, doctor, or to a decent department store, you enjoy listening to music on the drive.  Newer cars allow you to access Pandora and HD Radio.  My Murano has a Bose sound system, and now I am spoiled rotten.  The loaded Mazda has a "Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System with AutoPilot and 9 speakers."  Audio heaven.

Unfortunately, the premium sound system comes packaged with features I don't care about, like the moon/sun roof.  But, the premium sound system also comes with premium features I have now come to enjoy, like leather seats.  Did I mention that my Murano has spoiled me rotten?

I like the dual-zone climate control.  Some folks just like more AC than I do.  

Not so Much

A lot of the features of the new cars just don't interest me that much.  The navigation systems are nice, but my Droid phone app works just fine.  Yes, it can be tricky to balance the phone on the dashboard.  And, the Mazda's system indicated the speed limit and then warned you if you were exceeding it.  Gotta say, that part of the package had great appeal to me.  

The Bluetooth hands-free phone system sounds like an ongoing invitation to distracted driving.  Distracted driving is the main reason I keep getting speeding tickets.  Oh, yea.  And, the newer cars will display text messages and give you an audible readout, to which you can audibly reply.  No thanks.  That sounds like the basis for my next law school exam scenario!

The "bi-xenon adaptive front-lighting system" allows the headlight to point down the road even when you are in a sharp turn.  Could be handy on the curvy Appalachian roads I drive, but just how much does this "system" add to the cost of the car?  After all, I've been doing pretty well all these years with statically mounted headlights.  I try not to out-drive the extent of the light beam because, if I did, that would suggest I was speeding!

The "advanced keyless entry" was novel for awhile.  Cool even.  But, I am still not sure what advantage it offers.  Some of the new cars allow you to start them remotely -- say from the shopping mall -- so you have a warm car to enter after walking the distance of the lot.  But, I usually park in the handicap parking space when I plan to carry some stuff to the car.   It would be a short walk, leaving little time for warm up.  So, I'd have to remember to turn the car on while waiting to pay for the stuff I planned to carry to the car.   

And, then there are the seat warmers.  I've never had them, so I can't say I have any desire for them. Perhaps if I lived in a much colder climate they would be a terrific feature.  

I am not cool enough to care about the feature that allows the automatic transmission to be driven as if it were a manual-stick shift transmission.  In fact, huh?  Nor am I cool enough to care about the alloy wheels. 

Tomorrow, I'll describe my conversation with Mazda's Sales Consultant, Shelly Fair. This pleasant grandmother was by far the most effective salesperson.  

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