Friday, August 4, 2017

Modern Conveniences

  Four years ago I wrote about getting a new Chevrolet Spark from Bob Brown Chevrolet in Urbandale, Iowa. At the time I said the Spark had a tough act to follow in the form of my 2009 Kia Rio. In the intervening four years my Kia has proven to be a dependable emergency vehicle that I take to the occasional chess club meeting with the only major repair being a new clutch at 95,000 miles. When the Spark was new people would ask me how I liked it and I gave my stock answer which is ‘Ask me in a couple of years’ and after more than a couple of years I can say that the Chevy Spark is an OUTSTANDING car that has never left me stranded. The only problem I have had to date was a cracked radiator fluid reservoir and a malfunctioning air conditioner compressor which were both replaced under the extended warranty. The only problem the Chevy Spark had was the passage of time. This month it rolled past 98,000 miles and was two months past the end of the extended warranty. Since I have been working in Ames (75 mile round trip) instead of Des Moines (105 mile round trip) for the last year and a half and was able to work from home three days a week for the six months before that I was able to stretch the Spark’s usage an extra year from my normal car turnover but it was finally time to get a new car. As I said, the 2013 Chevy Spark was an OUTSTANDING car so two weeks ago I sent Bob Brown Chevrolet an email saying I was in the market for a new Spark if they had one at a low price. I got an email back within the hour from Dan the car salesman at Bob Brown. Even though I had bought 7 cars from Bob Brown in the previous 22 years I had never met Dan before and he immediately tried to find out what features I wanted in my new Spark and what colors I wanted and a lot of other stuff I wasn’t interested in. I quickly made it known that I wanted as little as possible in the new Spark and the only color I was interested was some green in my pocket. The 2013 Spark had a stick shift, air conditioning, power windows and a radio. Dan got back to me and said the most stripped down Spark available had air conditioning, power locks and windows, and an automatic transmission. I suppose I could have waited for a more stripped down version to become available but I decided that I would just get the car since maybe at the fast approaching age of 57 having an automatic transmission would be a nice change after 25 years of driving a stick shift and I have to admit having an air-conditioned car is OK too.

  The new car was going to be black and we agreed on the price and made arrangements for me to get the car two Saturdays ago. Kathy was going to drive me down to do the paperwork and I was going to drive back. Everything was according to plan until that morning when the dealer called me to tell me just as were getting ready to take Daisy and Baxter on a long walk before leaving them along for the day. It seems that every Spark was under recall for an air bag issue and I couldn’t get the car that day so I made arrangements to get the car the next weekend ad was very glad that I didn’t go 60 miles to Urbandale for nothing since there is no way I would have gotten a car from Bob Brown ever again.

Neither of these $80,000 Corvettes were in my price range seeing as either one cost more than my house!

  On Saturday, Kathy drove me to Urbandale and dropped me off at Bob Browns at 10:45 for my 11am appointment to get my car. I had some time so I walked around the showroom looking at the cars. There were $80,000 Corvettes, pickup trucks ranging from $35,000 to $70.000, $40,000 sports utility vehicles, with the low price of $25,000 for a Cruze passenger car. Some of these cars had tacky handmade signs pasted on them offering things like cargo mats for an extra $1.16 a month! I would like to think that a $40,000 vehicle would have the cargo mat included. There were no Sparks on the showroom floor. It is the cheapest car offered by Chevrolet and the profit margin isn’t close to what the dealer could get for selling any of the other cars. I’m sure the marketing mavens that advise such things didn’t see the point in wasting floor space on the least expensive car.

A $40,000 car with a cargo mat included...for an extra $1.16 a month!

   Dan the salesmen met me and gave me some paperwork to fill out. When that was finished, I had to wait for the credit approval process. I could have paid for the car or even put it on my credit cards but having the occasional car loan keeps my credit rating up and I’m going to pay it off pretty early anyway. I noodled around on my iPod and put my headphones on so I could avoid the ever present televisions playing Chevrolet ads showing beautiful people getting into brand new beautiful cars and taking drives along some beautiful scenery.

The 90 cent bag of chips was more in my price range although I passed on the $2.50 ounce of beef jerky...

  After a bit I got hungry. Bob Brown had free coffee but no donuts. Luckily there was a series of Chevrolet vending machines so I got a 90 cent bag of potato chips. The vending machine wouldn’t take my dollar bill and I didn’t want to pay for the 90 cent bag of chips with a credit card but I had enough change to cover the purchase and the machine accepted the metal coins, no doubt preparing for the day when it will be configured to accept bitcoin.

  Finally my credit was approved and I met Billie the financing lady who went over all the details. I got the 5 year 100,000 mile warranty instead of the 4 year 100,000 mile warranty I bought last time because this new Spark had an automatic transmission and many more electrical parts and sensors to go bad. The 2017 Spark cost me $3,000 more than the 2013 version because I had $1,000 less from my GM Card to use as a down payment, the extra year warranty cost more, and the 2017 Spark had some extra conveniences like the automatic transmission and cruise control and power locks and 5 years free use of an app that allows me to turn on the headlights and unlock the doors from anywhere in the world as if I was Batman and my Chevy Spark was the Batmobile.

  Less than two hours after I arrived at Bob Brown I was driving out with my new car. I used the cruise control to drive home and in the week I’ve owned the car I’ve only come to a screeching halt in the middle of the highway three times when I forgot I had an automatic transmission and hit the brake thinking it was the clutch. I hope the new Spark wears as well as the old Spark which will now begin a new life as Ben’s car when he goes to school in Long Island this fall.

  I’ve learned a few lessons from my new Spark. The first lesson is that compared to a stick shift, the automatic transmission seems unresponsive. I hit the gas and the car shifts into gear to get into top speed much slower than when I could manipulate the gears with the stick. This is only an issue on the tricky left turn to Highway 30 on my way home where I find I have to leave myself a lot more room. Another lesson is that I don’t care much for the power locks and the little button on the key to lock and unlock the car. I’ve pushed the lock button down and left the rest of the doors unlocked by forgetting to press the button four times already. If I still lived in New Jersey this car would have been stolen (it may have been stolen even if I had locked it). I’ve also learned that I really like the cruise control which will save me money on my annual speeding ticket even though I don’t get where I’m going as fast as I used to. My fourth lesson was a surprise to me in that I found I kind of like the rear view camera. I’ve hardy ever backed into anything but having the close up view is kind of cool when getting into a tight spot. The last thing I learned is how much electric stuff even the cheapest car is full of. Not only can I open the windows and unlock the doors at a push of a button from an app on a smartphone half a world away. I can plug in my iPod into the supplied USB port and play music or podcasts over the cars stereo and even set up a wireless internet hot spot using the car's OnStar system (charges apply). I thougth self-driving vehicles were still decades away but now I am thinking by the time I’m ready for my next car it may be a self-driving vehicle. I don’t know how I’ll like being a full time passenger but I suspect I’ll really like it.

The black and white of my Chevy Spark collection. Live long and prosper in New York, 2013 Chevy Spark! Thanks for your superb service!
Welcome to Marshalltown, 2017 Chevy Spark!

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