Wanted: Auto Technology Adviser

So the wife and I did some car shopping this past weekend (the Maxima is nearing the end of its useful life) and I was struck by a consistent theme – nobody trying to sell me a car could tell me much about the technology they want to sell me.

Every ride we looked at came with options for satellite radio and GPS navigation systems. And none of the cars I drove had these dealer options already in them. But even the most basic questions left the salesmen speechless:

Cap”n Ken: “What”s the display like for the satellite radio?”

Sales Guy: “Huh?”
Cap”n Ken: “Like, is this [pointing to an area on the radio display] where the information shows up? And does it show a bunch of characters, or just a few?”
Sales Guy: “Um …”
Cap”n Ken: “See, I have Sirus now on a stand-alone box. And I get like 20 characters on the display, and it”ll scroll a total of like 35 characters. And it”s two lines, so you get the artist and song title at the same time.”

Sales Guy: “Um …”
Cap”n Ken: “And I”ve rented cars that have XM in them, and their displays have sucked. It”s like just one line of text that”s about 8 characters, and it doesn”t scroll.”
Sales Guy: “Well, the satellite isn”t activated unless you have a subscription. So I don”t know.”

Cap”n Ken: “Well, I”d want to be able to see what the display is before I buy the satellite option.”
Sales Guy: “Um …”
Cap”n Ken: “Nevermind.”

I didn”t even get into questions about GPS navigation, but some important things that I”m sure the salesmen couldn”t answer:

- Who”s the service provider? TomTom? Garmin? Somebody else?
- What”s the release date on the map and POI data?
- Does the package come with any future data updates?

- What”s the resolution of the LCD screen?
- Does the LCD have any auxillary video inputs? If so, what does it have?

We”re not talking about undercoating or floor mats here. Navigation systems run $1,500 – $2,000 and satellite radio runs $300 – $400. And there are these kinds of intricacies that are going to come along with any kind of technology car makers want to shove into their vehicles. If you want to sell it to me, you”re going to need to know something about it.

God help the Infiniti guy when I come asking about the hard drive they”re putting in the 2007 G35.

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