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Steve Hansen: When it comes to cars, the simpler, the better

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Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:00 am

“Let’s go look at new cars,” my wife said with some enthusiasm.

Our present vehicle is almost 10 years old, but in excellent shape. Spending big bucks for the latest set of wheels was not really on my agenda. However, I was willing to take a look at one of the new, complicated electronic marvels now dominating showroom floors.

The brand she wanted was not sold in Lodi or Stockton. We had to drive to Sacramento. At the upscale dealership, we spotted a pearl white sedan — complimented with gold lettering and trim. I could see my wife was in love.

A salesman encouraged us to sit inside. The caramel-colored leather was gorgeous. The instrument panel resembled something out of a Boeing 777.

“Where’s the key?” I inquired.

“There’s no key,” the salesman replied. “Everything is electronic. Starting is based on this little rectangular box you carry with you. The door locks work the same way.”

In the center of the dash was a display screen with everything from climate control to satellite radio. It also included a GPS, cellphone and Bluetooth.

“What’s a Bluetooth?” I asked. “Is that a cyanotic tooth caused by gingivitis?”

The salesman looked at me as if I had just emerged from the screen of a 1950s movie. “That’s a system for interconnection of your various electronic devices.”

He quickly changed the subject: “You really need to take ride in this beauty to understand all of its features.”

The next thing I knew, we were heading down the road while the rep pointed out various controls and options.

There were no dials for the radio. You simply spoke your commands and the stereo obeyed. There were also 160 pre-programmed stations for your listening pleasure.

No need to look in the rearview mirror. The backup camera showed everything. Also, no need to check the blind spots. Side mirrors did that electronically.

Drifting into another lane? No problem. Sensors are there to warn of any danger. Ride too stiff? Simply change it with the push of a button.

“Notice how the GPS is controlled with a mouse on the console?” the salesman commented. “It can tell you where you are located now and find the nearest Starbucks or Costco.”

The features pitch went on for several minutes. All were too numerous to mention here.

We returned to the showroom, and the dealer rep presented some “numbers.” He would take two big ones off the sticker price, throw in the $700 gold lettering — along with the $3,000 wheels and tires for “free.” License fees would be $1,400, and good ol’ California sales tax would rack up another $7,600. With no money down, payments for five years would be a mere $1,700 per month.

The salesman pulled out all the stops to keep us from leaving, but we held him at bay and headed for the nearest exit.

We didn’t say much on the way home, but I’m sure my wife and I had the same following thoughts about our present budget: We’ll probably need that $1,700 per month to pay for our medical policies under the Affordable Care Act. After that, there’s really no spare change left for any futuristic fancy “ride.”

But it didn’t matter, because the more I thought about it, the less I wanted that car. Yes, it was beautiful and full of gadgetry. However, I’ve always been a simplistic kind of guy. I just couldn’t imagine driving that thing around Lodi. Presumably, the gold lettering wouldn’t last two minutes in the Downtown parking garage.

As a practical matter, my next car will have to be straightforward from bumper to bumper. It will need spark plugs that can be easily seen. It will have two keys: one for the ignition/doors, and the other for a spacious trunk. It will need a radio with a knob for “on” and “off.” It will have a clutch and a three-speed (not eight-speed) transmission, controlled by a column shifter. The windows will be hand-cranked and the front seat will hold three across in relative comfort.

I also prefer to check the blind spots visually, bring my own coffee and find the nearest Costco by looking through the windshield. When all is said and done, these are the features I really want in my next car.

Now you know why it will be a ’54 Chevy.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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  • Christina Welch posted at 5:47 pm on Sat, Aug 2, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 460

    Yes, I read that quote also, Jien, but it doesn't specify if those people were receiving subsidies or not. You can get health insurance through the ACA exchange without receiving subsidies (I do.) As for your belief that the insurance commissioner is trying to garner support for an upcoming proposition, I agree. But that was not what you called me and Mr Hansen on; you said we were wrong about his comments about rate increases not affecting those receiving subsidies, and we were not.

  • Jien Kaur posted at 12:04 pm on Sat, Aug 2, 2014.

    Jien Kaur Posts: 377

    I may be mis speak. May be this quote you like better from the Dave Jones.

    The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, Jones said.

    When the Jones say the 'silver plan' he make the refer to the affordable act. Any way it all not a relyable because it all the politic with the Dave Jones want the proposition that may give the Jones more power. Some may agree and some may not the agree with statement from insurance and other.

  • Christina Welch posted at 10:23 am on Sat, Aug 2, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 460

    The quote you are using from the article is from Charles Bacchi, not the insurance commissioner, Jien. Here's what I was referring to from the article: "At a news conference Tuesday, Jones said individuals this year paid between 22% and 88% more for individual health insurance policies than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived. The increases did not affect poor people, whose policies are heavily subsidized, Jones said." Mr Hansen and I were referencing Mr Jones' comments, not his critics.

  • Jien Kaur posted at 5:46 pm on Fri, Aug 1, 2014.

    Jien Kaur Posts: 377

    Maybe mrs Christina can explain these 2 last sentences in article I show before. With learning English and studys with my tutor we both agree that commisioner is say 2015 and insurances say he did not make the allow for 'goverment hand outs' as the mr Hansen say are the 'subsidies'. But you say 'they not occur for the people of subsidies.'

    Are we to be confused or the sentence continues mislead?

    "Health plans are focused on working with Covered California to provide affordable premiums during the upcoming open enrollment period, while Commissioner Jones is looking backward," said Charles Bacchi, the group's executive vice president.

    "His analysis doesn't take into account subsidies, enrollees who are benefiting from the ACA, or acknowledge how the ACA has substantially expanded coverage and benefits while also changing the way premiums are priced."

  • Christina Welch posted at 9:14 pm on Thu, Jul 31, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 460

    Too funny--we both read the same article, Jien!! But, I wouldn't say Mr Hansen is purposefully misleading. I think he might just have simply mistated the year. Otherwise, he is correct, the rate increases were huge and they did not occur for people receiving the subsidies (the handouts, in his words.) His word choice might not settle right with you (or me for that matter,) but that doesn't mean he's trying to deceive.

  • Christina Welch posted at 3:36 pm on Thu, Jul 31, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 460

    I think you might be mistaken, Mr Hansen. From what I have read, the commissioner said rates already went up this year by that 22-88 percent figure. The expectation is that they will be a bit lower coming into 2015. Still, as someone who has personally experienced this rate increase, I'm still feeling the pinch either way. Good thing you didn't buy that luxury car. We all have to watch our pennies, it seems. At least I'm not alone, I guess. [wink]

    Here's the article about the rates I referenced: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-insurance-rates-20140730-story.html

  • Jien Kaur posted at 2:15 pm on Thu, Jul 31, 2014.

    Jien Kaur Posts: 377

    This sentence mislead 100%. Here good article to explain insurance commisioner of California. He is for the sure speak of people who - as article say - recieve the subsidies for the affordable act.


    Maybe the mr Hansen can read and think better.

  • steve hansen posted at 9:51 am on Thu, Jul 31, 2014.

    steve hansen Posts: 2

    According to the California state insurance commissioner, health insurance rates for those not receiving government handouts will increase 22 to 88 percent in 2015.

  • John Kindseth posted at 8:55 am on Wed, Jul 30, 2014.

    John Kindseth Posts: 246

    Steve: I nominate two vehicles for your simple car hall of fame:

    1. Early 1950’s M 31-a-1 Jeeps, military version with field kd rims.
    2. Any Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant with slant 6, power steering, automatic.

  • Jeff Tillett posted at 10:45 am on Tue, Jul 29, 2014.

    Jeff Tillett Posts: 558

    Here's a thought Steve. If you don't want sticker shock, don't look at $90,000 cars. And don't feign indignation of $1700 ACA costs. Such a monthly premium is erroneous and fallacious. Besides, you're retired. You're nearing Medicare age.


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