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JAMIE LaREAU

Vehicle technology might be going too far for old-school customers



February 3, 2011 - 1:39 pm ET
Jamie LaReau covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive NewsJamie LaReau covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive News
I still handwrite thank-you notes. Yep, with pen and paper.

I put stamps on them, and I drop them in a mailbox. I'm old school.

But I like simplicity. The same is true with a vehicle I drive.

I prefer to push a button or turn a knob to scan the radio, adjust the temperature or raise the backlight on my instrument panel. I don't need nor want a dozen buttons, touch screens or voice commands to defrost my rear window.

Yes, I'm old school.

I have recently driven a variety of new vehicles equipped with the latest and greatest technology: touch-screen and voice-command systems such as MyFord Touch, as well as touch-screen center panels and dozens of buttons in the Buick LaCrosse. And while I have been briefed on how to use the systems and the interiors are beautiful, I still find it much more complex to use than what I really need -- not to mention the thousands of dollars those gadgets add to the price of a vehicle.

Beyond that, there's another problem: Delivery time and the cost to dealers. Delivering a new vehicle used to take a dealer 45 minutes. It now could take up to two hours for some. That's productivity time lost by the salesperson who could be making another sale instead of teaching a customer three different ways to turn on or adjust the air conditioning.

I wonder, too, how frustrating it is to a customer stuck there for two hours when he or she really just wants to get into the new vehicle and hit the open road.

I realize we have to progress as a society, and technology is a harbinger of a lot of good. But I wonder: Is there a point where technology goes too far -- rather than making life easier, it adds complications?

I also realize there are still variants of vehicles that don't include all the gadgets that we purists don't want. But the trend appears to be moving away from those options. To me, that seems like a mistake. There are still plenty of old-schoolers like me out there who don't want or need that much technology and distraction.