Technology has changed the vehicle-buying equation

Boy, am I old.

I remember when buying a new car meant people wanted it to have good looks and reliability. And be fun to drive. Price mattered, and such features as a CD player or sunroof might sweeten the deal.

Now it’s a given that new vehicles have all that and more -- namely, technology.

For instance, General Motors Co. is launching Chevrolet MyLink in the Volt and Equinox this fall. MyLink rivals Ford Motor Co.’s Sync. Both let motorists link their mobile phones to the vehicle's voice recognition software, sound system and navigation screen.

Sync has been a game-changer since it debuted on the Focus compact in 2007. Focus sales rose 13 percent to 195,823 in 2008. The results prompted Ford’s global marketing chief Jim Farley to call Sync “bigger than a deal closer… it’s a reason to buy a Ford.”

GM probably hopes MyLink will do the same for Chevrolet.

But technology meant to simplify life often makes things harder.

It means dealers face increased competition to hire sales and service technicians with a computer background. It means longer delivery times, which add to dealers’ costs. And, I believe, it has increased driver distraction -- even if it is hands-free, voice recognition technology.

Don’t get me wrong, some technology is great. I love my seat warmers. But I have friends who’ve bought Sync-equipped vehicles in the past couple of years. To this day, none of them use their Sync.

Instead, they use their vehicles for what they are actually intended to be -- road appliances that transport you from point A to point B.

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