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Thursday November 12, 2009 3:13 pm

Comic Books And Saturn (The Cars)




Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Editorials

Saturn SL2Now that GM is shutting down their Saturn division, let me tell you how comic books helped me get a really nice, reliable car. Years ago, my old car went on life support and, reluctantly, since I could no longer count on my friends to keep picking me up by the side of the freeway, I had to get another one. I hate buying a car more than I hate trying to get a hotel room for Comic-Con International in March. So I needed a plan.

At the time, I was intrigued by the ads for Saturn cars. They were owned by GM but had a separate factory somewhere near Davy Crockett’s family home in Tennessee, used their own parts and built their cars using a team that wasn’t connected to GM corporate. Also, the happy TV commercials showed their smiling employees enjoying picnics in the park. It was, they claimed, a different way to make a car.

But even more important to someone like me who lacks the manly super-power of “negotiating a car price,” Saturn had haggle-free prices on their cars. Sticker price was sticker price and that’s that. Just like you can’t negotiate the price of the #1 combo meal at In N Out Burger, you couldn’t negotiate the price of a Saturn or find yourself outmaneuvered by a slick salesman whose job it is to separate a rube from his loot like a carny at the state fair (“A heck of a sealant, this TrueCoat stuff, it’ll keep the salt off”). Bingo! I bought into the mythology of their marketing. I do like a good story.

So I went to the local Saturn dealership, found one I liked and looked at the price. I was in. The only problem was, I wanted my car to have a moon roof and the dealer didn’t have it in stock, in that color. Thankfully, I could order a car off the assembly line and they would make it for me. Just like ordering a very expensive hamburger, I could have it in six weeks. Deal!

Later that week, I got the car’s manufacturing number from the dealership and the approximate day it would be coming down the line in their factory in Tennessee. From my office, I grabbed a bunch of comic books from my inhouse comp stack. I picked the ones that - at the time - had the most name recognition: Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Robotech II: The Sentinels and others. I then mailed them to the gang at the factory along with a letter and my car’s manufacturing number.

Two weeks later, I got a nice note from the people on the assembly line, and some photos of them on the line, standing next to my car and reading comics. They loved the gift. It was the first time anybody had done anything like that for them. My car arrived at my local dealer shortly before Thanksgiving that year and I drove it off the lot. Everything worked, everything was excellent.

I drove that car for 275,000 miles. That’s right: 275,000 miles, without a mechanical or engine-related problem. I dutifully changed the oil every 3000 miles, kept it tuned up and aside from occasionally replacing the brakes and the tires, did nothing else to it. It ran beautifully. Granted, it wasn’t the impressive manhood extender that a Corvette promises to be and it didn’t give off the “I’m a cool d-bag” vibe of a Porsche, but I worked in comics, so what did I really need my car to do for me? Drive me to work, to the LCS, my favorite bar, and down to the beach, and once a year down to CCI, that’s what.

Maybe all Saturns that came off that line had the same good fortune as mine. But I like to think my comic book care package gave me a little extra good karma for my car.

So long, Saturn, from a very satisfied customer.

[Artwork: photo of my kind of car, the Saturn SL2, pulled from Edmonds]

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