$38,000 for traffic and weather updates

Iíve just watched my fourth automobile commercial in the last half hour. For 60 seconds all they talked about was the radio in the car. How many speakers it had; how you could talk to it to change the station; how it would automatically lower the volume when you were talking on your cell phone. The radios in these cars can do everything for you except microwave your lunch. Going home will only be a let down after spending such a wonderful time in your car listening to this radio. In short, the ads are telling you to buy a $38,000 car because it has a $300 radio in it.

Wow, talk about deal!

Still, you may wonder what kind of mileage that radio gets? Is it reliable? Easy to repair? Will that radio keep its resale value? How does it handle in the snow and the rain? These are the things I want to know when I buy a car. Itís hard to believe the car companies needed a bailout when we all know they can build a better radio than the Japanese. Oh, wait, all car radios are Japanese, but you get my drift.

On my first car, the radio never worked. There was always a tube burning out or a wire coming loose. Finally, when car radios got solid circuits, they never broke. But they got stolen a lot. I came back to a parking lot one day and three of my carís windows were broken and the radio was gone. I was 60 miles from home and it was cold out. Thatís a drive Iíll never forget. It cost my insurance company $2,500 to fix the windows. It cost me $200 to replace the radio. I wonder how much the thief got for it? Ten bucks? Itís not like you can take a stolen car radio with wires hanging out of the back to a convenience store and buy cigarettes with it. Iím pretty sure the heroin dealers donít take them either.

Now that decent quality radios are pretty inexpensive, car thieves donít bother with them. They break your windows to steal your air bags. Or they leave the windows alone and steal your rims. You come out of your house in the morning to go to work and find your car sitting on blocks (if youíre lucky), with all four tires gone. The good news is that the radio still works.

Maybe the car companies could spend just 30 seconds on how wonderful the carís radio is and the other 30 seconds on, say, how hard it is to steal its wheels. Or how much it will cost to get the car repaired after a 5 mph fender kiss in the mall parking lot. If the answer is more than zero, Iíd start looking for another brand of radio.

I donít want to sound like Iím anti car radio. How would I ever learn what new swear words the kids are using if I didnít listen to the car radio? How would I know that the traffic is jammed up in the same place at the same time as it was yesterday morning and every morning for the past 35 years if I didnít have a car radio? How would I know itís a jack-knifed tractor-trailer thatís holding up traffic and not a multi-vehicle accident if I didnít have a radio in the car? Because knowing what kind of accident it is will change how late I will be getting to work. How would I know itís 20 past the hour if I didnít have a radio? After all, how else would you know the time unless you looked at the clock on your dashboard or looked at your watch or your cell phone? And how many people do that?

What I canít figure out is how Apple sells a gazillion iPods a day when car radios are so good?

Jim Mullen is the author of ďIt Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple LifeĒ and ďBabyís First Tattoo.Ē You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2011, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

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