Once upon a time, when I heard the term “pick up line”, odds were, I was hanging out in a bar. Now “pick up line” is a place instead of a thing. It’s the pre-school drop off lane, the local park’s practice field, the mall parking lot.
Day after day, I’m in slow-moving rolling lines, collecting and dropping off children, like a weary suburban pediatric-transit-system worker. Instead of contemplating men with their smooth pick-up lines, I find myself contemplating the other cars. What have they got that mine hasn’t? It’s kind of like playing “what if” with your neighbors husbands. “What if I were married to Bob? Would his obsession with mountain biking make me insane?” or “What if I were married to super wealthy Joe, would he shower me with presents?”.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy relationship with my 3 yr old Acura MDX. And my husband. On a chilly day, the mere phrase “butt warmer” is enough to make me fall in love all over again with good ol’ MDX. But lets face it, there’s always a new model, right? And theoretically, vehicles don’t demand the same loyalty as spouses. We’re allowed to dabble and lease on the side. Nothing wrong with a little extracurricular test drive. Who could blame me for wondering? Come to think of it, I actually spend more time, some days, with my car than with my spouse. And I’m almost never alone in the vehicle. That’s why my car, like my husband, had better be good with the kids.
So you can imagine how I was thrilled to recieve a pick up line from GM, that was more like the pick up lines of long ago. They offered to wine me. To dine me. To put me to bed (well, ok, to put me up in the Century City Park Hyatt) if I would come and have a look at their new Buick Enclave being revealed at the LA Auto show. GM is hoping that the Buick Enclave, a luxury styled SUV crossover vehicle (that’s a Mini-Van/SUV mutt for the rest of us) will be a catch for millions of multi-tasking moms like me and you.
I, being so car curious, was only too happy to play. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Buicks. I spent my formative years being ferried about in a big plush burgundy velour padded Park Avenue. It was the height of suburban squishy poshness and convenience. There was room on that back seat for a whole village full of Barbies. And in an era before in-car entertainment, we managed to drive safely and comfortably, keeping ourselves entertained. My mom is and has always been, a Buick fan.
Unfortunately this is part of Buick’s problem. My mom and her pals have been loyal almost to a fault. The brand has been linked to visions of white haired old ladies, and those ladies are buying fewer and fewer cars these day. So the folks at Buick are aching to reinvent themselves. They’ve been doing push ups and studying modern slang. They’ve had a little cosmetic surgery and they are here in their Enclave, all buff and polished, knocking at the door, ready to woo me and you. Even the always adorable Tiger Woods seemed genuinely impressed at the big reveal. He noted that his mom was a Buick driver, but commented that this car was a little more his style. But was it my style? I had a few questions.
The engineers that I spoke with were very interested in hearing what I had to say, specifically because the car is slated to compete directly with my own dear MDX. I truly am their target market. I’m sure they’d like to get me to ditch the foreigner. Their arguments are compelling. The Enclave is going to be slightly more affordable. And boasts better mileage. The third row seats are far more spacious and comfy. Which means the kids will be less whiny. And the cargo area is certainly larger than the MDX, which can barely store a stroller if the third row is engaged. I could theorectically bring the stroller AND the groceries home from the store. The vehicle boasts navigation and entertainment systems similar to what has become familiar, if not indispensible, in my current vehicle. There are radio controls on the steering wheel and a remote liftgate. These are all very promising mommy-car prospects.
But not having yet had a chance to drive the car, I’m still waiting for the kiss that leaves me breathless. I am also a little confused. When I asked GM execs what they had done to make this car great for moms, they hesitated slightly. One engineer, a woman herself, mentioned that they modified the floor on the driver’s side to prevent your high heels from getting dinged. I had to laugh. I mean, I rarely wear my Jimmy Choo’s to soccer practice. Do you? And from GM (as well as every single other blessed car manufacturer at the show) I heard the ubiquitous “Well, Mom, we have added 16 bazillion additional cup holders”. Apparently there is some compelling market research out there suggesting mothers are simply bedazzled by the prospect of having storage slots for more than a dozen fermenting juice boxes and disintegrating soda cups. Show me a self-cleaning drinks holder (or at the very least one that easily removes for cleaning in the dishwasher) and I am more apt to swoon. How about antibacterial/anti-microbial surfaces? Talk to me not about the quiet ride. Have you ever been in a car with my three kids? Talk to me about the rear seat “cone of silence” feature. Despite the promise to “go green” with the Hummer line in the next two years, the technology to silence my kids is just not there yet. Even at GM. C’mon guys, you brought us the oh so brilliant OnStar system. All I am asking for is two minutes of silence while I merge!
And then there is the touchy subject of child restraint devices. Awareness of the importance of the right type of carseat is at an all time high. Many of us have seen the ads and personal films popping up everywhere from pbs to YouTube, such as this heartbreaking one about 3 year old Kyle. Don’t watch if you don’t want to cry. It’s disturbing to say the least. I was extremely interested to hear what GM might be doing about these problems. But I did not get any good answers from them about topics such as integrated car seats/harnesses and more user friendly latch devices. They argued that they have tried marketing integrated solutions in the past and they just do not sell. But I think that Volvo might disagree. Then again, I’m just another mom, sick of klugey $300 after market carseats that may or may not work with my vehicle to keep my kids safe. I’m tired of shelling out every two years when they outgrow said $300 top-of-the-line carseat and need the newer, bigger, safer one, or else I am guilty of putting their little lives at risk the minute we leave the driveway. And oh yeah – I am also sick of being told to bring in a team of experts from my local fire station to reinstall the carseats each and every time I need to take one out to fold a seat down. I want integrated safety solutions. That’s just me!
Arguments aside, GM did have one all-important and admirable response that I really noticed and appreciated. They listened. Genuinely. They wanted to hear what I/we want. They actually seemed to care. After all, I did not see Porsche or Honda or even good old Ford asking me out to dinner. And I honestly think, if we tell GM what we want, they just might listen. So speak up Moms! You can email GM at email@example.com. Let’s not forget that Saturn is also a GM brand, one that has earned the highest consumer satisfaction rates on the market. Something that has been facillitated by actually listening to their customers. If Buick takes a page out of Saturn’s book, and makes us moms happy, we could be their next generation.
My final vote is still out till the test drive, but if the Enclave lives up to the hype, and if future models take some additional mom wants into consideration, there is a fair chance that I could have a beautiful and fulfilling relationship with an American. Particularly if he proves to be a good listener and is willing to surround me in fine italian leather or at the very least, squishy burgundy velour. Just kidding GM! The leather works for me!