Global Warming? My Car is Melting!
I’m not what you’d call a typical male car freak, although I’ve been fortunate to own some nice autos over the years.
This was a big change in lifestyle from my simpler, immediately post-college era, when I owned just two tools of transport: a bicycle and a canoe.
For “car guys”, the choice of their automobile(s) is an important extension of the personal identity they wish to project, an important statement about how they see themselves. Kind of like a giant pair of shoes, hat, or man purse. A proud statement of status and style.
Auto marketers exploit this psychology in their advertising and promotion. Just look at the ever-more-scantily-clad models surrounding sporty cars at China’s car shows. The subliminal message is clear: own this car, and get these girls.
To me, a car is more of a transport tool. It needs to look nice, have decent trunk space, be safe and fun to drive, and (increasingly) not be an excessive fuel guzzler or polluter. But it’s not a particularly important statement of personal style or identity.
After all, who’s going to visit my regular parking space in the building where I live and say “Hey. There’s Tom’s car! What a clear statement of what he’s all about. Look at those tires. Check out the bumper.”
The car I am currently driving is a Maserati. It’s the first Italian car I have owned, and I must admit, it’s a very classy looking vehicle.
I like Italian food, Italian design, Italian fashion, and a lot of other things about Italy. I am a Catholic. The Pope lives in Italy. Michelangelo was Italian. Marco Polo came from Italy ( Whether he first introduced Italian pasta to China, or brought Chinese noodles to Italy, is still a matter of some debate).
What’s not to like about Italy?
When it was time to get a new car a few years ago, my wife and I opted for a Maserati on the spur of the moment. We happened to walk past the showroom one day while looking for a furniture store. We liked the look of the car, and bought one. We’ve enjoyed driving it ever since, and it has performed very well.
In tiny Hong Kong, we’ve driven a total of something like 10,000 kilometers in three years. This is a ridiculous under-utilization of such a fine automobile, but there are only so many miles of road in Hong Kong, and the bridge to Macau won’t be completed for another few years.
In many other parts of the globe, people drive 10,000 kilometers in a matter of months.
Anyway, until very recently, we had virtually no complaints about the car, mechanical or otherwise. Then one day towards the end of our hot subtropical summer, while driving the car, I noticed that some of the dials and switches on the dashboard were very, very sticky.
Repeated efforts to clean up the stickiness failed, and soon it spread and got worse and worse. Our Maserati seemed to be melting!
We called the car dealer and received the surprising news that this is actually a very common problem with Maserati and (their sister) Ferrari automobiles in hot climates. Apparently, buttons and dials on their dashboards have an unfortunate tendency to melt.
The dealer employee I spoke with reassured me several times that this is a minor problem, and they could fix it to look like it was brand new by removing the old finish and resurfacing it.
His definition of “minor” as in “minor problem”, involves a repair bill roughly equivalent to US2,000, and 10 to 14 days in the repair shop.
This is clearly one of those situations where if you need to ask the cost, you probably can’t afford it. And if you’re concerned about not having use of your car for two weeks, you must be one of those poor folks who have only one car.
So, he’s right. It’s actually a minor problem for the average Maserati or Ferrari owner.
How do you say “minor problem” in Italian?
I asked whether or not this melting dashboard phenomenon is a product of this year’s unusually hot weather. Answer: no, this is a perennial problem which has affected Maseratis and Ferraris for quite a few years.
So, contrary to my first speculation about the possible cause of the problem, it’s not a global warming thing after all.
According to the dealer, sooner or later almost all the Maseratis and Ferraris on the road in Hong Kong have to be brought into the shop for a refinishing of the dashboard.
I must admit this came as an unexpected surprise. When I order a pizza, I expect the cheese part to be melted, but the same expectation did not apply when I bought an Italian car.
(New business opportunity: design and produce a line of stylish looking cooler bags to cover and protect Italian car dashboards from melting.)
My car is in the repair shop as I write this.
Reminder to self: this is a minor problem.
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