Dear Avis Rent-a-Car:
Please accept my thanks for renting me a Chevy Uplander minivan instead of the car I actually reserved. Ordinarily I would have preferred to have a standard sedan. since I was traveling solo. However, I’m grateful for the opportunity you gave me to drive an Uplander during my recent trip to Seattle. Why? Because it helps me appreciate the engineering quality, driveability, ergonomics, and product quality of my Dodge Grand Caravan. In fact, I can say that the Uplander was inferior to every other car I’ve ever owned or even driven, including the 1972 VW Super Beetle.
The Uplander you gave me was a big, boxy, underpowered slob of a vehicle with a floaty suspension that reminded me of driving a 1980s-era Buick over the back roads of central Michican, accompanied by the dulcet sounds of concrete blocks being thrown into an empty dumpster.
The shift lever was balky, the power steering pump clunked with every revolution of the steering wheel, and the vehicle shared an overall sense of ponderousness I haven’t felt since the last time I drove a Marine Corps 5-ton truck.
Difficult to park, wheezy to drive, and hungry for fuel, the Uplander excelled in one category: it made my co-workers laugh.
As a bonus, the Uplander you rented me smelled like toxic waste, apparently due to a cleaning fluid you used to remove the smell of wet dog. Once the fumes dissipated, the dog smell was a friendly reminder of what it’s like to have a pet; I trust the next lucky person who gets this particular vehicle will enjoy it too.
Thank you for reinforcing my sterotypically low opinion of GM products. Next time, however, I’d really appreciate it if you could give the Uplander to someone else. I’ve already had my turn.
(n.b. There’s an interesting story in today’s Wall Street Journal about the push by large dealers like AutoNation to force the Big 3 to change the way they produce vehicles to take into account what people actually want to buy. The story quotes Mark LaNeve, GM’s head of North American sales and marketing, as saying “It’s not like we have some crisis.” This when GM has more than a million unsold cars in inventory– more than three times what Toyota has.)