Local Knowledge, Internationalism, Expertise and Getting Home #20
By Graham Bell
I admit it – and I know it’s probably a man-thing – but I really like muscle cars. The problem is I also like, and need, practicality. So, a number of years ago, in the USA, I rented a Chrysler 300c – and I was hooked and I bought a Tourer version in Glasgow 9 years ago. To date I've clocked up well over 130,000 ultra-reliable miles in it. In fact, I liked it so much I also bought a pre-loved sedan with considerably fewer miles. As you will see from the pics below this is a car with attitude! Distinctive. And it is like driving your sofa, especially on long journeys.
The Chrysler 300c Tourer at Ardnamurchan Point on the west coast of Scotland, looking wistfully across the Atlantic towards home.
It looks perfect in this setting but this also has a reputation as a ghetto car! Or a poor man’s Bentley. It was also a very ethnic-specific car in the USA. Bought by few American Asians, it was immensely popular among African-Americans. One in five were sold to this group. It had a reputation for quality and class. In fact, in very targeted advertising to the community, the slogan was, ‘a car for those who know where they are going but won’t forget where they came from’. Quite why cars build certain categories of customers is a bit of a mystery.
In direct contrast to the urban ghetto reputation it was also very popular in the Canadian Maritimes – a rural, coastal area where its rugged resilience was key. I’m not sure what its reputation is in Scotland but my daughters call it an old man’s car – although they were always happy to take a lift in it!
Anyway, back to my story. For the first time, it broke down on me, 200 miles from my home, in Keith, Moray at my daughter’s home. Inserting the ignition key suggested it was as dead as the proverbial Dodo. As it is the original battery I assumed that would be the problem. So a call to the RAC to assist. I’ve been a member for over 3 decades and, although I try not to be a regular user, it is at least an annual call as it is a family membership. I was quickly and efficiently routed through centres in Walsall and Manchester.
My experience has always been great but this time it was a call on a bank holiday weekend. Would they be as good as usual? The request was duly logged. A few minutes later I got a call back saying that, as they were very busy, they would be sub-contracting to a local garage. I live in a rural location and often have sub-contractors. Again, always great. And this was no exception. Five minutes later the local mechanic from Keith Motors was there. That’s what I call service. He duly did all his checks and tried to get it going, but to no avail. However, he said it was not the battery and was probably the ignition key.
So, confession time. This is the original key which has spent a lot of time in and out of pockets, being dropped and treated none-too-well. It did look a bit decrepit.
The Chrysler 300c Sedan in contemplative mood at Portsoy Harbour on the north-east coast of Scotland.
And this is where the complexity sets in. My Chrysler is the European version, a USA derivative, built in Canada! And it was built when there was an alliance with the German Mercedes (although mine was built in Austria). Now you know what is meant by a global car. And this was a chipped electronic key that was malfunctioning. The chance of a quick repair looked remote….if you’ll pardon the pun!
So what did my small-town mechanic do next? ‘Well,’ he said, ‘A specialist auto locksmith lives around here’. And he pointed across the road to the locksmith’s home. Now I had no idea there was such a thing as an auto locksmith, and to have one so close-by was too good an opportunity to miss. He kindly came over to assist, in spite of it being a holiday weekend. However, my car is something of a rare beast and he had neither a key nor experience with this model. But, he said, he was up for the challenge, and, if I was not in too much of a hurry, he would try a work-around to get me home. So, he set to work.
After making some modifications to my very tatty key he inserted it into the ignition, plugged in the PC to the car and worked away. Now this is where I was really dazzled. The local knowledge and real expertise working with advanced technology on a global product really brought home to me how the world is shrinking – but works best when delivered locally and connected worldwide.
And fix it he did. So, I happily drove home, musing merrily on inter-connectedness and happen-chance. But I was also marvelling at how this all joined up so well. And it was efficiently and effectively delivered by all concerned in a friendly, humorous way. What more could I ask for?
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
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