Why yes, I did buy a KIA

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That might not sound like a big deal; plenty of Americans are purchasing vehicles from Kia and other foreign companies. And I am not a rabid isolationist demanding enormous tariffs on all imports while crying “Buy American Or Die!“.

But I am outspoken in my belief that the US Senate should not approve the proposed “Free Trade Agreement” with South Korea (or the other two pending FTAs). The success Korean (and other foreign) firms have achieved in selling into the US market clearly shows there is not need for this Agreement. The foreign firms are able to compete quite well under the present system, and experience has long proven the claims that any FTA provides a significant number of new good-quality jobs for US workers to be outright lies. Thus the only benefits that could accrue from such Agreements are to the foreign firms who don’t need it, some US-based partners of said firms, lobbyists and the occasional price reductions US consumers experience.

Sadly those lower prices come at a great cost; even less ability for US-based manufacturing of basic consumer items (see this blog post). And with that the destruction of the US ‘middle class’. Whether you consider Henry Ford a saint or a devil, he was smart enough to realize if he didn’t pay his workers a fair wage they would not be able to purchase the vehicles they make. As an aside, I recently heard a report (I think on NPR) about how many workers in foreign plants are not able to afford the merchandise they produce.

So- back to my new car. The desire to ‘buy American’ was just one consideration; price point, warranty, fuel efficiency and body style were the primary considerations. The 2012 Kia Forte 5 Door (‘hatchback’) is a step down from my previous vehicle (2005 Malibu Maxx) in many ways- but as I nurture my small business I have to focus on those four primary considerations.

As a photographer I travel with a portable studio (backdrops and lights) so I needed a wagon or hatchback. Because my new business is not generating a regular positive cash flow, I would be paying cash; placing a very real limit on price. And as a new business I knew that whatever vehicle I purchased needed to be backed by the manufacturer for much more than 36,000 miles. Which of course excluded buying a used car, or even a new Caliber- perhaps the closest match to the size and specs of the Malibu I have driven for almost seven years. The Malibu was a great car for the first three years (80,000 miles), but then began its decline. Over time various electronic components failed and by the time I prepared to trade it in (with over 140,000 miles) each morning began with a wish and a prayer that the transmission held out one more day.

The new Kia is not perfect; but it met my most important criteria. It also offers some nice features; the Bluetooth cell-phone connection and stereo volume controls are in the (slightly smaller) steering wheel and it includes a three month trial subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio. It has a smaller engine ( 2.0l- 4 cylinder vs the Malibu’s 3.4l- 6) which is adequate- but between that and the smaller body it means a much different drive. The Kia is not as quiet as the Malibu was new; but is much quieter than the Malibu has been for much of 2011.

A new car is always an adjustment; the Kia fuel tank fills up on the opposite side and the windshield wiper controls are in the reverse order, etc. And with the smaller body (the car; not mine) I have yet to find the perfect setting for the driver’s seat. At 5’11, 200#, I don’t consider myself large- but it is a struggle to get the seat-belt locked in (narrower seat) and I just barely clear the inside of the roof. As I’ve said above, these are less important considerations than the warranty etc.

But two things that really stand out (and not in a good way) are:
1. there is no engine temperature gauge visible in the instrument panel
   (I will have to check the manual to see if I can pull it up on the display panel)
2, there is no switch to toggle the rear-view mirror
   (supposedly the car detects outside conditions and tints the mirror as appropriate;
   so far I am not impressed).

As the saying goes “time will tell” – and I will be telling you all.

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