My New COVID SUV
by John Delach
I decided to go car hunting in early March of 2020. I had promised my son, my 2016 GMC Arcadia to replace his failing minivan. I delighted in that Arcadia. It was a great road car with ample room for both cargo and second row passengers seemingly designed for long-distance trips.
I was totally prepared to replace it with the 2020 model, but GMC had shrunk both the external and internal dimensions of their replacement model to meet new EPA standards. My cousin, Bob, who had recently leased the new model, hated it because he couldn’t enter the driver’s seat without banging his head. I am taller than Bob making it a non-starter for me.
An upgrade to GMC’s Yukon that retained its generous dimensions was out of the question. The price for GMC’s king of the road had escalated to more than $70,000, an amount I considered to be grossly excessive.
Kia and its sister company, Hyundai, had recently introduced new cross-over models having similar dimensions to my Arcadia. I watched several promotional videos about the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade that explained that both were built by the same parent company with the same engine, transmission and frame. Either vehicle seemed acceptable and so, I began my quest.
I set out on March 9th to investigate their suitability and availability of these vehicles. At a stop at a KIA Dealer in Levittown, I found their inventory for new Tellurides was disappointing. When I asked a representative when he expected to receive the next shipment, he replied, “That’s anyone’s guess. We were scheduled to receive eight Tellurides two weeks ago. So far, none have been delivered.”
They had but one, a stripped-down model, on the lot, but it gave me the opportunity to check out the suitability of its driver’s seat. I was pleased with the results as I found I could easily enter and exit the driver’s seat without contorting my body or banging my head or knees.
Disappointed by their lack of inventory, but encouraged by this vehicle’s suitability, I drove to a Hyundai dealership in Hempstead. Millennium Hyundai. The salesman, Omar, volunteered that they had Palisade on the lot that met my needs. I waited a bit while he retrieved it and when he returned, I followed him out onto the lot where I saw this freshly washed shining black beauty preening in the afternoon sun. It was love at first sight.
After a test ride, followed by necessary posturing, I agreed to buy it pending Mary Ann’s approval. When Omar questioned this, I explained, “Omar, you are single. I have been married 53 years. Including my wife in this decision is part of the reason we have made it 53 years and counting.”
I explained to Mary Ann that my only regret was that I had to accept the second-row seats consisted of two captain’s chairs instead of a bench seat, but that I did avoid having it include a sunroof. After taking a ride and driving the Palisade, Mary Ann signed off on my new wheels then pointed out the controls located on the underside of the roof were for the sun roof I though I didn’t have.
A word about the bucket seats. Ordinarily, I would have welcomed them, but having two old big dogs as part of our family presented a specific problem. Max and Tess, a Golden Retriever and a Yellow Lab ride in the cargo area of our SUVs. The back bench seat acts as a barrier keeping them from attempting to join us up front. Bucket seats provides them with their own alley to stroll directly to our front row seats. Trial, error and a steel barricade solved that issue.
Two days later the sale was made. Meanwhile, both Michael and I did all we could to expedite the transfer of the Arcadia to him. Thankfully, he completed all of the paperwork on his new vehicle before the COVID 19 quarantine was enacted in Connecticut. I wasn’t as fortunate, but I did get by with a series of 30-day temporary registrations that lasted until June when I received the permanent one good for two-years.
My Palisade is chock-a-block full of sensors that control anything and everything that has to do with the operation of my truck. In no particular order it includes: Lane sensors, brake sensors, passing car sensors, backup sensors and camera. It will automatically stop itself if I don’t brake for a passing vehicle or pedestrian. It has “so called” smart cruise control. Very sophisticated, it includes a primitive version of hands off, foot off cruise control driving. It automatically slows the speed if a slow-moving vehicle enters my lane and returns to my pre-set speed once it departs.
After two weeks of complete confusion trying to figure out these and other bells and whistles, I made an appointment with Omar to return to the dealership with Mary Ann on Friday March 21 to clear up these issues.
Omar was a no show, and when I called his mobile number, I discovered he’d been laid off!
A couple of other salesmen and tech folks tried to help. Meanwhile, we couldn’t help to notice the frenzy of activity going on in and around the dealership. A few salesmen were turning in old cars for new leases in a chaotic fashion. Finally, a salesman explained why: “By the governor’s order, we must close by 8 pm tonight and we have no idea when we will re-open.”
Without access to the dealer, I slowly figured out how things worked, but when Millennium re-opened later in the spring of 2020, it took me several trips back to Hempstead to straighten out my confusion and solve my issues.
Late in 2021, when new cars and even used cars became scarce, I received a text from Omar asking me if I might be interested in turning in my Palisade for a new one to be named later. I replied, “No thank you, but I am glad that you are back to work.”