Service, that is.
One of the great things about living in Japan is very high level of customer service one encounters at nearly every business. That was (ahem) driven home for me today, for, as Kimie was driving us the twenty minutes home from the grocery store in town, little did we know that the left rear tire of her car was losing air and going flat at some point. Though in retrospect, I had wondered as we neared home why the computer was telling us we were only getting about 18 kpl (42 mpg) on this trip when we would normally get 26 kpl (61 mpg) or more.
It was only after we arrived home, unloaded the car, and she was preparing to drive it into the garage that I noticed the flat. It had been flat for some time apparently and we simply hadn't felt it. The result was a badly damaged tire.
A peculiar "feature" of the Honda Insight is that, in an effort to save weight and space, it has no spare tire. Instead there is a can of "goop" designed to seal a puncture from the inside along with a small air compressor which runs off the car's battery. One is supposed to put the sealant in the tire, then re-inflate it as a temporary fix until the dealership is reached. In this case, it was out of the question. The side walls were deeply gouged by the wheel rim making the tire totally unserviceable. I did try, unsuccessfully, to re-inflate the tire, but as I was doing so decided that even should that work, I was not going to allow Kimie to drive with this tire and risk a catastrophic blowout.
Honda customer service to the rescue. Kimie called the Honda dealership to see what we should do. Coincidentally, the person who answered was Mr. T - no, not the muscular Mr. T with the gold chains of the "A-Team", but the Honda salesman Mr. T, who had sold us the car two years ago. He said he'd come right out and have a look. He knows where to find us, as he comes by personally once or twice a year to make sure we're still satisfied customers.
Thirty minutes or so later, he arrived with a tilt bed truck and another Insight. After inspecting the tire, he put the other car in our driveway as a loaner and loaded Kimie's car onto the truck to take it to the dealership.
No spare tire? No worries. They'll bring you a spare car.
So, if they have the tires in stock we'll have the car back this afternoon. If not, Kimie will drive the loaner to work tomorrow and later into to town to pick up her car at the dealership.
Service with a smile - Japanese style. What a country!
Update: the car will be ready tomorrow. Total cost: ¥13,000 (about US$157). Having such service a phone call away: priceless.