The good old days of late summer 2009.
It was a great time to buy a new car. Monthly new car sales in North America had plummeted to under 10 million units. Access to financing seemed to be near impossible for a lot of consumers. Brands were orphaned. Leasing collapsed. Banks were picky. The future was uncertain and… raw materials were cheap.
It was a good time to buy new at a deep, deep discount. Has that time passed?
What got me thinking about this was a late model car I was using for my auction travels. A popular car. One that sells like hotcakes. Yet it looks like nearly every interior component within it has been parts binned, deconteted and cheaped out to epic proportions.
It offered good fuel economy, a nice radio display, and several hundred pounds of plastics that were in varying forms. Could the car get any cheaper and remain marketable?
I had my doubts. From the wafer fin door panels. To the glossy, Tonka like display of the center dashboard. It reeked of cheap to the point where an hour inside of it felt like a petrochemical bath.
As I went to that evening sale, I thought, “I wonder if this material is cheaper to buy than cardboard boxes?” It was an honest question because everybody uses this cheap stuff. From the mightiest of manufacturers to the most irrelevant of niche players. The hollowness of material quality and feel for anything 20k or under seems to be an epidemic of cheap these days.
Yet everything costs more. Reconsider those MSRP’s for a moment. There was a time not to long ago when a $13,000 Yaris, Versa, Cobalt, Aveo, Rio, and PT Cruiser were publicized on a paperish pulp we used to know as a newspaper. Remember those?
Now a few of these names, along with their far more marketable descendants are venturing hard towards the $20,000 mark. There a few discounts. Maybe even a rebate or two. But the hard march to the next big round number seems to be the new tune of 2012. A loaded Camry can now retail for well over $30k. The Lexus LS400h can now cost nearly $100k. We’re talking two decent foreclosed houses in the ex-urbs here folks!
This brings the TTAC readers to our question for today. Have we passed the peak of cheap? Are we bound to a new world of car buying where commuter cars only feel cheap and the ‘nip and tuck’ of cost containment has run the course?
What says you?