QOTD: Where Do You Want Them To Skimp?
You know how I know that things are getting pretty good in the automotive world? Because we’ve gone from a world where new cars lock their brakes and ignite their gas tanks and delaminate their tires with murderous yet monotonous regularity to a world where people get authentically upset when the fake stitching on their dashboard doesn’t look convincing enough. Our grandparents expected to have to grease their axles every thousand miles and rebuild their engines every 50,000, but we’ve turned into princesses whose posteriors are perfectly primed to detect the mere suggestion of a spherical inconsistency ten mattresses down.
I’m not just talking about the boss man here at TTAC being triggered by a wobbly hood release. I’ve been complaining about the paint and carpet in my Accord for three years now. Prior to that, I recall being very disappointed in the fact that one of my Phaetons only had the stamped-steel parallelogram trunk arms instead of the forged Campagnolo pieces that my other car had. It kept me up at night. I didn’t like opening my trunk in any sort of elevated company.
Of course, we’re not so quick to complain about getting 270 horsepower in the Accord that used to come with 110, or the five LCD screens that replaced plain mechanical gauges, or the vastly better NVH isolation. We want Rolls-Royce interiors and W126 mechanicals at Kia Rio price points. That’s because we now live in a consumer culture where we define ourselves by what we consume, not by what we produce. And it’s also because we’re kind of stupid about how the automotive sausage is made.
The truth of the matter is that all modern automakers skimp. They skimp all over the place, on all sorts of things, and they hope to heaven that you either don’t notice or don’t care. This is true whether we’re talking about the Chevy Sonic or the Bentley Mulsanne. You just have to pick and choose where you’re willing to have the skimping take place. Which reminds me of a great story about the 1996 Taurus …
In the infamous Mary Walton Taurus book, we find out the 1992 Taurus lost the folding armrest fitted to the back seat of the 1986 Taurus. This was just one of many steps that Ford took to equip the ’92 for the price-centric sales battle, but it was the one that annoyed the hell out of the program manager for the 1996 replacement. After all, the Camry had a folding center armrest in its back seat. In fact, it had all sorts of neat stuff; this was the “Lexus Camry” of the 1992-1995 model years.
After a series of bloodthirsty boardroom battles, the team got the OK to put the armrest in the ’96 Taurus. Nobody noticed. Worse yet, the heavily cost-cut 1996 Camry arrived without one, and it didn’t hurt that car’s popularity one bit! So when the stopgap 1996.5 “Taurus G” arrived to do business with price-conscious buyers, it was also short one center armrest. Which goes to show: you never know what’s going to make the customer notice and what will escape his wandering eye.
This is my quick list of cares and don’t-cares on new cars:
I care about:
- Drivetrain performance and durability
- How well the chassis holds up under heavy use — bushings and the like
- Safety in a crash
- Audio system
- Ergonomics that fit my oft-broken twisted skeleton
I don’t care about:
- Prestige, implied or realized
- Up-to-date telematics
- Styling (within reason)
- OEM tire choice (I’m going to get rid of them)
- The environmental sustainability of its construction
- Fuel consumption (within reason)
- Resale value
All of those are nice to have but I’ll let a manufacturer skimp on those if I can get more of what I want. The same is true for my Accord: I’m not thrilled about the paint but I’ll eagerly give up good paint for a durable engine and transmission.
What’s important to you? What are the Un-Skimpables? And what can you accept, with or without rancor? Can I interest you in monochrome grey bumpers? Roll-up windows? A trunk with no liner? How about a driveshaft that does double duty as a lower control arm? It’s all out there, you know!
Gglockster on Feb 26, 2017
Important-Acceleration, MPG, Lumbar support, a place to plug my phone in for power and decent speakers. Useful-Intuitive cruise control settings, front collision braking, traction control, and stain resistant interior. A full sized spare and a vehicle jack. A Dip stick. I hate road noise get rid of- fancy electric junk that I can't remove and needs a trip to the dealer to get fixed. Automatic servo motors that freak me out when they start adjusting on their own and end up needing to be recalibrated. TPMS, run flats, low sidewall tiny tires.
WallMeerkat on Feb 28, 2017
Recently car hunting on the lower end of the market, Skodas and SEATs. What I absolutely wanted: - Rear parking sensors. The cars I were looking at were sedan shaped hatchbacks with high tails, not the easiest to try and park without sensors. Plus my old Saab had me spoiled. - Rear electric windows. May sound surprising in this day and age, but basic 'fleet/hire car spec' 'S' model Toledos and Rapids have manual wind up windows. Even those models that had rear electrics didn't have driver side control - not ideal for a family car with growing boisterous kids! - Alloy wheels. Again, the basic 'S' spec models made do with horrible wheeltrims. Yes this can be rectified for a few hundred £/$, but then the insurance company has to know etc. - Seat rear pockets. Amazed that base spec models cut these out. The car I ended up getting was midrange 'SE' spec, which annoyingly made do without a front armrest. While the Saab had a rear armrest, any passengers I was ferrying - usually extended family - tended up put the armrest back up anyway. I would've liked steering wheel controls, a strange cost cutting effort when the car is supplied with a decent touchscreen VW group stereo (of which has Bluetooth but no other connectivity like Android Auto). The worst cost cutting in Skodas is the NVH, the rear trunklid of the Rapid, Octavia and Superb is a large piece of bodywork that seems to hit a resonant frequency via the dampers on some roads. I am always surprised to see expensive premium/luxury sedan trunklids being opened to reveal gooseneck hinges. If a Peugeot 407 can use a cantilever, why can't a BMW 5 series?
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