QOTD: If The Auto Industry Could Build Only One Car, What Should It Be?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
qotd if the auto industry could build only one car what should it be

Which car models need to die immediately, TTAC asked two days ago.

What if they all died, all of them except one? Which one, individual, solitary new vehicle should be left behind to cater to the demands of every new car buyer in the world?

It will have to be a vehicle that perfectly balances an immensely broad range of requirements. This universal car has to be affordable, but let’s not pretend the Dacia Logan is up to the standards of Beverly Hills, let alone Dubai. It will have to be sufficiently environmentally sensitive to get past regulations in green-conscious markets, but can a Toyota Prius Prime fill the void left by a Mercedes-AMG GLS63? A two-seater surely won’t do, but a nine-seat Chevrolet Suburban is probably too large if every Amsterdammer trades in their bicycle. And if we don’t demand more than 250 horsepower, do enthusiasts get to have input?

If you could have just one car, and if your neighbor and all their neighbors and every global citizen had access to the very same vehicle, what should The Universal Car be?

I’ll nominate three contenders: one fastball across the plate, a curveball, and a changeup just to get you thinking.

Personally, I can currently possess just one car. We drive a Honda Odyssey, a minivan that fulfills a wide variety of needs. It’s powerful, shockingly fuel-efficient, and hugely space efficient. It’s a pickup when you need it to be, a veritable bus at all times, and it’s always pleasant to pilot. On the other hand, it is larger than ideal.

Second, what about the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited? It sounds odd at first, but in much of the world, consumers aren’t blessed with a pristine road network. Ruggedness is vital. With the Wrangler Unlimited, we enthusiasts will still get to have fun in the sun. And everybody gets a reasonably spacious vehicle. Okay, so it’s a bit rough around the edges, but this won’t come as a surprise.

But I believe one car does a better job of blending a variety of vehicles into one: the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s not that expensive. The GTI can handle a small family and a reasonably sized dog. It’ll sip fuel if you’re gentle, it looks good, it fits in tight urban centers, and it uses a platform that’s already central to assembly plants around the world.

Plus, it’ll knock your socks off if you find a twisty road.

Perhaps the GTI is a selfish answer to a question that requires an unselfish response. If we all had to coexist in complete automotive unity, what vehicle makes the most sense?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Tubacity Tubacity on Mar 09, 2017

    "We drive a Honda Odyssey, a minivan that fulfills a wide variety of needs. It’s powerful, shockingly fuel-efficient, " Shockingly big for cities in Europe, Asia without tour bus interior capacity. Might be ok if gets traded every 5 yrs or so. Longer and risk VCM problems including sludge, stuck piston rings, scored cylinder bores, broken spark plugs, high oil use that consumes all engine oil between oil changes if not watched and replaced. Of course, everyone here who is OCD checks engine oil every day, but others do not. VCM deactivates some cylinders on light load but there are consequences in some. VCM for miles per gallon is a Faustian bargain. Simpler and rugged are more the way for world car. A 4 cyl diesel with slightly high station wagon like body and seats behind the 2nd row for passenger and cargo room. 2wd rear drive where AWD or 4WD not needed to keep maintenance and repair costs down. Not very large to keep costs lower. Adequate ground clearance. Nothing coupe-like. They do exist in the world if not USA.

    • See 2 previous
    • Gtem Gtem on Mar 10, 2017

      @chaparral "Don’t foul up your energy efficiency" I'll take the peace of mind of non-interference over marginal MPG improvements, frankly. And I'm a guy that changes T-belts religiously according to schedule. To your second point: you have a limited scope. Yes even in rural Siberia there are a limited number of Honda sedans/wagons rolling around that get by okay on atrocious roads there (in the summer anyways). My cousin's wife had an older Honda Partner, fittingly last time I was visiting he was in the middle of some front end work (control arm bushing replacement), it's also fantastically harsh and uncomfortable on what passes for roads there. BOF trucky stuff lives a longer happier life out that way, and is more comfortable to drive in the process. Anyone with any sort of money out there buys the nicest Land Cruiser they can afford, the same is true in much of Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East, etc. Not a German luxury sedan or anything else that will get obliterated in short order. I will leave you with this video: youtu.be/VYPL32zJ0QY

  • Jthorner Jthorner on Mar 10, 2017

    Ford Transit Connect, thanks in part to the many available configurations. Could use some additional aftermarket sound deadening though :).

  • Bd2 The hybrid powertrain in the Sportage and Tucson are the ones to get.H/K should discontinue the base NA 2.5L powertrain and just build more of the hybrid.In the future, maybe offer a 2nd, more powerful hybrid (the hybrid 2.5) which will first arrive with the next Telluride/Palisade.Kia also needs to redo the front fascia for the Sportage's refresh.
  • The Oracle I say let the clunkers stay on the roads.
  • Jpolicke Twenty-three grand for a basket case? And it has '66 wheel covers and gas cap so who knows what else isn't original?
  • Scott Can't be a real 1965 Stang as all of those are nothing but a pile of rust that MIGHT be car shaped by now.
  • 56m65711446 So, the engineers/designers that brought us the Pinto are still working at Ford!