QOTD: Which Vehicles Deserve a Cost-cutting Trim Level?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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qotd which vehicles deserve a cost cutting trim level

Yesterday, Tim Cain reported on the new Chevrolet Tahoe Custom trim, which lowers the point of entry on the Tahoe by $3,750 for 2018. If you’re a nerd and enjoy trim-level discussions like I do, this is an important moment. For the first time since the Tahoe grew to four doors in 1995, you’ll be able to buy a trim lower than the LS.

This new (relatively) low-cost trim is seen by many Internet Car Enthusiasts here at TTAC as the way forward: dispensing with unnecessary options like infotainment, large wheels, and a third row seat that rarely sees use. Seems like a decent enough idea, so let’s take it across the board today.

Which vehicles deserve a cost-cutting trim level?

In our modern automotive era, manufacturers are hard pressed to compete with the standard features offered by competitors in each segment. Since the 1980s, companies like Hyundai and Kia have democratized standard features to ever lower entry points at a rapid pace. Options once found only in the realm of larger, more expensive luxury vehicles have become standard fare on compact Korean hatchbacks.

All this expansion in standard features (and perhaps easy access to longer-term loans) has created a new opportunity for value-oriented basic trims like the Tahoe Custom above.

My pick today was going to cite Porsche as an example of removing options to lower cost — but then I remembered that’s the opposite of the way Porsche operates. So here’s a different example.

That’s right, this other Chevrolet is a good candidate for a bare-bones trim. The Impala starts in LS trim with a 2.5-liter inline-four engine (197 horsepower) for $27,500. MyLink and an 8-screen is standard. USB outlets, satellite radio, a power driver’s seat, floor mats, keyless start, OnStar, power windows and locks, and air conditioning are all standard. At least half of that can go, pushing the entry point lower. Fleets and special order companies would love it, and it would satisfy the ICE’s desire for a basic, large sedan. Win-win, Impala Custom.

As a historical bonus, the Custom trim name already appeared on basic Buicks for many, many years.

What’s your selection of vehicle(s) deserving of a good cost-cutting trim?

[Images: Murilee Martin / The Truth About Cars, GM]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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  • Anomaly149 Anomaly149 on Aug 16, 2017

    One of the funniest things is how power windows are cheaper than manual windows due to volume hits and unique engineering. (power locks over manual locks, as well) Overall, it doesn't make much sense to do this because a "bargain basement trim" vehicle will need a lot of unique engineering (produced at a somewhat inflated price-per-unit due to volume hits) to produce something you have to sell for less dollars. There are some places it makes sense, but by in large unique "low-trim" content is a money-loser just done for advertising purposes.

  • Mchan1 Mchan1 on Aug 16, 2017

    Due to today's technology, it doesn't make sense for the automakers to make Stripper trim vehicles much or anymore. It'll cost more to make a vehicle with manual parts (i.e. windows/door locks) than it would to make a vehicle with power door locks/windows due to the number of units sold. I don't miss Stripper models as I had my first honda civic coupe DX, dirt trim model (Manual windows/door locks & side mirrors, NO A/C, NO power steering, NO radio/speakers/antenna) and you had to floor it to climb any slight inclined roadway. Didn't need a gym membership to stay fit because of the manual steering and the heat from no a/c. To this day, can't stand Honda cars esp. Civics! Funny this was, I came from a Honda family but many family members can't stand Honda not for many years now.

  • FreedMike I suppose that in some crowded city like Rome or Tokyo, there's a market for a luxurious pint-size car. I don't think they'll be able to give them away here in the U.S.
  • TMA1 How much did exchange rates affect this decision? The Renegade is imported from Italy. I'm wondering if that's what caused the price to reach within a few hundred of the much bigger Compass. Kind of a no-brainer to pick the larger, more modern vehicle.
  • CEastwood Everytime I see one of these I think there's a dummie who could have bought a real car , but has to say look at me driving this cool thing I can't drive in the rain like an actual motorcycle that I should have bought in the first place ! It's not Batman I see driving these - it's middle age Fatman .
  • SilverCoupe I should be the potential audience for this (current A5 owner, considering an S5 in the future), but I can't say it excites me. I have never liked the vertical bars in the grilles of sporting Mercedes models, for one thing. The interior doesn't speak to me either.I would be more likely to consider a BMW 4 Series, though not the current version with the double Edsel grille. Still, I suppose it would be worth a look when the time comes to replace my current vehicle.
  • Verbal Can we expect this model to help M-B improve on finishing 29th out of 30 brands in CR's recent reliability survey?