QOTD: A Car Company to Call Your Own?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd a car company to call your own

One’s imagination often runs away with itself, usually late at night and after a lengthy immersion in suds or, if it’s your thing, Pinot Grigio. Well, I’m sad to report there’s no Coors Banquet left in this house, and high-falutin’ vino isn’t my style.

What got my mind working overtime last night wasn’t proudly American hooch, but a chance visit to a local GM dealer — one where I’d hoped to stumble upon a unicorn. As rare as a backbone in politics, this mythical creature regularly fills my thoughts, leading me on a (so far) fruitless voyage of discovery. I’m talking about a base model Chevrolet small car.

Obviously, it’s not a situation unique to General Motors. Nissan emblazons the ($9,988) base price of its Canadian-market Micra across the front of many dealers around here, and I think I’ve seen a single example in the wild. Nearly all buyers throw an extra few grand at Nissan for the SV trim — power windows and doors, A/C, etc — and most do it because there’s no S models on the lot and they’re easy targets for upselling.

If only I had the means of creating my ideal car company from the ground up, I thought…

This fantasy came to life after a salesman told me he didn’t have a single Cruze L (or LS) on the lot — the second time I’d heard that yesterday. People just don’t buy them, he explained, but when one does show up, it isn’t around for long. A victim of its own unpopularity and popularity, I suppose. As for off-lease models, those seem to go straight to the auction, ending up in someone’s driveway south of the border, instead of my local pre-owned lot.

No wonder the manual transmission’s dying off.

Poor base Cruze? Poor me. I’m the victim here. I have no want for a sunroof or automatic transmission, and though I like the idea of a basic suite of driver aids — blind spot monitoring and a backup camera would be sufficient — I’m not married to the prospect. I remember my first airbag.

So, if the automaker and its dealers don’t want buyers choosing the lowest-profit trim, why not make it yourself? Low Margin Motors, I call my fictional car company. Yes, it would cater to cheapskates like myself, people who shun excess in their automobiles and pray at the altar of the lowest MSRP. Something Lada-esque, only with crashworthiness on par with the industry average.

Yes, at Low Margin Motors, you can strip your car right down to the barest of bones. Vinyl front bench? It’s there. No-nonsense, Fiat 124 of yesteryear-like sedans with basic power pulled from some other automaker’s parts bin? Check. A stick shift of five or six speeds? Not hard to find. It needn’t be something out of the Soviet Union, either — there’d be fun colors, a nod towards classic proportions, and an honest freshness enlivening these spartan products.

Hipsters would go wild. Those who haven’t eloped permanently with their bikes, anyway.

And to make it all work, I’d base my operations in Canada, where massive government subsidies for factory builds and retooling are the norm. Ontario seems like a good spot, maybe somewhere just across the river from Detroit or Buffalo, where progressive types gasp in horror at “business-friendly” tax climates, but whistle merrily past the hypocrisy stand when their preferred party instead hands over hundreds of millions in taxpayer cash to already hugely profitable businesses in order to “preserve” jobs. Ask Toyota how that feels. (Answer: It feels good!)

The company’s cars would be low-rent, sure, but the company’s margins would have outside help. Clearly, I’ve created a monster. Adam Tonge suggested my country simply nationalize the Chevy Cruze L instead, but no one wants to mimic Britain in the ’70s. Instead, my company would go only part of the way towards that dreary vision, making myself — now hopelessly corrupted — stinking rich in the process.

So, what’s your grand plan to dodge the dealer and have it your way?

[Image: General Motors]

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2 of 63 comments
  • El scotto El scotto on May 08, 2018

    In the name of all that is holy; just no! I do realize that heaters were optional at one time but just "NO" to this cheapie car. Do you all really want to return to cold n slow VW bugs or Toyota/Honda before they became suburban acceptable? Since it gets dinosaur melting hot in many places in the US (and you work in an office) do you want to be known as "Mr. Sweatstain" to your coworkers? Do you really desire a car that will leave you in pain after an 8-10 hour trip. Like most people, you'll be financing this wretched thing for 48 to 60 months. Gimme AC, heated/cooled seats and a nav system thank you very much.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 08, 2018

    You are going to an extreme suggesting most of the comments on this site are endorsing no heater and no air conditioning in a vehicle. Can you name any vehicles today that come without a heater and air conditioning. There is a happy medium between no heater and air conditioning and a computer on wheels with every known option available. Maybe a vehicle without power everything and not costing more than many earn. Most of the vehicles I have bought have been compromises but they are compromises I can live with. Not too crazy about appliance white but I like silver and if the vehicle had most of what I wanted on it and it were white then I would probably buy it anyway--I still have magnets from my last refrigerator that I had to post notes on a refrigerator white vehicle. There is a thing called the internet which one can use to search for a vehicle that is closest to what you want. I don't expect a custom made vehicle with colors and options not offered on a specific vehicle. Maybe you need to take a chill pill.

  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.
  • El scotto Y'all are overthinking this. Find some young hard-charging DA seeking the TV limelight to lock this kid up. Heck, have John Boehner come up from Cincy to help the young DA get his political career going. Better yet, have the young DA spin this as hard as he or she can; I'm the candidate for Law and Order, I defied our go-easy office and leadership to get this identified criminal locked up. Oh this could be spun more than a hyper active kid's top.Now I'd do some consulting work for Little Kings Original Cream Ale and Skyline Chili.
  • El scotto Pondering if he has a clean brandy snifter. Well but, ah, I mean the original Grand Wagoneer was fully loaded and had a V-8. The original Grand Wagoneer had an almost cult-like following with a certain type of woman. Attractive, educated high earning women; or those that put on the appearances of being that way.Our esteemed HerR DOKtor Perfessor again shows how ignorant he is of the American market. What he deems "bread-vans on stilts" are highly coveted by significant others that are also highly coveted. The new Grand Cherokee with the new well engineered V-6 will sell as well as the ones from the 80s some of us get wistful over. The only real question will be: LL Bean or Orvis edition?
  • El scotto Well, I've had cats that are smarted than a great many members of congress. I rather doubt that any of the congresspeople Matt named are engineers, finance people or project managers. Ya know, professionals you call in to get a job done.Today is Wednesday, this will be out of the 36 hour news cycle by Friday. Oh it might get mentioned again on OCT 6. Unless there are cute animals to put on TV that day.
  • El scotto Oh My Good Lord Yes! Gents, this is a Caddy that carries on the soul of Caddy. Loud, brash, and apologetically American. Also large and in charge and one of GM's best evah engines. What used to be a flash roll is now bottle service.Can't deal with that reality? There are plenty of excellent SUVs/CUVs on the market. I'm a former Escape owner. The Escape was a sensible lil CUV, this Caddy is just way over the top.Canyon carver? Not a chance, this is based on a Silverado frame. Easy to park? Toss the valet the keys. Will some of the other high-end SUVs have better "soft touch" materials that make car journalist get tingly all over? Of course.This Caddy is designed to eat up huge and I mean huge amounts of American interstate miles. Four people and their luggage? Easily.