By on May 8, 2018

Image: General Motors

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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63 Comments on “QOTD: A Car Company to Call Your Own?...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I’d try to get localized 4Runner production going to bring down costs, and hopefully find an American manufacturer for the frames that knows a thing or two about rust-proofing. Offer extra oil undercoating options at all dealerships, offer as an annual reapplication service. I’d offer a stripped down base trim like Subaru did for a bit with the WRX “TR” (Tuner Ready?): steel wheels, no infotainment, manual seats, maybe go to the extreme and offer a model with manual front hubs, conversely also offer a model with multi-mode 4wd (2Hi, 4Hi fulltime, 4Hi part time, 4 low part time) that I’m sure Toyota has sitting on the shelf. On the bare bones model cut the ATRAC and other electronic aids (optional as a package) and put that money into having the rear locker as standard instead. Much like Toyota offers stripped down Fortuners and Land Cruisers and such overseas. I’d figure out what it would take to convince Toyota to stick the FJ’s/Taco’s 6spd manual in said 4Runner. Maybe substitute the thin and vulnerable painted plastic bumpers with a factory option of steel/aluminum bumpers, and/or offer that stripped out variant with thicker unpainted black plastic as standard. Tempting as it might be, I’d stay the hell away from diesels given current emissions-related reliability issues.

    Maybe under the same banner of rough and tumble SUVs I’d give some thought to what sort of crossovers might be adapted and marketed under this same function over form line of vehicles. Basic Rav4 with a minor lift kit and skid plates and transmission cooler maybe? Like a Rav4 Adventure but cheaper and more functional. Not sure if there’s a business case for something like the Diahatsu Terios? Federalizing some other overseas Toyota 4WD goodness? Maybe buy some Armada SVs from Nissan and package them with the overseas factory locking rear diffs and disconnecting swaybars we miss out on. Perhaps the Kia K2700 marketed to farmers and landscapers.

    I’m sure my business would fail miserably as it would cater to a very specific niche that I have selfishly created in my own head lol

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      2nd obvious one: Offer a Land Cruiser 200 that does not cost $85k. Maybe also a “Modification ready” model with steel wheels and unpainted bumpers for $45k to the overlanding crowd and a decently equipped but not loaded to the hilt variant with nice velour seats for $55-60k? Perhaps it would be packaged with the GX460’s smaller 4.6L V8. Likewise figure out how to localize production to bring down cost. Tahara is an absolutely world class plant, but the cost is just too darn high!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yet another idea: dust off The Xterra line and start selling it as is for starters, but look into putting in even some basic investments into modernizing it. Namely switching to a 5 link coil sprung rear axle which is really not that difficult. Focus on a few improvements to some extra noise insulation and stick some seats out of a Rogue or something in it (Xterra/Frontier seats kind of suck). Given the sunk cost in the platform, explicitly set the price right in the thick of Rav4s and CRVs and Foresters and pick up sales from folks that see the Xterra as standing out as a tough SUV and not just another soft CUV (put ads out comparing it to some feckless CUV stuck in the snow or mud).

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Like the XTerra but might prefer the XTrail. Whenever one comes into the local Nissan dealership, the techs buy it right away. One of the most reliable vehicles of its era.

          Regarding base models, I am old enough to remember when you could purchase a stripped down/base model full size Chev or Ford sedan.

          That is almost what I would like now. No frippery and limited electronic frills. Manual seats, manual windows, manual door locks, dials rather than ‘touch’ controls, cloth seats, perhaps even rear drum brakes. Add in the basic electronic nannies in ABS/ESC/traction control, Bluetooth, manual A/C, and hypocritically power mirrors, multi speed wipers, cruise and heated front seats.

          But that would disrupt the production process and probably add cost, so I am not expecting those types of vehicles to return to the market.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I think the only reason we don’t have 4.0 V6- or 4.6 V8-powered 200 series is CAFE. It’s the sort of vehicle that really has to be volume limited, and the best way to limit volume is a high price.

        That said, even if it were built in the US I have a hard time seeing a 200 series under $50k. There’s a whole lot of steel in that car!

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I would buy any of those stripped down SUVs – and the same goes with pickups. The Toyota T100 I once had was ideal – cloth seats, factory “lifted”, and rock solid reliable. Just make it more rust proof!

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    Wow. A simple car. Maybe spend the money on a little better suspension. Create a healthy aftermarket for those wanting to add some individuality.
    I present to you…the BMW 2002, circa 1970.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I like your idea of a back-to-basics car. One of the saddest things about the industry nowadays is the demise of the low-priced full-size sedan, a once-lofty perch inhabited by the Impala since before I was born. Now we have the European price structure, where more size=more content=high price.
    I would make your cheap sedan Impala-sized and oh yeah, electric. In addition to charging, the battery pack would be hot-swappable so you could take it across the country.
    It would have A/C but crank windows and no leather. And plastic body panels.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      You can walk into just about any Toyota dealership in America and drive out in a Camry LE for $18-20k (real transaction price not MSRP) that embodies what the Impala used to be about: a roomy, reliable, no frills American made sedan that gets the job done, dependably and for a reasonable price. A Biscayne in 1962 with very few options was $2500 in 1962 dollars. That’s almost $21k in today’s money. That’s with sticky vinyl seats, no A/C, not even power steering or perhaps even a heater. And it will be lucky to make it 100k on the original drivetrain, and not have rust-through in the body panels by year 5.

      Same logic applies to the current Impala LT and Malibu and just about any other mainstream midsize/fullsize sedan in basic trim. I just picked Camry as the best seller and most pedestrian.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike Beranek

        Point taken, sometimes I wonder if the Camry will be the only sedan sold in the US in a couple of years. You can also get an Accord, Altima, Sonata, or Mazda 6 in low-rent trim, but they’re all not quite full sized. The Avalon, Cadenza, and Maxima are all bigger than their brethren but don’t come in cheap trim. Same for SUVs, back in the day my buddy had a mid ’70’s Suburban with zero options whatsoever, no power anything, rubber mat floors, seats out of a school bus. There hasn’t been a Suburban like that since the ’90’s.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Honestly the Sonata and Passat can probably go toe to toe with any one of the fullsizers you listed for leg and trunk room. IMO the bigger issues that plague current sedans is them getting lower and lower to the ground in terms of clearance, getting stiffer riding with thinner tires that are more prone to damage, and worse head room and visibility from sloping roofs. For my next daily driver I’m specifically seeking out something old to drive on our battered roads so that I can have a cushy ride with some fat-sidewalled tires, and good visibility. Think A-body Cutlass Ciera or an old Camry.

          These days if you want those things that I listed you buy a crew cab halfton, and spend quite a bit more money to get there (compared to a $20k midsizer).

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I dunno if a F-150 XL SuperCrew V-6 2wd would be “quite a bit more”, and yes you can find them.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            John the cheapest RWD Supercrew XL F150 in the country right now on cars.com is listed at $25,989.

            The cheapest 2018 Camry LE in the US is actually listed at MSRP of $20,560. That’s right about 25% more money.

            Keeping it within the Ford family, I’m seeing several 2018 Fusions listed for $15k. The F150 is about 2/3 more expensive in that case.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    I’m with nlinesk8s–a 1970 BMW 2002 would be my top choice

    But I also could go for a simple VW Rabbit/Golf, Mark I or II

    And I’d have a 76 Chevy Pick-up with the old 250 straight six teamed up with a GM 5-spd from a 1995 Chevy pick-up, with power steering and brakes.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    For me it’s quite simple: If the dealership doesn’t have what I want and I can’t find one within a reasonable distance, I will order it from that dealership, accepting no substitutions. I’ve done it before, I will do it again.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Gotta agree with Vulpine here , I know it is not the US buyers way, not sur about up north but order what you want/need from the factory and wait for it. Now if the VW factory would have let me order a GTI w a Pano sun roof and plaid interior, I very well may be driving one today But they do not allow that, but that quest is for another day.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Seth, I’m assuming you’re in the US. For the 2018 model, VW will now sell you the GTI you want. This was a deal breaker for me when I bought a new car 2 years ago. Looks like we both wanted the same car (sunroof + plaid seats), which they offered in Canada at the time out of the same Mexican factory, but not in the US. Now that I can finally get what I want, I’m reconsidering it (but not sure about trading in my other car).

        • 0 avatar
          seth1065

          I am in the US and did not know for 18 you can get that GTI, will file that away for next car purchase, thanks TMA1

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          And for ’18 VW will no longer sell me the GTI that *I* want, which is plaid seats, big brakes, VAQ diff, and keyless entry and go, but *NO* sunroof. Luckily they did in ’17, the Sport, and I bought one.

          But had they still offered the Sport in ’18, I might well have been tempted to trade my boring white one for a pretty green one, with the bonus of the doubled basic warranty.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Give that boring white one a skin job. For a couple thousand, you get any color you want in a variety of finishes from full matte to full mirrored. You can also get custom-printed skins, too, to really style-up that GTI and make it look exactly the way you want it to.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Gotta agree with Vulpine here , I know it is not the US buyers way, not sur about up north but order what you want/need from the factory and wait for it. Now if the VW factory would have let me order a GTI w a Pano sun roof and plaid interior, I very well may be driving one today But they do not allow that, but that quest is for another day. I do not know how the deals work and I am sure dealers are not thrilled to do this but if they make money at the service counter , they should do this.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I’ve wanted to do that, but you get HOSED.

      For example, when I bought my truck, I got it $14,800 under MSRP.

      I really wanted to order my truck to get exactly what I wanted, but I couldn’t get anyone to give me more than a few K off.

      so $10-12,000 premium just for the setup I wanted? I’ll pass.

      I wish ordering was easy, but I’ve never seen anyone get more than a few thousand off when ordering, and sometimes dealers won’t take anything off.

      I wanted to buy a Chevrolet SS, but no way was I paying sticker. So instead of letting me order what I wanted, they ordered a white automatic… then wondered why I didn’t want to buy it (insert eye roll).

      Some day I hope to be rich enough to order the car, but a few thousand dollars is unfortunately “too valuable” to me right now to do it :(

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’d be willing to pay MSRP to get an ordered car.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          It depends on the car and the dealer.

          I find I often want a certain trim level of a vehicle and then almost no other options. Those are usually scarce on dealer lots.

          (Example, my wife was happy with a Terrain SLE with no options but everyone at the dealer and nearby dealers had SOMETHING extra on it. Extra cost paint option, tow package [which is just a hitch and wiring], stereo upgrade… SOMETHING)

          Naturally most dealers want to sell you what’s in stock because it moves the metal they already have.

          Basically it comes down to a cooperative dealer AND depends on how far out of your way you as the customer are willing to go.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          But would you really, knowing that the difference between MSRP, and driving a similar one off the dealer’s lot, would be a 5-figure difference? That’s how it usually goes with trucks, at least.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            There are some discounts a dealership cannot ignore. That works to my advantage. When it comes to trucks, since I wouldn’t buy a full-sized truck brand new for ANY price, it really doesn’t matter to me. Meanwhile, I’ll just wait and see what I can do when the Ford Ranger hits showrooms.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Maybe. Depends how “similar” it is I guess. If the only difference was a bedliner then that wouldn’t be a deal breaker. But color, engine, cab configuration, drive wheels, and things like that would be.

            Either way, I definitely wouldn’t “settle” on something.

            Generally, I’m in agreement with Vulpine on this. I’ll either (A) get 99.9% exactly what I want from dealer stock, (B) custom order and swallow the extra cost, or (C) don’t buy anything.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        To get what I want, I’m willing to pay a little more. I custom ordered my Jeep JK and my Saturn Vue before that. I don’t like settling for what’s on the lot if it’s over-equipped or simply a color I don’t like. Yes, I’m an American but I’ve always been of the belief that you get what you pay for and pay for what you get. I’d rather pay more for what meets both my wants and needs than over- or under-pay for things you don’t want or lacks what you need. I’ve done well with some few off-the-lot purchases, but with dealerships operating the way they do today, they tend to top-load with “popular” models and colors rather than offering any real choice.

        Oh, and if there’s a factory incentive that does NOT include the words, “from dealer stock”, then they have no choice but to include that rebate. You might get lucky and find “close enough” through a little local research or dealer trading and get more off, but if it isn’t “close enough” to meet your needs and wants, then go ahead and order. I did that with my Saturn Vue in particular and put over 130,000 miles on it with no significant out-of-warranty repairs… unlike those who settled for the Honda drivetrain.

        • 0 avatar
          arach

          To me it would matter on if it offered “enough” value to me.

          or example, maybe I don’t want to pay for a tow package and heated seats… but the tow package and heated seats is $30,000 marked down from $44,000.

          However if I order it without tow package and heated seats, its $38,000 marked down from $40,000.

          I’d rather have those extra features and save $8,000 than to not have those features and pay an extra $8,000.

          Whats tempted me is color though. I want the bright green ram, and maybe I would pay $8000 more to get the bright green ram over an ugly black one or something, but again, $8000 is INTENSE, and I’d typically just settle for black as opposed to paying an extra $8000 for the color I want.

          I tend to buy cars only when I get a steal… a new 2007 in 2009, a massively marked down car thats a couple of years old, a weird color that knocks the price down big time… So the “premium” to get what I really want is huge.

          Some day though I hope to… its cool to drive what I really want, but typically my “needs” prevail over the “wants”.

          The rationalization I normally have is I don’t want to pay for extras I don’t value, but normally when they knock off the price of those extras, its competitive to ordering without them to start with.

          Also as far as incentives are concerned, at least with chevy, the incentives all have “Must be delivered by” dates. If it takes 3 months to custom order an SS, you don’t know what the incentives will be when it is delivered, and they won’t honor incentives that are expired. It might be different on other OEMs.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            FYI I can’t remember the last time I found an incentive or rebate that didn’t say “MUST TAKE DELIVERY FROM DEALER STOCK BY XX/XX/XXXX”.

            My irritation is that for a guy like me I don’t want the “no options stripped” model but I want the “mid-range” package with NO OPTIONS. You’ll find a XLT or SLE or Essence on dealers lots but then they’ve got enough options on the sticker to raise the price above the next trim level up. Sorry I don’t want a sunroof or 10 different drivers aides. If I did I’d buy a Lariat or SLT or Premium not lard up a middle of the road model.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I’d rather not start from the $44K MSRP in the first place. I have yet to buy anything with an MSRP over $32K.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    If I was a big billionaire (more than 50b) who wanted to throw away half his wealth and had no moral urge to spend on a better cause, I will invest in your company and lose all of it.

  • avatar

    I’d totally be a Low Margins customer. Basic, honest-to-goodness cars are my thing, and I find myself increasingly disinterested in today’s cars. I still have yet to own a car with a backup camera, and my first car with ABS wasn’t until 2015.

    I also only buy manual transmissions and gravitate toward base trims. Power windows? I’m not lazy enough to crank. Electronic driving nannies? My flip phone keeps me focused on the road with no distractions. Sunroof? Just another way to fry my pasty white skin.

    But this does pose an issue when buying a car, most recently my ‘15 Sonic. Chevy dealers would have a row of Sonics, but with a manual? “Oh, we never have those”. And if they did, it was a generic silver or white colour that screams “I’ve given up on life!” Finally found a mid-trim LT (the cruise control for longer trips was a selling point over the LS) in blue with manual that they were desperate to get off the lot. A victim of its own obscurity.

    I cringe at what my next car will be, and plan to keep the Sonic for at least a decade

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      Use the internet ! My last new car was purchased with the help of cars.com . I made a list of options that I wanted and options that I did not want on the model I wanted. They found me the exact car that I wanted in a couple of colors and I chose the one that I liked. There are many other services that will do the same thing for you.don’t settle for a car you won’t like. Life is too short.

  • avatar
    Sam Hall

    My 2012 Focus annoyed me with its large and intrusive center console, but it occurred to me that the same interior could work for a similar-size rear drive car. Call it a Scorpio, with similar styling to the Focus, but (obviously) a longer hood, shorter overhang, and a slightly more upright windshield. The base engine could be the 1.5 Ecoboost, which would go great with a 5- or 6-speed stick in a 3200lb car, or option up to the 2.3 Ecoboost from the Mustang, with appropriate boy racer wheel and styling changes.

    With that model, and maybe a midsize version on the same architecture (the “FF”, for Ford Five?) and plenty of customization options, my shop would cater to all five or six buyers who fondly remember the BMW E30, Alfa GTV etc and are willing and able to commit to a modern version that, unlike the 2-series, isn’t a loaded full-size luxury car squeezed down to 5/8 size with the volume and weight for the features coming out of the passengers’ knee and shoulder room.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    You could make hundreds of dollars with this idea.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      CUSTOMERS WOULD NUMBER IN THE 10’s I TELL YA!

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        They all hang out on TTAC, so at least the marketing costs would be low.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        No, this is a good idea. Not having a huge Corporate Headquarters filled with costly Executives is a good idea. But you would need a building full of Government Compliance minions, and hopefully some good engineers and technicians to build prototypes, and then you need dealers. And on LOW profit margins I assume. Does that mean low wages, like Wal Mart ? And unhappy dealers ? Perhaps you could sell only online and direct. It could be done. But would it succeed ? I don’t know. Could a crowd fund or kickstart raise enough money ? Need to study up on Bricklin and others. Hmmm…

  • avatar
    seth1065

    The one issue I see with most of your low cost customers who want cars from yesterday , BMW 2002 … is a little thing called safety standards, I doubt most folks would want your new 2002 unless it had air bags, abs brakes … and could pass crash test. I think as some have pointed out the low tech cars are out there but you gotta work way to hard to find them. What we really need is a list of car dealer sales folks who will order what the factory can make (IE Cruz L) but we almost never see on a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      nlinesk8s

      I wasn’t actually suggesting going backwards in time car-wise, but that an attractive lower-tech car with good handling would actually sell.

      That means your “cars so ugly people will automatically upsell” Plymouth Neon wouldn’t be it.

      I can’t help but wonder what another company would have done with the Mini, instead of BMW’s designed-in low reliability, plastic cooling parts, and oil leaks.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @nlinesk8s: I’ve also wondered about that over the years. I’m no huge Mini (MINI) fan, nor particularly enamored with Tata, but look what they did with Jaguar and Land Rover. IMO they rescued a pair of failing marques and have built them back up to a respectable status.

        If Tata could have applied their knowledge to Mini (and not the burning Nanos, either) like they did to JLR, I think it would be a bigger hit than it already has become.

      • 0 avatar

        Compared to the modern Cruze in the picture at the top, the Plymouth Neon looks like an Audi A8. The old Cruze looked way better. With glass in the area of the d-pillar, it would be a near-classic. The new one has terrible proportions, and looks cheaper than the Cavelier ever did.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    I’d try my hand at exporting Skodas, Seats, and certain Volkswagens to the U.S. — they should pass all the legal hurdles easily, someone just needs to have them tested, I believe. Things like a Polo, an Octavia, a Leon, a T-Roc, or even an Up. And since they’d come from Europe (or Mexico), of course there’d be wagons, manuals, AWD, and both smaller and bigger engines available than what you can get from VWoA. (Diesels, probably not.) Also, T6 Kombis (utilitarian passenger vans), Caravelles (luxury passenger vans), and campers. And Amaroks, with the V6 TDI!

    And maybe, on the way back, some Atlases, Jettas, and US Passats would find a home over here as well. Otherwise, I can always use the space for classic cars like that junkyard Super Beetle.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I’m thinking a redo of an early 90’s Toyota, Ranger, Nissan pick up. 2wd is the base offering. 4 mil up front coupled to a 5 or 6 MT, manual windows, bench seat with no AC. Sliding rear window, cloth, radio, and 4WD are the lone upgrades available.

    White, Black, Red, Gray are the color choices. The most useful vehicle ever made.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I drive this to work every day lol, right down to the no-AC (inop at the moment). Mine’s a ’94 Ranger XLT in Medium Aubergine metallic (read: purple), 2.3 Lima+5spd, RWD, reg cab, 7 foot bed. XLT gives you cloth trim with a center folding arm rest, power steering, alloy wheels, rear window slider, a stereo, and A/C. ’94 also means no airbags unfortunately. I paid $2000 this spring for it with 106k miles on the clock. Been a good worker/commuter so far although I will say you do get a bit burned out commuting in the thing for a long time, and I’m planning on selling mine in time for winter to get into some sort of cheap FWD sedan. It’s fun to zip around town in, a case of low power+5spd+rwd allowing you to have fun running it through the gears without breaking the law.

  • avatar
    arach

    There’s the BMW dealer in florida that stocks all the weird colors, and has an awesome niche… dealers order them from that dealer from all over the country, so they build a successful niche off it.

    I thing LowMarginMotors would work. I think the big issue is that the average car like your talking about has a 0 to negative gross. They only make money by upselling people, financing, and aftermarkets. Well the type of person like you who really wants the base, isn’t going to buy that stuff, so the dealer will LOSE money on you. Therefore to make money, they need to mark it up $1000. So now your paying $17,975 for your base cruze, but another dealer can sell an LS for $17,500 knowing that 95% of the buyers are going to buy other stuff, generating finance reserve, commissions, etc.

    So maybe your the one cheap skate they lose money on buying an LS. Oh well, that stinks for them… but they KNOW they are going to lose money on the L, so they don’t stock it.

    If your really SO CHEAP you want the base car and you can’t be upsold- YOUR NOT WORTH THE DEALERS TIME.

    Now if I had my own dealership, I would do what that BMW dealer does but with Manual Transmission cars. I would focus on DEALER TO DEALER sales, being the one dealership that has the sporty sedans customers want. I’d import (legally as CPOs), Manual Transmission Mazda GTs into the US from Canada to resell. I’d stock Manual Diesel Transmission Chevrolet Cruzes. The take rate for many of those cars in a manual is only 5%, but no one stocks them anymore, so I can be the niche dealership that does, supplying all the others when someone walks in demanding them!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      BMW dealers order from another dealer?? That makes no sense at all. BMW builds every single car they build to order (dealer or end customer makes no difference to the mothership) – if a customer wants some weird combination, as long as it is allowed in the market BMW will cheerfully build it for them. And sometimes they will build a combination that isn’t normally allowed. They don’t even play games with the incentives on orders.

      There are certain things that dealers aren’t allowed to order for stock though, my wagon has both interior and exterior colors that were special order only in 2011

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        Yeah! There’s a BMW dealer in california (Not florida, sorry) that special orders all the wild specialty colors. A lot of buyers aren’t going to wait 3 months for some custom build BMW, so they supply BMWs around the country.

        The dealership is called “Century West BMW”.

        you can see some of the cars here:
        https://carbuzz.com/news/this-is-the-secret-to-ordering-a-bmw-in-any-color-on-the-planet

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          3 months? Unless you are talking about the latest M-whatever (in which case dealer allocations are an issue) it’s about six weeks to the east coast for a special order BMW, faster if it is made in SC. Wouldn’t be much quicker to get it from CA unless you fly out and drive it home. Those guys are catering to the fashion-victim market. Anyone can order one of those cars through any BMW dealer, probably with less markup, and less stupid carbon fiber crap glued on. But there are enough [email protected] in LA wanting “look at me” to make it a good business model for them.

          And only certain models are available in Individual colors anyway, for example the plant that builds 2-series doesn’t have the paint line to do it. Or I would have, just because I could. As I did with my 3-series, though technically that isn’t Individual, just special order only.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Whether you like it or not, krhodes, the Florida dealership’s idea is working. Believe it or not, there ARE people who prefer color on their cars, not conformative, monochromatic, effectively invisible transportation.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Having read the article now, all I can say is don’t believe everything you read, and how do you know a salesguy is lying? His lips are moving. Having friends who work at the BMW dealer, having special ordered a couple of BMWs myself, and having done the Munich factory tour and seen with my own eyes how the paint line works, I needed hip waders for a lot of what was in that article. Bullcrap 3′ deep.

          About the only true statement is that because they sell a lot of cars, they get a lot of allocations for the rare cars. Because that is how it works. But to get a custom color on a 328d that BMW builds hundreds of a day? GTFO about it being difficult. It’s just expensive, and any dealership in the land can do it for you. But very few of them would order such a thing for stock.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is silly, the reason there are very few hairshirt cars on dealer lots is nobody wants to buy a hairshirt car. Why would you? The difference in cost is minimal, and if it makes THAT much difference, just buy a 2yo nicer car.

    I am all for cheap and cheerful in theory, but reality is that in the modern regulatory environment you can’t do small light cars anymore anyway. And even when you do, you get everyone complaining about what awful, slow, unsafe tin boxes they are – see much-maligned around here Mitsubishi Mirage as prime example.

  • avatar

    Yugo.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’d want to develop a common component set for PHEV and BEV vehicles with hub motors and exploit the hell out of it. There are still plenty of segments where PHEV and BEV aren’t options at any price, and existing makers’ efforts feel very haphazard and one-off. Why isn’t GM exploiting the Bolt and Volt component sets, developed for billions, in the biggest segments? Same question for Hyundai and all the work it’s done to bring the Ioniq/Niro to market.

    Gas engines can be commodity engines of appropriate size purchased from Toyota, etc.

    I’d want to use my component set to build the following:

    1) Midsize two- and three-row BEV crossovers with 200 mi range and a world-beating AWD system for under $60k (2-row) and $70k (3-row). I think there’s a massive opportunity here that no one is seizing. Also sell a PHEV version of each size for a bit less. When the vehicle is proven and you can start taking cost out, then aim at a compact crossover for $50k in BEV form.

    2) Electric AWD ponycar. Put on summer tires and embarrass ZL1s or GT350s from a stoplight. If V8 roar is absolutely required in this segment then, fine, make it a PHEV with a V8.

    3) PHEV BOF vehicles (two sizes of SUV, a half-ton pickup, and a fleet van) with on-demand electric torque to each wheel and massively longer city or overland range. With hub motors you can make up a lot of the weight from the battery by lightening axles and diffs. I think it would be pretty easy to build a hub motor PHEV that would be a better off-roader than anything on the market today.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Simple Car Company LLC-PLC-WTH

    a two-car line up:

    a mid-2000’s 4-cyl. Honda Accord. a late-2000’s 4-cyl CRV. The only infotainment system would be an aux plug + usb power ports.

    I’d want a bigger SUV too. But that would need to be 6-cyl and outside the scope of Simple Car.

  • avatar
    TW5

    My car company would work simply, and would protect the purchasing power and consumer surplus of the average car buyer. It would work like this:

    Buyer comes into the dealership and asks for a Honda Civic with leather, sunroof, 18″ sport rims, full crash avoidance suite, etc. The buyer would be escorted to the dealer’s underground dungeon complex where he would be held until he agrees to purchase an Acura ILX.

    Now that no patricians are requesting $25,000 Civics, the value of base trims can be leveraged by buyers.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    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.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    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.

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