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.

  • Fahrvergnugen NA Miata goes topless as long as roads are dry and heater is running, windscreen in place.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic As a side note, have you looked at a Consumers Report lately? In the past, they would compare 3 or 4 station wagons, or compact SUVs, or sedans per edition. Now, auto reporting is reduced to a report on one single vehicle in the entire edition. I guess CR realized that cars are not as important as they once were.
  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.