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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