By on August 28, 2018

dealership

Serious question: What kind of experience do you need in order to write credibly about the automobile? If you were to ask some of the autojourno Boomers, they might tell you that the minimum requirement would be the career path followed by my time-and-again boss, Larry Webster: engineering degree, followed immediately by a magazine employment history that starts at “road warrior” and ends at “E-I-C of the most solvent color rag in the business”.

Some people would say that my boon companion Sam Smith did it right: college degree, time as a professional BMW mechanic, many years as a self-funded club racer in concert with his experienced and mechanically knowledgeable father. I’d like to argue for my own path: mildly successful car salesman, F&I experience with multiple captive finance firms, ground-floor experience with automotive tech and production, eighteen years of motorsports with a sack full of wins and lap records.

Ah, but these are means and not ends. They are how and not why. They detail the pathway by which expertise is acquired but they are not expertise themselves. If you read everything that Larry and Sam and I have written, you would know a major percentage of the things we know, and then you would be free to go forth and apply that knowledge to future situations. All you would need at that point would be an ability to write.

You could get by with less. LJK Setright was frequently dead wrong but I’d rather read his mistakes than labor through Csaba Csere’s researched conclusions. Gordon Baxter was not a great pilot and he was a worse driver. As a teenager, I read the work of gunwriter Jeff Cooper until I knew much of it by heart; years later, a mutual friend confessed to me that Cooper was only just competent with a .45 caliber pistol.

This is what you cannot be and still succeed, not if there is any justice in this world or the next: ignorant and proud of it, stupid yet blase about it, stilted in prose but unwilling to fix it. Which brings us to this week’s question.


Matt asks,

As a car guy, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of opportunities to complain about car manufacturers that won’t sell you a car with the manual transmission AND the big engine. Or even though they might have a gorgeous paint color available and an interior color you dig, they won’t let you configure a car that includes both.

It’s been this way (at least somewhat) as long I can remember, but the trend has certainly been for fewer and fewer individual options and more constraints by trim level, or “convenience” packages. Of course, the 1 percent of us who are car people want things configured just so, but normal people don’t tend to care.

…or so I thought. Recently I’ve heard several non-car people complaining about the packages they’re forced to choose from. One friend wanted the built-in back seat sunshades on his Pilot… but was appalled that it would require a $6,000 upgrade from the trim level that otherwise fit his needs. I’ve heard friends make similar complaints when buying Toyotas and Subarus recently, too.

Have the automakers gone too far in their quest to simplify production, inventories, etc? Is it time for the pendulum to swing a little bit the other way again, and maybe let someone get the built-in sunshades without the 47-speaker stereo? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

This is a good question, acknowledging as it does the realities of life while still offering a rational amount of hope for a better future. I’m less impressed by a conversation that is currently worming its way through the fourth-tier blogger-journo automotive Twitterati; it could be most economically rephrased as “F the dealers lolz.”

There is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the collapsing event horizon of automotive configuration, and there is a lot of pseudo-violent rhetoric aimed at the “stealerships” that are preventing YOU, the automotive enthusiast, from getting the car YOU want. It doesn’t help that not a single name in said conversation has ever taken possession of a new car with an MSRP above that of, say, a Camry LE. Nor does it help than most of them have never owned a new car. You might as well listen to their complaints about private jets, because they would have the same approximate grounding in reality.

Here’s the reality of the situation, a reality that I’ve conveyed many times in the past: Dealers, not civilians, are the real customers of the automakers. They buy the cars and they assume the multi-million-dollar liabilities and they buy all the stupid $200,000 service computers and they spend millions on adhering to the automakers’ ridiculous architectural guidelines. They take the risk and they reap the reward. Right now it’s pretty hard to not earn seven figures with a major franchise, but I can easily remember a time when dealers went bankrupt in droves. They are not banks. They are not too big to fail. They do not use union labor. They will never be bailed out by a blue wave.

A surprising number of dealership principals and executives are, in fact, passionate about cars. What they are not is stupid about cars. You might be willing to spend your celibate nights wrenching on some 25-year-old German shitbox because your time has a net value of zero, but the man who has proven himself worthy of managing a $100M floorplan — there are most certainly women who have done so, but I’ve never met or heard of one — is not going to waste his money the way you waste your time. He wants inventory that turns quickly at a reasonable profit. Period, point blank. Anything that doesn’t meet the previous criterion is useless to him. If you had his job, you would also choose to spend $50,000 of floorplan on a slot for an Explorer that turns 10 times a year at a net profit of $3k each time over a slot for a Mustang that turns twice a year at a net profit of $1k each time. To do anything else is to toss $28,000 into a fireplace and burn it.

The more options an automaker offers, the slower the inventory turns. Don’t blame me for this. It’s the law of the jungle. Weird-color cars turn slow, stick-shift cars turn slow, but worse than that is the “bad order” that comes from making poor choices when selecting dealership inventory. I can still remember the day in 1995 that my sales manager dealer-traded for an Explorer XLT without a sunroof. We had something the other dealer needed and we were doing them a favor because they’d done us favors in the past. When the Explorer arrived, my general manager walked out and looked at it. Then he walked back in and said to the sales manager, “Bobby (at the other dealership) was an idiot for ordering a 945A with no hole in the roof, but you’re a fucking idiot for taking it off his hands.”

We had that truck on the lot for half a year at a time when about half of our Explorers sold the week they rolled off the hauler. There was a real cost to that; our dealership had two small asphalt lots and every space was full.

So with that in mind, let’s get back to our question: Is it time for the pendulum to swing a little bit the other way again, and maybe let someone get the built-in sunshades without the 47-speaker stereo? The answer has to be this: The pendulum will swing if, in said swinging, it reduces the average time on lot of each unit. More correctly, it will swing if the dealers believe it will reduce that average time.

Earlier this week, my brother wrote a review of the Honda Pilot in which he discussed the absurdly low inventory time of said vehicle. As long as the Pilot stays hot, nothing’s gonna be done about that $6,000 mandatory upgrade for rear sunshades. If and when the Pilot cools off, then you’ll probably see Honda fuss with the model mixes a bit. They’ll do that by asking the dealers which units are stalling on lots and which are flying off. If the $6k upgrade units are stalling, they will unbundle the options a bit, or simply take some of them off the table.

An example of this, according to a conversation I had a while ago with an industry insider, would be the F-150 Platinum and F-150 King Ranch. Once upon a time, these vehicles had different visual style and vastly different equipment loadouts. The Platinum never met sales expectations, so Ford talked to the dealers. It turns out that while Ford saw the Platinum as a major step up over the King Ranch, the dealers thought that they were just the same truck aimed at two different demographics: Platinum for City Mouse (really, Suburb Mouse) and KR for Country Mouse. Using that mindset, the Platinum was a bad choice because it “made” the customer take more equipment that he might not want. Which impacted order volumes. So Ford realigned the two trim levels to dealer expectations, giving them very similar equipment choices but vastly different aesthetics. In 2018, the King Ranch and Platinum trims are just a few grand apart, and they get closer in price as you add the packages. Platinum volume is supposedly much better now.

So there’s some reality for you. What about the fantasy — that idea that if people just had a chance to buy stick-shift stripper models of INSERT UR FAVORITE CARZ HERE, success would be assured? Well, I chalk that up to youth as much as stupidity. These young blogosaurs weren’t around back when you could get every model of Accord with ONLY a stick shift. And they weren’t around when Honda reluctantly added crappy automatics at the explicit request of the dealers. And they weren’t around to see the automatic volume grow every year like kudzu in the South. And they were probably still looking at manga when dealer order volume for stick shift Hondas fell under ten percent. So they didn’t see the gradual nature by which dealers responded to the demands of their customers and what that meant for order mixes.

Really, all of their griping boils down to the idea that they know better than the people who actually buy the things. Which reminds me of a Frank Herbert quote from God Emperor of Dune: “Scratch a conservative and you find someone who prefers the past over any future. Scratch a liberal and find a closet aristocrat.” We have a lot of closet aristocrats out there in the blogosphere. What we don’t have is a lot of decent writers; but then again, how is the ability to write any more relevant for the automotive future than the ability to operate a clutch? When your audience has less than no experience with anything, what does it matter if you have merely none?

[Image: Faris/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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107 Comments on “Ask Jack: Bundled to Death?...”


  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I’ve accepted that I’ll never be able to get a new car configured EXACTLY as I want.

    Good thing I can turn a wrench and work a soldering iron.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’m not sure if I’m suppose to feel like a dumb car blog fan or a idiot consumer of cars, either way I feel I’ve just been taken to task no matter where I fall. If this piece was aimed at the constant complainers no matter if it’s cars, writers, politics, whatever who never put their money where their mouth is then it wasn’t necessary, because nobody pays attention to chronic whiners anyway

  • avatar
    ajla

    What if I was allowed to direct order the car, pay MSRP and wait 5 months for it to be delivered?

    The manufacturer sells a car, I get what I’m looking for, and the dealer doesn’t have to waste any time on a enthusiast buyer.

    It seems like a good idea, but any time it comes up industry people act like it would lead to the fall of society. If that’s the case then what’s the solution for someone that wants an orange car with a manual transmission and the base stereo? Just give up and buy a silver Explorer?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      How about “invoice”? Since invoice is readily available online I have to conclude that it is in fact a lie and has no bearing on reality and the true “cost to the dealer” is some thousands less.

      So how about I volunteer to pay invoice to custom order and wait for delivery?

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Go buy an manual transmission car with a base stereo and get it custom painted orange?

      Volume automakers won’t make bespoke (that is, each option individually selected to taste) car even if you are willing to pay MSRP and wait forever, their production line and systems are not set up for that.

      Spending several thousand for a custom color, as some automakers allow, is usually the best they can do.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The systems are set up for mix and match options more than they have ever been in the past, and in fact some options are just changing a 0 to 1 and for that the mfg gets a chunk of extra cash. A couple of great examples of that come from Ford and their option for fleet vehicles to have DRLs or Dark Mode where the dome light does not turn on with the door switches. You must be a fleet buyer to pay the extra $40 each for them to change a 0 to a 1 in a line of code in the lighting control computer.

        Back in the day they had several different wire harnesses for a car depending on which options you selected, today’s cars have one wire harness that fits all options that could be on a vehicle and the mounting holes are all there too.

        My Daughter is on the shorter side and her car did not come with the optional power pedals it also did not come with cruise control. However everything was there for those options. A trip to the pick-n-pull and less than $100 along with some of my time and she now has power pedals and cruise. All plug and play, the cruise took maybe 15 min to install and connect the servo/computer and swap the steering wheel. The power pedals were a bit more difficult because instead of providing a holder for the two wires that connect to the motor they taped it to the harness with strong tape and it was in a tough to reach area, the dash switch connector however was clipped into a dummy connector that was part of the dash trim.

        So the only reason they push you into higher trims to get a particular option is because they can and it is more profitable to sell you a $6000 package than a $600 stand alone option.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      But you can do that, my son’s friend who as adopted me as his stand in dad for automotive and a lot of general advice just ordered himself a new Wrangler with its manual transmission, leather seats and bright red exterior, including the additional cost body color roof. He was supposed to wait 6 months for it but apparently either demand has slowed significantly, or FCA figured out how to speed up the line and he got it after a 2 1/2 month wait.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        None of that is custom. Jeep readily offers manual Wranglers with leather seats and a body color roof, you can easily go to Jeep’s build and price tool and make one yourself. The Wrangler is one of the few vehicles where the manual transmission is not restricted to the base trim with zero options.

        2.5-3 month wait for a vehicle is typical for a vehicle in full and steady production.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I didn’t say it was “custom” just that he ordered it the way he wanted and FCA is willing to let you bundle the manual transmission with the nicer interior bits or the upscale exterior, and IF they wanted to other mfgs could do the same and FCA could do it with other vehicles.

          However as is the point of the article the dealer isn’t going to order that high trim model with the MT for fear it will sit on the lot.

          Yes a 2.5 month wait isn’t bad, but again you missed my point that they had quoted him a ~6 month wait time.

          As per the point of the article the dealer wants turns, like any retailer and they want to move the unit on the lot to meet those turn goals. The sales person also wants you to go home with a car today, because he is looking at how to pay his rent that is due in two weeks, not wait several months for the sale to complete so they can get paid. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they quoted that long delivery time to discourage ordering and encourage buying off the lot.

          • 0 avatar
            whynot

            Most manufacturers allow you to do that, but you are locked into the options packages and trims that the automaker has already defined.

            What the article means is, for example, if the sunroof is only available with the convenience package and I am only interested in the sunroof, why can’t I order the car with just the sunroof but not the convenience package? Automakers won’t usually do that for you.

            They likely quoted 6 months delivery time because they would rather be conservative (people are happy when they get the car earlier than expected, they get upset when things take longer than expected) and 2019 Wrangler production only just started earlier this year and has been ramping up (i.e. some options have late availability and there are always unanticipated production/supply snags with new vehicles) making guessing when the car will actually be produced much harder. Again they err on the side of caution.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @whynot it would be unusual to quote a longer delivery time than they are told to expect by the mfg, to err on the side of caution. The cases of people waiting much longer for their order are much more commonly heard, and that is probably because the salesman knows it takes a minimum of 12 weeks to get that model but tells the customer 8-12 to make it more palatable. If they are telling them a longer time it is almost certainly an attempt to get the person to buy off the lot so they can get paid today.

            Of course the new Wrangler was in its early stages of production so yes it would be more unpredictable than most because of that.

            However you are all missing the point and that is that it is possible for the mfg to make many more configurations and make them to order IF they want to.

            However as Jack pointed out the dealer and their business model make it impractical to do so in most cases. The fact that most buyers would rather go home today with something that is close and enough are willing to get the package to get the one item they wasn’t doesn’t help either.

            Fact is until the mid 70’s more often than not a US mfg car was built to the customer’s specifications. Dealers didn’t floor plan a massive number of vehicles, they stocked a few in popular configurations for the immediate buyer and the salesmen had demonstrators for the test drive. Then you sat down with the salesman and checked the boxes to build the car you wanted.

            There were a number of reasons for the switch, but it was GM who marked the switch in operating models in their advertising. Oldsmobile’s tag line changed from “Can we build one for you?” to “We’ve built one for you.”

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “However you are all missing the point and that is that it is possible for the mfg to make many more configurations and make them to order IF they want to.”

            how much more are you willing to pay for the car?

            look, the way GM did things up through the ’70s works “OK” when your entire lineup is built on 1 or 2 platforms, every brand has basically one carline, and you have >50% marketshare. That’s no longer the case. the market is too saturated and too slim-margin for anyone producing mass-market vehicles to burn up margins on “a la carte” options. Especially now since much of the industry has gone to lean/just-in-time production.

            sorry, that’s the way it is. cars are commodities now. That’s the way they’re built, and that’s the way most buyers approach them.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      ajla –

      Taking out the ridiculous ‘franchise laws’ that prevent this, the manufacturers really don’t want it. The factory invoices for that car the moment it’s loaded onto a truck or train. At that point, it’s the bank/dealer’s liability, the factory gets the cash and keeps on crankin’ out vehicles.

      Cash flow is king – and automakers live and die based on the extraordinarily large amount of capital required to keep the plant operating. BMW’s 3-series lease volumes are crucial to keeping the factory line running at capacity, and thus the cost structure under control.

      If the automakers start selling direct, it’s not to say that it couldn’t work, but the addition to their cost structure would be significant. There’s a reason why “special order colors” often cost more – it’s not just the paint, it’s the fact that your special order necessitates a complete change up to the system that runs like a finely honed watch.

      There is a tendency to equate automobiles to iPhones or iMacs, that can be configured online, custom built, and delivered in 24-48 hours. It just doesn’t work the same way.

      Now, I would love the ability to have an automobile custom ordered and delivered, and I’d likely be willing to wait even a few weeks for it. But I suspect that once again, the people taking this option will be on the margins. Back in my day of selling cars, I’d say that 90% of customers bought of of the lot, 5% were trades, and 5% were ordered specific (Subaru).

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Personally, I want to be able to buy a new car as a kit and build it myself.

      Here’s how this would work.

      You’d pay up front for all the parts – no labor charge to assemble it, obviously – and you’d be allowed to go through the factory’s parts storage areas with a giant list of absolutely every last part, nut & bolt you need to assemble the complete car.

      When you’ve gathered all the parts, they load them up into a big crate and drive it to your house in the truck whose usage is included in the price of the car kit. Then, have at it.

      Obviously, you don’t get a warranty – but you do get a big book of instructions.

      You get painted bodywork, but you’re on your own for things like welding and sealant application.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      When I bought my Wrangler in 2016 it seemed that my local Jeep dealership was happy to accommodate custom orders and was well versed in the process. This didn’t mean custom colors and the like but I could, for instance, have ordered a base model in any offered color, with steel wheels, manual trammission, limited slip diff, better AT tires, hard top, and the premium audio package. The Toyota dealership just laughed when I asked about custom ordering a 4Runner.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Toyota is one of the few automakers where dealers can’t easily place custom orders direct from the factory. Southeast Toyotas are still distributed by a separate company.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      That’s how much of European countries’ customers buy their new cars: order the car, wait 5 months (between 2-7 months, in some countries people patiently wait more than 7 months for a Skoda…). But they don’t have to pay everything upfront, and they get to drive around in their trade-in until they take delivery.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The problem with that, ironically, comes from consumer protection laws in most states.

      Regardless of what a dealer might tell you, there is no such thing as a nonrefundable deposit on a car you haven’t driven off the lot. That applies to FULL PURCHASES as well. You aren’t sold until you are rolled.

      So you could pay anything from $100 to MSRP ahead of time for that bright-purple stick-shift Yukon Denali but when it comes you have the option to walk away with your money, period point blank, and the dealer takes it in the shorts.

      Most of the dealers I know will not consider an order of any type unless it comes from an established customer with a 750 beacon and a record of paying for his purchases.

      We haven’t even gotten into the nightmare of “pre-appraising” trades or “pre-clearing” credit for purchases that are five months out.

      With that said, Audi extended me precisely that courtesy in 2008 for my green Audi S5. I ordered, they built it, I showed up, I paid, I left.

      But they won’t do it again, and I know because I asked.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        Couldn’t they just require someone to pay full price up front before going ahead with the order?

        It’s not ideal, but it’d save the dealer’s bacon and prove the customer was serious.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          As Jack said though, the payment is non binding. So you can up front for a ridiculous car, the dealer places the order, and then in the time before dealer you can change your mind and you get your money back and the dealer is still stuck with the unsellable car.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          OneAlpha –

          Yeah, but like Jack said: until you roll off the lot, you can back out. Consumer protection, and all.

          This all ties back to Jack’s point about dealers focusing on turning a profit. Put yourself in the dealer’s shoes: it’s your money on the line, are you *really* going to go out on a limb for the one or two sales per year that may very well leave you with something unsaleable?

      • 0 avatar
        nifticus

        Maybe it’s different here in Canada, but I walked into a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership and custom-ordered a Challenger Scat Pack. No sunroof, no navigation, no blind-spot warning. Base stereo. Cloth interior, 6-speed manual, shaker hood and Go Mango Orange.

        The dealer was fine with it. I gave a $500 fully refundable deposit. Got the car twelve weeks later.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Nicely written. And a good explanation that my father’s new (company) car every year from 1953 (the earliest I can remember) thru 1965 (when he left the business) was whatever was the top of the line Chevy (Bel Air, Impala, Impala SS) 2-door hardtop with the biggest small block available with a two barrel carburetor and automatic (one Turboglide sent him back to Powerglide for the rest of his career).

    Because it was a guaranteed sale in the used lot within ten days of his putting it there and taking the new year’s model.

    The only exception was 1960 when he let his car crazy son talk him into an Impala convertible, same specs. Mother saw to it that that would never happen again, and it took a couple of months to move it.

  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    Bespoke cars would mean an increase in cost because of loss of factory synergies. Is the consumer ready to pay for that? Absolutely. Look at every other component of the modern consumer economy.

    The only barrier would be the dealer system. How are they gonna say “what will it take to get you in one of these Borregos today?” when their Borrego is still in pieces in the factory?

    The dealer network momentum is too strong for bespoke cars to happen anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Momentum, and franchise laws.

      But again, it’s a cost structure thing. Apple can stack an Apple Store, and warehouses, full of iPhones, floor to ceiling, with limited square footage. The dollar-per-square-foot calculation is off the chart for Apple – and they have an incredible turn rate, so inventory is very low. It’s virtually just-in-time delivery for consumer products.

      But the cost structure makes sense.

      Just in time delivery of automobiles – where ‘density of delivery’ won’t be the same, would be very different. Logistically, expensive.

      And again, in many cases, consumers DO have the opportunity of ordering the car. But when the dealership says, “you can order your car and have it in 4-12 weeks for $20,000; Or, you can take this slightly different color vehicle off of our lot today for $17,000” – a very large majority of buyers will take the second option.

      Custom order, from the factory perspective, is far easier to accomplish today than ever before – thanks to modern factory management software/logistics and organization. While I think that the dealer franchise laws are the biggest impediment to factory direct sales, I think that your point about momentum will relegate this option to just that – an option on the margins that you will have to pay a premium for.

      Regardless, I still wish it were an option.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        I don’t know where this notion that we can “look at every other component of the modern consumer economy” to see that people are willing to pay more for custom is coming from.

        Apple is a poor analogy, they don’t offer anywhere near the customization as cars. I can’t go and custom design (i.e. have any design or color on the phone backplate I want, with any preloaded apps I want or don’t want) and order a phone from Apple. I can go buy and buy an Iphone X that is either silver or grey with 64 GB or 256 GB. Other than that the phone I am ordering is exactly the same as all other iPhone Xs built and sold.

        Don’t confuse custom order with factory direct orders. Most manufacturers allow you to place an order direct with the factory through the dealer (although the dealer will often try and dissuade that so you pick something off the lot). But you are locked into the build options (colors. packages, trims, etc) that the manufacturer has defined. It is not truly “custom.”

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          whynot –

          I think you are right, in that a majority of people confuse “custom build” with what they really mean: “cutting out the dealership”

          I’d argue that the Apple analogy is actually accurate in that a large majority of users *think* that building a car and delivering it *should* be as easy as trading in last year’s iPhone for a new one. They *think* that just because you can custom configure a MacBook Pro with 8 or 16gb of RAM, with 256 or 512gb of SSD and a 2.6 or 2.9ghz processor – that the same applies to autos.

          Custom orders, as you say, sure do exist today. I’d love to see concrete numbers on the take rate for those, but if they’re even close to 5%, I’d be shocked.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes custom order is easier today that it ever was and yet we don’t have the option of 20 paint colors or in most cases any color on the interior. Of course it all boils down to the fact that today’s consumer wants instant gratification and the dealer and salesman want an instant sale.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          ” Of course it all boils down to the fact that today’s consumer wants instant gratification and the dealer and salesman want an instant sale.”

          you’re leaving out how the vast majority of car buyers own one because they need it. They’re not enthusiasts, they’re not emotionally attached it. They’re not like people here who argue incessantly about cars they’re never going to buy anyway. all they care about is that the car they buy gets them places with no hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      BMW has had some of the highest margins in the business for a long time, and they could (I think, in theory) make all of their cars as customer order. They make a significant proportion of their production to order now, and not just the high-end stuff. They have almost no mandatory equipment packages either (at least in Europe).

  • avatar
    slavuta

    While this is easy to understand that dealer is the real data center for automaker. It is still hard to explain the following

    Why base Honda comes with single-piece folding seat and no blue tooth? Or as we saw in recent review, Elantra MT comes with no blue tooth, as if manual driver needs it less than auto driver.

    While certain things make sense, others – don’t. If $6K package flies of the lot – fine. But you still making the LX trim, so why not putting goddamn split folding seat into it? I know why, honda. Because you’re POS company and you do everything possible to push me into higher trim. I am not buying.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “As a teenager, I read the work of gunwriter Jeff Cooper until I knew much of it by heart; years later, a mutual friend confessed to me that Cooper was only just competent with a .45 caliber pistol.”

    I don’t think Cooper ever claimed to be a master pistolero.

    His focus and his love was always the rifle, after all.

    (“A pistol is what you use to get to a rifle”, and all that.)

  • avatar
    Fred

    My TSX Sportwagon had 2 options, tech and base. All I wanted from the tech was a backup camera and for $2000 list it wasn’t worth it. So I got the base. Turns out to be the better option, as the head unit can easier be replaced on he base. Now I can get Android Auto & a back-up camera for way less than the $2000.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    My buddy just bought a base Civic. He is a retired 65 year old. He has owned a Rabbit Diesel, Prelude, Civic SI and if I am not mistaken this current purcahse is his first automatic.

    The main reason he bought a base trim car was that he has no use for a sun-roof. My wife has one on her CRV that is NEVER used by her.

    I know bundling is efficient but sometimes it is a royal pain in the butt.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      In 1980, I decided I wanted an Audi 5000 diesel (don’t ask) but, at 6’4″ tall, every sunroof-equipped one had my head on the inside of the roof. I finally found one without a sunroof– in US Army green. Since that time, I’ve had a number of cars with bundled sunroofs. With the first one, after the novelty wore off, i never used it again. And i’ve never used it on subsequent vehicles i’ve owned. At least mine have been water tight.

  • avatar
    volvo

    I hadn’t thought before that the dealer was really the customer of the manufacturer. It makes sense.

    When I wanted a base RAV4 with V6 and AWD it was not available in NorCal. The dealer explained that the NorCal distributor (is there a distributor?) only offered the dealers a V6 AWD as Limited Edition (leather, sunroof, navigation, etc.). Didn’t want leather for a basic hiking/skiing vehicle and didn’t need the other stuff.

    Things were different in the Pacific Northwest distribution network and my dealer found one at a Portland dealer and for invoice + $550 delivery fee I had it in a week.

    Great dealer service they now have a regular customer and I have used that dealer ever since.

    So it is not just the individual dealer but bundling starts at the top of the supply chain.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I could very well be mistaken, but if I remember correctly it was the imports that started the ‘bundling’ trend. Domestic vehicles had an extensive sheet that you could build/spec from.

    When the ‘bundling’ started in various pre-set packages, auto journalists, consumer advocates and many consumers voiced their approval. It reduced haggling, made the buying process easier, and allowed these manufacturers to reduce prices/their costs through uniformity in the production process.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      It was the Japanese that started the trim levels not options trend but it was Chrysler that really pushed the buy from inventory, and the genesis of bundling with their sales bank when their sales went off a cliff. They wanted to keep the lines rolling so they told the area sales offices to order cars even if a customer or dealer hadn’t. So they packaged popular options and submitted the order to fill in the line between building cars that were actually ordered. This also gave us the introduction of rebates, for taking stock from dealer inventory to clear out that sales bank.

      I swear it was here where a commenter shared that he was one of those guys ordering the cars for the Chrysler sales bank for his region and then had to try and get dealers to take one of those pre-built cars that were close.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Scoutdude, Yes that corresponds with my memories. And having assisted in’saving’ Chrysler and helped the Japanese to expand their market share, of course the other manufacturers would listen to the efficiency experts and cost accountants and follow suit.

        Would love to read some posts from those involved in the auto business during that period.

  • avatar
    Boff

    One thing not mentioned here in the discussion of special orders is dealer allocations. We ran into this recently when we tried to special order an M3 near the end of its model run but our usual salesman didn’t have any more allocations for that model and could not scare one up from another dealer (or so he claimed). It is not always as easy as using the build and price tool and sending it off to your local dealer. Anyway we ended up buying one off another lot that had many more options than we planned, but at least had everything we did want. I would like to know (perhaps a future Ask Jack) what the heck drives allocations and why an OEM would set it up that way.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      For the US market, at least, automakers plan their production for the quarter, then allocate vehicles to “regions”, who then divvy up which dealerships get what based on past performance. You want the hot model/color combo – then you need to move metal elsewhere.

      I once brokered a deal to ship a trailer of green and red Passat station wagons to a dealership in California who couldn’t seem to get enough of them. They were radioactive in our market, sat on the lot for nearly 12 months, and my GM was thrilled that we got these cars off the books.

      Sleazy dealers will lie and say “there are no allocations available”, when they just want to push you into something off the lot.

      Allocations are generally setup based on projections, and while the allocations between regions can be adjusted relatively easily, the volumes are generally fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/avoidable-contact-dealer-vs-manufacturer/

      This answers some, but not all, of that.

  • avatar
    hpycamper

    Up until recently you could order a MINI Cooper ala carte. SO IT CAN BE DONE.
    Letting customers configure cars like we want instead of bundling might encourage oredering instead of buying off the lot. Wouldn’t this reduce the dealer’s expenses?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m tearing up. Thank you for this.

    If you don’t buy new, accept the scraps. If you do, accept the game.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Maybe I was inattentive while reading, but it seems to me that Jack sidesteps the whole practice of factory ordering. It used to be more in vogue, as late as 2000s some models of BMW would be special ordered _with a fine-grained choice from a-la carte of optons_. In fact I dimly remember some people touring Covette factory in Kentucky to watch their car being built? Not sure about my recollection though. Was this really a thing? And if yes, is ordering with option-by-option selection still a thing today, in the world of subscriptions?

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Yes it is, speaking as someone who is waiting on a factory ordered truck to arrive next month. However, you still can’t go outside the bounds of what is allowed by the manufacturer on the build-and-price tool.

      So what people complain about is more that certain options are not available standalone, or wish for powertrain combinations that don’t exist. These can’t be factory ordered at any price.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      Factory orders, at least the ones I’ve done, are still subject to the exact same constraints. Want a truck with a base stereo but leather ventilated seats? Not an option. Want a Lariat diesel F-150 with 2WD? Nope. Can’t order it.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Right or GM likes to do the “sights and sounds” package which forces the up-level stereo and the sunroof to be combined.

        I know lots of people who might want one but not the other.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        Well, that was sort of the gist of my question. Are certain makes, or even certain models in those makes, more amenable to the customization than others?

        {One of the more annoying bundles that I had to deal with was the way Toyota required buyers of FJ to order some sort of stupidest “convenience” package if they just wanted the rear locker. I bought a Wrangler Rubicon with manual locks instead. Toyota soon discontinued FJ. I’m sure they thought the model wasn’t popular.}

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “Are certain makes, or even certain models in those makes, more amenable to the customization than others?”

          Yes. Typically as profitability goes up, the automaker takes greater care to cater to each individual buyer’s tastes. It pays to.

          For example in the final year of the Viper, the “One of One” program existed where customers could spec any color they wanted with a wide array of individual options. They paid for it.

          The Camry customer hasn’t paid for the luxury of too many choices.

          In the middle ground, there’s cars like the Challenger. Higher than average factory order rate, customers willing to pay above average transaction prices, and a reasonable volume of cars = a lot of trims, colors and options on a relatively common car.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    To be honest, I’m surprised that factory orders still exist at all on mainstream vehicles. When you really think about it, how many mass produced products allow for any form of customization? The more typical experience is to walk into a store (dealership), peruse the products available, and make a selection from inventory. Even expensive products like electronics, furniture, and appliances are made one way only. If you want something custom, pay double or (much) more for something bespoke, or you’re out of luck.

    The same dynamic exists for cars. If you’re willing and able to pay for a Bentley or Porsche, they will make it exactly how you want. Assuming most of us aren’t, why do we expect automakers to do what no other manufacturers will?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “how many mass produced products allow for any form of customization”

      There seems to be a lot more options when buying a $60K travel trailer or $60K boat over buying a $60K Acura.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        But maybe more comparable to a $60K F150?

        Not sure, since I’ve never done any boat or RV shopping. However, I would bet the profit margin on those items is an order of magnitude above a luxury sedan.

  • avatar
    srh

    I’ve had enough dealers try to screw me that I’m tempted to try to turn the tables. Order a combination of options that don’t bother me in the least, but are dealer poison. Cancel the order once it’s too late for the dealer to cancel it. Wait until it arrives and sits on the lot for a while, then try to get it for an absurdly low price.

    I’ll never do it, because that’s way too much time and effort to invest on vengeance, but I’ve certainly seen a handful of trucks that are on the lot far past their brethren. I remember back in the day a V10 F-350 crewcab short-bed, nicely equipped but 2WD. Not much market for an expensive pickup with the V10, 2WD, and short-bed in the PNW. The manufacture date on the mulroney implied it had been on the lot for over a year.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Dealers will almost always take a deposit when you factory order for exactly this reason. I don’t know what kind of legal footing they would have if you tried to back out and get it refunded.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        They’re required to return the deposits.. Twice I’ve ordered vehicles and, due to them taking too long to arrive, had to cancel.

        Of course actually getting them to send the check, as required, can be a hassle. I pay $100 or so/year for a legal plan through my company’s brenefits program, and once I had to have them write a letter demanding the deposit be returned.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I get why manuals are rare, and custom orders are undesirable for the dealer and factory, but what I don’t understand is why all the cars on the lots are non-colors (i.e. black, silver, gray, white) and why interiors are either black or beige – in other words pretty much what the Model T Ford came with in 1926. Somehow cars from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s seemed to sell off the dealer lot (or ordered) in various shades of blue, green, yellow, or red, with matching interiors, while only fleet buyers would order white or black. Where did this dislike of color come from?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I think the dislike of color comes from both the dealers and customers. For the dealers they don’t want to get stuck with something no one wants, and the customer doesn’t want the potential low resale value in an uncommon color. The funny thing is back in the day it was called resale red because a red car was popular.

      The other thing you have to take into account is back in the 60’s when you could have 6-10 interior combinations and 20 or more exterior combinations was the volume of sales of those models. GM would regularly move a million full size cars. That meant many square miles of fabric for interiors, far more than could come from one production line. So might as well have different lines produce different colors and since they were covering seats to order it didn’t make a difference if they for example they stitched some seats with black and red fabric while others were all black or all red. Now those people stitching seats work for a 3rd party and the contract to supply seats was written for the entire model year, with a min number of X per color.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      I think the dislike of colour comes from leasing. Essentially every car is a fleet car now, and the dealer/OEM is always looking at resale after the lease is up. White, grey and black are boring, but unoffensive and can be sold easily. A vibrant colour needs a buyer who likes it, so that car will sit longer before being sold.

      It’s a case of nobody loves the neutrals, but nobody is offended by them, unlike lime green or yellow that has a smaller pool of potential buyers.

      In the days when cars were purchased instead of leased, the resale was the owners problem, not the leasing company’s.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t mind the trim packages as much as being forced to take a white or black only vehicle. I don’t mind silver, beige, or red and as long as one of those colors is available then I am ok. As for a manual I would be willing to take a base truck to get a manual. Maybe instead of ordering I could use a service. Costco offers a buying service for all its members.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Stingray65–I am with you on interior colors. Many models only offer black interiors which are hot in the Summer. Its getting hard to find even tan and light gray in many new vehicles.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    At 35, I am way to young to know, but when did the automotive world change from the “order what you want and wait” to “drive it home today”?

    Here in small town America, I see lots of buildings that my elders will say “that was the Chevy dealer” or “that was the Rambler garage”. more often than not the whole building would fit inside a modern showroom, and there couldn’t be room for more than a few dozen cars around those buildings.

    My parents said that nobody bought a car off the lot, the dealers had a showroom model and a few demonstrators, and you bought your car then waited for it to be delivered. My manager showed me the build sheet from his 1990 Chevy 1/2 ton, where could order things like dual batteries or a diesel engine Ala-carte. You see it a lot in 60’s and 70’s muscle cars, “One of XX” cars in this particular combination.

    At the end of the day, I’m just a young guy with a growing family, and a wish list that my wallet can’t fulfill, so I am left longing for those special cars I build on the internet, and drive whatever scraps I can afford.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well Oldsmobile’s slogan in 1977-8 was “Can we build one for you?” which was replaced by “We’ve had one built for you” in 1979.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      My father was the Chevrolet dealer in Johnstown, PA 1950-1965. His dealership could hold about fifteen cars on the showroom floor, and at the time was the second biggest dealership in the Pittsburgh zone (after Kenny Ross, of course).

      In the Fifties at least, cars were a lot simpler. The factory took care of the body style, color, engine, transmission, and all Chevrolets were built on one body. Radio, heater, etc., could be dealer installed options. So no, you didn’t have to carry a hundred plus cars at a time. I’ll rough guess dad carrying 50-60 in stock. And that was a huge Chevy dealership.

      Oh yeah, trucks. He probably carried four or five pickups. Because the only trucks were sold to tradesmen and had no options. Corvettes? Maybe he sold two a year.

      The Sixties started complicating things. First the Corvair, then the Chevy II, then with the second generation Corvette GM started putting the pressure to actually sell the damned cars (dad hated the Corvette, it sure didn’t fill the need of a blue-collar coal mining and steel town). But even so, he’d still keep the amount of stuff ordered down, and special order cars regularly.

      The 1966 model year was when I remembered it exploded. Dad had left the dealership, and Chevrolet really dropped on the new guy to take lots of stuff. The Caprice was new that year, and this guy really got suckered into taking lots of loaded Caprices with all sorts of options, and were approaching Pontiac Bonneville’s in price.

      He didn’t last long.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “My manager showed me the build sheet from his 1990 Chevy 1/2 ton, where could order things like dual batteries or a diesel engine Ala-carte”

      Pick-up trucks, especially popular fleet spec ones, are the mass market exception. These buyers typically plan out their purchases well in advance, order direct from the factory, and order multiples. This allows the factory to cater to their a la carte options wish lists.

      HD trucks have very few “bundles” and very long lists of single options. There are often dozens of special paint codes like Forest Ranger Green or Construction Yellow which are outside the normal factory paint scheme. These typically require a production batch of 10 for example in order to be scheduled, however. Order a quantity of 1 in bullsh1t brown and you’ll have you wait for 9 other orders to show up before yours gets built.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    I guess it depends on which brand of car you want. In 1/2016, I ordered a Challenger R/T Plus from my dealer. I sat with my salesman in front of the monitor as we went down the “order sheet” and checked off the options I had already decided that I wanted. After the order was submitted, it was built 17 days later.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Can car brokers or car buying services help with custom orders?

  • avatar
    stuckonthetrain

    …but the man who has proven himself worthy of managing a $100M floorplan — there are most certainly women who have done so, but I’ve never met or heard of one…

    FWIW, I think the sisters at Schumacher Chevy in North Jersey would qualify.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Good to know.

      I was stuck between paying obesiance to THE_CURRENT_YEAR’s dictate that all positive qualities be described as gender-neutral and my reflexive desire to write the truth.

      This makes it easier.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        You should stereotype at will. This is why stereotyping exists. And if someone doesn’t fit into such frame, you just call them non-stereotypical. so in your case you could say, “…but the (stereotypical) man who has proven himself worthy of managing a $100M floorplan…”

  • avatar
    dwford

    You are right about the dealers. They are going to take the vehicles that sell the fastest. That’s why if you go to a Dodge/Chrysler/Ram/Jeep/Fiat store, there are not Fiats there -maybe a couple way in the back. Why? Because no one wants them. Back when I sold Hyundais, they came out with a summer tire package for the Veloster, and Hyundai was very excited about it. i just laughed. The chances that my store would be offered one of those in the allocation was next to zero, and the chance my manager would take one was totally zero. But I knew some guy would come in and ask for one, and be mad we didn’t have one and couldn’t get one. It’s bad enough that the options are getting limited, but even worse that even some of the remaining packages are just impossible to get.

  • avatar
    HattHa

    A fantastic article – absolutely spot on about the dealer being the OEM’s customer. In my experience, the vehicle class that still offers a significant degree of customization is pickup trucks. I was able to get heated seats with the upgraded infotainment system on an F-150 with a cloth seat front bench (as opposed to center console and leather) – yes it was new, but it was not a special order, was on a dealer lot. I didn’t think any dealer would order that combo.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “They’ll do that by asking the dealers which units are stalling on lots and which are flying off.”

    We’re at a point now that with the amount of real-time data available to automakers about dealer inventory, the automakers don’t even have to ask the dealers. At any point, a vehicle line manager, district sales manager, production planner etc. can pull data on what the most popular packages are, what they typically are made with, and know the average Days On Lot for that configuration.

    Weigh that info with production and profitability requirements and some consensus is eventually reached on what’s optimal for that build cycle.

    “What about the fantasy — that idea that if people just had a chance to buy stick-shift stripper models of INSERT UR FAVORITE CARZ HERE, success would be assured?”

    These types of models exist from time to time, and DOL data is available for those too that obviously told the automaker, “no more of those plz.” Never mind the mountain of market research that shows there are a pitifully tiny amount of new-car customers for stuff like that.

    What it comes down to the fact that it’s expensive to offer stuff a la carte. Expensive for the manufacturer to produce, and expensive for the dealer to carry. However, there are manufacturers willing to do it if you have the means.

    When people became willing to pay $70K+ for Dodge cars, their options, colors and trims expanded widely. Still, buyers of those are forced to bear some things that a buyer of say, a Continental GT, might not have to when he factory orders.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      danio speaks the truth.

      There’s a reason Porsche and Bentley let you customize the snot out of their cars, down to the badging and the stitching on the seats and dash: when you’re paying that kind of premium, you get the entire order book at your fingertips.

      Not much different between doing a custom built home versus a spec home in a development: in the development, you’ll have a few variations on room sizes and paint – but for the majority of buyers, what the contractor built will be fine.

      Move into the custom home builders, and the world is your oyster: for a significantly higher price.

  • avatar

    I learned looking at ze Chermans that most cars are the “dealer special”. Premium package, auto box, base interior. Sunroof. Base light package, and suspension. I ordered a 3 in 2003-manual, NO sunroof, M sport, and the larger six. Bonus was that I had a German catalog, and they agreed to build it with a black cloth microfiber interior, which wasn’t in the US catalog. Those cloth seats were still fully intact 14 years later when that car died of rust…other than some shine on the driver’s seat, it was perfect. It was unique, and interior aside, the car would be hard to find on any lot…but if you wanted the base seat, non HID lights, with fake wood grain, step right up. I’m repeating the experience (order and wait) on my next car….if you don’t need it today, they will build one for you…..amazing how choices multiply higher up the ladder. My Acura, on the other hand…Base, Tech, Sport. A kid TV in the back package. Any White Black or Silver, with ONE interesting color every model year. Take it or leave it.

    • 0 avatar

      I find it interesting that the European catalogs, where the norm is order and wait, have such variety. Look at VW of Germany’s website, and see how many fun, fun colors your normal Golf can be. Not our four gray shades + black.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Interesting that when I toured the Jaguar factory in 2013 they were very proud that each car was built to order, none were built “for stock”.

    In Europe that probably means dealer orders, although individual orders were welcomed, but I suspect the orderer for North America is Jaguar USA or Jaguar Canada, not the individual dealer or buyer. It’s still possible to do an individual order, you just have to wait.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    What I really don’t understand is why mass-market makers even keep some of the less popular colors and/or options on the menu.

    If we can find a good way to reconcile its large size with our small driveway, we are likely to order a 2019 Pacifica Hybrid. It has three interior combinations available, all of which are Fancy(tm) but which boil down to black, white, and brown. Go look at Pacificas (hybrid or not) on the lot, and you will find that four out of five have the black interior. Nearly all of the others have the white interior. The brown is the best-looking one, but it’s also rarer than hen’s teeth and the reason that if we buy we’ll be ordering. Why does FCA bother with it?

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      I love the brown Pacifica brown interior too, it’s so classy. Worth ordering and waiting for. I thought it was only available in the top-line non-hybrid models though. Or maybe this year is different than the first year’s model I looked at.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I rather miss the a la carte ordering of 30 or so years ago as a buyer is now unable to find rare oddly accessorized vehicles not delivered to the customer who ordered them residing on the lots. I found and bought two rare birds, both Chevrolets, one in the mid-80s and the other in ’90. One, a dark red ’86 Astro window van, bottom of the line model, with heavily tinted windows, much fancier mid-grade cloth interior, cruise (but no tilt), 4.3 liter w/5 MT, and towing package engine cooling. The other was a bottom grade Cheyenne cab and a half but loaded with the upgraded Scottsdale cloth interior, cruise n’ tilt, 4.3 liter w/5MT, mid-range stereo w/cassette, the fancy Cheyenne chrome bumper n’ grill appearance package. These vehicles were truly unique (the Astro was one of two or so at the time on the West Coast with the 4.3L/5 MT) and made vehicle shopping an interesting adventure. Sad to see those days of sales lot unicorns gone, replaced with rows of silver, black, and white cars optioned identically.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I remember that in the 50’s and early 60’s there were 3 small dealerships and 2 farm equipment dealerships in a town 8 miles south of my granddad’s farm with a population of over 1,000. All the dealerships did a decent business but the first to go was the Dodge dealership which my granddad bought all his cars and trucks from every 4 years. Sometime after 1963 the Dodge dealership was forced to take an allocation of compacts and 2 door sport models which would not move in the surrounding farm area. The area wanted more trucks and full size sedans along with flat bed trucks. The dealership normally had about a dozen vehicles on their lot at a time which was very small and one or 2 vehicles in the showroom with the family members selling these vehicles. After that my granddad bought an Oldsmobile, IH pickup, and IH flatbed with a tandem axle. My granddad was on the local bank board and the Olds IH dealer had a sizable loan with the bank. That dealer was forced to take more cars and would line the extra cars up in his driveway at his house (usually over a dozen vehicle). Finally that dealership closed and the last dealership to close was the Ford dealership in about 1970. My granddad usually did not special order and took a new vehicle off the lots and his trade-ins usually had low miles like 40k miles and they were sold within an hour of trade-in. He got a great deal on a 63 IH pickup totally stripped down (not even a radio with 3 on the tree) in early 1964. He had traded a 58 Dodge truck totally stripped down which he bought in 1959 for a good deal as well. His cars were usually a lot nicer (Olds 98 and Dodge Polara) but he didn’t want to spoil the farm hands with a radio which would distract them from working.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    This is like cable TV; To get the 5 channels you want you have to pay for 120 that you will never turn on.
    It reminds me, also, of something Frank Zappa said about the music business (not an exact quote), “Many in the music business are ex vacuum cleaner salesmen. They like to sit around the bar at lunchtime and talk about how many UNITS they have moved. They know nothing about music.”

    There is a legend that in 1975 John Lyden was walking down a street in London with a, self made, tee shirt which read, “I HATE PINK FLOYD”. And so he was hired as the front man for the Sex Pistols.
    I need a shirt which reads, “I HATE SUNROOFS”. For too many reasons to mention.

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      Kinda, sorta.

      The cable TV model is more a cross-subsidy one. The upfront costs of launching (and, really, marketing…) a new show are so high, networks need to bundle their channels/properties.

  • avatar
    la834

    I understand all about how dealers are the manufacturer’s customers, and that dealers don’t want to stock cars they can’t easily sell to the masses. But that was true decades ago too when I could walk into a dealer and special-order even a cheap car like a Ford Escort and have my choice of engines, transmissions, stereos, five different interior colors, upholstery, little things like opening vent windows or extra interior lighting, suspension upgrades, and loads more. 40-item a la carte option lists were the norm. If I was buying a mid-size or large American car or truck, the option list would swell considerably. Yes, I would have to special-order it. Yes, I wouldn’t get a good deal on it compared to what was already on the lot. Yes, I would be willing to pay a small fee in order to get a car with the equipment I want to compensate for the added nuisance of building the thing. If they could do it in 1985, they can do it in 2018 with the much better technology we have now to prevent unbuildable cars from being ordered.

    Don’t tell me that “gee, only 3% of Honda buyers special order their car, so it’s not worth doing”. *Of course* Honda and Acura buyers don’t bother special ordering their cars, because even then Honda won’t let you option them with anything but their standard three bundles and choice of which greyscale paint color you want. Offer some choices, and the special orders will come in.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Here’s my configuration gripe and I am certain many people feel this way.

    WHY CAN’T I BUY A TAHOE/YUKON WITH THE 6.2 ON AN LT/SLT TRIM?

    I genuinely really like the Tahoe RST but with the 6.2, we are talking about a huge chunk of change.

    What I really want is a Tahoe LT with the 6.2 paired with the 10 speed transmission.

    I should also add, why won’t GM put the LT4/LT5 in the SUV and trucks as a performance option?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “WHY CAN’T I BUY A TAHOE/YUKON WITH THE 6.2 ON AN LT/SLT TRIM?”

      Because GM believes that it’s still 1975 and they aren’t in competition with anyone except their own product segmentation hierarchy. Selling you the LT that you’re describing would cost them the $15,000 in pure profit that the RST is marked up.

      And the Tahoe has enough brand equity that that’s almost true.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    For the 1% enthusiast mentioned above who can’t get what he wants from available trim/option packages, whats the point of even buying a new car? I’ve seen leatherinterior.com and katzkin interiors,they’re pretty good. Want a lime green 330I, get it wrapped for a couple of grand. Want 30 speakers in your 2018 Accord sport 2.0t manual- all of the surviving car audio shops do quality work-otherwise they wouldn’t have survived.
    With online searching you might as well just buy a 1 year old car with plenty of factory warrant and fly and drive or shipped to your driveway(actually you end up usually taking delivery in a large retail parking lost). I’ve never been burned yet (knock on wood)doing both.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Yes you can still ORDER anything you want, but you may not get it any cheaper than “un-bundle”.

    My father in law got a Camry XSE hybrid WITHOUT A HOLE IN THE ROOF, because he never used one in his last Camry V6 XLE. He supposedly SAVE MONEY, but I am not sure if he did. I know for sure he got raped in the butt in the negotiation process and if he ever plan to sell or trade it within 10 years.

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