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With sales at a 26-year low, the Detroit 3 are trying almost anything to reduce costs and make more money from the cars they are selling. One of the biggest changes coming apes what some of the more successful Japanese makers have done all along: offering fewer configurations of their models. If you want leather, you option up for the higher-spec model and get the sunroof, two-zone climate control, larger wheels, and steering-wheel-controlled MP3 stereo system too. Soon, you'll see a similarly simplified menu in domestic showrooms.
According to the Detroit Free Press, offering fewer combinations allows automakers to cut engineering, design and marketing costs, which are frequently larger than even the manufacturing costs for a vehicle. One example is the 2010 Ford Fusion. The 2008 Fusion offered no fewer than 2,600 combinations between the different trim levels, option packages and stand-alone options. That number will be slashed to just 104 for someone shopping the 2010 model. To put that in perspective, someone looking at a 2009 Honda Accord can pick from about 20 versions. It's basically coupe or sedan, automatic or stick, LX or EX trim levels, with the EX available with leather and/or navigation, and either the four-cylinder or the 3.5L V6. That's it. Compared to a typical Chrysler, which might have had as many as 10,000 combinations in the past, the new system will keep things simple in an attempt to streamline the domestics' offerings.

[Source: The Detroit News]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I've always wondered why domestic vehicles offered so many combinations. Combine that with badge engineering across multiple brands and you have thousands upon thousands of configurations to build.

      Instead of focusing on silly names and nomenclature, they should have been focusing on this. It took an economic crisis for them to figure it out, but I don't think that they're asleep at the wheel any longer.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yeah this blows. I hate option packages. If I want a sunroof but I have to pay for a $4000 package to get it that comes with features I couldn't care less about do you think I would:

      A. Spend $4000 to get a sunroof


      B. Buy a model without the sunroof or go find a car that sells the sunroof as a standalone option for $1000?


      C. Get an aftermarket sunroof for $1000

      Either way the manufacturer is losing out on my $1000 because they're presenting me with a $1000 value for $4000.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ever try to 'price out' a GM car on edmunds.com? The options page is 4 or 5 screens long. Stupid! They will cut costs by packaging stuff together, I am just a little surprised it took them this long to figure it out. Duh!
      • 6 Years Ago
      What about MINI? There are 100,000's of ways to configure one! I like the fact that MINI is all about you making your car yours!
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's all about supply and demand. If you need to move a bijillion units of something it only makes sense to keep things as simple as possible. The majority of people purchase a car much like a new refrigerator. They research but they are more concerned with cup holders than polar moment of inertia. They ONLY buy a car off the lot. Makes sense for a Chevy Aveo. Then there's MINI. Also a US available sub-compact. Other than being very small, they are totally different beasts. Beyond the obvious drivability, desireability and price differences, MINIs are made in one factory in one country to satisfy a (growing) niche group of customers, and the UNREAL number of options and combinations leads a big percentage of buyers to do something almost unheard of in the new millinium- order their perfect model from the factory.
      While I understand that we are in an economic and automotive tailspin, I hope there are still enthusiasts who are willing to both pay and wait for a car that they have tailored to be just right.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This can hurt you as well if the option package is so big and expensive. Take the Nissan Altima 3.5 SE I just bought in Canada last January. In Canada the only options were
      1)sunroof @1000.00
      2 Nav system $2500.00
      3)The leather package which had everything from VSC, Homelink and bluetooth and the Bose stereo etc.
      The leather package was $4000.00 all I wanted was the Bose stereo and had no need for anything else. Needless to say I passed on the package as being way too expensive.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Its about bloody time the US manufacturers caught on to this.

      Cars are appliances first and foremost. Treating them like a suit (custom tailored to you) or a computer (fitted with exactly the power and functional options you want AND need) makes little sense when you think about how you are likely to use it. If however you are fortunate enough to consider a more bespoke car like a Mini, Porsche or Bugatti then by all means, enjoy that option sheet.

      On the other hand, the American manufacturers in particular have (until recently) neglected the basics of a good car. Interiors should come in desirable colors with textures and finishes to make a buyer feel special. I would wager that most buyers would care less about individual options if they felt the interior and exterior color choices were varied enough.

      Someone commented on the Subaru Legacy only coming with an auto (in turbo form). This was a lost sale for me too. Transmission choice is a pretty big deal, and in Subaru's case it simply screamed cheapskate to not offer the manual on the Legacy Wagon - as its already certified for the sedan, and available on the Outback. Regardless of how they want to bundle the options, a transmission choice that already exists on otherwise identical product should be carried across the board.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It hasn't worked for the 30+ years they've been doing this very thing. Why would it help now? Limiting options has only ever served to drive customers away. The D3's best days were when you had an option sheet a mile long where you could pick and chose what car you need, not just what they'll let you buy.

      Make the option available on EVERY model and it will pay for itself. Start with Transmission options! At one time you could choose how many gears your tranny had. Now you just get the automatic, with optional paddle shifters that still won't make the tranny shift any faster.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is clearly how all the domestics should be working with high-volume, low to mid-priced vehicles. Endless combinations only really work in luxury vehicles where customers are pickier and much more likely to tailor order.

      Honda's order system is genius. At the maximum, it only asks five questions:

      1) Pick your trim level.
      2) Pick your exterior/interior color combo.
      3) Manual or automatic?
      4) Cloth or leather?
      5) NAVI or non-NAVI?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Exactly. Honda keeps it simple.

        It's a wonder the Detroit 3 didn't do this years ago. But then again with the cesspool of mediocrity and backwards thinking that is Detroit, it is expected.

        Lately, I have no sympathy for any Detroit 3 automaker. Period. They had 25+ years to figure out how to beat the Japanese. Sure they've proven that they can make some fantastic vehicles (CTS, Malibu, New 2010 Taurus) but that has been the exception rather than the rule.

      • 6 Years Ago
      This is all well and good for the car companies, but it tends to be abused. You wind up having to spend thousands of dollars and get options you don't want in order to get a couple of practical features you do want. The options you don't want tend to be useless, like gaudy trim, moonroofs, fog lights, leather-wrapped shift knobs, etc., which often break and generate more repair business for the dealership (since none of this junk is covered under warranty, imagine that!).

      I do understand that similar options could be bundled together, i.e. fog lights and fancier front grille, and you have to get both or neither. But some of this is ridiculous. A notable case I saw required buyers to purchase a comfort package that involved a moonroof in order to get traction control and ABS.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My, memories are short. Twenty years ago, people routinely complained about how few options were available on Japanese cars. They didn't do it to help the consumer, btw -- it was a practical necessity back when all Japanese cars were shipped over from Japan. Lead times were too long to let dealers order specific combinations.

      As for the people who say options should be dealer installed: are you CRAZY? I would pay $1,000 extra if I could be guaranteed a dealer never touched my new car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The new 2010 Americamobile, now with less choice but always with the same level of crapiness!
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