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]