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Cheap but not compact

Wednesday, 16 February, 2011

According to this, 60% of an automobile’s production cost is the plant in which it is built.

Perhaps your commentator is naive, but this opens his eyes to a critical accounting assumption previously overlooked. This is why you see so many variants of one automotive platform. K-car. Ford’s C1. It’s the factory, stupid.

Another recent article on that site further elaborates as to this very reason being why we can’t get another domestically produced small pick-up in the land of the pick-up. Because the price and EPA rating are so close, most users will opt for the larger, allegedly more useful model. In the absence of studies or polling, it makes a kind of sense.

Disclaimer: I like pick-ups. I used a single pick-up as my daily driver for over fifteen years. I don’t get the need to advertise your inadequate genitalia through needless garnish, but I do get the truck thing. I now have to think about what I buy at Ikea.

Think about the Studebaker Scotsman. Although it lasted for only three years, and canceled primarily as part of the automotive division being wound out, perhaps this is the vision for a new kind of “compact” car. Compact in price and accessory quantity but not utility. Sadly, this would mean the car would be compact in profit margin, as well.

I don’t think something as utterly utilitarian as the actual Scotsman, with no radio provision, only the driver’s door window winding down, &c. would be appropriate. I look at the Hyundai dealer just down the street and note the many, many Accent GL (utterly spartan) models they’re moving. If you want a Genesis or something else go to another dealer, but those guys have plenty of GLs in inventory. Surely, they are making a nice living out of them.

Few color choices, one engine-transmisson combo and tow rating, few features (radio with a USB and optional A/C) no sliding rear window, carpeting or sound deadening. Just a fleet-level truck for about 80% of the price of the present base model. Of course, plenty of dealer-installed accessories would be available.

You could do this with cars as well, as Studebaker did, although I suspect they would be less popular. Of course, Hyundai isn’t exactly hurting these days.

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