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Thursday 12th July 2012

PH Blog: Why modern cars are too confusing

As a car-spotter, Garlick is feeling overwhelmed by the bewildering choice in the modern car market, and yearns for simpler times


Mini is the perfect example of confusing model proliferation
Mini is the perfect example of confusing model proliferation
Choice is a good thing, and in an age where anything is possible, certain aspects of life have never been simpler as we refine and tweak our lives to perfectly suit our needs. One thing confuses me, though. And I'm not talking about the latest technological gadget; I'm talking about the humble car.

Things used to be so much simpler...
Things used to be so much simpler...
Not so long ago, buying a car was a fairly easy process when choosing the vehicle that best suited your needs, and if you weren't buying a new car the used market was fairly easy to decipher, with easy to recognise models giving you a decent idea of what to expect when you peered inside.

Cast your mind back a few years and let's assume you wanted to buy a small hatchback. There would be three main choices to make: three doors or five, engines from, say, 1.0 to 1.8 litres (with maybe a diesel and a sporty 2.0-litre model), and four or five tiers of trim. Then - perhaps - a sales chap would show you a fairly small list of options available for your chosen trim level; nothing more exotic than metallic paint or maybe a sunroof.

Spot a 1.3L in the street and you'd know exactly what toys the driver had to play with, see a Ghia and you'd know the owner was lucky enough to have velour seats and a rev counter. OK, so we live in an age where to make a fuss of such features is laughable, but my point is that you would know what to expect from a car at a glance.

S line trim and the like complicates matters
S line trim and the like complicates matters
Nowadays, the choice is bewildering: a plethora of body styles, a host of customisable options, a multitude of styling packages, a range of 20 choices of alloy wheel, five different dash trims, and Sir can have whatever colour Sir wants as long as Sir is willing to pay.

Has your neighbour just bought a swanky S4 or is that a base A4 diesel with all the styling kit? I wonder if he has leather and fancy audio, or might it be cloth trim and a cassette deck? That Mini looks good, too, and apparently it has the Chilli pack, whatever that means. and is that limo the LWB hybrid or the normal 3.0 entry model?

I'm not saying choice is bad, it just annoys me that as a car spotter more often that not I have no idea what trim level a car has these days. A Toyota IQ might have more toys than my LS400, but how am I supposed to know?

Does Sir want the extra-shiny wheels?
Does Sir want the extra-shiny wheels?
Why should I care? I have no idea, but I do, and short of reading the back pages of What Car? I have no idea what I can do about it. Buying a new car must take hours, as you choose what spec to go for (the new Vauxhall Adam has a million different option combinations, for example). Maybe I'm just getting old and should embrace trim levels called Jam, Chilli and suchlike...

 

 

 

Garlick
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V6GTA

Original Poster:

1,153 posts

81 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
Customisation is the future.

Dr Interceptor

2,443 posts

80 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
Get with the times... tongue out

Modern production techniques and just in time supply chains means that cars can be built in any kind of configuration the customer desires. Gone are the days when they built ten red ones, ten blue ones, ten yellow ones... now every car that goes down the line is different to the last.

This means that rather than just selling a customer a standard Escort GL, GLX, Ghia etc, they can start at a base model, and then upsell them lots of extras... would you like climate control sir? Just tick the box.


DanDC5

8,603 posts

51 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
V6GTA said:
Customisation is the future.
If the EU get their way the only customisation you can do to a car will be when you order it. Sad times frown

Greg 172

179 posts

85 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
The obvious stuff (stereo, seats, etc.) aren't as much of a worry as the various stuff you can't always see - I recently bought an old Clio and discovered the following week that it had autolights which had been switched off at some point in the past. I only knew because I'd previously had a 172 which also had them.

God knows what may be squirreled away in the wiring looms of more modern, bigger cars.

Dave Hedgehog

7,048 posts

88 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
you think this is bad, try and buy toothpaste

theres 13 trillion types now !!
Advertisement

rohrl

5,291 posts

29 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
I was saying this about Mercedes-Benz on another thread recently but the same applies to most manufacturers. This niche thing has just gone completely over the top.

Is there really any need for three or four saloons, hatchbacks, 4x4s, coupes, convertibles, 4-door coupes, saloons, estates, "lifestyle" estates, MPVs in incrementally differing sizes from every manufacturer? Who ever asked for or needed a BMW X1, B-class Mercedes, Audi A7 or a four-door BMW 6-series?

Rawwr

14,292 posts

118 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
As more and more equipment that used to be optional has become standard, manufacturers look for more obscure pieces of tat to nail to the options list. It wasn't all that long ago that air-con wasn't even an option on a lot of low to mid-range models and now it's hard to find vehicles without it as standard.

cliffie

170 posts

102 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
You are not alone in your thoughts Paul, I too mourn the passing of the..

Popular
Popular Plus
L
GL
GLX
Ghia
Ghia XL

Etc...

V12 Migaloo

475 posts

30 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
I remember when all I ever needed in a car was 6 cylinders, air con and leather... now it must have nav, memory and cooled seats, 4 zone Climate control, self levelling suspension, HUD, xenons, DVD player, Humidor, Fridge, Adjustable ferocity of the gear change and a tool for removing stones from horses hoofs..

Limpet

986 posts

45 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
When I used to sell Fords in the early 90's, it wasn't unheard of for Escorts in particular to turn up as a weird hybrid. Our best was an Escort, badged as a 1.6i 16v, but with a 1.8TD under the bonnet, LX seats and Ghia doorcards.

And it had a factory quality control sticker on it. clap

I defy even the most ardent car geek to work out the spec of that when they saw it in the street biggrin

ajb101

43 posts

26 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
I agree with the title. It in fact grates on me greatly to see the thousands of variants in model let alone customisation of each model.

For instance, BMW and Nissan et. el. have ridiculous numbers of 'offerings.' Where's all this money coming from to develop them, where are all the resources coming from to manufacture them all (for swathes of them to be left in Bristol without owners.)

I would absolutely LOVE to see some kind of international resolution limited the number of models a brand can have.

On another note, is the notoriety of the top models is significantly dampened by a maxxed out underling model these days. It happens so often. This wouldn't happen if the market did pump out so many variants, for instance why by a 911 model when the Cayman R gives significant performance and implicitly handles better because the engine is where is should be in a super-quick car!

Hmmm... sorry, rant over.

sanctum

167 posts

59 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
It's all about competition and what the business boffins are telling the purse string holders about the wants and desires of the general car buying public.
If a manufacturer offers a small A segment 4x4, and is selling them, then other manufacturers will want a piece of that market segment and create a suitable model accordingly.
As for picking from the option list, that's nothing new. I remember my dad speccing up a new volvo 750 (or was it an 850?) in the 80's and he got lots of choices. Conversley when I specced my last new car (Audi A4) Most of my choices were tied up in "packages" which were expensive ways of getting me to pay for options I didn't want in order to get the options I did. Want heated washer jets? well you'll have ot have front fog lamps and heated door mirrors too because that's what's in the "winter" pack. Want sport suspension? That'll be the S-line package which includes sports seats, bigger alloys and a bodykit.
Overall, I'm not convinced options lists on new cars have gone through a paradigm shift, there's just more options to go through now as new technology is shoe horned into our cars, maybe because we're spending more and more time in them.

Twincam16

27,646 posts

142 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
I see what you mean, although I don't have a massive problem with it.

What I do have a problem with, however, is overly-complicated cars.

I don't associate gadgetry and a plethora of options with luxury or sophistication. Give me a nice ride/handling balance, tastefully simple, minimalist interior design and a comfy seat over infinitely-adjustable electronic everything and a hugely complicated computer screen any day.

But what annoys me is that it seems impossible to be a fairly simple, fairly big car any more. You can still buy fairly minimalist things at the titchy end (the new VW Up, for example, an excellent car but unfortunately there's more room in my bathtub), but it seems once cars get to Focus-sized, you're given absolutely no choice but to pay for all manner of gizmos whose sole purpose in life is to make the dashboard more confusing, because they all come as standard.

And then when someone comes up with a genuine, honest, straightforward simple car, it gets mercilessly panned in the motoring press for being 'off the pace'.

Thing is, I'm buying a car, not a space shuttle. 'The pace' is merely that it has seats and an engine and doesn't break down every five minutes. Everything else is just tinsel.

havoc

21,104 posts

119 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
You'd be supposed how much of a headache this is becoming for even the organised bits of the supply chain, especially as manufacturers are 'hedging their bets' when it comes to order broadcast - we've been getting forward broadcasts at 25% above actual order levels, leaving us holding too much stock and not knowing when we'll need it...

I've no problem with the customization though, it's the post-warranty maintenance headache. e.g. no supermarket warranty covers coming or pitted/burnt valves...I.e. they don't want to know about direct injection. Flywheels are often not covered too, and then there's "multimedia"...

ajb101

43 posts

26 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
havoc said:
You'd be supposed how much of a headache this is becoming for even the organised bits of the supply chain, especially as manufacturers are 'hedging their bets' when it comes to order broadcast - we've been getting forward broadcasts at 25% above actual order levels, leaving us holding too much stock and not knowing when we'll need it...

I've no problem with the customization though, it's the post-warranty maintenance headache. e.g. no supermarket warranty covers coming or pitted/burnt valves...I.e. they don't want to know about direct injection. Flywheels are often not covered too, and then there's "multimedia"...
Precisely, life is pretty darned complicated as it is without introducing more complexity to it. Why are we doing this to ourselves (metaphorically speaking?) The whole point of increasing mankind's intellectual superiority is so that we can achieve more by simplifying our day to day lives, at home or at work. Otherwise, all we're doing is busying ourselves, using up the worlds resource.... for literally no significant gain to humanity in the long run. R-tard Soup anyone?

Limpet

986 posts

45 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
BMWs options lists are hilarious.

When a few of us at work were ordering 320d's, we had a play on the BMW configurator. We managed to spec a £28,080 standard car to over £44,000!

Or to put it another way, you can spec a 320d EfficientDynamics to a list price £6500 higher than a standard 335i M-Sport.

There are so many permutations and interconnected options that it's actually confusing.

monthefish

17,670 posts

115 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
the article said:
Cast your mind back a few years and let's assume you wanted to buy a small hatchback.
the atricle said:
Nowadays, the choice is bewildering: a plethora of body styles
If you're shopping for a small hatchback, you're not faced with a bewildering plethora of body styles, your shortlist should only consist of 'small hatchbacks'.






the article said:
Cast your mind back a few years and let's assume you wanted to buy a small hatchback. There would be three main choices to make: three doors or five, engines from, say, 1.0 to 1.8 litres (with maybe a diesel and a sporty 2.0-litre model), and four or five tiers of trim. Then - perhaps - a sales chap would show you a fairly small list of options available for your chosen trim level; nothing more exotic than metallic paint or maybe a sunroof.
so taking your own example
2 bodystyles
5 engines
5 tiers of trim
3 options
6 (say) colours

2 * 5 * 5 * 3 * 6 = 900 possibilities.

How are those rose-coloured specs sitting?
hehe

It's no different nowadays. If anything, there are less engine options for starters...

HebdenHedgehog

237 posts

52 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
Quite interesting, I know what you mean.

I recently had to hire a cheap car and was given a Hyundai i10

Horrid to look at (in and out) and the matrials used felt grim - but to drive the 1.2 engine was quite peppy (well, up to 70mph anyway), gears changed easily, and it had lots of toys (ipod friendly stereo and air con!). things have come a long way in even the past 10 years...

So that cheap nasty runabout actually does 90% of the things we need to do and has many of the things 90% of us want 90% of the time

No I wouldn't buy one either, but for the job it had to do it was fine - I just made sure I went places where no-one knew who I was!


Garlick

40,596 posts

124 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
monthefish said:
Stuff...
Yeah, OK hehe

XJ40

2,958 posts

97 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th July 2012 quote quote all
ajb101 said:
Precisely, life is pretty darned complicated as it is without introducing more complexity to it. Why are we doing this to ourselves (metaphorically speaking?) The whole point of increasing mankind's intellectual superiority is so that we can achieve more by simplifying our day to day lives, at home or at work. Otherwise, all we're doing is busying ourselves, using up the worlds resource.... for literally no significant gain to humanity in the long run. R-tard Soup anyone?
I agree with the blog post and the above comments. Modern life has so much complexity, it can be challenging to dial it down and live a more simple life at times, so much noise out there. I like clean car design and clear choice.

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