Friday, April 9, 2010

Car Comment of the Week:

Over at TTAC, FleetofWheel said:

"It’d be great to order a car off the web site straight from the mfg.
Just click through the wizard to pick color, engine, options. Test drives would be done for a small fee from demonstration lots or rental car companies. Say $15 for a 15 minute test drive. That would keep joy riders away. For those who still want hand-holding, they could choose pay a consultation fee or hire an independent buyer’s agent which already exist. Service would be at any of the thousands of auto care shops just like now. Get financing from your own bank, credit union or the car mfg when you are completing the on-line application.

Such a system would allow well informed car people like those here TTAC to not pay for services we don’t need or like."


Part of me hates the idea of buying a new car online. The feeling of pulling off the lot at the time of sale I guess. Never done it, but I'm sure it's grand. But I've mentioned it before (my "I Believe" GM speech); it can be done. More importantly, for most auto manufacturers, it probably MUST be done.

Inventories are bad. New car dealerships are bad. Loosely put together supply chain of manufacturers are bad. They seem to build for inventory and not customers. Having the customer buy directly lines up your manufacturing facilities and processes. It puts down pressure on them which, in turn, forces them to evolve and improve.

So many options here... Have large national facilities put car on frame, doors and maybe shocks, tranny in car. Have regional ones finish it up. Engine, paint color wheels. Deliver to customer or local drop of dealer.

This could all be done to order. Or if a car is selling well, first part of process done and wait for a new customer to choose engine and paint.

I get all excited about this because it can't cost much to stamp metal or fiberglass out. I mean... open up retro models of cars. Can you imagine the catalog the GM could pull from???? They could set up facilities to produce different car lines for each year. For example say, GM could plan to offer- in 2018- the 3rd Generation Camaro body style will be available with SHO EcoBoost Twin Turbo V6 or how about a modern modified LB9 TPI. How amazing would it be to be able to go to the GM website and pick 1953 El Dorado that's being offered in 2014 year.

Of course it wouldn't be the "same" car that it was, it'd have to meet safety regulations, fuel economy... but honestly, the basic principals and parts of the automobile, in the past 100 years has changed very little and sadly, the way they are manufactured and purchased hasn't changed much either... Man... can you imagine...

Americans would truly be choosing their identity. What would our roads look like? Would it still be new shoe boxes or jelly beans? Would it be '50s styling? Would it be land barges from the 70s? Minivans from the early 90s? It raises a lot of questions on what would happen. How to market such a pipe dream. Are people too use to just buying a new design? How many retro models to offer a year?

Wood paneled station wagons?

One thing is for certain; It CAN be done. Why? because it's an idea. And this is America goddammit. You got those two things and anything can be done. Or have we forgotten that.

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