What About This? By Wayne William Cipriano

By Wayne William Cipriano

Just today I saw an ad on television for a new truck – a fine looking new truck with, I’m sure, all the bells and whisltes one could possibly want that promised to knock off eleven thousand dollars from the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Eleven thousand dollars off! The actual MSRP was not mentioned, of course, and in truth no one since the beginning of the assembly line has actually paid the MSRP. But still, $11,000 off must mean that there is a very hefty price tag hanging around somewhere if dealers are going to be able to pay their light bill after giving me that “discount.”

Why can’t we get a new truck at a reasonable price? Why is that every truck, ostensibly to use for “work,” has to be equipped with all these ridiculous extras – from television cameras in the back of the truck (because I’m too lazy to turn my head or can’t locate the mirrors) to head-lights that turn themselves on and off (because I’m not smart enough to realize that it is night time)?

Sure, there are a number of “creature comforts” or “operationally enhancing necessities” that are almost required because they add so much to performance and safety and do not raise the cost of the vehicle all that much. But, just like Family Values, everyone agrees these things are good ideas and worthwhile until we get around to listing them.

I’ve had an idea for a long time (and so have you) that I’d like to see in action. What if every maufacturer had to offer a stripped-down, barely legal model (at a stripped down price) for every line that they marketed? All the stuff that they now offer as standard equipment would be priced extra, on top of the basic model that had to be available to all customers. You want automatic transmission instead of three- or four-on-the-column with a clutch? Go ahead and order it, and pay the extra cost. You want backup cameras, air conditioning, power windows, “smart” headlights, entertainment center (for gosh sakes), fine – go ahead and order them and be happy. But sell me the basic no-frills model, available today, at the basic price. What’s the problem?

Ryan’s mother is now retired from Ford Motor Company where she was a big-time engineer. For some reason, I have never asked her for her views on this idea. I’m sure there are manufacturing, as well as marketing considerations, and she would know all about them.

Even we non-professionals can come up with some of those considerations and issues, like efficient similarity and economies of scale, but overriding these and many other objections is the ability of business to come up with what I want when business is certain I will buy it and a profit is possible on the sale. And maybe that’s the thing here. Maybe it is not just an exercise to see how many ridiculous (and so very overpriced) extras can be hung on a “work” truck and then called “free standard equipment” that will be purchased by trucksters. Maybe it is a real belief that trucks will not sell as well without all these add-ons that buyers think they are getting without extra cost. I don’t believe that for a minute, but it is possible.

Remember when Volkswagon entered the American car market in the 1960’s and offered a Bug for around $1500 (my Mother bought a brand new, 1967 VW Beetle with radio and undercoating for $1866 out-the-door!)? And then Japanese cars came on offering many extras as standard equipment that American cars charged for? Look at what has happened to the automotive industry when that strategy went wild. What does a VW Bug cost now? And does anyone sell cars and trucks without all those “free standard equipment” add-ons?

I’d look favorably upon a work truck that just got the job done, just got me threre and back, without costing as much as my home, even if I had to make do with a bench seat, clutch, and a headlight switch. Heck, I might even buy one new.

What about you?