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 |  Feb 28 2012, 8:25 AM

Although in recent times, there’s been much talk from automakers on delivering the vehicles that consumers want, at least when it comes to options, perhaps such statements should be taken with a pinch of salt.

If we take a look at current trends, it appears that many OE vehicle manufacturers are drastically reducing the number of options available, in an effort to simplify production as well as ordering processes for dealers.

For example, Volkswagen has reduced the number of options on the Passat from 148 to just 15, while over at General Motors, Buick division only offers 18 different combinations of different trim and model variations on the compact Verano sedan (shown above). Even Toyota, which has prided itself on listening to consumers and delivering vehicles based on their requirements is taking drastic steps – the Sienna minivan has seen order complexity reduced by a whopping 80 percent.

While some industry analysts believe this new emphasis on reduced ordering options actually results in potential buyers ending up with features they don’t want or need, automakers who’ve embraced the trend believe that besides a simplified ordering process, the result is a lower cost per vehicle, which can be passed on to buyers.

In fact, according to some, offering fewer options can also prove ultimately beneficial to consumers, who end up liking features they might not have previously considered. Kristen Andersson, a senior analyst for True  says, “it’s actually a relief. They are removing the work of trying to figure out what I want.”

However, despite this apparent trend, particularly as it relates to mainstream vehicle brands, there are some, notably more higher-end, luxury nameplates who are sticking to the idea of an a la carte menu when it comes to options. Porsche, for example, says that around 30 percent of buyers still custom order their cars. ”It’s expensive to do it the way we do  and  it slows down the assembly line,” says company spokesman Dave Engelman, though when you’re dealing with more discerning buyers it often pays to take such an approach, especially as it adds to the aura of exclusivity.

That said, some mainstream brands are also taking a multi-option approach when it comes to ordering new vehicles, Chrysler for example, lists no fewer than 100,000 different factory combinations for the new 2013 Dodge Dart, designed to broaden the vehicle’s appeal among a wider potential customer base. Will it work? Only time will tell, nevertheless it doesn’t hurt to give things a try.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]

 |  May 05 2011, 9:24 PM

Talk about giving your own car the personal touch. Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR fame personally assembled the engine that will go into his own Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition.

Being able to put together the very engine that will power your car is not something you hear about everyday, but thanks to an Engine Build Experience package offered through General Motors, those who order a new Z06 or ZR1 Corvette have the opportunity to do so at the company’s Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. The $5,800 option, which buyers must sign up for, includes lodging, transportation and a concierge service, while in town as well as scheduling the engine build and related activities, but does not include travel to and from the Detroit area.

Even though owners are themselves putting together these engines, once assembled, each of the LS7 and LS9 motors in the program, is still backed by GM’s 5-year 100,000 mile warranty, just like any other. Once the motor has been assembled, a special customized plaque for the owner is mounted next to the engine builder’s name. The motors are then shipped from Wixom, to the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky for installation in the cars.

Hendrick is the 13th individual to choose the Engine Build Experience program and remarked, “for me, participating in this engine build is the ultimate connection to my Corvette. This is one of my favorite cars in the world, and now it will be that much more special knowing I personally built the engine. It’s a really unique experience that Chevrolet is offering its customers.”

 |  Oct 05 2010, 8:44 PM

Subaru has just announced that it is offering a portable navigation system, which will be an option on the 2011 Forester 2.5X Premium. The system that will be available is the TomTom Navigation ($595), in combination with the All Weather Package ($500), so it’ll cost you $1,095 to upgrade.

It might be a costly price tag, but you do get a lot with that. The removable nav system comes equipped with a 4.3-inch LCD touch screen, Bluetooth for hands-free phoning and wireless music streaming built-in, plus iPod integration and a USB port. If you want to add a back-up camera to the package, you can choose to add on the option. There’s also the option to get traffic info, but you need to order a subscription.

For all this money you’re shelling out, would it be cheaper to buy it on your own and add it yourself? Let’s find out.

This TomTom system, complete with a 4.3-inch screen, can be purchased for $130, while a hands-free, voice-activated and wireless streaming Bluetooth speaker phone can be found for under $100. An Audivox all-in-one back-up camera system goes for about $163. That means for under $400, you can get this Subaru option and leave out the $500 All Weather Package.

That cheaper price doesn’t come with the integration that Subaru offers, which means there will be extra wires messing up your Forester’s interior. On the flip side, you’ll have plenty of extra cash and you’ll be able to carry the portable nav, Bluetooth speaker phone and even the back-up camera from car to car.

[Source: Edmunds]