5 hidden ways automakers keep new cars affordable Page 2

May 22, 2018
2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

3. First class up front, coach class in the rear

On a test drive, most shoppers will tap their fingers across a new car’s dashboard and door panels. In all but the most price-conscious segments, automakers want shoppers to hear a solid thunk and to feel a soft-touch material—up front, at least.

What happens in the rear seat stays in the rear seat, at least at a certain price level. Most compact sedans and crossovers use cheaper materials on their rear-seat door panels. If your rear passengers are more likely to bark or to ride in a child seat, they probably won’t care. But now you know.

For example: It’s hard to pick on just one automaker for skimping on rear-seating area materials, but at some point (cough, Tesla) hard trim panels begin to look as inexpensive as they are.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Enlarge Photo

4. Simplified suspension

A car’s suspension is arguably its hardest-working component, but it’s a cost-effective place for automakers to save money.

A torsion-beam rear suspension has long been a go-to for inexpensive cars for its simple, durable design. Compared to more complex multi-link rear suspension designs used in higher-end and sportier cars, torsion-beams have fewer moving parts. While they get the job done, there is often a trade-off in rough-road ride quality and at-the-limit handling that few drivers are likely to encounter with regularity.

For example: The 2019 VW Jetta moved from a multi-link design in last year’s model to a torsion-beam setup for this year.

2018 Hyundai Kona first drive

2018 Hyundai Kona first drive

Enlarge Photo

5. À la carte no more

Ordering a new car used to be a daunting task. Prospective buyers needed to spend time to whittle their way through extensive lists of optional extras.

Today, most new cars are offered in only a handful of configurations deemed easily sellable by an automaker’s dealers and its product planning department—maybe a few trim levels and an option package or two, rather than a bevy of individual options. Ford is the latest car manufacturer to announce plans to slice the number of feature and trim level combinations possible.

This simplification is both a boon and a detriment. For buyers who want to take home their new car immediately, it means that odds are good that one close to what they want is waiting on a dealer’s lot. Yet it also means that buyers are often be saddled with costly features they might not want. Or even, that they can’t buy the car in a color they like.

For example: Hyundai is perhaps the most extreme when it comes to funneling buyers into specific configurations. Want a Kona SEL in blue or red? The automaker says you’ll have to buy a $1,500 option package, too.

2018
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2018
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.