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New car options

Recent posts reminded me of the following: I remember in the 1950’s that people commonly ordered their car to be custom built. They could choose from a long list of options, and make their car one-of-a-kind. I would think that in these days of highly automated assembly lines, computerized, and last-minute-parts-supplies that this service could be re-instated rather easily. It was always a money-maker for the car companies. Do any companies offer anything similar?

Not to my knowledge.
All of the manufacturers seem to be interested in pushing “packages”, which frequently force you to buy options in which you have little or no interest.

When I ordered my current vehicle, I had to pay for a moonroof in order to get other options which I really wanted. I have opened that moonroof 4 times in 10 years.

Buyers have no patience nor do sales people. If it isn’t on the lot ready to drive away, too many people will walk away.

While it might be possible to build cars that way, there seems little demand for it.

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Some time ago a person started a thread about their special order vehicle kept getting the delivery date set back . I think they had been waiting 4 months and were told it would take 2 months . That might be the normal these days with Just in Time deliveries of parts to manufactures . Getting things out of normal production just is not feasible anymore.

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The last order we did was in '95, got our Suburban just the way we wanted.

There are considerations regarding engines and transmissions. Impalas in 1969 had something like 8 different engines and 4 transmissions coupled to 3 (edit… 9!!) axle ratios. Emissions certifying those would be expensive and impractical. So that is out.

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Porsche will be happy to build you a 911 to order. Just be prepared for crazy expensive options, like $510 for leather trim on your inside mirror:
Porsche Car Configurator

I’m skeptical. This means that the car assembler has to have parts in hand just in case someone orders that option. The inefficiency is paying for storage space for parts that are rarely used. If they guess wrong and stock too much of lots of things, then it makes all cars cost more. They aren’t going to eat the cost, all their customers will. Companies like Honda control this by having set trim levels. Want electrochromic mirrors? Then you have to order from the trim levels that have it. When I bought my 2005 Accord EX V6, it was a couple thousand less than a comparably equipped Buick LaCrosse without a sunroof. The sunroof was a $1500 option, and I didn’t want it. The Accord did have a sunroof, despite costing thousands less. I held my nose and accepted the sunroof because of all the other things I did want in the car.

I factory ordered my 1987 Olds Ciera to get the 3.8L engine without having to buy the top level trim or a Buick. At that time the process was easy and delivery came in a reasonable time frame. I got 20 years good use from that choice.

But when buying the 2007 Impala and the 2014 Camry I settled for a pre-packaged trim level as being the practical choice.

These days it seems far more emphasis by car manufacturers is on the infotainment systems choices than on engine and/or other mechanical configurations. Partly marketing shaping buyer attitudes, partly buyer attitudes already shaped by electronic devices in common use.

A college course in advertising I took that was taught by a longtime owner of his own successful local advertising firm taught that the underlying principle to any form of advertising is based on:

  • defining the specific goal of the advertisement
  • defining the target demographic
  • defining the logic link between goal and demographic
  • creating advertising based on those factors

The logic link to the bulk of current car buyers is the ability to link cell phones to the car. Some carmakers are doing a better job of designing user friendly electronics options than others.

I like having Bluetooth capability in my car and having the backup camera. But I dislike the touchscreen radio controls. Fortunately, the a/c-heater controls are still physical knobs I can manipulate by feel without needing to take my eyes off the road and that there are physical button controls for the radio on the steering wheel.

But then I fit the senior demographic that tends to prefer knobs over touchscreens for control while still wanting the advantages of current electronic devices being paired seamlessly to our vehicle. :grin:


Friend bought a vw and it was stuck on a icebound freighter on Lake Superior from dec-April. He had special ordered it. Those were the days.

Prior to the pandemic, there would always be a Porsche on display at the Short Hills Mall in NJ, along with a Bentley, a Range Rover, and–usually–a Rolls Royce.
What always astounded me about the Porsches was the extent of the incredibly-overpriced options.
Do you want a different color for the brake caliper mechanism?
Okay… that is $1,200.
Do you want a different paint color?
Another $1,200… if not more…
What really astounded me about one of the Porsches on display was that the “extra-cost” paint color was essentially the same as the Baby-Sh*t Green color of many Mavericks in the old days.
Why would anyone pay extra for that incredibly-ugly paint color?

The Hyundai dealer that my wife gets her cars from will not take “custom” orders for cars. If he doesn’t have what you want on his lot, then you’d need to go to a different dealer. My daughter just bought an Acura and it was the same story.

It seems that the very high-end cars have customers who appreciate the chance to spend outrageous sums to customize exactly as they wish. My guess is that we all have a little desire for that also, but we are not willing to pay so much for the privilege.
I think the widest range of options for the low-end buyer are the color combinations I see on the Kia Soul and BMW Mini…but maybe even those are not special orders.

Given how buyers can search dealer inventory online, there seems little incentive for dealers to accept special orders or even to get a particular vehicle transported in from another dealer.

The dealer exchange is done a lot . In 2014 that is how I got the Nissan truck with the options I wanted . For use vehicles Carmax will bring a vehicle to your local Carmax site for a fee and you do not have to buy it .

@VOLVO-V70 Ah, good to know. I did get my 2007 Impala through dealer exchange to get the trim level and gray interior I wanted. But with the 2014 Camry I knew the dealer had multiple cars in the trim level and colors I wanted.

My first Avalanche came the exact number of miles from a Warren Michgan dealer to my local Dayton dealer. I used to drive right past Ed Rinke Chevy on my way to GMs Tech Center in Warren for meetings. I knew how many miles that was and that is what the truck had plus 5 miles.

The local dealer did a search and found the model I wanted in the color I wanted and paid a guy to drive up a swap model and drive mine down. Cost me $50 or a $100 extra. It was common practice and still is.

I like the good old days of the Studebaker Scotsman. Here is a list of the options:

  1. Borg Warner overdrive
  2. positive traction rear axle
  3. recirculating heater and defroster
  4. passenger side sun visor

A person had to go aftermarket if one wanted a radio. An automatic transmission wasn’t available.

When my father was alive, he used to always buy new cars, and have them special-ordered to suit his needs. The last new car he purchased was a 1998 Toyota Camry in CE trim which was special-ordered with no power options, the most basic radio, steel wheels, but with an automatic transmission and A/C. What a great car!

When I was in the market for a new car, he suggested I go to the same dealership that he had been using for all these years, and they agreed to special-order for me a new 2004 Toyota Corolla with no power options, no alarm or immobilizer system, steel wheels, and of course an automatic transmission. I still have that car, more than 16 years later, what a great car! Now, my wife drives it.

Now that no one sells a new car with the features I like, it makes more sense to look at older used cars. It is possible to change some of the equipment options on a used car, although things like changing the engine type or transmission type would be too difficult and expensive.

I actually think it is cheaper and more productive to simply put packages together. With MRP or materials requirement planning, manufacturers determine the number of a certain product to produce and then determine the parts that are needed and order/produce them accordingly. So rather than guessing how many moon roofs will be needed from special orders, they pre-determine that as part of the production planning process.