What North American Automakers Really Need To Do

The Big 3 want bailout money to make more fuel efficient models.  This is an excellent goal, but it's an uphill battle against competition that has been doing things better for years.  When you think about fuel efficiency, which segment of car makers come to mind? Asian automakers, particularly Toyota and Honda.  When you think about quality, what is imprinted into the public's mind? European automakers.  Do you want reliability?  Then you're thinking back to the Asian makers.  Styling?  Well nothing says European styling better than... European automakers.  Then what come to mind when you think about North American vehicles? Big, sporty looking, costly to manufacture... When you're dealing with companies that are as large and historic as Ford, Chrysler and GM, things aren't going to change overnight.
 
All the automakers are feeling the pinch, but the North American ones are the hardest hit.  They're cutting salaries, cutting jobs and cutting product lines to survive, but they certainly won't grow by doing that and they won't win back customers.  They need to entice people to buy their cars with more than cash-back incentives.  Lower prices come to mind but with manufacturing costs as high as they are in North America a price battle is the last thing any of them can handle.
 
The best course of action for the Big 3 is to package every single feature into their cars and offer them at the base prices.  When I purchased a Ford Explorer a few years back, I received the entire off-road package with the Explorer.  This would have normally cost me $4000 extra, but since they had manufactured too many of the Explorers with this package and they weren't selling, they were giving away the package for free.  What a great deal!
 
Nowadays there are so many packages and options to ordering cars.  This would naturally add to the complexity of the assembly line process which is meant to churn out a large quantity of identical products.  Increased complexity is increased expense.  By putting every possible option into a model line and eliminating the custom orders, it removes the complexity of manufacturing and gives the customer a big incentive to purchase.
 
Why have a 1-disc CD player, when a 6-CD changer can be put in?  Most of North America has to deal with Winter, so why shouldn't every car have heated side-view mirrors, heated seats, block heaters, ABS and traction control?  Figuring out the best settings for the air system can be a constant battle, so just put in duel zone climate control.  Cruise control should be standard on every car, as well as stereo controls on the steering wheel.  GPS is so common nowadays it should be in everything, regardless of model.  Get rid of old windows and replace them with automatic windows.  Every car should have automatic transmission, with the capability to sports shift for those wanting to drive a manual.  Air conditioning should be mandatory in all cars, because driving on the highway with the windows down is horrible for fuel efficiency compared to air conditioning.  (The government should think about legislating this last point!)
 
If you add in all these goodies then engineering and manufacturing are simplified, costs are lowered and sales increase, and all without retooling!  Better yet, the consumer is left with much easier choices: Choose the car that looks best to them, then the colour, and whether they want cloth or leather seats.  That's about all the average car driver really cares about anyways.  Consumer's like easy choices.  Asking them to buy North American because it's patriotic won't have people lining up to buy.  When consumers feel like their cars offer them everything they could possible want at a great price they, then they'll be clamouring to come back.
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