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Trimming Costs

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For almost every car buyer, one of the most important considerations for their purchase is the overall cost of the vehicle. Establishing a price range is typically the first action taken when entering the market. Unfortunately, with some automakers, trim levels make it difficult to accurately establish a price range. In today’s Momentum, we will review a recent article by Consumer Reports (which was sent in by our support John K.) which helps consumers navigate trim levels and to get only the options they desire.

A Consumer Reports reporter, during the process of looking for a new vehicle, found that “Chances are it’s available in at least four (and potentially several more) trim levels. These are essentially different versions of the same model, each with its own price and set of features—from drivetrain and engine type to safety enhancements to conveniences such as power seats and premium speakers. You may also find, depending on the trim level you choose, that the cost of the car you thought you could afford is actually twice the price and now out of your reach.”

While the prices of new and used vehicles have continued to climb in recent years, so too have the number of trim levels. “As carmakers increase the number of trim levels on their models, the price difference between the base and top trims also climbs. In some cases, the number of trims and the price difference has more than doubled over the past 15 years.”

Consumer Reports took a look at 4 different models and compared the price difference of the base model and most expensive trim level over the last fifteen years. For example, in 2003 the price difference between the base model and the highest trim level for the Ford F-150 was $17,500. Today, that same price difference has skyrocketed to $33,655. The same equation applies to the Honda CR-V, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan, and the Subaru Forester.

Per Consumer Reports, “Auto-industry experts say that trim levels and option packages, frustrating though they may be, impose a necessary order to the growing number of features and conveniences available on cars today. Without them, they say, the sheer number of choices would become overwhelming for consumers and impossible for carmakers to deliver. For many car buyers, trim levels are at best confusing and at worst a frustrating way for car companies to bolster profits by bundling features in a way that forces us to buy things we don’t want to get the things we do.”


At Elio Motors, we plan on doing things differently. For starters, we will not offer trim levels. To keep costs down, we will produce 14 vehicles at the plant: 7 colors and 2 transmissions. From there, through our ePlus: My Elio, My Way option program, customers can pick their options a la carte, and without option packages. We believe that actually making an “option” an option, our customers will save money and be more content with their new vehicle.

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