One of the most exciting aspects of purchasing a new vehicle is the ability to show off your personality with customizations. If you are a no-frills kind of person, a bare bones model is ideal. If you are a techie, you’ll likely want to fill your vehicle with all of the newest in-vehicle technology. The process becomes difficult if you find yourself somewhere in the middle. According to Autotrader.com, “If an automaker offers a $2,500 option bundle but you only want one small $250 option, is there any way to convince them to sell you the option without the bundle? Almost always, the answer is no.” With the recent influx of exciting new options, there should be a reasonable middle ground between a vehicle with no options and a vehicle with an expensive option package.
In the famous words of The Talking Heads, “How did we get here?” the obvious answer is that a dealer can make more on a transaction that includes an expensive option package. Another reason option packages are virtually impossible to avoid is it simplifies the manufacturing process for the automaker. While the package system may work well for the manufacturer and dealer, the consumer often does not benefit.
New and exciting options are desirable to many, but not all consumers. J.D. Power recently released a study suggesting auto manufacturers are investing billions of dollars into technologies that a substantial number of consumers are not using. In the 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report, it was revealed that “at least 20 percent of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of the 33 technology features measured.” For many, the technology went unused because it was unwanted in the first place, but was part of a package, and thus the consumer had no choice. The study concluded that unwanted technology results in “millions of dollars in lost value for both consumers and the manufacturers.”
According to a different J.D. Power study, the most popular options include blind spot detection, night vision, collision avoidance technology, and a display for the rearview camera in the mirror. There is little sense in forcing a consumer to purchase a package that would include blind spot detection and night vision, yet often that can be the case. Consumers are ensuring they will get the option they want, even if it means unwanted, expensive options are part of the package.
The solution to minimizing millions of dollars being wasted for both consumers and manufacturers seems simple: let the consumer choose the options they want and let the manufacturer provide them. The system can be simplified, and consumer satisfaction with their vehicles will follow. It is possible to make an option, in reality, an option.