In the July issue of Leisure Wheels(issue 123, page 15) I discussed what I believe is the only way to ensure the future of the hardcore off-road vehicle.
I proposed that vehicles such as the upcoming Defender replacement should be based on a modular design that would enable buyers to pick and choose the off-road features and gadgets they wanted.
Why would this be a good idea? Well, not that many buyers of SUVs these days actually want pukka 4x4s.
There simply isn’t a big market these days for hardcore 4x4s, so unless some way is found to cater simultaneously for the more casual SUV buyers and the 4×4 fans, the number of very capable 4x4s on the market will continue to shrink.
My suggestion was a modular design a vehicle that comes standard only with four-wheel drive but that can also be equipped with things such as solid axles, diff locks and low-range gearing.
Reader David Coughlan responded to the article, saying that a more selective design process would be great, but it would also lead to long waiting periods, “horrible resale prices and inconsistent service costs”.
He continued: “This would require me to take my vehicle specification sheet to each service, so that the mechanic would know how many diffs to check.
“You also couldn’t create a consensus on what a two-year-old Hilux with 40 000km on the clock was worth if it had three diff locks, was totally submersible and had a six-litre engine.”
It was an interesting letter, and one that got me thinking. A modular design could undoubtedly complicate issues such as service costs and resale values, but I’d argue that we are already dealing with those problems anyway.
How so? Well, some manufacturers have gone absolutely crazy when it comes to options. In fact, it is possible nowadays to just about double the price of your new car by ticking all the options boxes (I’m looking at you, Mini Cooper!).
Firstly, the comfort and entertainment features in a lot of vehicles are optional extras. These include touch-screens with satellite navigation and reverse cameras, panoramic sunroofs, leather seats, fl oor mats, DVD players, highend sound systems with countless speakers, armrests, anthracite roof liners, steering-wheel controls and automatic climate control.
Secondly, and even more problematically, mechanical components are becoming optional
extras as well. Consider, for example, the optional M Sport brakes and limited slip differential on the new 4 Series BMW.
Lastly, customisation and personalisation are also becoming very popular. A lot of manufacturers are offering buyers more and more ways to personalise their new cars.
You can have unique body/roof colour combinations, rims or special cabin trim. Being able to give your car that personal touch is great, but doing so could make it tougher to sell down the line.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to fi gure out exactly what a vehicle costs, and what standard features it actually has. There are so many engine/ gearbox options, optional extras and special packages available that no two “identical” models are identical at all.
Needless to say, this is becoming a huge issue when it comes to resale value. Optional extras can run into the hundreds of thousands on a R400 000 car, and that money won’t be recouped when you decide to trade in or sell it.
Optional extras are not being taken into account sufficiently when resale values are considered. All these extras also make it particularly difficult for vehicle testers in the media. Manufacturers understandably pack their test vehicles full of extras, so it is important for us to look at what a potential buyer would get in a standard model, and not put too much emphasis on the optional gizmos and gadgets in the test car. That can be
difficult, especially since it isn’t alwaysmade clear which features are standard
and which are optional extras.
Vehicle buyers are becoming more discerning and demanding. They don’t want to settle for the ordinary model, especially at the high end of the market. They want their expensive new vehicle to be tailored their very specific needs and desires. It is great to be able to customise and personalize new vehicles, but it is complicating the
second-hand market significantly.