Car Design and Pricing


I was sitting on my soap box yesterday and thinking about car pricing and design and wondering about some of the rationale of car companies.

This train of thought started on my way home from the Hamilton 400 where I was the guest of Navman and Ford New Zealand who hosted me royally, thank you very much. I had lots of time to think about this because my trip of 120 or so km took me 4 hours as it seemed that most of the 60,000 people attending were taking the same trip north after a great day of V8 motor racing.

The first thing that I wondered about was why a Holden Commodore cost so much more than a Ford Falcon. What do they put in those cars that make them worth a huge premium? When it comes to German precision and safety and having had brief opportunities to drive BMW 6 and 7 Series cars, I can see where they get to charge a premium. They offer both highly sophisticated features including at the safety level and with new requirements such as ADAS,(which will include things like warning if you move out of your lane, monitoring distance and speed of the car in front of you, checking your eyes to see if you are alert and awake etc) they will continue to be in the forefront.

But when I was looking for my next car and comparing cars like the Commodore and the Falcon, I could not understand the price difference and even less when comparing to the features offered in Japanese cars today. You will appreciate that being a toy boy, I like to have gadgets and features as well as sleek lines and lots of power, so when I looked at entry level Commodores, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

Sure Commodore won the V8 series, but that was in a $500,000 racing car, not a street car. Anyway after pondering this for some time, I decided that the premium was about status and brand value, not necessarily about the end experience and practical value, which I am sure the manufacturers will argue, but not to my satisfaction as a consumer.

Then my thought process went on to the design of cars and the accessories and features included and decided that we are being ripped off. What a difference there is between concept cars and the cars that we get to buy. My theory is that they come up with a huge number of innovations and drip feed them to us so that they have something to offer into the next model to make us update our car.

The shape of cars doesn’t change significantly. Cars have slowly become more aerodynamic, which means improved performance through less drag. With the cost and future scarcity of petrol, performance is going to become far more important. Why do they move from the bulky square edged gas guzzlers to sleek aerodynamic shapes over 15 years of model enhancements instead of immediately? Are they afraid that they will not be able to come up with new design enhancements? Isn’t it likely that if they dramatically improve car design, features and accessories in one go that their cars will sell more competitively and be more popular. Given how creative people are in the industry (look at the annual Honda car design awards or the annual solar energy races they have in Australia), isn’t it likely that car design would radically improve at an ever increasing pace? It seems as though the industry is deliberately holding back.

I hope that one or two brands of car get the message and start sharing their creativity with us. We should have small (but impact safe) town cars that can slide sideways into tiny car parks in the city and have larger comfortable but economic sleek cruisers that are fun to drive and own for out of town driving, with all the features one would expect like ADAS, navigation with real time traffic, events, reservations for food and accomodation, electric seat memory controls, iPod dock, heated and cooled cup holders, personalised audio and climate control memory, tyre tread sensors and loads more, like TV, games and DVD players for rear seat passengers, interenet browsing……………………………

Imagine, if that was the starting point, how car design would develop for the future, the pace of change and growth would be unbelievable and people would happily upgrade their cars to new models more frequently.

Are you serious about being carbon friendly?


Are you serious about your business being carbon friendly? Are you really making a difference or are you paying lip service to the concept. Do you have company vehicles? What can you do to reduce their carbon footprint? What are you doing about it? Here are some thoughts from a New Zealand perspective (where I have shown URL’s you will have similar services in your own country):

1.       In order to measure improvement, you need a baseline. Let’s start by measuring how many km you travel per month. Measure this over a year because there are always fluctuations. In addition to measuring km travelled, measure fuel consumption, i.e. km per litre of fuel. If you use fuel cards, you probably already have this information in your monthly reports. If you don’t maybe you should, fuel cards usually also offer discounts.

  1.  Get your vehicles regularly serviced and tuned up. It’s easy to see the ones that aren’t, by the smoke and soot they trail behind them and especially trucks and buses that have huge black patches covering someone’s expensive advertising material.
  2. Car pool. How often do you and your colleagues go to the same event in separate cars when you could have shared?
  3. Drive by the most efficient route. There are many way to do this. If you have a car navigation system, you can usually select the fastest or the shortest route.  Note that the fastest route will usually have fewer stops such as intersection controls. You use far more fuel stopping and starting your car than you do when cruising. If you don’t have a car navigation system such as Navman or TomTom, the most reliable is to use a quality web site that offers driving directions such as www.aamaps.co.nz or www.wises.co.nz.
  4. If you have multiple locations to visit, try to plan the most efficient route to visit all of them. One option for this is to use a site such as www.aamaps.co.nz that not only lets you create via points for your trip, it also allows you to re-order them to create a more efficient sequence.
  5. When you are travelling to visit a client, see if there are other clients or prospects you can visit in their vicinity to save future trips. In the freight industry everyone knows that you should always try to find another load for the return trip.
  6. If you have a vehicle doing multiple deliveries, using Route Optimisation you can establish the most efficient order to do them in. A furniture delivery truck using Route2Go from GeoSmart, could not only reduce travel distance, but also load the truck in the correct order to minimise the drivers workload. If you have multiple trucks, you can set a range of rules that decide which trucks do which jobs in which order and eliminate guesswork.
  7. Using a Fleet Management system, fleet operators can view the location of their vehicles and ensure that the closest vehicle gets the job. Fleet Management solutions also monitor driver behaviour such as ‘clutch riding’ and excessive acceleration to assist in driver training.
  8.  Trip planning on websites such as Wises and AA Maps can also assist with things like petrol and lunch stops, making sure they fit into the route rather than having to drive out of your way when the time comes. The same applies to finding a convenient car park rather than driving around in circles around your destination.

Simple proactive measures can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint and consequently on your profitability.  Vehicle service costs will be reduced along with the inconvenience of not having the vehicles on the road with reduced maintenance costs. Fuel costs will reduce and you will be able to fit more business into the same amount of time thereby increasing productivity. You will also earn the right to announce to the business world that you are genuinely playing your part in reducing your company’s carbon footprint.