Oh, do I hate piranha salad bars. I walk up and I never know which piranhas to choose. Are the red ones going to taste good with the little yellow ones? Can't some chef sort this out for me?

My hatred of the baffling variety of do-it-yourself food brings me to an interesting conversation we had today while we were questioning the economy of buying diesel-powered automobiles.

An extended conversation between duurtlang (he's Dutch) and Ash78 (he's American) on diesel turned to discussing how car companies provide variety to their dealers and to you, the customer. Specifically, they ended up explaining the differences between how Europeans and how Americans stock up buy their cars.

Ash78

I'd love to see a world with more plug-n-play options, even at the dealer level. Let me pick a chassis and options, then select my drivetrain and have the two combined, picking it up at the dealership a week later, exactly how I want it.

Dealers could still keep standard inventory, but add this nice little level of customization for buyers who will gladly pay sticker for exactly what they want.

duurtlang

Can't you do that already? I know it isn't the custom, but American car sites frequently offer a configurator option. Is there no option to order what you configure? What you're describing in your post is exactly like it is on this side of the Atlantic. Small inventory at dealers (for test drives mostly), most people order their preferred configuration via a dealer. Hence the larger diversity of options per model.

Ash78

Nope, and it's a big part of the reason why cars are so much cheaper here (limited selection). In a nutshell, your options are:

1. Very few buyers: Use a configurator to find the exact car you'd like. It will be very limited, so if you want "luxury package," you might be forced to accept a V6 and an automatic tranny, whether or not you really want them. Your custom car might be located 3,000 miles away, or it might not be built yet. Either way, you'll probably pay sticker price for the luxury of exactly what you want.

2. 90% of buyers: Find something that's 80% of what you want in existing inventory. Dealer gives you a better deal because you're buying from inventory. So you'll save 5% or 10% off sticker price and get something pretty close to what you want.

For any given car, a European model might have 50 possible configurations (including 5-6 powerplants). The same car in the US? Maybe 5-10 configurations across 2 engines.

We're high-volume, low price, low customization. I really wish it would change, but dealers hold a lot of the power in the supply chain and our customer base for many generations has grown accustomed to the "retail aspect" of car buying. They like to feel they're getting a deal.

Do you think America could ever switch over to the European model? Should America even want to? Did Ash78 really co-win another COTD?