Every week I climb aboard a new vehicle and if I am lucky, I’ll be able to drive away in 10 minutes or so. If not, I will spend quite a long time Bluetoothing my phone and sorting through and setting or cancelling all the different electronic features and systems now commonplace and standard on even the least expensive rides.
So today I am making a plea for simpler cars, pickups, SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) and crossovers. I am not alone, either. Many others wish for car companies to at least offer entry-level models that are generally free of gizmos – gizmos that most of us never use, never asked for, and for which we are unwilling to pay.
If you doubt me, consider the 2017 J.D. Power Tech Experience Index Study. It found that many, many car owners question the value of all sorts of gizmos and gadgets.
Here’s an example of what so many of us are protesting: I recently tested a relatively bare bones Nissan Qashqai crossover, $19,998. This nice little rig lists for less than two-thirds of the average price of a new vehicle in Canada, which is good.
But how much less would a buyer need to pay if Nissan stripped out a whole bunch of standard gear – things like Siri Eyes Free and the Hands-Free Test Messaging Assistant? A $1,000 less? I can also live without electronic stability control and so can most of you. If you have decent driving skills and don’t get over your head with speed and aggressiveness, you will never need stability control. Never.
I also don’t need tire pressure monitoring or Easy Fill Tire Alert; I have a Dollar Store tire gauge. As well, I don’t need Intelligent Ride Control, just decent shocks and springs in my entry-level crossover. Do I like power windows and door locks? Sure. But I could live without them, too, and did for the first 30 years of my life.
If Nissan were to offer a simpler Qashqai, one free of all these extras, would it sell for $14,000 and would anyone buy it? I think there would be takers.
And let me also note that 45 per cent of those surveyed by J.D. Power said they don’t need or want an In-Vehicle Mobile Router — built-in Wi-Fi. Makes sense.
The law in most places requires that when driving, you must leave your smartphone alone. Wi-Fi is something a driver can use only when parked. Why pay for it in a car when you can stop and use the free Wi-Fi available for free in coffee shops, shopping malls and all over the place?
Alas, carmakers insist on loading up the technology and it surely is a way to boost profits. If I buy the high-end Qashqai, base price $29,498, for instance, I get NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps; voice recognition; and SiriusXM with Traffic and TravelLink. Most rival vehicles come similarly loaded at that price. Ugh.
Here’s my advice for carmakers: start catering to the minimalist crowd; go low tech. Stop larding up your new vehicles with technologies and features that regular people do not want and for which we’d rather not pay.
The research insists that I am not alone. The world is filled with budget-conscious drivers who are technologically challenged. They have little interest in autonomous-this, or connected-that in an everyday grocer-getter. Who among us is a die-had geek who dreams of owning a robocar so that we can play video games, watch movies, surf the net or answer e-mails when commuting?
One other thing: I don’t want Big Brother in my car, either. I certainly don’t want to pay for technologies that might result in my car being hacked, tracked, monitored or managed by a hacker or some government official.
Simplicity is good. Let’s start a movement.