Car Manufacturers. Were did they lose the plot? (Part 2)

In part one of this article, my last question was:

“Ask yourself, what do you use your car for?”

Let's face it, the vast majority of us use our cars to travel from home to work and back again. We drop our kids off at school and we pick them up later in the day. We do the monthly grocery shopping and occasionally visit friends.

Yes there are those of you, that do far more than that with your cars, but take a look around you. How many people do you know, that do more?

How many people do you know, that actually need a car capable of traveling at 180Km/h or more?
How many people actually need a vehicle, capable of going off road at a moments notice?
How many people actually need most of what you get in a modern car?

Yes, I can understand ABS brakes, AIR bags and other life saving equipment. I can not understand dashboard integrated radios and steering wheel heaters?

There was a time when car manufacturers understood, that the average family could only afford one car, and that it had to be far more practical and maintainable, than being a fashion statement. Take a look at the statistics, examine the two cars that have sold the most in all history of car sales.

Don't know what they are? Here is a hint from Wikipedia:
It was in its day, though, more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, and ultimately the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design (a record that will not take long to be beaten by its younger "cousin" the Type-2 Bus or Kombi, which is still in production in Brazil with the same basic characteristics of the first series).

For those of you who still don't know, the quote refers to the Volkswagen Beetle and the Volkswagen Bus. Of all the car manufacturers, Volkswagen understood it the best. People need cars, not fashion statements. Especially new market entrants. Cars, that are cheap to purchase and run while being cheaply and easily maintained. Cars for the family unit. They understood it so well that they made it their marketing slogan. Anyone remember: “V W and me, all part of the Volkswagen family”?

Today, the cheapest Volkswagen is the City Golf (TanaCity 1.4). For sale at just under 73,000 ZAR (Car Magazine April 2008).

EXCUSE ME!!! That is almost a fifth of my bond!!!

I'm already struggling to pay of a house, now why would I go and spend, that amount of money on a car, that looses 20% of it's value the moment I drive it off the show room floor? Keeping in mind, that this price includes no luxuries, not even a radio, I see absolutely no reason of any kind to purchase this vehicle new.

Do not make the mistake of thinking, that I consider the Golf to be a bad car. It is a wonderful car, but the price is not justifiable. Not by a long shot. My personal estimate of the true market value of this car, is closer to 30,000 ZAR. It is little more than a box with an engine, 4 wheels and a steering wheel. If it was sold new, for 40,000 ZAR, I would have bought it last month.
But it isn't, so I managed to find an equally reliable, usable, maintainable and lovable car. You guessed it... I bought a Beetle.

No, it's not cool. No it's not going to clock 180 down the highway. Yes, it will do everything I ask of it, and more. Not only that, the purchase price was less than a fifth of the Golf's, while the running and maintenance costs are comparable to most entry level vehicles. In a lot of cases, it's actually cheaper, but there was always another option that I only explored after I bought the Beetle.

One of my neighbors, builds kit cars. He manufactures the chassis and bodies himself. The engines are sourced from Nissan and BMW. He quoted me 65,000 ZAR for building one of his kits. Now, can someone please explain to me, how a private individual can price his vehicles lower than a corporate, that has mass production as a weapon?

After spending the last 3 months investigating car prices. I'm convinced, that car manufacturers have well and truly lost the plot! They no longer sell cars, they sell fashion and status symbols, designed to last almost as long as it would take you to make the final payment.

Yes, there are those who want fashion and status symbols. There are far fewer able to afford it, and even fewer truly in need of it. I challenge anyone reading this, to prove otherwise.

Why then, do I see advertising for the latest SUV and performance vehicles, but none for the vehicles the vast majority of us need? Why do car manufacturers prefer to build and market exactly those cars almost none of us can either afford or use?

If any of you have the answers, please be so kind as to let me know.


Hi Dirk I have just recently

Hi Dirk
I have just recently decided to completely restore my 1977 1600 Beetle and am now trying to find a starting point for quotes etc. In my pursuit I came across your blog, you’ve mentioned that it is possible to do a complete restoration for around R30 000? I already have one quote of R20 000, do you think it’s a good ball park, between these two figures? Keeping in mind my Beetle is in pretty good nick as it is.
I have been driving her for the last 10yrs (second owner) and am only now forced to consider the restoration as the 30yr old girl, well, is 30yrs old. My sums were very similar to yours in making the decision on whether to get a new car (for the first time) or have my dear old thing restored and frankly I’d rather have my Beetle. Never mind that this little extra TLC will probably give me another good ten years – longer then any warranty on any new entry-level car, as she is at the moment, I spend less then R3000 a year on general maintenance and up-keep (which one has to do) – much less then I would be paying if I was paying off a new car and that doesn’t even include services, insurance. Wish me luck

Hi WhiskeyRose, Before you

Hi WhiskeyRose,

Before you carry on reading, click here ----> The Aircooled VW SA Forum. Join the forum and you'll get more advice than you can shake a stick at. That's where I go when I have questions.

My take on things is as follows:

R30,000 is a good budget for restoring a Beetle in South Africa. My 67 beetle, isn't in great condition, and I know if I restored her to virtually brand new condition I'd be spending about R30,000. This will include engine and gearbox rebuild.

The problem though, is that it would take me half a year. If you want it done in two weeks, you can more than double the budget. As with all things in life, restoring a car is a balancing act. You balance the resources you have with the time you want the project completed in.

Before committing to any massive effort, I'd suggest you speak to a few people that have actually done restorations that you like. Try to meet them in person, look at their cars and get a feel for what it will really cost you, not only in money, but time and discomfort as well.

Also keep in mind that a new coat of spray paint does not mean the car has been restored. It's cosmetic only and does not serve to do much for the mechanics of the car.

I spent 6 months with Christn sitting in my garage, before I started making moves on getting the restoration under way.
During that time I was learning, keeping an eye out for things that could go wrong and what I'm supposed to watch out for.

Take your time WhiskeyRose, especially since you've had this car for the past 30 years. You'd want the people that work on her to treat her with the same dignity and respect you do.

Good luck!

Ahh, thanks for getting back

Ahh, thanks for getting back to me and for the advice. Yes I have joined The Aircooled VW SA Forum and look forward to seeing things develope there. I also found VW Trend in Pretoria (have you heard anything about them?)and am taking the old girl in on Saturday for an assesment. They sent me an initial quote of R20 000 which includes body, interior, wiring, oil and engine clean-up and various other things but it is their standard quote and as I am sure I won't be having the dropped supension, there's andothor R1 200 asved but I'm sure there will be add-ons too. Just to be clear, I haven't owned my beetle for 30 years, only for ten but she is 30yrs old and almost all of her is origional. As far as the mechanics go, she is already is pretty good condition as I service her twice a year and drive her everyday, so I am going to assume for now that it will largely be a cosmetic project, although I am tempted to go the whole nine yards, a decision I'll make after Saturday's assessment.
I'll most certainly keep you informed on how things go.

This is an excellent

This is an excellent blog,very informative and i really appreciate it. It should be going on.

This isn't quite a blog,

This isn't quite a blog, just a place for me to dump things I do and find interesting.
There will never be regular updates, but I will update it when I have something to post.

Keep an eye out. I'm currently busy with a project that will find it's way here soon.

First of all, I respect

First of all, I respect every opinion that you have. But as for me, I have nothing against fashion statement especially when referring with cars. Honestly I'm one of those persons who value cars by making it more fashionable. I'm driving a BMW, and I decided to make it more fashionable and stunning by ordering a bmw dash kits. And honestly I don't care how much it would cost me as long as I'm happy with the result.

I say this again. The fact

I say this again. The fact that car manufacturers are making status symbols is not the problem, the problem is :

!!! It is all they are doing !!!

If you want a souped up car, fine, that's your budget and credit rating out the door.

Me, I like to know I don't have dept and can afford to eat rather than look good.

Seriously, even the MK1 Golf is being discontinued. There are no solid, reliable, "for the man in the street" cars for sale anymore. There is no such thing as a car that still provides cheap, utilitarian transport for the masses.

The cars being produced today, will not last the decade, causing more damage to the environment than a 40 year old Morris Minor have in it's entire existence.

You want to drive a status symbol, go ahead. For myself though, I don't need material things to be happy. I do however, demand to have every cent I spend, counted and returned in full value.

Enough said :D

BTW: You will notice that the links you posted in your comment, are gone.
If you want to advertise your stuff on my site, you would probably find me far more accommodating if you asked first.
Since you didn't, you can pay for the privilege.