Choices – The Downfall of Society

As we enter into what seems to be a very bad recession I had to ask myself what really caused this one. Yes it is obvious that the mortgage meltdown in the United States was the primary cause but let us look at the big picture.

Right now the North American auto industry is well… how can we say.. dying. But the they did it to themselves, our whole society is based on people getting what they want even before they know they want it. Car companies took this idea and created endless variations of vehicles that are really not needed.

The way a car company should be structured is simple. A 4 tier system, economy, consumer, luxury and Commercial. And within the tiers we have the sub-tiers, compact, sedan, and truck.

The problem is right now we have car companies making these tiers within each brand instead of making a brand a tier. Lets look at Ford Motor Company as an example, Ford has Mazda, Mercury, Lincoln, and Volvo. They also had Jaguar and Austin Martin but those have been sold off. But what does all mean well each brand carries roughly the exact same vehicle take the Ford Escape is the same as a Mazda Tribute, Lincoln MKX, Mercury Mariner, and Volvo XC60.The problem is not that its all the same vehicle cause yes a economical way of manufacturing, the problem is that when you start pricing these vehicles out they cross into each others price bracket. they all start around $30,000, why would you pay $30,000 for a Mazda and $30,000 for a Volvo they are different bracket.

The tiers should be nice and simple, and remember I am using Ford as an example.

Mazda Mercury Ford Lincoln Volvo
0-12000 12000-24000 24000-36000 36000-48000 48000+
These are the prices brackets that these brands should be selling in and not over, I am tired of seeing ads that show a vehicle starting at 16,999 but when you go down to the dealership there is not a single vehicle on the lot that is under $30,000. How is it there is almost double the cost in additional options, it is apparent that, that vehicle was never meant to be in that class.
But lets get back to the Choices problem, where is there so many freaking classes of vehicle.
  1. Sub-compact,
  2. Compact,
  3. Sedan,
  4. Mid-Size,
  5. Full-Size,
  6. Crossover,
  7. Wagon,
  8. Minivan,
  9. Van,
  10. Compact SUV,
  11. SUV,
  12. Large SUV,
  13. Compact Truck,
  14. Mid-size Truck,
  15. Full Size Truck,
  16. Coupe,
  17. Convertible,
  18. Sport,
  19. Exotic.

19 there is 19 classes of vehicles and more if you let the auto companies classify them. Think about 19 times 5 prices categories for a total of 90 models a single auto company could be producing. They have to design, market, manufacture, distribute, train, and hold in inventory 90 models, now add in the fact that Ford currently offers vehicles in 34 colours, and now we even have options for Hybrid, Natural Gas, Diesel, and Gas, plus each vehicle has different luxury classes so lets say on average 3, for a grand total of 38,760 different variations of vehicles a single auto company can be producing. This is the problem, don’t even get me started on the fact that there is difference based on regions within North American and not even counting the Brands in the rest of the world. Is it just me or has someone missed the boat here and over complicated the industry and the buyers have way too many choices now and are just fed up with it.

My tier systems allows for 4 Tiers, 3 Sub Tiers, 4 Engine Choices, and 5 Colour choices for a grand total of 240 possible vehicle variations. That is still a huge number but it eliminates duplication of the same vehicle, limits choice of colour, limits the classes to 1 for each tier.

So if you want a sedan, economy and diesel you will have 2 choices and 5 colour choices nice and simple.

I decided to pick on the auto industry, well cause it is easy, but this same concept can be applied to every. We don’t need 1000 different versions of TVs break it down to 26”, 36” and 46” if you need larger than 46” than you must have a room 40’ long and should think about the point of the TV. Right now we have 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 32, 34, 36, 37, 40, 42, 46, 50, 52, 60. Serious that many sizes are not needed, and then Type, Resolution, Connectivity, Quality. It just doesn’t end.

Stop making endless variations, stop making new models just because, you don’t need to have a new model every year. Make a model last a few years get the most out of the manufacturing technique make sure you actually made money on it before making a new model.

Right now our markets are flooded with choice and confusion. If you are a Product Manager step back one day and looks at every single model you are currently producing and think about what its costing you to keep all those products, simplify everything and you will realize that people that are looking for a product will suddenly understand that there is a difference between Product A and B and if B cost more they know why and you can go back to the days of selling based on quality.