Cars - are they commodities?

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Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:39 am

So in light of having bought a new car, I couldn't help but wonder whether cars are mostly a commodity nowadays. At least in terms of quality and reliability - even the cheapest Kia is on par with the priciest Lexus (at least when you buy them both as new). Even from a feature-packed point of view, I think the field is starting to level a bit. I just got a CLS550 and I needed to pay extra for features that come standard on cheaper brands already. In the end, a lot of the advances in the car industry over the last 5 years are really in the realm of the electronics so it's not surprising that the South Korean brands can implement them just as well as pricier German brands. Of course, the uber performance segment is still dominated by the likes of divisions such as AMG that have no equivalent in places like South Korea.

So my question is, if one were to overlook intangible factors such as prestige, re-sale value, brand-loyalty and the like, do you think a Kia is as much a car as a BMW?

Do South Koreans make the best bang-for-buck cars? Do Germans still make the "best" cars? Japanese? American?
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:45 am

Kia is no longer a value brand, it took over Hyundai's position when Hyundai moved up to the luxury segment. You pay for styling and fit/finish. Take a look at a Yaris or Aveo for a true entry level car. Look at the new Dodge Dart, it has tons of features, and drives great, but they put a cheap looking finish on the interior to keep it from upstaging the 200 which from most aspects except for size it's superior to.

Kia is an Asian car, it drives like an asian car, it's quality isn't quite as high as Toyota or Honda, but they're similar. The Euro cars are a totally different animal. Everything about them is more complicated and sophisticated and have much higher standards for everything, sometimes to a fault. Most shops in the US can't even do an alignment on a german luxury car because of specialized tools required. But a properly aligned bmw/mercedes will out handle just about any of the japanese or us vehicles. There is a lot of value in the German Luxury segment, but most of the owners would never know the difference. They might know the asian cars just aren't as nice, but they wouldn't know why.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:49 am

All I can say is that I'm very happy with the Toyota Yaris (this model: http://i.imgur.com/SuXhzxc.jpg). For a car that was that cheap, it's been a perfectly reliable and capable mode of transportation, and it feels well put together. I don't know if Kia is on the same level (I guess they are) but the last time I sat in a Hyundai (i30) I was thoroughly impressed.

They're still too expensive to be seen as a commodity IMO, but the "just get one, it will work" factor of a true commodity seems to be there already.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:07 am

Getting there. The dogs are not dogs because of mechanical reliability (or the lack thereof), but because of styling. No one would bring to market today a Yugo or a 1st-gen Huyndai Excel.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:27 pm

duke_nukem_3D wrote: do you think a Kia is as much a car as a BMW?
Do South Koreans make the best bang-for-buck cars? Do Germans still make the "best" cars? Japanese? American?


It's all a matter of personal preference... If you need a "source of transportation from point A to point B" - then almost any modern car will do that well, even Korean brands (they also have good warranty on them and are reliable and comfortable enough for daily usage), no need to buy a BMW/Mercedes/Lexus for that (unless you want to compensate for your personal deficiency by trying to focus your friend's attention on your "luxury car" instead of on your deficiencies :wink: ).If you enjoy involvement into driving process (including the car's suspension response, steering response and the overall maneurability) - you probably should only look at Euro cars like Porsche (any model) or Mercedes' AMG models or BMW's M-series models (the "regular" models from both Mercedes and BMW are way too "soft" nowadays) and others. If you want to "go fast in straight line" - then it's probably better to choose some inexpensive American car like Camaro/Mustang/Corvette :wink:
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:59 pm

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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:26 pm

Oil, gold, wheat, etc. Are commodities. Some Computer parts (e.g., RAM) are also commodities. Car, as evidenced by our discussion, are not like this.

JohnC wrote:If you enjoy involvement into driving process (including the car's suspension response, steering response and the overall maneurability) - you probably should only look at Euro cars like Porsche (any model) or Mercedes' AMG models or BMW's M-series models (the "regular" models from both Mercedes and BMW are way too "soft" nowadays) and others. If you want to "go fast in straight line" - then it's probably better to choose some inexpensive American car like Camaro/Mustang/Corvette


I was watching an episode of Top Gear yesterday (Series 20 Episode 3) and they had the Stig do a test lap in a Jaguar XK (I think) using the "normal" "sport" and "comfort" settings for steering, suspension etc. The "normal" and "sport" settings produced the exact same lap time while the "comfort" setting shaved off one tenth of a second.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:28 pm

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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:12 am

I think you can say that the safety and convenience feature packages are becoming commoditized, although partly because of ever-increasing safety regulations -- for example, traction control originally launched as a high end option which was experimental in the 1970s and 1980s, increasingly common on luxury vehicles in the 1990s, available on many mainstream vehicles in the 00s, and is now mandatory on all new production cars in the US. Airbags had a similar trajectory for development and availability, and multi-airbag systems are now mandatory on all production vehicles in many countries -- even the lowly Toyota Yaris has nine of them.

There's a pretty wide spread for quality and reliability, though. Two of my favorites are the 2004-2010 (fifth generation) Hyundai Sonata and the 1998-2005 (first-gen) Ford Focus-- those things were everywhere in the US for the first years after their debut, but not many of them have survived. Meanwhile, the earth is littered with drivable 1991-1996 and 1997-2001 Toyota Camrys.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:57 am

ludi wrote: Meanwhile, the earth is littered with drivable 1991-1996 and 1997-2001 Toyota Camrys.

Surprising assumption, considering the many interesting results Google can find when searching for "Toyota Camry sludge" :wink:
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:09 am

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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:38 am

It depends on where you live. German's design for the autobahn, and while it is not the unlimited speed highway system it used to be the cars are designed to handle the autobahn speeds. It is subtle, but a system designed to handle those speeds is going have more design requirements and refinements than a system designed to meet US speed limits. So if you live in Germany a KIA at 120 MPH is going to have a driving dynamic that is unsettled and on the edge. A Porsche, Audi, MB, or BMW at 120 MPH will feel normal and could go faster with less drama.
This goes farther than just chassis and powertrain. A windshield wiper system designed for 120 plus MPH, has different requirements than a 70 MPH wiper system. This does not seem significant unless you are driving into a stiff headwind when it is raining. Than the US spec system is going to struggle, while the Autobahn system will be better designed to handle the additional aerodynamic issues presented by the relative wind speed.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:42 am

yammerpickle2 wrote:It depends on where you live. German's design for the autobahn, and while it is not the unlimited speed highway system it used to be the cars are designed to handle the autobahn speeds. It is subtle, but a system designed to handle those speeds is going have more design requirements and refinements than a system designed to meet US speed limits. So if you live in Germany a KIA at 120 MPH is going to have a driving dynamic that is unsettled and on the edge. A Porsche, Audi, MB, or BMW at 120 MPH will feel normal and could go faster with less drama.
This goes farther than just chassis and powertrain. A windshield wiper system designed for 120 plus MPH, has different requirements than a 70 MPH wiper system. This does not seem significant unless you are driving into a stiff headwind when it is raining. Than the US spec system is going to struggle, while the Autobahn system will be better designed to handle the additional aerodynamic issues presented by the relative wind speed.


Well, to be fair American and Japanese car manufacturers do test and "tune" some of their models at Nürburgring. It's just they used to pay much less attention to driving characteristics of their cars BUT amusingly this trend has almost reversed in latest years. BMW continues to make their new cars larger, heavier and more "numb" (their electric and hydraulic power steering in all of latest models is horribly tuned, same goes for mechanical suspension which became too "spongy"), going as far as using a pre-recorded MP3 soundtrack of "engine sound" in their new M5 model (its built on the F10 chassis which has huge amount of sound insulation and was designed to isolate the driver from outside environment as much as possible) :lol: Whereas Cadillac's ATS was recently praised by magazines such as "Car & Driver" for its significantly improved driving dynamics (steering/suspension/braking), same goes for some of recent Lexus models.

Edit: Here's the latest comparison of BMW's attempt at becoming a "Cadillac" and Cadillac's attempt at becoming a BMW:
http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons ... ats-page-2
"Less than two miles into his first handling loop in the ATS, senior editor Tony Quiroga announced, “Yeah, this car is way better.” He raved about the composure and responsiveness of the Cadillac, which was equipped with the FE3 Performance package that brings adjustable magnetorheological dampers, 18-inch summer tires, and a limited-slip differential to the party. The ATS is an easy car to drive fast, even on lumpy 1.3-lane roads in West Virginia, the land of decreasing radii. A safe touch of understeer gives way to near-perfect balance and incredible poise up to the 0.90-g limit. Wheel motions are admirably well controlled and damped, and it seems nothing can upset the ATS’s line. You can drive this car the same way on a rough patchwork road as you’d drive the BMW on a smooth one.
Should you overestimate the length of a straight, a firm and responsive braking system brings things to a halt in just 160 feet from 70 mph, 12 feet shorter than the BMW’s mushier pedal can manage. It’s just too bad that Cadillac couldn’t come up with a chassis like this before electric power steering exterminated road feel. While the ATS’s wheel proffers heavy weighting and linear buildup, we’d be lying if we said feel wasn’t muffled. At least there’s some; the BMW’s steering is even more artificial."

This is coming from a car magazine which was always considered a "pro-BMW" and kept the BMW's 3-series in their "10Best" car list for 20 straight years. :o
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:12 am

yammerpickle2 wrote:It depends on where you live. German's design for the autobahn, and while it is not the unlimited speed highway system it used to be the cars are designed to handle the autobahn speeds. It is subtle, but a system designed to handle those speeds is going have more design requirements and refinements than a system designed to meet US speed limits. So if you live in Germany a KIA at 120 MPH is going to have a driving dynamic that is unsettled and on the edge. A Porsche, Audi, MB, or BMW at 120 MPH will feel normal and could go faster with less drama.
This goes farther than just chassis and powertrain. A windshield wiper system designed for 120 plus MPH, has different requirements than a 70 MPH wiper system. This does not seem significant unless you are driving into a stiff headwind when it is raining. Than the US spec system is going to struggle, while the Autobahn system will be better designed to handle the additional aerodynamic issues presented by the relative wind speed.

I would agree with you, except that the Toyota Yaris that I mentioned earlier (not the US sedan, but the rest-of-the-world hatchback) manages 100MPH just fine with a paltry 1.0l 3-cylinder engine and a design focused on economy. I mean, sure, it really doesn't have enough power to do that speed comfortably, but the ride dynamics and the like really don't feel "on the edge" as you say.

edit: yes, 120MPH does not equal 100MPH, but only people with money to burn really do 120MPH with any kind of regularity
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:33 am

JohnC wrote:
duke_nukem_3D wrote: do you think a Kia is as much a car as a BMW?
Do South Koreans make the best bang-for-buck cars? Do Germans still make the "best" cars? Japanese? American?


It's all a matter of personal preference... If you need a "source of transportation from point A to point B" - then almost any modern car will do that well, even Korean brands (they also have good warranty on them and are reliable and comfortable enough for daily usage), no need to buy a BMW/Mercedes/Lexus for that (unless you want to compensate for your personal deficiency by trying to focus your friend's attention on your "luxury car" instead of on your deficiencies :wink: ).If you enjoy involvement into driving process (including the car's suspension response, steering response and the overall maneurability) - you probably should only look at Euro cars like Porsche (any model) or Mercedes' AMG models or BMW's M-series models (the "regular" models from both Mercedes and BMW are way too "soft" nowadays) and others. If you want to "go fast in straight line" - then it's probably better to choose some inexpensive American car like Camaro/Mustang/Corvette :wink:


I thoroughly agree with this statement. Also, isnt the C63 engine quoted in your signature 6.2L, not 6.3L?
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:26 pm

How can the OP ask this question when the car the OP recently purchased is about as far away from a commodity as one can get (a subset of the saloon category - the saloon coupe). I'm surprised the OP even bothered to ask the question in the first place unless it was to post, yet again, that he/she owns a CLS550.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:30 pm

Jive wrote:Also, isnt the C63 engine quoted in your signature 6.2L, not 6.3L?

Fooled by marketing. "Although it displaces 6.208 liters, the engine will be marketed as the "6.3" to commemorate the famed Mercedes-Benz M100 engine, Mercedes' first production V8. It displaced 6.3L."
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:11 pm

Yeap, pretty much a marketing trick - MB just "rounded it off" to a 6.3 number :wink: Pretty common thing between car manufacturers - for example, GM does it to their LS9/LSA engines (6,162 cc rounded to "6.2").


End User wrote:unless it was to post, yet again, that he/she owns a CLS550.

What's wrong with that? You're jelly that some people can afford to enjoy luxury things which you might not be able to ever afford during your sad, miserable lifetime? :wink:
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:52 pm

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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:11 pm

JohnC wrote:Yeap, pretty much a marketing trick - MB just "rounded it off" to a 6.3 number :wink: Pretty common thing between car manufacturers - for example, GM does it to their LS9/LSA engines (6,162 cc rounded to "6.2").

Just like a 5.0 Mustang back in the day was really a 4.9 (4942 cc). Really pissed off Mustang drivers to tell them it was a 4.9.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:49 pm

So my question is, if one were to overlook intangible factors such as prestige, re-sale value, brand-loyalty and the like, do you think a Kia is as much a car as a BMW?

Do South Koreans make the best bang-for-buck cars? Do Germans still make the "best" cars? Japanese? American?


I believe that given the price disparity, a Kia is a very reasonable choice (and despite what other posters have suggested, making that choice doesn't relegate one to "not caring" or "wanting basic transportation"). I cross shopped my Sportage with an Audi Q5 (and A4), and while the Audis' steering feel was great (spend 5 minutes behind the wheel and it feels like you've driven the car your whole life), the 2.0T Sportage had better pick-up and seemed to be more "tossable" on twisty roads. That, combined with the ~$7,000 price difference, the fact that I don't trust Audi's reliability record, and their increased operating costs I think I made the right decision. The fact I got more standard features was also a bonus.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:25 pm

When I got my base model Subaru Impreza I was tempted by the WRX version. I was out on a test drive and we saw an STi about 3 cars in front of us. 10 minutes later the STi is still 3 cars in front of us. Whilst I love the Clarkson "Moar Power" ethos, the reality is in driving most places the cheap car will get you there about the same time as the fast car and save you a lot on insurance and gas (both economy and base vs. premium).
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:46 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
JohnC wrote:Yeap, pretty much a marketing trick - MB just "rounded it off" to a 6.3 number :wink: Pretty common thing between car manufacturers - for example, GM does it to their LS9/LSA engines (6,162 cc rounded to "6.2").

Just like a 5.0 Mustang back in the day was really a 4.9 (4942 cc). Really pissed off Mustang drivers to tell them it was a 4.9.


Yea, "performance car" owners can be extremely... "obsessive" with the numbers related to their "metal idols", that goes for all brands (although perhaps more so when it comes to Camaro and Mustang products). At least Ford and GM were "rounding it off" to a proper tenth place...
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:55 pm

JohnC wrote:Yea, "performance car" owners can be extremely... "obsessive" with the numbers related to their "metal idols", that goes for all brands (although perhaps more so when it comes to Camaro and Mustang products). At least Ford and GM were "rounding it off" to a proper tenth place...

Such lies the difference between the Ford 302 and the GM 305.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:38 am

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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:50 pm

clone wrote:
note: long term reliability numbers may not apply to todays vehicles given the vast improvements in process controls, the industry wide focus on quality and overall consolidation of the supplier network which is likely how GMC managed to take 2nd place just behind Porsche as one of the highest quality vehicles in the world this year while FIAT/Chrysler has been leapfrogging it's way up the rankings year on year since coming out of Bankruptcy. it would appear both companies learned from the experience.


...Working for Chrysler and spending a lot of time in Detroit, I can tell you, they didn't really learn anything, it's more than they're now free of their German overlords who more or less gutted the company of it's freedom, ingenuity and training programs, all of which were reinstated the moment Sergio took over.

During the Daimler years, the answer for why you used that part that's failing always came down to two things, material cost management re-spec'd the original design with a lower cost design, or Daimler shoved the system down their throat, which is really a problem for owners now. Electronics like the Daimler shifter modules for all of their autostick vehicle are a pretty common failure, which wouldn't be a big deal at their original price of around $100 bucks, but as of the last update they're more than $1000 for a glorified shifter bezel, same story with sprinter parts. It's hard to say whether Chrysler would have been better off without Daimler, or if it's a blessing that they ran the company into the ground so it could be given to Fiat, who's over investing in the company now.

As far as the earlier comment about Hyundai/Kia warranties, they're a full 10/100 first owner powertrain warranty provided you performed the required maintenance, which isn't really that much, Timing belt and trans service at 60kish. But, they're the only company I've worked for who will deny you warranty due to scheduled maintenance being neglected.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:56 pm

jss21382 wrote:But, they're the only company I've worked for who will deny you warranty due to scheduled maintenance being neglected.

Will they accept records of 3rd party maintenance or are they really pushing back on Magnuson-Moss?
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:07 pm

They're fine with third party records, they basically want to see that you've done your timing belt if they're replacing an engine for a timing belt failure, or that you've changed the trans fluid for a trans replacement issue.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:13 pm

jss21382 wrote:They're fine with third party records, they basically want to see that you've done your timing belt if they're replacing an engine for a timing belt failure, or that you've changed the trans fluid for a trans replacement issue.

I never trust mfg warranty departments to fully honor Magnuson-Moss if they think they can get away with it.
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Re: Cars - are they commodities?

Postposted on Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:30 pm

On the Chrysler side of things....it's all covered, we don't even bother to look at how it happened, if it's in warranty it's fixed. Which is especially interesting on things like wranglers, as the rep said to me, we market this as a vehicle that will go over anything, if they break it going over anything we can't just say sorry, you went over the wrong thing.
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