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Shaun Sadlier's blog: Why simpler is probably better

Date: 23 September 2019

A hundred years ago, motoring was popularised by the Model T Ford, which was famously made in what we would describe today as one trim level. You could have it any colour, so long as it was black. Ever since, we've been moving in the opposite direction. More models, more engines, more options. Today, the possible combinations sometimes seem infinite.

That's why it was interesting recently to read that at least one manufacturer is heading in the opposite direction, having cut their overall portfolio by 27% during the last year with the aim of eventually arriving at a 40-45% reduction. This strategy even applies to model lines, where a 30% reduction is planned.

This is probably part of a wider trend. The introduction of WLTP discourages model and trim proliferation because of the effect of the regime on testing with various options. It could be that many more manufacturers are quietly moving to reduce their overall offering, something which our recent discussions with some major car makers would indicate is true. 

Generally, we believe this development to be welcomed from a fleet point of view. Simpler model ranges will probably help to make it easier to create choice lists, to set residual values and should even potentially help to drive down purchasing prices.

Additionally, as we move into an era of vastly increased engine options, there is probably a need to find ways to contain proliferation. As well as trim levels, bodystyles and options, mainstream company cars are becoming available with a variety of petrol, diesel, plug in, hybrid and electric motive sources. This accelerates the choice issue. Unless manufacturers actively work to make things simpler, the potential for confusion is considerable. 

Indeed, it was interesting to note that the Volkswagen ID, an EV designed to bring electric power to the masses that was recently unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show, will be sold in relatively few trim levels with a limited number of options. That is very much in line with this way of thinking and something of which we expect to see more in the next few years.

Shaun Sadlier is head of Arval's Mobility Observatory