Car Bundling

An interesting idea from BMW: buy a small electric car, get access to a larger gasoline one for when you need it. From the article at Atlantic Cities:

People buy cars for their peak (imagined) need. If you can imagine that one day you’ll drive more than a handful of people to Lake Tahoe to go skiing, then (if you can afford it) you might choose a massive sport-utility vehicle.

Which is why, I think one piece of BMW’s electric vehicle announcement today is so significant. When you buy the new BMW i3, you can bundle it with access to “a conventional auto like the full-sized X5 SUV for several weeks a year.”

19 Responses to “Car Bundling”

  1. Pitt says:

    Will I have access to a conventional, reliable auto like a Toyota when none of the hopelessly overcomplicated, overengineered pieces of German crap will run?

    How about when my i3 runs out of electrons in the middle of the highway, or at 3AM on some lonely country road?

  2. matt says:

    If you’re driving a range-limited electric car on some lonely country road at 3am, I think You’re Doing It Wrong.

    I don’t think that people who want to live in the middle of nowhere and drive constantly are really the use case for this. I think it’s more of a “you only have a second car for commuting <20 miles a day, but once in a while you need something bigger or with more range" idea. It would work great for me, if I wasn't far too cheap to pay for this sort of thing.

  3. Pitt says:

    It would work great for me, too, if it weren’t for the fact that the last time BMW built a car I actually wanted to own was when George Bush was a vice president.

    Really, though…it’s just a promotional gimmick for people who need to appear hip or trendy. I can buy a reasonable 40 mpg econobox for commuting and a reasonable SUV for wekeend activities for less than an i3, and the difference will more than pay for my commuter car’s gas until I retire.

  4. Pitt says:

    42 grand. That’s what BMW wants for this car. 45 with the range extender. Granted, with the R.E. they boast a 150 mile+ range, which is hella sweet for an E.V. I’m sure they’ll sell every one they make in their opening U.S. markets- basically, big coastal cities full of pinkos. 😉

    An off-lease Prius will run about 15k and a 3-4 year old Suburban about 20k. Yes, I know I’m comparing used vs. new, but it’s also nice to have the vehicles immediately at one’s disposal, rather than having to schedule it through your friendly BMW dealer.

  5. matt says:

    Electric cars are in a weird predicament, market-wise; the most promising potential customers are people who live in high-density urban areas, because those are the people who can comfortably use a low range vehicle. Unfortunately, those are also the people who are most likely to live in apartments or other dwellings without dedicated parking to install a charging station.

    I’ve read that they’re seeing surprisingly uptake in Canada, partially because there are so many parking facilities up there that already have electric hookups for block warmers.

  6. Pitt says:

    Problem is, block warmers only draw about 100W of power through 110VAC. Electric car chargers are typically 240V or 480V to get the charge times down. It’s pretty crazy when you start running the numbers on how much POWER you need to move a car down the road. Even with 90%+ efficiency on battery packs and electric motors, compared to ~25 to 30% efficiency of an ICE, the power density of gasoline is SO much greater than even the trendiest batteries.

    Put it another way, to give a ~200 mile range in that BMW, assuming it had some sort of reasonably efficient gasoline ICE, not a hybrid drivetrain, you’d need a fuel tank of about 6 gallons, which would weigh about 50 pounds when full and take a space about the size of a suitcase. The batteries in the i3 must weigh several hundred pounds and would probably fill the trunk of a midsize car.

  7. BrianN says:

    Around here we actually do have a number of charging stations, running the 220V high amp thingy that’s supposed to charge most cars in < 1hour. I rarely see them being used. I have seen a couple of Teslas running around, though.

    The reason I bought my Prius when that was new was because it was because it came with a bunch of great features standard, that otherwise were only offered in luxury cars. And at the time the design was kind of cool and different. If you want to sell a car you have to design one people like, not just worry about whether it's Green(tm) or not.

    We just bought a new car, and did actually buy new. The used car market sucks right now (for buying) they wanted almost new prices for 3 year old cars. I had a couple of observations though.

    One is that almost every car we looked at had significant improvements in gas mileage at their latest redesign. The small cars we looked at like Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, etc. get very nearly the gas mileage of my prius. (and the new prius sucks, too).

    The second is that it seems every car manufacturer gets together at the beginning of the model year to decide what this years cars will look like. It reminds me of the Miss Universe pageant, where women representing the many countries and ethnicities of the human race come together to show that with enough makeup they can all look exactly the same.

  8. Pitt says:

    Brian,

    So, what’d you guys buy?

    With the financing available on new cars (typically much lower rates than used, especially if your credit is good), plus the dealer incentives, I have heard that it often doesn’t make sense to buy 2-3 year old cars. I think it depends on the car, demand for that model, depreciation, etc. The market for small cars is pretty strong, especially the Toyondas. And a 2-3 year old car may still be able to pass for “new” with the non-car conscious at large. The best deals are on 5+ year old models.

    I generally look at a normal, modern car as having a useful life of ~200,000 miles. So, whatever % of that left is what the fair market price should be. The lower the actual price compared to that, assuming the car is fully operable and not hiding any defects, the more favorable the deal.

    It’s funny, a lot of older people now look back on the “good ole days”, as a time when cars didn’t all look alike. But I think they may be jumbling the years together, and no, a ’49 Plymouth looks nothing like a ’71 Chevrolet. But if you took it year by year, a lot of people would have a hard time telling a ’54 Ford from a ’54 Chevy from a ’54 Dodge. Car manufacturers are fairly conservative. It costs a lot of money to tool steel panels and redo interiors. My ’92 Dodge truck had the same steering wheel as a Plymouth Horizon America. What a Country!

    As for fuel economy…from what I’ve read on the car blargs, despite the EPA’s best efforts to make ratings more representative of driving conditions, those crafty manufacturers seem to be finding loopholes, and real world economy is almost always lower than the ratings. A friend of mine bought a brand new GMC SUV- one of the little ones, with a 4 cylinder. EPA rating was 30mpg highway. He does mostly highway driving and is lucky to see 24 mpg. Another friend of mine bought a brand new Chevy truck, one of the ones they tout on the TV ads as getting 21 mpg. His real-world fuel economy? 14.

  9. BrianN says:

    We got a Honda CR-V. We started out looking for a small car, thinking we could find something about the size of my current car, but just didn’t like them. It seems around 2010 they decided people wanted giant, spaceship-like consoles between the driver and passanger, and I just don’t like it. The only layout we liked was the Subaru Impreza, but our experience at the dealership made Jin wary of the car. (We drove some used ones and all the interiors were beat to shit, and there were some interesting noises coming from the cars, including one which was 3 years old, had only 16,000 miles on it). I don’t want to buy a new one if that’s what it’s going to look like in 3 years.

    I agree cars these days last to 200,000, but the amount of work you put into it increases. Knock on wood, I haven’t had to do anything major to my Toyota at 166k, but there are some worrying noises. We have a difficult commuting situation, so to be without a car for a few days would be a disaster, even if it’s under warrantee. Thus we didn’t want anything over 30k miles or so.

    The CR-V says it gets 24/30. I drove it to Rochester and back, 28MPG there, 29MPG coming back, so not too bad. I know the ratings aren’t correct, but I assume they are OK for comparison purposes.

  10. Pitt says:

    I like the CR-V. In the current selection of mini-utility-vehicles it’s a pretty solid choice.

    I’m with you on the cockpit feeling every new car seems to have. High beltlines, low seats, and big consoles. You feel like you’re sitting in a hole. Visibility is pretty miserable, too. I wish they’d take that into account when doing vehicle safety tests. If you can’t see out of the bloody car you’re probably more likely to get into a situation where you’ll need 11,000 airbags, stear door beams, rollover guard, and child bubblewrap.

    I’m wondering if the issue with used Subies has more to do with the boy-racer crowd that owns these things and thrashes them to death, and the mentality of “hey, this thing’s got all-wheel-drive, I can go off-roadin’ in it!” Matt, I’m looking at you…

    200k is actually a pretty reasonable expectation of most newer cars before requiring major repairs. Especially if the owners have been reasonable about, at the very least, changing the oil every 5000 miles or so and attending to weird noises and trouble lights when they pop up.

    Is it slightly downhill from Rochacha to Beantown, or is that just because the Jetstream tends to flow west to east?

  11. BrianN says:

    The first one we rode in was reportedly driven by an 85 year old woman. I imagine she probably had a giant purse and a dog with long claws, based on the scratches around the interior. The second one smelled aweful had severe wear on the seats. Both had a rattle underneath, which was, “just the heat shield, easy to fix.”

    The visibility thing is a major problem for us. We are both a little shorter than the cars are designed around and because of front side airbags the column between the windshield and the door tends to be very big. This makes a blind spot right where people often cross the street. A bit scary around here. The extra height on the CR-V actually helps this a little.

  12. matt says:

    1. Both of my Subarus have had heat shields that loosened up over time and needed to be tightened.

    2. Tightening them takes about five minutes. What the hell kind of used car lot tries to sell a car without taking that minimal effort?

  13. BrianN says:

    Why is it so hard to construct a car whose parts simply don’t come loose in an entirely predictable way over what seems to be many model years?

  14. BrianN says:

    You would wonder why they don’t make the best possible effort to show the best in their used cars, because it reflects on the quality of the car. We made a point of driving several used cars for each one we were interested in just to see how they wear.

  15. BrianN says:

    Oh, the other funny thing about Subaru was that while bluetooth was standard, cruise control was not. Interesting choice.

  16. matt says:

    “Why is it so hard to construct a car whose parts simply don’t come loose in an entirely predictable way over what seems to be many model years?”

    I would imagine that the issue is heat-related, since the heat shield is essentially just a thin sheet of metal clamped over the exhaust. The constant heating and cooling (plus the beating that it takes as part of the undercarriage) loosens up the fasteners eventually.

    It’s probably possible to build one that never loosens, but I’m sure some actuary decided that tightening the bolts every few years isn’t enough of a hassle to justify the additional expense.

  17. Pitt says:

    Except that in 1/3 of the country, after 3 or 4 years worth of winters, those heat shield fasteners are so thoroughly corroded that attempting to tighten them results in them breaking. As the mechanic attempts to repair _that_, the exhaust system falls off in its entirety.

  18. BrianN says:

    And Matt nicely articulates why we bought a Honda.

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