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Car Corner: A car for a kid?

A car that’s relatively cheap because it has no extras to sell to brand new drivers, or even the financially conscious, seems like a no-brainer.
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Why don't car manufacturers produce no-frills basic cars with a low purchase price for young people and those who don't want fancy gadgets, columnist Jay Hurley asks.

As a kid I was always excited to drive and to own a car. So much so that when my dad drove, I would pretend I was driving in the back. Talk about backseat driving. With the daunting price tag and manufacturer-forced extras when it came time for me to buy a car, and I could afford it, I always wondered why you couldn’t by a car that was bare. No extras, no Bluetooth or Apple car play or computer systems or any of that other garbage. Just a car and maybe two speakers for the radio because, let's be honest, that’s all I use anyway.

Well, the easy answer is companies can charge more for more stuff. But there’s no denying that there’s a market for cars with minimal extras or features. Don’t get me wrong, I want there to be options. I just want there to be a car that’s cheap and can be easily insured and easily repairable for young kids trying to explore their employment opportunities and maybe not have to carry home 20 pounds of groceries. You may be thinking, buy a bike. Have you ever tried to carry four grocery bags home on a bike? You end up with mangled bread, dented canned beans and a spilt yogurt container that’s just soiled everything else in the bag. It’s not pretty.

I once heard about a charity called Kars4Kids. I immediately thought, “That’s fantastic. A charity that helps kids get cars.” Wrong! It’s a team of people who bring your car to the scrapyard or sell it at auction and donate the money. Why couldn’t they just fix the cars and sell them for a bit lower than a dealership? They’re just giving the money away as a non-profit anyway so why not repurpose the cars? People could donate their own scrap car money to charity, and they don’t need a middleman to do it.

I really am surprised that no one has come up with a car that’s relatively cheap because it has no extras to sell to brand new drivers, or even the financially conscious. It seems like a no-brainer to me but maybe there’s not a big enough market for it. Maybe people do want a car to tell you about your speed in digital format even though the speedo is right next to the computer display. I’m looking at you Dodge Caravan. Absolutely useless. Convenient? Yes. Cool? Possibly. But necessary? Absolutely not. But in fairness maybe it’s not really worth producing one. Maybe it would cost too much to make a car that has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $10,000. But surely the bright minds of the automotive industry can think of something. The Chevrolet Spark with a manual gear box costs just over $12,000 brand new. You're telling me that if you take out the Bluetooth connectivity and on-the-go Wi-Fi they can’t get it down to at least $8,500? I think that this is a market segment waiting to be tapped into and Chevrolet is on the edge of discovery.

A recent transplant to Thompson, Jay Hurley is a freelance columnist with a focus on cars, lifestyle and culinary arts. He is from Ontario and studied broadcast and contemporary media.