General Motors' decision to make antilock brakes optional on its low-end cars deals yet another blow to suppliers who are struggling with price pressures and fierce competition.
For GM, though, the change will help the company compete with Hyundai and Kia. The two Korean automakers are on a roll, gobbling up market share with low-priced vehicles packed with features.
The shift also means GM is backing away from its long advocacy of antilock brakes in favor of other consumer desires. A GM spokesman said the money the company saves on antilock brakes, about $160 per vehicle, in many cases would be used to add CD players and other features that now are options.
GM said last week that for the 2003 model year it will:
GM spokeswoman Julie Hamp said antilock brakes still will be standard on about 70 percent of GM's North American volume in 2003, down from about 95 percent this year.
That means antilock brakes no longer will be standard on about 1.2 million GM vehicles. But suppliers won't necessarily lose that many sales because some customers still will want antilock brakes as options.
A survey last fall by J.D. Power and Associates showed that 67 percent of buyers "definitely" wanted antilock brakes in their next new vehicle and were willing to pay $350 for them.