After a pandemic year of limited inventory and booming profits, the industry has a newfound appreciation for the idea that less is more. Now that thinking is wisely spreading to product lines.
Automakers have long prided themselves on the ability to mass-produce multiple derivations of models to give them a more personalized feel for customers. The strategy has been effective at times, but it's also been a drag on the industry — adding floorplan expense for dealers and manufacturing complexity for factories — a challenge that is exacerbated when supply chain snags limit the flow of parts.
One of the lasting silver linings of the pandemic may be less complicated lineups. Mercedes-Benz, with a portfolio that swelled to more than 100 model variants, this month committed to drastically slashing its options. When the 2021 S-Class arrives at dealerships this summer, just three trims will be available, down from nine on the 2020 edition. The 2021 model will have 86 percent fewer configurations. Other automakers, such as Audi and General Motors, have also said they will narrow vehicle options.