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March 2011 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

While there may never be a ticker tape parade in my honor, I've found a solution to one of the most pressing issues in the world today. A cure is at hand for the disease of taking on project Jeeps. My idea also will increase the sales of new Jeeps and make the world a safer place by keeping aimless middle-aged men off the streets.

Let's take a look at why anybody would ever tackle a project Jeep, present company included. Do you like rust and worn out parts? Got a fondness for seized bolts? From my experience, I've taken on project Jeeps mainly because people tend to laugh at an adult playing with Legos. An age-appropriate substitute was needed. What's the closest thing to Legos for an adult? It's a project vehicle, of course. Make mine a Jeep, please.

Sadly, I can't just buy a full-size Jeep kit, at least not yet. It would be foolish to disassemble a new Jeep just to reassemble it like a giant Lego set. This leaves me with only one reasonable option: No, it's not acting my age. It's messing with project Jeeps instead. Be forewarned that when mixing new parts in with the old, the bills will add up quickly. The final price can create sticker shock almost as severe as purchasing an entire new vehicle.

That's why I'm proposing Jeep should rework their sales model. Instead of selling pre-assembled Jeeps, they should be sold exclusively in kit form. While less expensive, the best part is how much fun it would be to assemble an entire Jeep from brand new parts. Using my amazing psychic powers, I've already anticipated some potential complaints. Here's one purely hypothetical example: "I have zero mechanical ability. My only skill, if you can call it that, is editing magazines. Does this mean no new Jeep for me?" Fear not: The new Jeeps will be so easy to assemble; anybody could do it, even a magazine editor.

There will be some upfront costs for Jeep, as current models will need minor redesign for easy assembly, but the quick payback will be increased sales and lower production expenses. Jeep could follow the example of a company that has made a fortune selling consumer products in kit form: IKEA. If you're not familiar with IKEA, it is a Swedish company that sells furniture and other household products. I'm not sure of the company's complete name, but I think IKEA is an acronym that roughly translates to: "I could have sworn this Chinese stuff came from Sweden."

Through ingenious design, unassembled furniture fits into compact boxes. Simply open the packages, hold the pieces near each other so they can assemble themselves, and voila, you've got new furniture. My bookcase, with shelves that can be adjusted to hold a Pulitzer Prize, came from IKEA. I've bought plenty of other stuff there, too. It's easy to assemble your own furniture and that sense of accomplishment keeps people coming back for more. Jeep should definitely switch to this business model.

Jeep could learn marketing from IKEA, too. Presently, to buy a new Jeep, I'd have to visit a dealership. The Jeeps are great, but dealerships are also full of something else: salesmen. Give me a minute while I reminisce about pleasant experiences with car salesmen. Hmm, that was quick, I'm done. Now I'll think back to the experiences that make me never want to set foot in a dealership again. How much time do we have? This might take a while. Meanwhile, over at IKEA, the place is largely self-service. I can make my selection and load my cart, all without a pinky ring or gold neck chain in sight.

Store design is another thing IKEA has going for them. You can't just zip in, grab a new lamp, and zip out. You have to follow the winding path from one end of the store to the other, through the kitchen area, the lighting section, etc. Expect to spend at least an hour, maybe two. While following the maze, maybe you'll spot the combination hide-a-bed/high chair/dog house you can't live without. What if Jeeps were displayed the same way? You could start by selecting the color you'd like. Then you'd walk through the seating area and make your choice there. In another room, you could select an engine and transmission package, and so on. Before discussing the choices waiting in the wheel room, I must confess I've previously made fun of Jeep owners who've opted for gigantic tires and rims. Even though it's hard to believe, monster tires do serve a purpose, although somewhat obscure. If you've ever said, "I sure would like to embarrass myself in public," there's been no quicker method since the demise of parachute pants.

Before you know it, you've selected all of the options you could possibly want, plus a few you never knew existed. What fun it would be to unwrap those shiny new parts. Here's the frame! Slide the axles and springs underneath. Set the engine and drivetrain in place. Clip the sheetmetal together and watch a Jeep appear before your eyes. You didn't even get dirty, which is a marked change from working on a derelict Jeep project.

As an added bonus with an IKEA-inspired Jeep, I'd only need a Phillips screwdriver and a single Allen wrench. They'd easily fit in the glovebox. I'd be ready for any trailside repairs. Or if I needed another storage cabinet for Legos. They belong to my son, I swear.... -Dr. Vern

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