If We Really Stop and Think

There’s something rather peculiar about selling the only car of its kind in the whole country and noting it’s a “non-smoker’s car”. Is there really a person who will consider a car like this only if the ashtray has been unused?

1996 Toyota Paseo interior: source

There’s only one on sale in Denmark at the moment.

The small ad world throngs with peculiarities like this. The likelihood is that the seller isn’t a professional so probably hasn’t been able to put much time into considering how to think about marketing it.

1996 Toyota Paseo: bilbasen.dk

Anyone who gets close enough to even read the ad is probably going to be unfazed by some residual tar, benzenes or the chemicals that make smoking feel cool (at first). I very much doubt that it could be a decider if there are other contenders. By definition, they must be wholly different cars: a 1995 Stratus or maybe a high-mile Camry.

Another option is that the non-smoker’s car tag might help sell this Paseo compared to past examples and future examples. Imagine the prospective Paseo-searcher who has seen other Paseos and rejected then; perhaps the information that the car is a non-smoking car might indicate a more careful owner and so help increase the likelihood of an earlier sale. In that sense, the seller is encouraging the prospective buyer not to wait until another Paseo comes onto the market.

Dramatic brochure image: autoevolution.com

These alternatives are possible but, I feel, not probable. I think the buyer   who is very interested in a non-smoking car will be fishing in a larger pool of candidates so that once they have rejected the brown-tinted, rank, ash-encrusted cars they can look at age, mileage, price and model. Put another way, if you are selling a rare car, the detail of whether someone smoked in it is very largely irrelevant. Even colour matters little and the quality of photos and maintenance history take on a greater significance.

The two things to note about the Paseo are that it is the sort of car asked for but nobody really likes. These small coupes are a relic from the days when a coupe version of a saloon seemed like a natural extension of a range and, by extension, it seemed as if there was demand for such a body in the smaller car sector. This class of car might have done better had there been some real performance ability to underwrite the body’s vaguely sporting suggestion.

Had I been a Toyota brand manager back then I’d have farmed this model out to Lotus for fettling: give us a fun car for another thousand pounds of components, preferably stock ones. Add a unique interior trim option (model-unique fabric) and there you go, a sporty variant with a factory warranty. Instead they sold a car with the interior appeal and general ability of a Starlet three-door.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “If We Really Stop and Think”

  1. You must smoke. I don’t, and I find the odor of residual tobacco smoke very unpleasant.

  2. Also a smoker may have still used the car and not the ash tray!
    Odd we are willing to inhale life threatning fumes from ice’s affecting vast populations but smokers are ridiculed.
    Is it because carbon monoxide is odorless?

  3. In this sort of instance, I read ‘non-smoker’s car’ as a proxy validation for the good condition of the car as a whole – basically, that it has been looked after and not gratuitously abused, as is the case for a wheeled ashtray. I also have to concur that as a non-smoker, the smell of a heavily-smoked-in interior is dramatically off-putting and could be a deal-breaker. At the end of the day this Paseo is not a one-off (even if it might be the only one for sale in DK at the moment) and it might be worth it to someone who is specifically interested in a Paseo (although I imagine that is a pretty small subset of potential buyers) to wait for a better example if it had been desecrated with cigarette smoke inside.

    I had forgotten about the rather jolly upholstery fabrics cars of this type had back then. Later-specification Australian-build Capris had something not dissimilar. Not the sort of thing that would work in the Carlsson S-Class ‘vert, but in the right time and place, which this is.

  4. For me definitely a smoke-smelling interior is out of the question. A test drive for a C5 I once considered buying was ended after 3 minutes for that reason. Not even the best of condicitons or prices could have made me buy that car.

    The problem is, there might be cars advertised as “non-smoker’s”, but no one in their right mind would label their offer as “smoker’s car”. Had they done so, I could have saved me a 25 km (one way) drive.

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