Share your opinions on car sales and pricing with the designer

Right now the system for selling your finished cars is pretty simple. An algorithm looks at the premium your car price has over the fixed ‘fair value’ for a car (based on its features), and each time the code checks the cars in the showroom, there is a chance that the car will sell.

In effect, a regular stream of ‘potential buyers’ shows up (in code) and checks the car price. if its high (compared to fair value) then the chance that customer buys that ‘turn’ is really low, and vice versa. In effect, what this means is that overpriced cars take a while to sell, cheap cars go quick. The faster you produce cars, the lower you need to price them.

The current system is way too lax, in that you can earn much too much cash with premium car prices regardless of feature set.

What I’d like to do is obviously adjust that algorithm so the game is harder at the top end, but also make it a lot more lifelike, and take into account players ideas and suggestions.

For example, I think its fair to say that the higher end upgrades should have a higher profit margin (else why bother?), and that means some serious adjustment of component prices and values
I also intend to bring in sales & marketing assets & tech in order to increase the theoretical ‘customer throughput’ each time we go to sell cars. So at the start, you are never going to sell more than (for example) 30 cars/day at any price, because nobody has heard of you. Advertising and marketing will move that top barrier to 100 or even 1000.

In addition, I would like the profit margins on features to erode over time. At the start of the game, electric windows are a profitable premium item, further on, their premium dwindles as they become commonplace and an expected feature.

Obviously the immediate concerns from a playability POV will be to fix the gameplay balance so that you don’t end up with easy money later on, but I’d also like to share my plans going beyond that.

Attempt at a less idiotic answer on my part.

Luxury and sports cars could have limited sales compared to basic cars as the market share just isn’t as big. So high profit, but low demand.

Certain safety techs could become mandatory or at least expected over time so you simply can’t sell cars without anti-lock brakes after a certain point. And then later air bags have to be included. At that point those ‘features’ are standard and don’t add extra sale appeal to the car or extra profit.

If there are to be competitors they could drive down prices and demand as the game moves forward, though there would need to be some way for the player to know what is happening. Adding more competing companies over time could also add to the immersion.

I would say that the ways a car should be sold would have some fixed features and other which may be not.

At the beginning of a game no additional features would be required and adding one would add a good margin, which may decrease over time … but not every features should work that way.

Safety features : over time, people may want to have more of these and at some point these may be mandatory (impossible to sell a car without these).

Driver assistance : not always mandatory, except for premium car models, except Power Steering

Security features : may help selling a car, but not really adding value to it.

Environmental features : except heater, the other ones may be optional and with better margin.

Convenience features : it depends of the car, only most basic and cheapest ones may not have electric windows

Entertainment and performance features : always adding value to a car, with quite a low decay.

I’m having another idea about the sales system :

A player may choose to produce cars which aren’t already sold (at the beginning of the automotive history it was the case), or at the contrary, a car produced is a car sold, or both (basic cars always made, not premium).

An option to make a model with “stock” features and “extra” ones a customer may choose may be nice. Should this system exist, a car may go to all “stock” stations but will go only to some optional ones (maybe bypassing some stations ?). For example a stock car which has as stock features anti-lock brakes and electric windows may have an option to fit in-car music, car alarm and sun roof, each one as an extra priced differently. A customer may choose the music, the alarm, the room, or two or even the three ones. Not mentionning extras are usually sold at higher margin than stock features. I think it would add realism to the game since this exists in realty.

Another idea, but which may add a lot of work : designing a car fist, manufacturing it after, using different bodies which would require different resources (which would appear in the designer), a “coupé” would only have 2 seats, a sedan 4, for example or a limousine 6 windows instead of the more usual 4.

And yes, a market size would be nice, as a market reputation. An option with a slider at a station in order to set if you want to make a task fast, but with low quality or slow with higher quality may be nice (robots only stations !). A low quality car may be manufactured fast and mass produced, but cheaper with low margins, at the opposite of high end luxury ones which may have much higher standards … and margin.

I agree with the marketing idea, especially for mass produced cars. For high end cars, it may be important at first but company and car reputation sales should be more sentisive.

I would love to see a reason to sell multiple models of cars. For example, one line could produce a lower-priced basic car with few accessories. Another a mid-range, and a third produce luxury vehicles. This would be fun to split off at certain sections. Each car could have their own demand, pricing, etc.

Similarly different types (sedan/coupe/SUV/truck) would be cool and give a similar variety. I expect you would have this in mind for further down the road.

I agree with your overall assessment Cliff about the margins being better on higher-end items, and balance being needed for the current system. It’s crazy how easy it is to make money, especially once you’ve got that pump primed and have cars flowing through. Having either static difficulty levels or a configurable difficulty slider (like Capitalism Lab, for example, or maybe Tropico 4) would really add some challenge in there. Of course, most of this would be predicated on clearing up issues like import and storage glitches.

If this demand-balancing could somehow be integrated with the (proposed) ability to shut lines down that would be nice. If for example we could trigger a shutdown at some point (even if only export) when a certain number of car models were sitting in the showroom that would be great. Preferably it’d be nice to be able to shut down at any point based on configurable conditions. That does sound like some much longer-term thinking tho.

If I were you, I’d get a more realistic viewpoint. Travel to some local large car dealerships and ask to sit down with either a salesman or a manager. Explain the kind of game you are building and would like some real-world information on the business.

What options do customers expect on a car? What options lead to more sales?

Don’t talk specific numbers, as they’ll likely not share values. Look more for behavior. What features do customers ask for?

Now break that down into simple categories. A kids first car, a family car, young professionals, and high-end.

And so on, get some real world details, then model those details in the game as best fits the game.

What about companies/dealers make offers/contracts on particular models that you are making so they can sell them (maybe exclusively or not) for a period of time at a set price. So the player can view the different deals and choose which ones to go with. They might also have to deliver a certain amount of the car within a time frame specified in the contract to qualify for some bonus payment and perhaps continuation of contract. I think something like this would make the selling part more interactive and interesting.

Edit: certain contracts could also have special requirements like the car needs to have air con or be a sports car etc. while others could be more basic.

My thoughts.

  • You could throw in lots of additional things which affect the demand for a car, but you’ll need a decent way to explain to the player in game what those are, and how they are changing.
  • The reputation idea, where initially you’ll ever be able to sell a certain number of cars because you’re unknown. Though it might be nice for there to be a way to get around that if the player wishes, so for instance, maybe an option to pay to ‘license’ a more known brand name. But this would need researching, and would have a cost.
  • For the various suggestions, it seems like the best approach maybe simulating a lot of potentially contradictory/counter-balancing factors, very similar to how you simulate things like GDP in Democracy.
    What I mean by “potentially contradictory/counter-balancing factors”. Is that in regards to reputation, for a certain type of car, seeing lots of other people driving that car tells other potential customers that it is a “safe” choice. Which would undoubtedly increase demand. But for more premium and high-end cars, those potential customers don’t necessarily want to buy a car that everyone else has, and in some cases an large price premium creates it’s own demand for customer who simply want the car as a status symbol.
  • An additional researchable item, which allowed a market research office to set the price of the cars automatically would be great. How I see that working is you’d have a couple of different strategies to choose from. Such as “Max margin” which would try to get the maximum margin profit possible for a car, even if that meant “hording” cars, they’d only lower the price if the cars where never selling. “Some profits”, would constantly check to ensure you where selling enough cars to cover the ongoing costs of the factory. “Keep X in stock”, set a number and the price would rise or fall based on how quickly cars are selling in order to try and keep X number in stock. I think if the the underlying supply and demand simulation was complex enough, you’d still need to check in with the strategies regularly incase the demand completely falls away just as you’ve got “hording” set. But it would give you some time to redesign a bit of the factory an momentarily forget about the pricing. Also I think this is perhaps a more understandable way to think about pricing than to be constantly fiddling with a % slider.

This. People don’t show up in a showroom with the idea “I’ll buy whichever car is best value for money”. They have different needs and different budget constraints. And each market segment has a different size. A fancy sports car may have a high profit margin, but there just aren’t that many buyers for it, so it shouldn’t pay to manufacture millions of them.

Having to produce cars for different market segments would make the design of the production line itself far more interesting. I reckon we would need a bit more control over the routing of cars though; for instance, you might want to route exactly xx% through the “luxury accessories lane”, rather than relying on the game to balance this out.

Instead of upgrading the stations and then release a new car model as it reach the export room, why not have the design part first?

*You first design the car model based on which features you have unlocked and which slots that can install it.
*Add a fancy slider to decide how many percent of the total car production you want of the specific model, if your factory can support more then one model.
*Each car get a specific id at the start of the production line and then travel through the factory, stopping at the slots with a possibility to install the feature the specific model got. Some slots as paint probably would be able most of the car models, other woulds be more specialized and thus only be able to handle one or two car models. The car model designer would ofc be able to calculate the chain so the car wouldn´t be stuck anywhere (unless you screw up and change the factory layout).
*Early in the game you may choose to have all cars travelling through the same line, which should be more time consuming, later on the ideal strategy would be to have separate lines for each car model.

This would allow us to more easily manage different car models, and act as a platform for more stuff like missons, car model request etc

It would be interesting to have finance options when selling the car. So customer pays a deposit then gives you a monthly payment, and at the end they can either return the car for you to resell or they pay a final charge to keep it. You could give the player control of this allowing them to determine the % deposit and % interest rate over time then have something in the background that randomises when people decide to keep the cars, and what the resale value would be if they come back into the showroom.

Since the Positech games are usually on the simulation-heavy side, I’d like stuff like reputation, brand loyalty and perceived quality modeled somehow, which would define how much of a premium you can demand.

For example: maybe a part is faulty (is this even a (planned) thing?) and you need to start a callback, but since it’s not life-threatening and you like your money, you don’t start a callback (which would save money obviously). Now there’s a chance that everything will be well; or you could be found out and maybe have to pay a fine. This would dent your reputation and brand loyalty and you’d have to adjust your prices accordingly.

Maybe add “dark side” research, too, ala “use emission test cheat software”.

This totally needs to be in I think. Along with electric cars and hybrid cars. I have plans to split the ‘engine’ off into a separate mini-line of its own to allow us to make stuff like Hyrbids, PEV and PEH cars.

Ive been putting an awful lot of thought into this subject since the thread was first posted - and now feel like my ideas are developed enough to actually make some sense.

Part of my thoughts are guided by a bit of exposure to the auto industry itself (a world where you are generally doing well if you can achieve a 10% profit margin)

My idea revolves around shifting 2 main values (with % buyer distribution curves)

What ive called “Production Value” where a value of 1 = the cost of making the cheapest car possible - and this is to simulate the demand for luxury vehicles (ones which cost more to produce) (in the current game the most expensive car looks to be about ~1.5X the cost of the base one hence ive picked it as my upper limit (but in reality it could be 3X or 4X (carbon fibre cars anybody?))) - as well as the demand for more luxury as markets mature

And the Cost Multiplier V Production cost - ie how many people are willing to spend x% more than the production cost of a car to buy it

The third more nebulous value is the brand status - which can be influenced by marketing, the average value/quality of the cars produced (so you cant switch from spitting our bargain basement cars to super luxury overnight without having to massively discount)m any scandals one might have, and the discounting model you use. Hyundai for example will sell you a car with more luxury for less than BMW as a result a lower brand status and hence lower ability to get high markups - but thanks to the market models there will be more demand at the lower price points so you can sell more units to compensate

There would probably need to be several of these curves to represent the different groups in the marketplace - and the BrandStatus modifier would have different effects on each group - Luxury buyers want cars from places with high average prices (but due to the prices lower volumes), mid tier buyers will want reliability and features) etc etc

This graph shows what i see the curves of the 2 main shifting values doing over time (for the volume purchasing category of buyer) (scales and times are just arbitrary) just to explain the concept

This simulates the expectation that one should be optimising ones factory for higher throughput and lower production costs - or to chase higher production/RND costs but better/more luxury cars

And that the markets willingness to pay for more for features starts to go away, and the level of features they expect in a car will increase in time.

Then those values can be moderated for your company via the brand status modifier. Which will if you have luxury status will bump up the “Cost Multipler V Production Cost” value for your products, and if its rubbish it will drop.

Outside events as in big pharma could also occur to change up the curves and the way they all behave “Economic collapse” = Collapse of CostMultiplier - Govt decides to make front airbags mandatory on all cars sold - take effect in 6 months = sell all cars in inventory without airbags in 6 months via discount + fix production line to produce cars to new standard + scrap all cars without airbags left in inventory after ban takes effect

So as i see it at game start - a lot of people desire a car (fullstop) and will by a basic (ProdValue=1 car) at a markup
as things go on a majority of people will want a ProdValue 1.1 Car - and will be willing to pay less of a markup on it
and so on. The strategy here would be to move RnD along with the market - while optimising your production lines for max volume

or you can could try climbing the tech tree fast - and cater to that top % of the market who want a prodvalue=1.5car and are willing to pay through the nose for it - and spend your money on efficiency (eg making parts in house) and RnD to maximise that margin per car sold - rather than chasing volume, plus things like having quality checks after each stage of production and other similar things to slow ones line down but push up quality - and maybe even options like “enhanced quality welds” which slows robots down but produces a better quality vehicle - which in turn will push up the BrandStatus value over time

There could also be killer feature shifts - ie markets collapsing for ICE cars vrs EVs after a set number of years - car sizes and all that sort of thing which should fit within the basic model im proposing

Hopefully this makes some sense - if not ill do my best to try and clarify my ideas, but in a nutshell its supposed to vaguely approximate how the market behaves, allow you to choose what kind of car company you wish to be, a budget volume maker like Kia, more semi premium European brand like VW, or luxury like BMW - with a clear incentive to create a strategy and then only alter it slowly.

Having played a bit myself and having looked at some discussion on the forum I’d say most people currently try to build an optimized factory for throughput. Feature upgrades don’t really matter.
That’s fine but will get boring after 2-3 games.

I think there needs to be some tension between going for efficiency and feature upgrades so that you can develop and try different strategies. For example building a lot of basic cars or less but expensive cars with lots of features.

I think for that it would be very helpful to have (computer) competitors and a timeline of events.

  • competitor A with basic cars reducing prices
  • competitor B adding electric seats and windows
  • competitor C has a big scandal or a big TV campaign changing the brand reputation a lot
  • after x months/years
    • some features are standard
    • new environmental regulations
    • introduction of robots

Some graphs / tables to how are you comparing to the competitors on price, features, reputation
(maybe also marketshare in cheap, middle, luxury segments)

Additionally to the starting money the stretching of the events (how long apart) can be the difficulty level of the game.

There could also be different game scenarios you can choose from:

  • without competitors, mission is to achieve a certain throughput
  • with competitors
  • achieve a 100% profit margin :slight_smile:

Another interesting thing might be to model quality of the cars e.g.

  • optional and/or multiple quality checks
  • slider where you can overwork your workers resulting in more throughput but more defects / lower quality
  • multiple vendors where you buy the components with different prices and quality