Car News: Oversteer
Why Do Car Companies Still Use Hubcaps?
Hello and welcome to another rousing round of Ask Doug, your favorite weekly column here on Oversteer -- where you Ask Doug a question, and Doug provides a long, meaningful answer about 12 percent of the time.
If you'd like to participate in Ask Doug, you can! Just e-mail me at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I will thoroughly read your e-mail and possibly laugh at you for your inane question. Then I will answer your question anyway, because Doug cares very deeply about each and every one of his readers.
This week's question comes to us from a reader named Harry, who writes:
I was thinking about this the other day. Who really appreciates hubcaps? The only reason I could see someone buying a car with hubcaps is that they have no interest in cars whatsoever. Is there a reason that car manufacturers still pump out cheap commuter cars with steel wheels over alloy wheels? [Are] there any major manufacturers that have seen the light and have moved away from hubcaps? I sure hope so.
My dad has a Toyota Prius, a car that cost over $20,000 dollars when he bought it new and it has hubcaps. If that sentence chills you to your car-loving bone, it should. We should rise up against our hubcap oppressors and demand alloy wheels!
Thanks for being a good read on boring days at work,
For those of you who don't want to read Harry's long diatribe that includes the words "we should rise up against our hubcap oppressors," he appears to be asking the following question: Why do automakers use hubcaps? Why don't they just do steel wheels? Does anyone actually want hubcaps?
Well, Harry, I have a three-part answer to your question.
The first part relates solely to my single biggest annoyance with Internet humans; the single thing that angers me most, more than any other thing, in the entire existence of Internet humanity and anger. And that thing is: when you write "$20,000 dollars." Newsflash, Harry: When you use the dollar sign, you don't have to say "dollars" right after it. This is becoming more and more common, to the point where I saw it in a well-edited long-form magazine article the other day, and I am absolutely livid. How much did that Toyota Prius cost, Harry? Twenty-thousand dollars dollars? You don't have to say "dollars" twice. THE DOLLARS SIGN ALREADY MEANS DOLLARS!!!!!
Anyway, I've already taught Harry something today, so now I don't feel as much pressure to correctly address his actual question. Nonetheless, I will try, in my remaining two parts.
PART ONE: There are several companies that have actually done what you've suggested, Harry, and ditched hubcaps in favor of plain, steel wheels. Although this is true of a few vehicles (base-level 2010-2015 Chevy Camaro models come to mind), the best example is probably Honda: While they're still putting hubcaps on their entry-level car models like the Civic and Accord, they've given up with hubcaps for their SUVs. For many years, the base-level Pilot came standard with hubcap-less steel wheels, until its redesign last year when it finally got standard alloys. And the base-level CR-V still comes standard with steel wheels, sans hubcaps. And believe it or not, it doesn't look so bad.
However, there's also a part two, and that's this: Steel wheels are ugly. And when I say that they're ugly, I mean they're really, really, really ugly; almost as ugly as Henry's horrible grammar error with the excessive use of "dollars." They are truly, heinously ugly. This is why automakers cover them with hubcaps.
Moreover, I think there's another reason to use hubcaps: When steel wheels are unpainted, they seem to be black. That's how they come from the steel wheel manufacturer. So when a car loses a hubcap and rides around with a black steel wheel, it looks like something you'd report to your local neighborhood Facebook group as a suspicious vehicle in your area. Hubcaps make the car look nicer, friendlier and far more acceptable.
Of course, this brings us to Harry's last point, which is: alloy wheels. Why don't more automakers use them? After all, they're better, they're more attractive, they're nicer and they don't require silly hubcaps. Well, Harry, I'll tell you exactly why more cars don't have alloy wheels: They're expensive. And you know as well as I do that automakers are always looking to save some dollars dollars.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.