Hello and welcome to this week’s version of Ask Doug, which is a very excellent feature we do every week here on Oversteer, provided that your standards of "very excellent" are very excellently low. The way this works is you email me with an automotive question, and if your question is decent, I will post it here on Oversteer with an automotive reply.
If you’re interested in participating, send me an email at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I will review your question to see if it’s Oversteer-worthy. If it is, I may post it. Or I may just forward it to my friends and laugh at you.
This week’s question comes to us from a reader I’ve named Drew, who writes:
Having recently watched your video on the $350,000 Aston Martin convertible, I am left wondering why on earth a car manufacturer would add such tiny back seats to their coupes and roadsters when the only possible outcome is that a dude named Doug will mock how hard they are to climb into, and how totally unusable they are. So, Doug, can you tell me why car companies continue to add such useless rear seats? Is it only because they are as entertained as I am by watching a man wearing a small shirt over a large shirt attempt to crawl into them?
Thanks, and keep up the good work.
For those of you uninterested in reading anything written by a human being named Drew, what he’s asking is this: Why do some exotic cars have back seats? There’s clearly no legitimate purpose, as I’ve repeatedly demonstrated in my videos, so why do they bother at all? Why don’t they just skip the back seats, since nobody is small enough to fit back there anyway?
First things first, Drew. You didn’t mention it, but everyone else seems to: THEY’RE NOT THERE FOR INSURANCE PURPOSES. It’s laughable to think that in the modern era, an insurance company is going to look at a $350,000, 600-horsepower Aston Martin and cut the rates in half just because the car has tiny back seats. Insurance companies are tremendously more sophisticated than that, and this is a car urban legend that I truly just wish would go away.
So if not for insurance purposes, why do these sports cars have such small back seats? I’ll put it to you simply, Drew: Because some people actually do fit in them.
Back when I worked at Porsche Cars North America, I had a few Porsche 911 models as company cars, and I would occasionally drive more than one other person around. What I learned is that nobody can really sit behind me, as a driver, but some small people can fit behind the front passenger, if the front passenger is also small. Think family of three with a young kid and you have the basic idea.
I know what you’re thinking: This is ridiculous, and nobody will really use it that way. And I admit, in the 20,000-plus miles I put on my Porsche 911s over the years, maybe only 100 miles were with the back seats occupied. But the point was, they existed, and that gave me an extra bit of practicality when I absolutely needed it. No, it wasn’t comfortable, but it was a lot better than having to take two cars or round up a larger vehicle just for a quick trip to a restaurant or a store. The back seats were great for a quick stint — and even if the quick stint was rare, they really were occasionally useful.
And then, of course, there’s the other purpose: storage. Most exotic cars with tiny back seats don’t have much trunk space, often on account of their wild styling or a folding roof that steals away most of it. The back seats provide an excellent additional storage spot for when you don’t want to access the trunk or for when the trunk is already full. Again, this is something you don’t have to do very often — but when you do have to do it, it’s nice to have some space back there where you can put things.
The simple truth is that car companies know you won’t use the back seats much, but they also know many buyers can’t justify a pure two-seater — so the back seats help convince them that it isn’t as impractical as, say, a Ferrari 488. No, they’re not the most usable, or the easiest to climb into, but they may help convince potential buyers who want to use an exotic car more frequently than just once a month — and if the back seats have scored any sales, they’re worth putting in for that reason alone.
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.