DETROIT–In a report released Monday, General Motors announced 56 percent growth for the first quarter of 2001, a profit increase company officials attributed to February's wildly successful launch of the GMC Whim, the first-ever non-refillable, disposable automobile.
Making their debut at a cost of $1,100 each, the vehicles are flying out of showrooms as quickly as dealers can stock them. Featuring factory-installed gasoline, an AM/FM radio with two preset stations, and a nine-volt battery to power the ignition, the Whim is attracting motorists looking for convenient, hassle-free transportation.
"I'm a busy mother of four," said Winston-Salem, NC, homemaker Hannah Plunkett, who buys a new Whim Grande minivan every seven to ten days. "I don't have time to change the oil, rotate the tires, fill up the tank, or deal with any of the other maintenance headaches you have with old-fashioned reusable cars. But with my Whim, the parts never have time to age."
"The Whim is the wave of the future," said enthusiast Glen Shriver, who recently drove from his home in Eden Prairie, MN, to Daytona Beach, FL, for the First Annual Whim Owners' Convention, consuming four of the vehicles in the process. "I've already collected all eight colors."
"Finally, I can feel comfortable teaching my kids to drive the family car," said Harold Sperber of Chillicothe, OH. "And when my oldest misbehaves, I can threaten to throw his car away."
Introduced to the nation in an ad aired during Super Bowl XXXV, the Whim's "Hi.... And Bye" spot features a rapid-fire succession of slogans touting advantages of the new car, including "Enjoy That New-Car Smell All The Time," "No Rust, No Repairs, No Fooling," and "Never Pay For A Car Wash Again. In Fact, We Urge You Not To Wash The Whim, As Hot Water Can Melt The Glue Holding The Frame Together."
When out of gas, the car can either be abandoned at the side of the road or returned to the dealer for a $10 deposit. For $100 extra, buyers can purchase the Whim Distinct, a premium model that boasts roomier seating, super-unleaded gasoline, and a tape deck with a pre-inserted, non-ejectable tape of the owner's choice. The Whim Distinct will also offer drivers the added option of going in reverse.
"We here at GM are delighted with the success of the Whim," CEO G. Richard Wagoner said. "America's love affair with the car, combined with its love of disposable products, has spelled tremendous success for us. As long as American industry keeps producing aluminum and polystyrene, we'll keep making Whims as fast as we can."
The vehicle has also given a boost to GM employment figures. Though faulted in recent years for rampant layoffs, GM has hired thousands of new assembly-line workers to meet demand for the Whim, which can take upwards of 450 man-minutes to assemble. Wagoner also noted that the Whim costs substantially less to manufacture than conventional automobiles due to the fact that it requires no fan belt, oil-distribution system, or other parts necessary to the long-term functioning of a vehicle.
Responding to the Whim's success, rival automakers are preparing to counter with their own lines of disposable cars, including the Ford Temporaire and the Chrysler Dumper. The 2002 Mitsubishi Ditch will be unveiled later this year, with a projected sticker price of $799.