‘Accessories’ or ‘options?’ It’s more than semantics
Do you use the terms “accessories” and “options” interchangeably?
Gene Schneider has reasons not to. He shared those in the October 2018 edition of Generator & Distributor, from the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America, 14 Triple Crown Ct., North Potomac, Maryland 20878-3745 (Vince Taliano, editor).
He explains from Chevrolet’s perspective: “Options were items that appeared on the vehicle order blank and the dealer would check off the factory-installed options items as he desired.” He said there were two major categories on the list. RPO stood for “regular production options,” while LPO meant “limited production options.” The LPOs often were restricted to fleet sales.However, “over the years, the options list grew longer and longer.”
When you think about it, automotive options and accessories have been around since the dawn of motorized personal transportation. The sales of “extras” to doll up a car or make it more comfortable and safe had already taken off by 1905.A.L. Dyke was at the head of that trend when he launched an auto accessories and part-by-mail business, circa 1900.
Schneider went on, saying that “commonly installed options include the vehicle color,” which is an item some folks might not have in mind with the word option. In some minds, an option is an add-on. Schneider added that, for 1938, “some of the other common options would had have been oil bath air cleaner” especially in dusty, dry areas, “and a broadcloth interior replacing the standard mohair…on Master DeLuxe models.” Believe it or not, “1938 was the first year bumpers were considered standard equipment.” In the years 1932 to 1937, Chevrolet considered bumpers as a “mandatory option.” Soon, duo-tone paint, 15-inch wheels and whitewall tires were popular options.
There probably was a wide range of options versus accessories in the minds of car makers and their sales staffs. Extras really should not be called “options,” unless they were on the factory list of choices when a vehicle was new. “Mandatory options” rode a wave that still rolls along today. Did you know that from 1953 to 1955, directional signals were a mandatory option for Chevrolets? Some options were factory installed only in select years — by 1955, the heater was one of those. At Packard, in select postwar years, restricted air conditioning was a factory-installed-only item, and a very expensive one!