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The newest and one of the most anticipated fresh entrants to the midsize sedan segment will get its world debut tomorrow at the Moscow Auto Show, though the most important information will remain a secret.
Although electric vehicle technology has been touted as the way of the future, some believe that there is still untapped potential lying within the conventional internal combustion engine.
To encourage engineers to push the internal combustion technology forward, Republican Congressman Dan Lungren has introduced a bill that will reward a handsome $1 billion in Federal prize money to the first U.S. automaker that can successfully sell 60,000 mid-size sedans that are capable of achieving 100 mpg on gasoline.
In 2007, the X Prize Foundation held a contest with a similar format called the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. Participating teams were challenged to create a vehicle that was capable of reaching 100 mpg, travel safely in highway speeds, and emit less than 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The winner of the challenge would receive a $10 million reward that will be used to fund the project to become a mass-market vehicle. Unfortunately, none of the vehicles were deemed commercially viable for mass production.
But now that it has been 5 years since the Automotive X Prize, the technology may be closer to our reach if not already attained. However, unlike the Automotive X Prize, Congressman Lungren would only award the winner after 60,000 units of its landmark 100 mpg mid-size sedan have been successfully sold. Not only does the bill ban vehicles of radical shapes and sizes like the Aptera, but 60,000 units is a daunting number that’ll effectively discourage any startup automaker. Compounded with the restriction to U.S. automakers only, the bill suggests a three-way battle between GM, Ford, and Chrysler.
While the bill does not necessarily suggest that a hybrid system is off limits, the aim is to encourage technological advances in the internal combustion gasoline engine, which rules out diesel technology as well. Given the parameters, perhaps earning the prize is much more difficult than it seems.
The current state of economy and the ever rising price of fuel is changing car buying habits in American households. Where once mid-size sedans like the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry ruled, those spots are now being replaced by smaller cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra (above).
Consumer survey specialists J.D. Powers and Associates is forecasting that for the first time in two-decades, the compact car will outsell the mid-size car by the end of this year. It also predicts that by 2015, about 20% of cars sold in the U.S. will be compacts, and mid-size vehicles will occupy only 14% of the market.
Part of the reason for this shift in vehicle sizes has to do with the size and technology of compact cars sold currently. These days, you can find all manner of gadgets and luxury features in a compact car, plus they are getting bigger in size. For instance, the current Corolla is only 10-inches shorter than its Camry sibling, so it is no longer a small, small car.
With all the advantages of a bigger vehicle available in a slightly smaller, more fuel efficient package, at a considerably lower price tag (typically $5000 less), no wonder more and more people are choosing to downsize their vehicles.
The Hyundai Sonata has officially bumped off the Nissan Altima to take 3rd place in the mid-size sedan sales race. The Sonata sold 21,399 units in August, closing in on the Honda Accord, which sold 22,506 units. The Toyota Camry enjoys a comfortable lead, selling just over 30,000 units in August. The figures exclude fleet and rental sales.
The Sonata has bested tough rivals like the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. Buyers are apparently enticed by a strong warranty, low MSRP and generous equipment levels. About 75% of Sonata customers are “conquest buyers” who have traded in other brands for a Hyundai.
[Source: Detroit News]