Ah to be young again. AutoGuide’s nationally recognized, board-certified Oracles remember their youth vividly… it was terrible. People often say age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel, unfortunately they were born wearing elastic-waist jeans and Science Olympiad fanny packs. Gingivitis arrived when they were in middle school.
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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Whether due to rising gas prices or changing trends by consumers, small cars are increasingly becoming a big deal across America. In fact, sales of compact and sub-compact vehicles are poised to make up the largest segment of total auto industry sales since 1993.
AutoGuide Five-Point Inspection
During this week’s Five-Point Inspection we put the Scion iQ micro-subcompact to the test, driving it in crowded city streets, long open highways and everything in between. An emotionally polarizing vehicle, the tiny city car can make you smile and frown – it entirely depends on what you’re looking for.
With a starting MSRP of $16,020, the iQ might be the city car for you. Read on to find out why.
Talk about a cultural divide. While the Fiat 500 struggles to find customers on this side of the Atlantic, in Europe it’s a different story. Over there, the car is a celebrated icon and the original “Cinquecento” was largely responsible for putting Italy on wheels following World War II.
Ask anyone older than 55 how cars have changes since the ’70s and they’ll probably mention, among many other things, that they’ve shrunk considerably.
The scene was something you might normally expect around an outrageous car like the Lamborghini Aventador J, but it wasn’t. Instead, the Euro folk were jazzed about Mercedes’ new line of small cars that have yet to make it stateside despite repeated promises by the brand to do so.
Those fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where these baby-Benzes cruise the streets can look forward to choosing between a 1.6- and 1.8-liter gasoline engines ranging from 107 to 154 horsepower and a diesel option.
The new A Class is also 6.3 inches lower than the previous model and is available in an AMG-engineered 250 Sport package.
A Class buyers will also probably appreciate the significant advances in technology integration, including native iPhone support that offers Siri connectivity (Apple’s voice command software).
Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said while addressing the crowd that the latest integration makes using your iPhone’s features safer while driving by offering use of the device via the car’s controls and a bigger screen.
Safety doesn’t stop there — the car can also have collision prevention and Mercedes’ “pre-safe” system.
While there still isn’t word on the fabled U.S. release, Zetsche said pricing wouldn’t increase on the new model.
Watch our A-Class first look video below.
GALLERY: 2013 Mercedes-Benz A Class
GALLERY: 2013 Mercedes-Benz A Class
General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroën inked a deal yesterday that will see the companies partnering to further their interests in Europe.
“This partnership brings tremendous opportunity for our two companies,” said Dan Akerson, GM chairman and CEO. “The alliance synergies, in addition to our independent plans, position GM for long-term sustainable profitability in Europe.”
The companies plan to share vehicle platforms, components and modules and to create a global purchasing joint venture that will improve both groups’ leverage in sourcing goods and services from suppliers by commanding $125 billion in purchasing power.
As part of the deal GM will acquire a seven percent stake in PSA Peugeot Citroën.
“This alliance is a tremendously exciting moment for both groups and this partnership is rich in its development potential. With the strong support of our historical shareholder and the arrival of a new and prestigious shareholder, the whole group is mobilized to reap the full benefit of this agreement,” Philippe Varin, chairman of the managing board of PSA Peugeot Citroën said.
The alliance will initially focus on small and midsize cars, MPVs and crossovers, the first of which is expected to launch in 2016.
We reported on the first details behind this concept in early January, but at the time guessed it would be called the MINI Cargo.
Essentially, the car is a foray into the commercial market with an emphasis on businesses like pizza delivery and will compete with the Fiat 500 Giardinetta Wagon.
No further details are available now, but we’ll have coverage as more information becomes available.
[Source: In Auto News]
In 1989, Rick Moranis played a nerdy dad who accidentally downsized his children to an insect scale in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. He probably wouldn’t have believed it if someone told him that 23 years later automakers would be doing the same thing to their cars.
For those of us living in the North American 2012, there are increasingly large swarms of little cars buzzing around the streets. The din their tiny engines makes isn’t overwhelming yet, but just wait.
General Motors’ German subsidiary, Opel, is planning to release a micro car they’re calling the Allegra (or, tentatively, Junior). No, not the allergy medication, though the thing is small enough to be mistaken for a bee in ragweed season, at least compared to the standard American palate. When the Allegra hits Europe in 2013 it will probably stand to compete against cars like the Volkswagen Up, MINI Cooper and Fiat 500.
In fact, it’s a solid 3.3 feet longer than the Mercedes-Benz spawned Smart ForTwo, which looks like a cross between a golf cart and an alien space pod. Our spies caught the Opel Allegra on camera during winter testing, but what’s the big deal? Opel cars aren’t sold in North America, right?
Well, not necessarily. Rumors are floating around that the not-so-smallish micro car might make it overseas rebadged as a Buick. (Why not? It’s not the first Buick to come from Opel). And with the recent launch of the Fiat 500 and the Scion iQ on our shores, the market for mini-cars is growing.
Of course, the name will likely change to keep big pharma happy.
GALLERY: Opel Allegra/Junion Spy Photos
Swedish automaker Volvo is looking to shack up with a new mate in the hopes of making a fresh set of small cars. Their current compact, the C30 (above), is based on technology from former parent company Ford.
However, Ford dumped Volvo almost two years ago, passing them off to Chinese Geely Holding Group for $1.8 billion, a fraction of what they originally paid. Now the company says the are welcoming partnerships with other companies to fill the void their former American partner left behind.
Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby told the Financial Times that the company is open to new partners who will be able to share in developing further compact models alongside Volvo in an effort to drive down production costs.
There isn’t an official decision yet about pairing up with any specific company, though it makes sense that Volvo would be looking for a new dance partner given that their current C30 line is nearing the time when a model typically gets a refresh.
The collaborative strategy is becoming increasingly common among automakers as profit margins start to wear thin. Last year Volvo agreed to work with German company Siemens to produce an electric vehicle.
Aside from business to business collaboration, Jacoby is taking Volvo in a similar direction as the last company he managed: Volkswagen. In an effort to cut costs, he’s taken the company from offering 10 engines to only two. He’s also implementing something similar to VW’s “modular box” approach to building cars, where multiple vehicles of different sizes are made in the same facility.
In the spirit of consolidation, Volvo is also expected to launch the compact V40 at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show this March. That car will replace the current S40 and V50 models.
[Source: Financial Times]
The fuel wars are heating up as automakers search for new ways to squeeze more mileage out of their cars. While some might take this chance to preach doom and gloom for future cars, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne isn’t ready to call the Road Warrior just yet.
Some companies are turning to electric vehicles, others to extended-range hybrids. Yet another school of thought is turning to diesel engines to meet mounting expectations for fuel consumption. In the face of what seems like a trembling industry, unsure of what the next revolution will be, Marchionne stands strong.
“I believe in our industry’s ability to find solutions. Even with traditional combustion engines, we have only skimmed the surface of the ability to squeeze out higher fuel efficiency levels, allowing us to extract much more power out of smaller displacements,” Marchionne said during an appearance at the Automotive News World Congress.
For the time being, he is determined that diesel engines will remain reserved for larger cars, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee (pictured above), which Chrysler will begin assembling in Detroit early next year. Diesel engines, despite their shrinking stigma, are still a minority consideration in the overall U.S. market. We really like some of the small car diesel variants to pop up recently. For example, Mazda will offer a diesel version of their Mazda6 sedan in 2013, as will Chevrolet with the Cruze.
Despite that, Marchionne is hanging onto the gasoline engine and hoping cars like their recently unveiled Dodge Dart will tackle the small car market and capture young consumer imaginations. Critics of his stubborn resolve might want to hold their opinions for now, considering the about face Marchionne championed since 2009, taking Chrysler from near-ruin to respectable territory.
“Fiat and Chrysler come from two different pasts, but they have something very strong in common,” said Marchionne. “Both have been to hell and back.”
GALLERY: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]
The past 20 years were pretty stable in the automotive industry. Mostly predictable releases with a steady rate for manufacturers to introduce new models that seemed like a consistant recipe for success.
Then, suddenly with the start of the current model year, things changed. In fact, it looks like this is just the start of a serious upswing in new releases. According to a story published on CNN Money, the auto industry replaced 16 percent of its fleet annually between 1991 and 2011.
That figure jumped to 23 percent with the 2012 model year, which started in October. Apparently keeping this fresh is the snake oil for successful car companies, because next year that number will grow to 32 percent, effectively doubling the rate new models hit the market. Given this manufacturer mayhem, we decided to round up the new cars you should expect to see soon.
Honda is an interesting case as they’ve recognized that their luxury brand, Acura, is simply being outdone by the competition at every turn. They decided to completely redesign their line to quell complaints that their cars are little more than rebadged Hondas. The first to look for: their new ILX compact sedan. As for Honda, they are already planning to release a new generation Civic after the media chastised them for an uninspired release.
Next up, Nissan. While they don’t hold a big market share in the U.S., Carlos Ghosn, their CEO is making plans to expand the 8.2 percent they have now to ten by 2015. In order to do that, they are revamping half of their entire line. Nissan is targeting the burgeoning EV market with their Leaf, which first became available last year. Look for updated Altimas, Sentras and Pathfinders in the near future.
Toyota suffered after the tsunami, but is coming back with a fury. The automaker is releasing a brand-new sports car, the FR-S, developed in partnership with Subaru and set to sell with a Scion badge. The RAV-4 and Lexus ES sedan will also get updates.
Chrysler will move toward smaller cars, something the brand has historically struggled with. The shrinkage can be attributed to Fiat, their new owners, and how their new 40 mpg Dodge Dart borrows heavily from the Italian engineers.
Ford and GM are trying to hang on to their chunky market shares, 17 and 19.7 percent respectively. Both companies are following the industry strategy: refreshing their popular sellers and releasing redesigned cars in their luxury brands. Look for a re-engineered Lincoln MKZ from Ford and Cadillac‘s new compact ATS and larger XTS sedans from GM.
Finally, there are some changes in the pipeline for German luxury cars. Audi just confirmed that their compact Q3 SUV will be sold in the U.S., along with the re-release of the compact A2 sedan. Mercedes-Benz is opting to offer their smaller B-Series and A-Series cars to remain competitive in the Yankee market.
[Source: CNN Money]
While the 2012 Honda Civic has clearly not impressed the staff at Consumer Reports, the same can’t be said for its smaller sibling the Fit.
For the second year in a row, the Honda subcompact has been named as the best value choice when it comes to small cars; it was also judged best value overall from a field of some 200 competitors, high praise indeed.
During its evaluation of finding the year’s best value vehicles, Consumer Reports, tested cars, SUVs and trucks from a total of 11 different categories. Scores were determined based on a five-year ownership cost of each vehicle, including depreciation, insurance premiums, fuel costs, interest on financing, repairs and maintenance and sales taxes. Consumer Reports also added it’s own road test scores and projected reliability to each tally.
When all was said and done, the Fit emerged as the overall winner in the small car category, followed by the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Volkswagen Golf TDI (manual gearbox), Toyota Corolla and Scion xD. Most of these cars scored twice as high as the average vehicle rating in the value survey, while the Chevy Cruze, which finished last in the small car category, still earned a total score close to the average overall value of all vehicles tested.
Rik Paul, automotive editor at Consumer Reports, said in regards to the survey, that “a cheap vehicle can wind up costing you more money over time or can be disappointing down the road. We think real value is what you get for your money.” Indeed.
MINI will make its way into the commercial vehicle market soon when it releases a cargo-oriented version of the Clubman.
The car, officially called the MINI Cargo, is set to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March and will essentially be the same as the Clubman (pictured above), but with the back seats replaced by a cargo bed and blacked out rear side windows. The release represents offers by parent company BMW to remain competitive and preempt the similarly-minded Fiat 500 Giardinetta Wagon.
Small commercial vehicles are already popular in Europe, other examples include the Ford Transit Connect, a compact panel van introduced in Europe in 2002.
While not particularly useful for large cargo, having small, efficient and delivery-specific vehicles is useful for small businesses that hinge on such a service. Expect more details to come on the 13-foot wheelbase bread truck soon.
To make room for expanding model research and development on the home front, Toyota Motor Corp has appointed its European division to lead global product planning for small cars.
Vested with this major responsibility, extensive reorganization in Toyota Europe’s sales and marketing operations were put to effect in hopes to best approach the new mission. According to Toyota Motor Europe CEO Didier Leroy, “It is essential to bring focus to this mission and the product planning division will play a key role in this integrated strategy, together with our designers.”
Alain Uyttenhoven, head of product planning and marketing, will shift his responsibilities to focus on product planning specifically and will be in charge of overseeing the global potential of the future Aygo minicar, Yaris/Vitz subcompact, as well as the Auris/Corolla compact.
Taking Uyttenhoven’s old marketing duties is Daniele Schillaci of Toyota-France. Schillaci’s new role as Toyota’s general manager of sales and marketing, according to Didier Leroy, will allow Toyota, “… to respond in the fastest and most efficient way to market volatility and changes in customers’ expectations.”
To replace Daniele Schillaci’s former role as Toyota France CEO is Pascal Ruch, who currently holds station as Toyota’s general manager of sales and production efficiency in European distribution.
Finally, Miguel Fonseca will become the vice president of business integration. While this is a major managerial shift within Toyota, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler rely on its European operations to develop future products in the minicar, subcompact and compact segments as well.
[Source: Automotive News]
According to a report from Ward’s Auto, an inherent shortage of small and medium sized cars (mostly due to supply issues relating to Japanese automakers), have resulted in an overall drop in fuel economy ratings when it comes to passenger cars and light trucks.
Those vehicles sold between July and September this year, averaged 22.2 miles per gallon, down from 25.2 mpg the previous quarter. The findings marked the second consecutive drop in the Ward’s Auto Fuel Economy Index rating.
Although small car inventory was down significantly, especially at Toyota (64 percent) and Honda (67 percent), Japanese automakers weren’t the only ones suffering from reduced stocks during the third quarter. In fact both Hyundai and even Ford had to deal with shortages of 74 and 41 percent respectively.
In total, passenger car sales stood at 229,250 units in total for the third quarter,down by 38.5 percent versus a year ago. This also meant that market share of passenger cars stood at some 46.3 percent of total light vehicle sales, the smallest percentage since 2005.
In terms of manufacturer market share in the passenger car segment, the leader during the third quarter was Volkswagen, which boasted a slice of some 25.6 percent according to Wards, while Toyota finished runner up with 25.1 percent. Nissan and Kia rounded out the top four.
General Motors led the domestic pack, with a 20.7 percent share, followed closely by Ford (20.1). Yet despite the second straight fall in overall fuel economy ratings, on balance, the 2011 model year was an improvement on 2010, the average fuel economy rating of 22.4 miles per gallon up by 1 percent versus the year prior.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
What’s not to like about things being streamlined? Take a fine automobile for example: clean, sleak lines not only enhance the ride, they also turn more than a few heads on the street. But what about the interior of said car? Things could get a lot more streamlined, thanks to a next-generation steering wheel that folds away.
Making it easier to get into and out of a vehicle, TRW Automotive is behind a collapsible steering wheel that retracts entirely into the dashboard. Although it hasn’t been built yet, there are renderings of the new dashboard technology. The steering wheel comes with two handles attached to the steering column, and when you’re not driving, the handles fold around the column. Then, the whole unit hides away in the dashboard until you’re ready to drive again – it would pop out automatically when you start the car.
By tucking the steering wheel away in the dashboard, it would be easier to get in and out of the cars. This would be very beneficial for the elderly, pregnant women and larger people. And with the trend of manufacturers moving towards building smaller cars, this new technology would come in handy.
“The key benefit is to make it much easier for elderly drivers or other drivers with reduced mobility to get in and out of the vehicle,” said TRW development manager Manuel Poyant. “Due to the significant growth of small city cars, this technology could open up the possibility for even smaller cabin designs.”
The folding steering wheel could hit the market in another five years. Would this kind of technology interest you and influence your car buying decision? Let us know in the comment section below.
Americans don’t buy small cars because we’re too damn fat. There. It’s what we’ve all been thinking all along. And now a report comes by to confirm our deepest suspicions: we buy SUVs and avoid small cars because our posteriors can’t fit comfortably without lumbar support.
A report from AOL Autos reveals that there’s a connection between our rapidly-expanding obesity rate and a struggle for manufacturers to sell small cars. The number of people defined as obese is expected to increase from 40% to 43% by 2018, according to statistics from Dan Cheng, vice president and partner at business consulting firm AT Kearney. Similarly, sales of small cars like the Mazda2 have dropped 2% since 2008, that terrible year when gas prices were $4 per gallon. They’re at 26% now, and unless people start losing either weight or money (to the gas pumps), they’re not likely to increase soon.
Correlation may not imply causation, as you learned in Freshman Philosophy and a million Internet arguments, but the statements of self-acknowledged obese people drive home the connection. “I want to be environmentally friendly,” said Karen Steelman, a mother whose body-mass index is above the commonly-defined obesity rate, “but unless I am in an SUV these days, I find no pleasure or comfort in driving.”
Another driver surveyed was Robert Dean Cole, who is 6 foot 7 inches and 240 pounds, with a six-year-old son who is nearly 5 feet tall. “Obviously, little cars are not going to be in our future,” he said. “And even if I could actually fit under the steering wheel of the car my next worry would be surviving a car accident. Good chance I won’t be surviving due to my size.” Cole drives a Ford F-150.
Carmakers are working on making their cars more accessible to larger drivers, regardless of size. Ford, for example, is updating their database of human dimensions to include obese adults. Interior design teams use this data to determine key factors such as center console placement, seat controls, roof lines, and sunroof controls, among others. In the end, as well-packaged cars like the Honda Fit can attest, it’s the cleverness of interior packaging that will haul our muffin tops down the road to freedom!
[Source: AOL Autos]
It’s almost a perfect storm. The aftermath of the deadly earthquake in Japan, combined with a dramatic increase in oil prices fueled by the ongoing crisis in Libya and the reduction in domestic stockpiles is pushing up the price of new automobiles in a manner not seen in years.
Already Toyota, Ford and GM have announced price increases for their vehicles, with others set to follow suit. But an interesting trend is the price of small cars. Compared with a year ago, the average price for these vehicles has increased by some 4.2 percent, in the subcompact segment it’s even more – 6.3 percent – according to website TrueCar.com.
Although, given the global nature of the auto business today, companies across the world are facing disruptions, those that are most affected remain Japanese brands. So far, Nippon based companies have delayed the introduction of some 500,000 vehicles because of supply issues resulting from last month’s quake and one industry analyst predicts that amount will grow to some 3.6 million vehicles worldwide by August.
However, this current set of circumstances might provide an opportunity, particularly for Detroit car makers, who’ve been struggling in recent years. In particular, demand for such models as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze, both of which have been well received, could result in some buyers shifting their allegiance from Japanese brands, which have dominated the market for small cars for so long. The situation is likely to exacerbated by the fact that some models, particularly those imported from Japan such as the Toyota Prius, are currently in short supply, a scenario that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Nevertheless, although many automakers are rethinking their supply chains as a result of the issues in Japan, it’s unlikely there will be a major realignment in the way parts distribution and production are configured, at least in the short term.
However, given the current economic environment, the auto sector is becoming less of a buyer’s market by the day, particularly for small cars. As a result those consumers in the market for a new vehicle, are likely better off to take the plunge now, while there’s still good deals to be had, rather than sitting on the fence and waiting.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
Remember the Tata Pixel concept at Geneva? If not, this link should help refresh your memory…or, you can wait until your next European vacation, where you’ll be seeing the tiny little Pixel on the streets.
Tata Motors has green-lit the Pixel for production and sale in Europe, replacing the previously-planned Nano Europa, which was just an upscale and alloy-wheeled version of their cheap-as-chips Nano. The production version will lose the chintzy scissor doors and electronic gauges, but will retain the rear-mounted 1.2-liter diesel, five-speed gearbox, and sub-10-feet dimensions.
A production date has not been announced, but this news from Tata shows that they are eager to push it through quickly.
Despite the American introduction of diesel engines from most major European brands, Volvo remains non-committal to the prospect of diesel powertrains in America.
Volvo offers a broad range of diesels in Europe and other markets, but Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volvo, offered little, stating “We are taking a deep look at whether we will introduce the diesels to the US.”
Volvo will also be downsizing their engines starting in 2013, following a recent trend embraced by manufacturers of all stripes. The first engine, dubbed the D2, will be a 1.6L four-cylinder diesel, to be fitted to the C30, S40 and V50 wagon – though that’s one engine we can’t ever see making it to our shores.