The Lexus LS430
is rated at the top of the Luxury Car category in the AutoPacific
2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. While some luxury car buyers opt for sportier vehicles, the LS430 appeals to people valuing its sensory deprivation chamber quietness and isolation. Providing bulletproof quality and reliability, good handling, an outstanding ride and surprisingly powerful performance when pushed, the LS430 claims the title of top Luxury Car for 2006.
Complementing the numerous awards the Honda Ridgeline
has received since its introduction, Ridgeline customers weigh in by rating it as the most satisfying pickup on the market in the AutoPacific
2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Scoring higher than all Full Size, Heavy Duty and Compact pickups, Ridgeline proves that a softer pickup doing car and truck duty can provide great satisfaction for its owners. Heaped with innovations, including the first-ever trunk in a pickup, Ridgeline breaks the pickup mold.
In its first year out, the all-new Volkswagen Passat
has established itself as an extremely satisfying Premium Mid-Size sedan winning the AutoPacific
2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award. Passat handily beat segment volume leaders Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata. Passat wins by virtue of its outstanding interior design, use of high touch materials and European driving dynamics.
In Suzuki’s first win ever, owners of the all-new Grand Vitara
rate it best in the Compact SUV class in AutoPacific
‘s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. New styling, larger, up-graded interior, up-graded powertrain, affordable pricing and a more-than-competitive warranty, make Grand Vitara a satisfying value proposition. With the introduction of the new Grand Vitara Suzuki proves they can achieve impressive satisfaction results with their customers.
AutoPacific has released the results of its 2006 model year owner satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s VSA (Vehicle Satisfaction Award) study is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new car or light truck. VehicleVoice automotive Internet panel members also contributed to this research.
The vehicle registering highest overall satisfaction in 2006 is the Lincoln Navigator Luxury SUV. The highest rated car is the new-for-2006 Hyundai flagship – Hyundai Azera.
Unlike 2005, when Nissan North America had seven winners, the 2006 results are distributed across the industry. There are eighteen Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. Honda won four categories, General Motors won three categories, Ford won three categories, Nissan won two categories, Hyundai won two categories, Mitsubishi won two categories.
Top 2006 model year performers are:
TOP VEHICLE: Lincoln Navigator
TOP PASSENGER CAR: Hyundai Azera
TOP TRUCK: Lincoln Navigator
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Entry Luxury Car: Cadillac CTS
Luxury/Large Car: Hyundai Azera
Premium Mid-Size Car: Volkswagen Passat
Mid-Size Car: Mercury Milan
Image Compact Car: MINI Cooper
Compact Car: Honda Civic
Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette
Sporty Car: Acura RSX
Large Light-Duty Pickup: Nissan Titan
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup : Chevrolet Silverado HD
Sport Utility Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Compact Pickup: Mitsubishi Raider
Luxury Sport Utility: Lincoln Navigator
Large Sport Utility: Nissan Armada
Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility: Mitsubishi Endeavor
Mid-Size Sport Utility: Hyundai Santa Fe
Compact Sport Utility: Suzuki Grand Vitara
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Ford Motor Company
, including Ford and Mercury vehicles, and Volvo Cars
were the sponsors of Los Angeles radio station KABC
2nd Annual Clean-Air Car Showcase. Using The Block at Orange
in Orange County, California as the venue, KABC, Ford and Volvo attracted Southern Californians interested in their new green offerings. While Ford showed the hybrid Escape and Mariner SUVs, other vehicles on display were almost-as-clean PZEV powered vehicles. Ford also brought its fuel cell Focus down from Sacramento for the day.
I decided to mosey on down to The Block to see what the Showcase was all about. When I got there at about 2PM, the morning haze had burned off and the temperatures were approaching 80. Wow, are these VehicleVoice folks dedicated!
There were vehicles on static display with folks there to discuss their merits with mall passers-by. After completing an insurance waiver, people who were interested were given the opportunity to drive the vehicle accompanied by Ford and Volvo dealer personnel.
All of this was designed not only help Ford and Volvo convert lookie-loos into prospects, but also to educate the typical Southern Californian about the merits of clean-air technology. Naturally, the hybrids got most of the attention and a common question was “Where do you plug it in?” Ford has been selling PZEV vehicles in California for several years and is expanding availability of these very, very clean gasoline powered vehicles.
John Clinard, Ford’s Western Regional Public Relations Manager
The 1st Annual Clean-Air Car Showcase was held in 2005 at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Sales were the principals in the 1st Annual event. As a low-key, relatively low expense event, Ford has found this an effective way to leverage its resources to get the word out to the public.
The Fuel Price Impact Survey conducted monthly by AutoPacific‘s VehicleVoice indicates that the median fuel price paid by U.S. motorists increased from a September 2005 peak of $2.90 per gallon to a new peak of $2.94 a gallon in April 2006. This was up from $2.42 in March. April’s spike is the largest month-over-month spike since September 2005.
SUV Loyalty Deteriorates – Small Cars Set to Boom?
In September respondents reacted to the price shock with about 27% of SUV owners saying they would consider buying another type vehicle when they replaced their SUV. As fuel prices moderated in the months following September, loyalty to SUVs rebounded. By March, only 13% would consider shifting away from SUVs. But, given the new April peak, about 25% of SUV owners say they may buy something different next time. Similarly, interest in Small Cars, up 41% in September, and up only 17% in February, was up 40% in April. Clearly, there is a direct relationship between fuel prices and the type of vehicle a person wants to drive.
Source: AutoPacific – VehicleVoice Fuel Price Impact Study – April 2006
Fiat Taps Internet for Customer Input in Finishing the 2008 500
In Europe, Fiat is still alive if struggling, though the company left North America years ago. They are creating a new minicar for the 2008 model year that revives a well-loved old name for the company, the 500, and on May 2, 2006, launched an interactive consumer site promoting the upcoming model, www.fiat500.com. Though the 500 is not coming to the States, we at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific couldn’t resist checking this site out for ourselves, and sharing it with you. The future will only hold more sites along these lines, but for now they are uncommon and exciting.
The 500 itself is not relevant for the U.S. market. Some U.S. buyers may be willing to go smaller as gas gets more expensive, but not likely this small. Still, Fiat’s approach to launching the car and gathering consumer input is innovative and a model other manufacturers can take inspiration from. We find this heavily and truly interactive, user-friendly launch site very intriguing.
This new site has the mission of getting people interested and excited about the new car, as well as gathering and testing the product’s direction. People from everywhere can choose their language, redesign the site’s homepage, enter their own 500 stories in the “500-ology” section, participate in a design contest
coordinated with Designboom
(an independent industrial design web magazine), and configure their own version in the concept car lab. Once you’ve created a new look for the homepage, or your own wacky car in the Concept Car lab, you can save it for others to use, view, and comment on. If you like someone else’s design for the homepage, you can adopt it as your own. If you almost like someone else’s Concept Car, you can order it up and tweak it yet again to make it your own.
As we write this blog on May 3, initial response is outstanding. The saved Concept Cars and home pages are growing quickly. There were more than 260 Concept Cars in the lab’s gallery. In the 500-ology section, we found nearly forty comments posted, in a variety of languages, most not English. Individual homepage redesigns are slower in being added, but they are there.
Ford Announces Official Certification
Though when the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang was introduced at the 2006 Detroit auto show, Ford only promised 475HP from the supercharged V8. Now that final certification testing is complete, the announcement has been made: 500HP and 480 lb-ft of torque for the 2007 GT500, which easily makes it the fastest factory-built Mustang ever. If you’re a Mustang fan, this is the car you want.
The 500HP comes from a 5.4L DOHC 32v V8 that borrows from the Ford GT supercar engine. The V8 has an iron block and aluminum heads, with a cast iron exhaust manifold and forged steel crankshaft. GT borrowed parts include four-valve cylinder heads, piston rings, and bearings. The power is boosted with a Roots-type supercharger with 9 psi boost. The engine is being built at Ford’s Romeo, Michigan, plant. The full 500HP peaks at 6000 rpm, with the full torque available at 4500 rpm.
“With 500HP and the Shelby name, this car is an instant legend,” noted Hau Thai-Tang, director, Advanced Product Creation & SVT programs. “This is the most powerful, most capable Mustang ever.”
Given that someone already paid $600,000 for the rights to buy the first unit at a charity auction, this car is certainly launching to lofty expectations. (That is $600,000 for the chance to buy the first car, which does not indicate it actually includes the cost of the car.) Pricing will be announced closer to launch. The charity? Carroll Shelby’s Children’s Foundation, of course.
Did you know that the week of April 23 was Tire Safety Week? Most folks don’t know that. But tire safety is a very important subject.
Most folks think that tires are just round and black and usually don’t pay much attention to them, but tires are your only contact with the road and your driving safety depends largely on the performance of your tires. You can have the best handlng car in the world, but if you are running on unsafe tires you are courting trouble.
Check the Air Pressure in Your Tires
Auto industry professionals agree with the tire companies. You should check your tires at least once a month. What should you check? First check the air pressure in your tires. This is easy to do. Maybe you’ll get your hands dirty, but the alternative can be grim. If your tires are underinflated, they will tend to run hotter than they should. This could lead to a blow-out. The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is found on a label on the door jamb. Follow this recommendation, and you should optimize the life of your tires.
Check the Tread Depth
Tires with a lot of mileage on them may be running out of tread depth. When your tread wears down you can more easily lose traction in slippery road conditions. Also, a worn tire will heat up and is prone to failure. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head when you put a penny in the tread, you don’t have enough tread depth. At this point, you should strongly consider replacing your tires.
Tires Can Also Wear Out from Age
Several auto manufacturers have recently recommended that you replace any tire that is over six years of age no matter what its tread depth is. In Japan, some companies recommend a longer period – ten years. In any event, common sense prevails. If the sidewalls of your tires are showing small cracks it’s a good idea to take them to your tire dealer and have them inspected.
Air Pressure in Tires Also Can Impact Fuel Economy
Each month, VehicleVoice surveys members to determine what they have done to improve their fuel economy. With gas prices skyrocketing, we expected to see a high percentage of panel members checking their tire pressure to maximize fuel economy. Wrong. Based on the results from our Fuel Price Impact Survey, not enough of you check air pressure. So, for economy’s sake – and safety’s sake – check your air pressure and tread depth monthly.