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Best Cars for Teens Awards

Executives from cars.com and DriversEd.com recently named the top new vehicles for teens based on safety, price, size and ‘fun factor.’
VehicleVoice Counterpoint
The vehicles selected used input from Power’s Mechanical Reliability Ratings and Consumer Reports Reliability Histories. They also used crash test scores and IIHS ratings.
In the flurry of COTY awards, the Best Cars for Teens seems soft and not particularly well thought out. It appears like a no teen was asked for their opinions and only government- and industry-available information was used. Based on AutoPacific and VehicleVoice research Teens (or lets broaden that to GenY buyers) most likely would buy a used car (because they can afford it) or larger vehicles (because they aspire to them).
Study this list and you conclude that a Teen only wants a small, fuel effiicient, inexpensive cars and trucks. Au contraire, they want vehicles where they can carry their friends and their stuff plus go places their lifestyles demand. A Mazda3, no matter how nice a little car it is, won’t do all a Teen requires of it.
The top teen car recommendations from cars.com and DriversEd.com include:
Mazda3– “sporty and affordable”
Honda Civic – having “it all”
Scion tC – “feels rich for the price”
Mini Cooper, – “stops, goes, corners like a BMW”
Subaru Impreza -“good all around performer”
Mazda MX-5 – “affordable convertible”
Volvo S40 – “Volvo safety at an affordable price”
Hyundai Tucson, described as “a lot for the money”
Toyota RAV4 – “larger and stronger than before”
Subaru Forester – “surprisingly roomy inside”
Nissan Frontier, crew cab – “perfect truck option for teens”
Toyota Tacoma, double cab – “Toyota quality in a tough truck”


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Consumer Reports Top Ten Picks of the Year

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Every April, Consumer Reports publishes its Annual Auto Issue. This is the most widely read issue of Consumer Reports by far. There is information not only on new cars and trucks, but also on cars that have been in operation for years. VehicleVoice survey research and AutoPacific survey and focus group research concludes that Consumer Reports can have a significant impact on what cars and trucks an American driver may select. When asked what information sources a person uses when deciding what car to look at, Consumer Reports is often the first source mentioned.

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Consumer Reports has gone beyond simply reporting the results of the surveys of its subscribers. Now they weigh in editorially and even select a Top Ten. But those vehicles are those discussed in Consumer Reports’ press releases. When you delve deeper into the April 2006 issue itself, there are many more vehicles worthy of attention. But, first for the Top Ten, as determined by Consumer Reports:

Best Sedan Less Than $20,000: Honda Civic

Best Sedan $20,000 to $30,000: Honda Accord

Best Sedan $30,000 to $40,000: Acura TL

Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M35

Best SUV Less Than $30,000: Subaru Forester

Best SUV More Than $30,000: Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Best Pickup Truck: Honda Ridgeline

Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey

Best Green Car: Toyota Prius

Most Fun to Drive: Subaru Impreza WRX-STi

Yes, you are right. There are no American cars or trucks in the list. There are no European cars in the list. There are no Korean cars in the list. Japanese brands swept the 2006 Consumer Reports Top Ten. And of those Japanese brands, Honda (including Acura) got five of the Top Ten positions. This is the first time that Japanese brand vehicles have swept these awards.

There is consolation, of course, that the Hondas are at least assembled in the USA.

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Motorweek 2006 Driver's Choice Awards

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Motorweek, the PBS-oriented car show, announced the winners of its 2006 Driver’s Choice Awards at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. It will be interesting to see how these winners correspond to the owner awards from VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. The surveys for the annual AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award are in the field during the 1st Quarter 2006 and winners will be announced in early May.
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Their winners include:
Best of the Year: Honda Civic
Best Small Car: Honda Civic
Best Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata
Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Best Convertible: Pontiac Solstice
Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M-Series
Best Sports Sedan: BMW 3-Series
Best Performance Car: Ford Mustang
Best Small Sport Utility Vehicle: Toyota RAV4 (guess they didn’t measure it… Mid-Size SUV now)
Best Family Sport Utility Vehicle: Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer
Best Pickup Truck: Ford F-150
Best Eco-Friendly: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Best Dream Machine: Chevrolet Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe, Ferrari F430
Special Category: Most Jane Car: BMW 3-Series


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Honda Civic and Ridgeline Win More COTY Honors

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New vehicles from American Honda have swept the 2006 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards. The all-new Honda Civic won the Car of the Year Award adn the Ridgeline Sport Utlity Truck won the Truck of the Year Award. The Civic has been on sale since late Fall 2005 and Ridgeline was introduced in Spring 2005. Both are 2006 models.
These awards mimic Car and Truck of the Year Awards by Motor Trend magazine announced earlier.
The new Civic replaces what may be the most lackluster Civic of all time. The Civic had devolved into a typical econobox that sold on the basis of its stellar image and name, not because it was the hiighly desirable Civic of the past. The new Civic corrects that. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts rate the Civic as one of the best small cars on the road today… aspirational, exciting, and fun to drive.

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The Ridgeline has not sold up to the expectations that Honda announced when the truck was introduced. Having slightly weird styling and being based on the Odyssey minivan platform, the Ridgeline is a great driving pretend truck. Full of innovative ideas that impressed the Car of the Year judges, Ridgeline deserves to succeed. It has not sold up to expectations likely due to its relatively high price point… substantially higher than “real trucks” like the Ford F-Series and the Chevrolet Silverado.
American Honda may use the early lack of success of the Chrysler Pacifica as a case study. Pacifica was overpriced when it was introduced. People did not know what kind of vehicle it is. The idea that Pacific was a “sports tourer” did not mean anything to anybody. But Chrysler played around with its positioning and Pacifica now sells in respectable volumes.
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It’s interesting that Honda’s press release announcing its achievement is pretty matter-of-fact. Ho-hum.


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Automotive Lease Guide Releases Residual Value Awards

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Automotive Lease Guide is an influential and closely watched barometer of the value of brands and vehicles in the USA. ALG’s data are used by leasing companies to set the values for vehicles two and three years in the future and are critical in determining what lease rates a lessee will pay.
While ALG’s Residual Value Awards are not of the ilk of Motor Trend, Automobile, Car & Driver enthusiast awards, they provide an interesting counterpoint to awards based test track measurements, zero to 60 times and seat of the pants opinions. Here is the text of the ALG release…

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ALG’s annual Residual Value Awards honor those vehicles in each automotive segment predicted to retain the highest percentage of their original price. For the third consecutive year, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. heads the list with the Honda Brand winning the Industry Brand Residual Value Award. Honda also received two individual segment awards: the Odyssey for the Minivan Segment and the Accord for the Midsize Car Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Honda Odyssey and the second win for the Accord.
Acura, a division of American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is the winner of the Near Luxury Car Segment for the TL.
BMW of North America, LLC has once again made a strong showing by winning the Luxury Brand Residual Value Award for the third consecutive year. MINI USA, a division of BMW of North America, has won the Compact Car Segment for the MINI Cooper for the fourth time.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. took home the most Residual Value Awards this year by winning six individual segment awards: the Avalon for the Fullsize Car Segment, Tacoma Pick-up for the Compact Truck Segment, Tundra for the Fullsize Truck Segment, RAV4 for the Compact SUV Segment, 4Runner for the Midsize SUV Segment, and the Sequoia for the Fullsize SUV Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Toyota Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia; and the third consecutive win for the 4Runner.
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC is the winner of this year’s Luxury Car Segment award for the CLS Class.
The Sports Car Segment award this year goes to Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for the 911 Carrera.
And last but not least, the CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) award goes to Land Rover North America, Inc. for the Range Rover Sport.
“In an era of negative pricing and overcapacity, Residual Value excellence is increasingly difficult to achieve,” said Raj Sundaram, President of Automotive Lease Guide. “Both the segment and brand winners clearly demonstrate that quality products combined with effective pricing strategies will rise to the top.” Sundaram added that, “While the top rankings did not change, several brands have shown significant improvement over last year, highlighting the importance manufacturers are placing on residual value as a long-term objective.”
This year’s awards are based on 2006 model year vehicles. For the fourth year, ALG has also included awards for the brand with the highest predicted resale value of all industry and luxury vehicles. The awards are derived after careful study of segment competition, historical vehicle performance and
industry trends. Award winners are featured on http://www.alg.com, The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, and other automotive publications and websites dedicated to bringing the industry’s best performing models into the
public eye.


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2006 Honda Ridgeline Wins Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award

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In an sweep of Motor Trend’s 2006 Car and Truck of the Year Awards, Honda has achieved a first. No other manufacturer has won both in the same year. VehicleVoice [(http://www.vehiclevoice.com) & (http:/.vehiclevoice.com)] has been tracking both Honda vehicles since their intro and both are special. The Ridgeline, while not a “real” truck to real trucker, has many innovative features that make traditional pickups and SUTs look like “old-think”. Similarly, the hybrid-looking 2006 Civic sets a new standard for aspirational mainstream small car design.

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Torrance, Calif. 12/20/2005 — The 2006 Honda Ridgeline earned Motor Trend magazine’s prestigious 2006 “Truck of the Year” award, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today. The Ridgeline joins the all-new 2006 Honda Civic as this year’s recipient of Motor Trend’s “Car of the year” award, marking the first time ever that a manufacturer has won both honors in the same year.
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Since its introduction in March of 2005, the Ridgeline has re-defined the mid-size truck segment through its innovative and exclusive new features. Designed to meet the needs of a growing population of consumers purchasing trucks to support their active, outdoor-oriented lifestyles, the Ridgeline delivers a proportional mix of overall truck capability, towing performance, ruggedness and value in a fun-to-drive vehicle built around Honda’s standards for reliability, safety and performance. The Ridgeline was the first-ever 4-door pickup to receive the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star safety rating, the highest safety rating possible, for both frontal and side impact crash test performance. It also had the distinction of achieving the best rollover resistance rating of any pickup ever tested by NHTSA. All Ridgeline models are equipped with a long list of standard comfort and convenience features, including the most comprehensive list of standard safety equipment in its class.


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Car & Driver – 10Best Cars 2006

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Every year, Car & Driver, one of the high circulation car enthusiast magazines in the United States, publishes the results of its 10Best awards. The 2006 10Best Cars awards were released in the January 2006 issue of Car & Driver and you can find them on the C&D website at (http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=33&article_id=10354)
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Not having looked at the winners prior to writing this blog, VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) staff conjectured about what types of cars Car & Driver would select.
We knew that, being a buff book, they’d select cars that appealed to the enthusiast, maybe throw one or two mundane winners into the mix, be heavy on import marques and generally favor smaller cars. Lets see how accurate we were?
BEST SPORTS SEDAN – Acura TSX
BEST SPORT COMPACT- Audi A3
BEST LUXURY SPORTS SEDAN – BMW 3-Series
BEST PERFORMANCE CAR – Chevrolet Corvette
BEST FULL SIZE SEDAN – Chrysler 300
BEST MUSCLE CAR – Ford Mustang GT
BEST FAMILY SEDAN – Honda Accord
BEST ROADSTER – Mazda MX-5 (Miata)
BEST SPORTS COUPE – Mazda RX-8
BEST LUXURY SPORTS CAR – Porsche Boxster
So, lets see, seven are import brands, 3 of the imports are from Germany and four are from Japan. Mazda picks up two wins with its sports cars.


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NIIHS Announces Safety Winners

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The National Insurance Institute of Highway Safety announced its rankings of the ten safest 2006 model year cars on Sunday December 4, 2005. To make the ratings game easier to understand, NIIHS has developed a gold silver rating scheme. Cars receiving a GOLD rating have “Good” ratings for frontal impact, side impact and head restraints. Cars receiving a SILVER rating have “Good” ratings for frontal impact and side impacts, “Acceptable” for head restraints.
One of the key objectives for this new combined rating scheme is to push manufacturers in a subtle way towards stronger performances in all aspects of the rating game.
The winners are:
GOLD

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Large Cars: Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego
Mid-Size Cars: Saab 9-3, Subaru Legacy
Small Car: Honda Civic 4-door
SILVER
Large Cars: Audi A6
Mid-Size Cars: Audi A3, Audi A4, Chevrolet Malibu with side airbags, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Passat


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Kiplinger's Best New Cars – December 2005

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Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine (December 2005) selects the Best New Cars in several price classes. Their selections are as follows:
Best New Car under $18,000: 2006 Honda Civic. “With its sleek, aerodynamic look, the new Civic gets more power without sacrificing fuel efficiency. Six airbags are now standard equipment.” [Best in Class: Volkswagen New Beetle]
Best New Car – $18,000 – $23,000: 2006 Hyundai Sonata. “It has classy good looks and is surprisingly refined for around $20,000. It also has the most standard safety equipment in its class.”

Best New Car – $23,000 – $30,000: 2006 Dodge Charger R/T.
“Under the hood it’s a whole lot like the Chrysler 300C. But it has a sportier suspension, a lower sticker price and the DNA of a Daytona winner.” [Best in Class: Mini Cooper S Convertible]
Best New Car – $30,000 – $45,000: 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS. “Buick’s large-sedan replacement for the LeSabre offers V6 and V8 power, heated and cooled seats, and remote start. Front bench seats are an option.” [Best in Class: Acura TL]
Best New Car – $45,000 and Over: 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG. “From the performance division of Mercedes-Benz comes a new class with style and luxury to spare. It smothly powers from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.” [Best in Class: Lexus LS430]
Best New Sports Car: 2006 Mazda (Miata) MX-5. “The best-selling roadster gets a thoughtful redesign. Now there is more zoom as well as more room – enough to fit a supermarket haul in the trunk.” [Best in Class: Chevrolet Corvette]
Best New SUV: 2006 Range Rover Sport. “Think of it as a rugged sport sedan, equally at home on city seats or on the savanna.” [Best in Class: Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland]
Best New Crossover Vehicle: 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. “This hybrid utility vehicle gets 33mpg in the city, but it’s no slouch when accelerating. The electric motors give it more power than the V6 gas model.” [Best in Class: Honda Pilot]


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2006 Honda Civic Wins Motor Trend Car of the Year Award

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Well, the car of the year awards are now beginning to come in. Motor Trend just announced that the new 2006 Honda Civic won their award from a field of 28 new models for the 2006 model year. The Motor Trend Car of the Year article can be found at this link http://www.motortrend.com/features/112_news051112_car_of_the_year/index.html
The 2006 Motor Trend Car of the Year competition included the following models: Audi A3, BMW 3 Series, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion, Honda Civic, Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Azera, Hyundai Sonata, Infiniti M35/M45, Kia Rio, Lexus GS, Lexus IS, Lincoln Zephyr, Mazda 5, Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, Mercury Milan, Mitsubishi Eclipse GT, Pontiac Solstice, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Jetta, and Volkswagen Passat.
Out of this list, our subjective COTY might have been one of the new Hyundai entries – Sonata or Azera. Both are very significant because of what they represent… Hyundai’s rebirth on the American auto scene.
The editorial staff of Motor Trend conducted tests on these 28 new models, “searching for the automobile that best represents exceptional value, superiority in its class, and the most significant development on the new-car scene for 2006.”
Unlike AutoPacific’s (http://www.autopacific.com) annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award winner is selected by editors. AutoPacific’s awards are generated based on responses from owners of new cars and light trucks to a national mail survey.


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