Category Archive:

SUVs are NOT Dead

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SUVs are NOT DEAD – Sport Utility Vehicles Remain Top Considered Vehicle Segment
For as long as I can remember, the New York Times and eastern media have been taking SUVs to task. While many of the people writing these stories don’t own a vehicle or even drive a car or truck, they have decided that the Sport Utility Vehicle is the poster child for social irresponsibility. No matter what they say, folks continue to gravitate to SUVs. We have the data.
For the past thirteen years, Sport Utility Vehicles have been the product segment that is most considered by American driving public. 2006 was a traumatic year for SUVs. High fuel prices dampened demand for large truck-based SUVs, but in 2006 as for more than a decade, demand for SUVs was highest among AutoPacific’s seven macro product segments. When consideration for contemporary SUVs – Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles or XSUVs – is included, consideration goes even higher.

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Sales of Full Size SUVs Like Ford Expedition Have Fallen

Clearly America’s love affair for this Swiss Army Knife of vehicles has not waned, nor has demand by Americans for a vehicle type that can do many different things. We used to say that people bought SUVs because they can go anywhere, go anytime, go with anything, go with anybody… an SUV could do it all. Meeting these criteria – especially the go anywhere aspect of the equation yielded SUVs that were too capable. They could go off-road over rough terrain through tough climate conditions. Even though most buyers never used them for what they were capable of, they were designed to have off-road credibility.

Let it be XSUV:
Let’s officially coin our term for Crossover SUVs. These are not simply “crossovers”, after all, you could have a crossover of almost any two products. We don’t want to call them CUVs – Crossover Utility Vehicles – because that dilutes what they really are supposed to be. The right term is Crossover SUV. This clearly defines that this is an SUV based on a car platform – something not quite as capable as body-on-frame traditional SUVs. So, for now on, it’s XSUVs.
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2008 Buick Enclave – New Generation XSUV Responds to Buyers Demands

Carmakers Responded to Buyers with Crossover SUVs: By the end of the ‘90s, manufacturers began to respond to buyers’ demand for slightly softer product characteristics. For awhile terms like “soft-roaders”, “cute-utes” were used to describe vehicles like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and even the Lexus RX300. Inside the car companies engineers and designers were referring to these types of vehicles as Crossovers. And while the buyer rarely refers to his Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, or Honda Pilot as a Crossover SUV, that is what they are. They are not designed for off-roading, but they are designed to provide comfortable, maneuverable, efficient transportation in the suburbs and on vacation.
VehicleVoice internet survey panel members and respondents to AutoPacific’s annual Future Vehicle Survey have responded about what type of transportation they will consider next time they buy. Selected details are below the fold.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show – Chevrolet Screams 'We're Green Too!' with their Volt Concept

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The Conceptual Answer?
A tangible concept can help communicate in a way words never could. General Motors’ introduction of its Chevrolet Volt Concept Vehicle at the 2007 North American Auto Show put hardware in the forefront where GM only trotted out talking heads at the LA Auto Show. In Los Angeles, GM simply stood behind a podium and rattled off statistics and their plans for a greener future. But in Detroit they communicated with a concept that probably created the most positive ‘green’ PR buzz they’ve had in awhile.
In fact, the Volt may be a green idea that would get the most jaded of AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers “green”.
Is the Chevrolet Volt the Most Important Concept at NAIAS?
The Chevrolet Volt, seemed to zap the audience into believing GM will rule the global market with a cure-all plug-in vehicle. In terms of powertrain technology the Volt may have been the most important vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show.
The illusive answer to the problem of petroleum-based transportation has been challenging both consumers and automotive manufacturers for years and yet no long-term definitive answer has been delivered. Sure, some auto manufacturers have toyed with plug in electric vehicles but they have either been viewed as science experiments for the environmentally friendly few or self-proclaimed socially conscious. The Chevrolet Volt may be the conceptual (read: theoretical) answer allowing the consumer to choose the most energy efficient solution within their geographic region.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Chevy Camaro Convertible Delivers

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Sign me up. This vehicle has what it takes to woo more than one customer to the brand. Imagine … a Chevrolet Car (other than the Corvette) that doesn’t require you to create an excuse for your friends and neighbors.

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Originally introduced in September 1966 as a competitor to the Ford Mustang, the original Camaro soldiered successfully through four generations before it’s timely demise in 2002. By that time it have evolved into everything that was wrong with General Motors. While some decried its death, pointing to the continuation of the Ford Mustang, the vehicle had become a dinosaur. In retrospect, its complete disappearance may have been necessary to clear the decks for the creation of the modern Camaro.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Chevrolet Gives New Malibu Style and Refinement

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The official reveal of the new Malibu is a few days away at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, but GM has released first pictures and details. The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu sedan looks to be a solid step forward from the current car, though a five-door Maxx model is not part of the new range. The new look of Malibu ushers in Chevy’s latest family look, but owners will most appreciate the powertrain and interior updates.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers believe that the new Malibu may be one of the most significant new launches of 2008.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Counterpoint – 2008 Malibu Finally Gives Credit to Chevy Buyers
To be perfectly honest, the 2004 to 2007 Malibu is a homely piece of work. Its dull styling guaranteed that its primary buyers would be fleets looking for the lowest common denominator, cheapest vehicle. While the sedan was homely, the 5-door was ghastly. Good concept based on the European Opel/Vauxhall Signum, Maxx (and Malibu) could have had very appropriate European styling, but for some reason GM’s American management gave American buyers very little credit for taste. Hence the old Malibu and Maxx were designed for the lowest common denominator buyer. The 2008 Malibu promises to change the game.

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Back in 2003 (2004 model year), Chevrolet moved the Malibu to the Epsilon platform and added the longer-wheelbase Maxx five-door hatchback. Chevrolet sold roughly twice as many sedans as five-doors, and the Maxx’s odd shape wasn’t well accepted by critics. The 2008MY sedan gets the same 112.3-inch wheelbase the hatchback had used, also the same as platform-mates Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura. This platform is referred to as Epsilon 2 and is a significant enhancement of that under the 2004-2007MY Malibu.
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Motor Trend Truck of the Year – Chevrolet Silverado

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Since the GMT900 was just about the only big truck news for the 2007 model year (2007 model year trucks introduced during the 2006 calendar year), it’s no surprise that the Motor Trend Truck of the Year is the Chevrolet Silverado. Three of the remaining four candidates were also GMT900 stablemates – the Cadillac Escalade EXT, the GMC Sierra and the Chevrolet Avalanche.

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The Silverado is certainly a good looking new truck. The interior finally is upgraded to recognize that drivers of big trucks want all the luxe that Large SUV and car owners expect. Taking the challenge from the Ford F-Series (to be replaced for 2008), the Silverado’s upgraded interiors establish a new interior benchmark for large domestic trucks.
Under the skin, the Silverado isn’t really NEW, but a major upgrade to the previous GMT800 which, in itself, was an outstanding vehicle.
Thin Fleld Guaranteed GMT800 (if not the Silverado) the Win – Next Year TUNDRA
But we can’t help but wonder how the results would have stacked up if the upcoming 2007 Toyota Tundra Full-Size Pickup had been in the field? Without Tundra in the mix, this is in some ways a hollow victory. Tundra may have the Motor Trend 2008 Truck of the Year arena all to itself (I guess the Ford Super Duty would qualify) or be competing with the new F-150 if it gets out before December 31, 2007. VehicleVoice’s prediction for the Motor Trend Truck of the Year – Toyota Tundra.
The Motor Trend Press Release for the 2007 Truck of the Year Award can be read below the fold.


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Economy Compacts Fare Poorly in Crash Tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released their first crash ratings for Economy Compact Cars. They call them “minicars”. The IIHS often releases results like this to pressure car makers to achieve higher safety results than are required by the Federal Government (NHTSA). Being part of the insurance industry, the IIHS charter is to provide information that consumers can use to select a safer car or light truck – and hence a car that might generate lower personal injury claims in an accident.
Force Still Equals Mass X Acceleration… F=MA
The first thing you learn in Physics 101 is F=MA. Basically, this equation means that something bigger is going to win if it hits something smaller. People have historically bought Lincoln Town Cars partly because they were so big that they were guaranteed a “win” in an accident. The same thinking goes with Large Sport Utility Vehicles like the Chevrolet Suburban.
A very small car is going to lose in an accident with a much larger vehicle. There will be much more physical damage to the small car than to the big one. And all things being equal, people riding in the small car are more at risk. The IIHS and Federal Government have noted that as fuel economy goes up (through vehicles getting lighter and smaller), damage and injuries also go up. In this case, bigger and heavier is better. But with skyrocketing gas prices folks rightly want more fuel efficient cars and trucks.

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With that in mind, Economy Compacts have been introduced… Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa are the three that were launched in 2006 as 2007 model year cars. Only the larger Versa aced the crash tests… Versa includes side curtain air bags as standard equipment. Yaris, where side curtain air bags are optional, fails if it is not equipped with these safety enhancements.
The IIHS press release is included below the fold if you want to read the whole thing. But just remember, when it comes to safety, and all other things are equal, the bigger vehicle will win. F will always equal MA.


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2008 Chevrolet Equinox Sport: Finally, Some Power!

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During the third quarter of 2007, Chevrolet dealers will get an Equinox with some power-oriented bragging rights, none too late with the base 185HP V6 Equinox has been suffering with so far. The Equinox Sport will be among the vehicles GM shows off to the public at the Detroit auto show next month. Most of Equinox’s competition can boast output in the 240 to 265HP range, in top-end versions if not base models. While the base V6 is adequate, enthusiastic drivers are sure to appreciate the extra oomph. Chevy’s ad guys will likely also appreciate being able to advertise a competitive number, even if it’s not the best in segment.

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The 2008MY Equinox Sport model brings GM’s 263HP 3.6L DOHC 24v V6 with a six-speed automatic to the line. This V6 is quickly going being added across the GM landscape, and is the only engine the related Suzuki XL7 offers (though Suzuki gets the 250HP version). The Sport also gets a lowered and revised suspension with eighteen-inch wheels and tires, but drops the roof rack in standard form. Visual cues to its more aggressive nature include body color in the grille and in the rear accent above the license plate; these are both chrome on the standard Equinox (view image). The lower front and rear fascias add brushed metal trapezoidal air inlets (front) and exhaust outlets (rear).
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Inside, there will be new seats with more supportive side bolsters, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a J-gate shifter to better operate the self-shift tap-up, tap-down feature. Ordering the Sport moves the Multi-Flex seating system, remote start, and XM radio from optional to standard compared with the regular Equinox. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.
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Blowing Off the Lot – the Hot Sellers

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Since we have identified the vehicles that have the longest days supply, we have been asked to show which vehicles have the shortest days supply. Which vehicles are so hot they just blow off the dealer’s lot? As with the slower moving vehicles where we arbitrarily cut off the days supply at 150 days, here we are using 50 days as the cut off point. The details are shown “below the fold”


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Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story

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Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.


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Ten Worst Cars for 2006 – Truth About Cars

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OK, on this one VehicleVoice is just the messenger. The Truth About Cars website has taken it on itself to identify the ten worst cars and trucks sold in the USA in 2006. Not really sure what their credentials are, but here is their press release… When we feel like commenting, see our notes following the press release writeup.
The Truth About Cars Website Names Its Ten Worst Automobiles for 2006
November 8, 2006 – PROVIDENCE, R.I.: The Truth About Cars website (TTAC) has revealed the ten winners of its first annual “Ten Worst Automobiles Today” awards. According to the site’s readers, the very worst vehicles sold in America today are… GM’s minivans.
For voting purposes, TTAC lumped all four of GM’s virtually identical people movers together: the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay, Buick Terraza and Pontiac SV6.
In his description of the “winner,” reviewer William C. Montgomery slated GM’s minivans for their “antique engineering, woeful looks, cancerous effect on not one but four GM brands and their abject inability to hold a candle to their foreign-owned competition.” In terms of dreadful driving dynamics, contemptible aesthetics and torturous ergonomics, no other vehicles sold in America can compete with these ridiculously-named ‘Crossover Sport Vans.'”
The automotive website’s readers voted the new Jeep Compass America’s second worst vehicle: a lackluster vehicle that betrays its storied brand’s heritage. According to TTAC’s description, it’s an “ugly, gangly, underpowered, mud-aversive half-breed” that “staggers into the light, turning all who see it– or heaven forbid buy it– into grotesque, bobble-headed morons.” The Compass “stomps all over Jeep’s reputation as America’s purveyor of authentic off-road vehicles.”
The rest of TTAC’s Ten Worst are the Jeep Compass (2), Buick Rendezvous (3), Chrysler Aspen (4), Hummer H2 (5), Chevrolet Monte Carlo (6), Subaru B9 Tribeca (7), Saab 9-7x (8), Lincoln Mark LT (9) and Chevrolet Aveo (10). Capsule reviews are below.
To create the list, The Truth About Cars asked its 40k daily readers to nominate the worst vehicles for sale in the United States during the 2006 calendar year. A selection committee comprised of ten TTAC writers selected 20 finalists from the readers’ nominations. Finalists were chosen for their crimes against aesthetics, engineering, ergonomics, driving dynamics and/or brand authenticity. The final ten “winners” were chosen by readers via an electronic poll.
Site publisher Robert Farago said his team created The Ten Worst awards as an antidote to the annual “love ins” provided by the mainstream automotive media. “The profusion of ‘best of’ automotive awards reflects the fact that the manufacturer-sponsored magazines and websites can’t tell it like it is,” Farago said. “TTAC is the home of take-no-prisoners automotive journalism. Our Ten Worst list says we’re not afraid to tell the truth about cars.”


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