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VehicleVoice Panelists' Opinion of Manufacturers

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During the last week of March 2007, 1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of major automakers in the USA. VehicleVoice asked these questions because the opinion of buyers and their attitudes towards various aspects of a manufacturer’s image are critically important. Managing image and opinion plus understanding what is driving that opinion can influence whether a person will positively consider or reject a brand next time they are in the market.
The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent’s opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. If their opinion had changed, the panel member was given the chance to explain why their opinion had changed. We received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers. Some were as short one word. Some were as long as a page of 10-point type. Folks really had a lot to say and their comments were fascinating.

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Discussion for each of the brands is below the fold.


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2008 Honda S2000 CR Prototype: New York Auto Show

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Club Racer S2000 Arrives Fall 2007
According to John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, the S2000 CR “is the closest thing you can get to a Honda-built race car with license plate holders and a horn.” Introduced at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, this special S2000 uses the same powertrain (237HP 2.2L I4 and six-speed manual), but has massaged in just about every other area with the simple goal of reducing track times. Though the gearing of the manual is the same, there is a new shorter shift knob for even quicker shifts. About the only cosmetic decisions were the exterior and interior color combinations. The S2000 CR will be a standard trim level for 2008MY.

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The aero body kit of the CR is functional and contributes to the overall goal, as well as giving the roadster a take-no-prisoners look, by reducing lift. The front spoiler and large rear wing are the better elements; the nacelles behind driver and passenger leave the impression of mimicking the Pontiac Solstice. The front and rear spoilers were developed to reduce lift, and even the center bulge on the rear spoiler a functional rather than stylistic element. The S2000 CR drops its power softtop and replaces it with an aluminum hardtop, just one of the efforts for reducing weight. Though structural bracing, adding rigidity, takes up the space where the soft top used to stow, the change allows a drop of about 90 pounds.
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VehicleVoice#62 – The 2007 Toyota Tundra and the Future of Minivans

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Most of you already know that Jim Hossack is AutoPacific’s expert on a lot of things – fuel prices, powertrains, trucks. But did you know that he’s also an expert in minivans? For the past several years, when we’re covering the big auto shows, Jim’s assignments have always been about the new truck models and minivan breakthroughs. But recently, there hasn’t been a lot of news surrounding minivans. Ford and GM have been clear that they think the segment is dying, and their exit strategy is uncomplicated. They’re just getting out. But Jim was in the Chrysler booth to check out the new 2007 Town & Country, aka Dodge Caravan, and he says, “not so fast” Ford and GM. There’s still a healthy segment here.
In this podcast, we’ve got Jim doing double duty at the Toyota booth. The Japanese manufacturer is taking it’s (first, second, third) fourth carefully planned step into the full-sized truck market with the new 2007 Tundra. And according to Jim, Toyota’s latest try is right on the money.
New Vehicle Reviews –
Dodge Caravan
Toyota Tundra

Show Runtime – 6:02


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2007 Detroit Auto Show – 2008 Honda Accord Coupe – Accord to Pass Camry?

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There are two Mid-Size Cars that every buyer of a Mid-Size Car has to consider before selecting one of them, or moving on to another – the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. These cars are in the consideration set of almost all Mid-Size Car buyers. On a rigid 5-year schedule, Honda is to introduce its all new 2008 Accord in Fall 2007. Honda used the 2007 North American International Auto Show to tip its hand about styling cues for the next generation Accord. it used the Accord Coupe Concept to do this.

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Unveiling the Honda Accord Coupe concept did more than ‘wow’ those in attendance at the Detroit Show, it put Toyota on notice. The Accord Coupe Concept telegraphs cues that will be found on the upcoming Honda Accord Sedan.
Accord Has Been Top Selling Car As Recently As 2001, But Not In the Cards Now
The current Toyota Camry, which has been the top-selling passenger car in the USA for several years now and in its latest iteration is Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, will again have a worthy competitor offering consumers a distinctive alternative. In the last 25 years the Accord has sat atop Car and Driver’s 10 Best list all but 4 times. Accord was the top selling car in the USA from 1989 through 1991 and in 2001. The Camry has been the top-seller since it wrested the title away from the 1992 through 1996 king – the Ford Taurus for every year except 2001. Will the 2008 Accord again set the sales benchmark in its segment?
The answer to that question is NO. Accord will not become the sales leader until there is more production capacity added for Accord. At the present time, Toyota can out-produce Accord with its Camry and this is especially true since it began assembling Camrys at Subaru Indiana Automotive.
But back to the Accord Coupe Concept…
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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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LA Auto Show – Honda FCX Concept

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Since the late 1980s, Honda has been evaluating, exploring, and testing fuel cell solutions. The 1999 FCX-V2 and 2001 FCX-V3 prototypes began testing on public roads and in everyday driving conditions. In December 2002, the City of Los Angeles was the first to lease a fuel cell vehicle, in the form of the 2003 FCX, followed by San Francisco and testing in the state of New York. In 2005 the first FCX was leased to a family. Further driving hydrogen expansion in California is the government initiative for installing hydrogen stations around the state’s highway system, known as California’s Hydrogen Highway.

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At the L.A. Auto Show in November, Honda introduced the next step in their fuel cell, hydrogen-powered vehicle development. The FCX Concept is a four-door sedan and previews the car that will be on sale in 2008 (2009MY), albeit with a limited roll out. The FCX takes Honda’s traditional look and rachets it up at notch. Aside from the cutting edge propulsion system, the sedan just looks great.
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Automobile Magazine All-Star Awards

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Automobile Magazine, hot on the heels of Autobytel, has just released their “2007 All-Stars Awards.” Just as with the Autobytel Editors’ Choice Awards, this is an award that you wonder what the validity is. Unlike the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards released each summer, Automobile‘s award does not factor consumer input into the equation. In fact, AutoPacific’s awards are purely based on consumer ratings. Automobile‘s award reflects their own opinion. Not all bad, but when reviewing the results, it is wise to remember that these folks are enthusiast-biased to the max.
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Automobile Magazine Announces Its 2007 All-Star Awards
November 29, 2006
Each year, the editors and bureau chiefs of Automobile Magazine convene to test, evaluate, and debate the performance, significance, and pure enthusiast appeal of the cars that have made the biggest impact.
“This year, we increased the number of All-Stars from six to 10, which reflects just how brilliantly the industry is doing at providing enthusiasts with even more choice,” said Gavin Conway, editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine. “As always, the hard part was deciding what to leave out of our constellation of All-Stars. In the end, these cars are what any connoisseur would have in their ‘dream garage.”
The 2007 Automobile Magazine All-Stars are:
* All-Star: Aston Martin V8 Vantage—This car could just about make the cut for its sensational looks alone, but it also offers a sublime driving experience and a truly inspirational engine.
* All-Star: BMW 3-Series—Remains one of the most complete cars on sale today, from its driving dynamics, quality of build, and the sheer pleasure of ownership it offers.
* All-Star: Chevrolet Corvette Z06—A friendly daily-driver that’ll leave Ferraris and Lamborghinis for dead, the Vette is an all-American hero.
* All-Star: Chrysler 300C—This one is a classic American: big V-8, rear-wheel drive, and a unique style that absolutely charms. Practical to own, too.
* All-Star: Honda Ridgeline—A clear winner with its unibody construction that gives a tight, rattle-free ride; Honda quality; and its very clever underbed trunk. [VehicleVoice note: Ridgeline had a sweep of all three AutoPacific awards for 2006… Vehicle Satisfaction Award, Ideal Vehicle Award and Motorist’s Choice Award]
* All-Star: Infiniti G35—Thanks to its superbly balanced chassis, terrific grip, and a punchy powertrain, this car challenges the dominance of BMW’s 3-series.
* All-Star: Lotus Elise—An undiluted driving machine that deftly combines light weight, electrifying performance, and near-telepathic chassis response.
* All-Star: Mazda3—Terrific to drive, stylish, spacious, and capable of 155 mph in turbo guise, this proves that small cars can aspire to greatness.
* All-Star: Mercedes-Benz S-Class—One of the best-built luxury cars on sale at any price, its features technology that truly makes life easier and safer.
* All-Star: Porsche Cayman—With an extra-stiff structure, Porsche engineers were able to deliver stability, grip, ride, and composure that are just about unmatched.
Criteria and Evaluation
The Automobile Magazine All-Stars are chosen by its staff, its worldwide bureau chiefs, and its contributors, following an intensive test drive of the year’s most innovative and important new cars. Vehicles considered for the All-Stars awards combine the following traits:
* Redefines an existing category or creates a new market segment
* Provides excellent value and performance for the money
* Exhibits an exceptional design
* Offers pure driving enjoyment


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IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2007 Model Year

IIHS released the results of its 2007 Safety Pick Awards on November 20. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific feel that these results are important to communicate to our readers. Along with other awards for quality, satisfaction and performance, safety awards can and should be among the information sources a buyer uses when deciding which new vehicle to buy. After all, the Internet gives us almost perfect information.
While we do appreciate the safety value of electronic stability control, it will take years for the entire fleet to be equipped with ESC. For IIHS to eliminate all vehicles lacking ESC eliminates many otherwise safe vehicles from their analysis. This is too simplistic an approach.
2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award winners: award criteria are tougher; SUVs eligible for first time
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announces 13 vehicles that earn TOP SAFETY PICK awards for 2007. Winners include 4 cars, 7 SUVs, and 2 minivans. This award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).
WINNERS
Large car
Audi A6 manufactured in Dec. 2006 and later
Midsize cars
Audi A4
Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy equipped with optional electronic stability control
Minivans
Hyundai Entourage
Kia Sedona
Luxury SUVs
Mercedes M class
Volvo XC90
Midsize SUVs
Acura RDX
Honda Pilot
Subaru B9 Tribeca
Small SUVs
Honda CR-V
Subaru Forester equipped with optional electronic stability control


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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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