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Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon Win AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Large Car

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Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon Tied for AutoPacific 2007 Large Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award:
“The then all-new Hyundai Azera was the top rated vehicle overall in AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Again this year, Hyundai Azera owners gave the Azera class winning ratings,” said AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Azera owners rated their vehicle highly for Power/Acceleration, Innovative Technology, Value and especially Warranty. Tied for a win in this segment was the Toyota Avalon, the Toyota Division flagship, which scored well for Ride, and such traditional Toyota strengths as Quality, Reliability, Durability and Anticipated Resale Value”.


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Hyundai Tucson Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Compact Crossover

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Hyundai Tucson Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Compact Crossover SUV:
“The owners of the Hyundai Tucson out-pointed its competition in Vehicle Satisfaction ratings but the Hyundai Warranty was the one attribute that vaulted Tucson to the top of its class. The Tucson is a very competitive Compact Crossover SUV and is available with a V6 engine – a rarity in this class. But it was the Warranty and not the engine that powered the Tucson to victory,” said AutoPacific president George Peterson.


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Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe Win AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV

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Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe tie for AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV: buy cialis tabs
“One of the most competitive SUV segments is the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV segment. These Crossover SUVs are, for the most part, 5-passenger vehicles with no third row seat (exceptions are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Freestyle and Chrysler Pacifica). They represent the heart of the Crossover SUV market,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. The Ford Edge is a new entry and was rated highly for Exterior Appearance, Image, and Quietness. The Dealership Experience was also rated well. The Hyundai Santa Fe is all new for 2007, and their owners rated the vehicle higher than segment average for Warranty (something for which Hyundai is well known), Cupholder Design and Size, Audio Controls, Interior Storage Compartments, and Value. The Santa Fe has been a perennial AutoPacific VSA Award Winner”.


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Saturn and Hyundai Lead in Improvement in Opinion

The brand-by-brand results for the VehicleVoice Image and Consideration Tracking Study. Earlier we had released the results of the changing opinions for nine “manufacturers”. Now, the information for the 36 individual brands we measured have been analyzed.

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Saturn and Hyundai Tops in Positive Opinion Change
In a virtual tie, Saturn and Hyundai are tops in opinion improvement over the past year. With a net better-vs.-worse score of +29%-points Saturn nudges past Hyundai at +28%-pts. Cadillac posted a respectable showing with a 23%-point improvement.
Saturn’s positive results come from a respected and expanding lineup of new cars and trucks. Winning the Car of the Year Award with the Saturn Aura did not go unnoticed. Also, addition of the Saturn Outlook Crossover SUV to the lineup was a very positive move. And, we cannot forget the Sky sports car. While Sky may not sell in huge numbers or generate huge profits, it is having a substantial positive effect on the image of Saturn. As a pure “halo vehicle” Sky is doing its job.
Hyundai was the top manufacturer in image change (Hyundai + Kia), but came in second among individual brands when considering Hyundai alone. Hyundai gets strong credit for having a solid warranty, improving durability/quality/reliability, better styling, better products overall, and an outstanding value. Hyundai has done an excellent job communicating the basic values of the brand to VehicleVoice panelists.

HUMMER Trails List of Image Improvement

Any list with top to bottom ratings has to have a last place finisher. For this wave of the research HUMMER was tail end Charlie. While the opinions of most individual brands improved, HUMMER showed the most net loss. In an environment of high fuel prices spiraling upwards, HUMMER is seen as out of touch with what the country wants and needs. The large, fuel in-efficient, brutishly styled HUMMERS are the poster children for the eco-friendly.

Two Luxury Brands Dip Below the Line

VehicleVoice panelists indicate that their opinion of Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz are lower today than a year ago. Both of these brands are dinged for reliability problems especially with electronics systems.
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Join VehicleVoice to Give Your Opinions on a Wide Range of Automotive Issues
VehicleVoice panelists regularly get the opportunity to give their opinions on a wide range of automotive topics from the image of brands to what an ideal audio system would be like in their vehicle. VehicleVoice surveys give panelists the opportunity to explain why something may, or may not, be desirable. It is this level of commitment that makes the VehicleVoice panel different from all others.
For those of you who have not yet joined the VehicleVoice automotive Internet panel, it takes just a few seconds to sign up. Go to http://www.vehiclevoice.com to get started.


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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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Concept Hyundai Genesis: New York Auto Show

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Next, Hyundai Takes on Luxury Sport Sedans
As VehicleVoice reported earlier (click here), Hyundai revealed an upcoming rear-drive sedan as the Genesis concept at the New York Auto Show, and at what must have been one of the best-attended end-of-day press conferences ever. There was surprisingly little traffic around Genesis the next day during my walkaround. It was more difficult to get post-conference photos of the Infiniti EX or Ford Flex than the Hyundai, and we see the Genesis as one of the most significant introductions at this year’s show. (Click for our posting of Hyundai’s official Genesis photos.)

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Genesis, known internally at Hyundai as “BH”, telegraphs Hyundai’s intention to seriously go after rear-drive sports sedans. The exterior design builds on styling credibility Hyundai has been developing, but the interior and the driving dynamics that will make or break this car are still under wraps. A miss on the exterior styling would keep people away, but even with strong styling the car will not make it all the way to consumer driveways if the interior is a disappointment.
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Hyundai designers have created a smooth and elegant design, but Genesis does have one risk: It could blend in with the pack. Genesis takes styling cues from luxury brands all over the world (long, thin taillights much like the Lincoln Zephyr concept, though the MKZ production lights are taller; decklid bump from BMW; narrow headlights similar to Acura; lower LED fog lights along the lines of the Audi S6) and shown off on a silver car, created a credible look for their upcoming sports sedan. The wheels are sharp, as is the subtle character line running from front fender, over the door handles, and into the taillights. Though the grille is among the elements that may be revised before production, it is clearly a Hyundai grille and shares some relationship to the Azera.
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Hyundai gave no hints as to the interior, but the exterior design is ready to play. There’s a fine, fine line between hitting the mark and going too far. Genesis won’t be accused of moving the needle and does not offer new design elements. But Hyundai is working its way into relatively conservative segments, and Genesis takes the safe route. Luxury sedan buyers look for elegance, simplicity, and style and don’t seem to adapt quickly to dramatic style shifts; witness the brouhaha that surrounded the latest 7-Series introduction. Hyundai is wise to start off with something elegant but that does not push the envelope just yet.


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2007 Hyundai Veracruz – I Drive a $38,000 Hyundai

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Just a few years ago, I never thought I would drive a Hyundai priced over $38,000, but today I did. This was an all-wheel-drive Hyundai Veracruz Limited with the Ultimate package. The Veracruz is Hyundai’s new top-of-the-line Crossover SUV. Basically, it had all the boxes checked. Think of it this way… a 2008 Lexus RX350 base base base MSRP is $37,400. Think FWD, cloth seats and not much equipment. Begin adding equipment, like AWD and leather seats, and that will take it well above $38,000 and you quickly go above the top-priced Veracruz. Of course, Veracruz’ pricing starts at around $27,000 and that makes it seem more like the Hyundai value proposition we are accustomed to.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were suitably impressed with the new Veracruz which is at dealers now.
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The Veracruz is based on the same platform as the lower-priced Hyundai Santa Fe that has been a winner for Hyundai since it was launched a generation ago. Santa Fe is the winner of six straight AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards – no small feat. If that is any indication, Veracruz will be a strong contender in the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV category.
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Vehicle Configuration – Unitized Body, V6-powered, IRS

Based on the Santa Fe, Veracruz has a stiff unitized body with Macpherson strut front suspension and an independent rear suspension. Veracruz is powered by a version of Hyundai’s Lambda V6 engine family – 3.8L V6 with 260-horsepower and 257 foot pounds of torque. It has Hyundai’s 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic.
Driving the Veracruz – Perfectly Acceptable; Almost Lexus-like
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Driving the Veracruz showed a vehicle that is equal to or better than the RX350 and has a better package. In other words, the Veracruz is easier to get into and out of. Its cargo room seems more commodious. Visibility is excellent. The seats, for my porky body, may be a bit small. Cases in point. The cushion length seems short even for my 5th percentile legs. The seat back seems a bit too narrow and does not give much lateral support. This is just picking nits. Overall, the Veracruz is a winner. And, in some ways, seems to be more of a piece than the vaunted Lexus.
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Not All is Perfect – Nits to Pick

What were some other nits? Well, the interior door handles are black instead of the more traditional chrome or nickel plating. We’d prefer the nickel plating (which corresponds to the other brightwork on the Veracruz), but Hyundai stylists actually preferred the black. The digital clock was difficult to read in bright sunlight and needed some sort of lip to block the sunlight. The 3.8L V6 was a bit raspy under hard acceleration. Sounded more like a run-of-the-mill SUV than the top-of-the-line.
The Good Stuff – Almost Everything Else
But other than these small issues that are easily adjusted if Hyundai cares to, the vehicle was outstanding. Good ride quality. Good NVH – meaning it was relatively quiet under all situations except hard acceleration as noted above. Controls felt good and were easy to understand. Filips include side mirror turn signals with puddle lamps, projector (but not HID) headlamps, blue backlit instrumentation and blue lighted scuff plates in the upper models.
Seven Passenger Seating – 3rd Row is Usable for Smaller Folks
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Auto journalist and famed rally driver Sue Mead tries out the 3rd row of the Veracruz while John Krafcik and Gary Vashilash look on. Check out the seat trim on this Veracruz Limited Ultimate!

The thing that differentiates Veracruz most from its Santa Fe stablemate is that Veracruz is 100% 7-passenger. Only about a quarter of Santa Fe buyers select the 7-passenger version. Frankly, I’d like for Veracruz to be available in a 5-passenger version as well – more cargo room. The 3rd row seat is adequate as can be seen here with journalist Gary Vasilash and Hyundai Product Planning VP John Krafcik crammed in the rear. These are both smaller guys, so at least large children can be accommodated.
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Gary Vasilash, editor of Automotive Design and Production Magazine and John Krafcik, Vice President of Product Planning and Strategic Planning for Hyundai Motor America, check out the 3rd row seat.


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Hyundai Genesis – Just-Released Photographs

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Hyundai Motor America teased us recently with renderings of the concept of its upcoming BH rear wheel drive luxury car. The car will be shown at the 2007 New York Auto Show and HMA has released the following photographs of the concept…

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As expected, the photographs of the Genesis concept show a much less radical sedan than the artist’s renderings. Renderings, of course, are usually “cheated” to emphasize cues the stylist prefers. Gone is the radical CLS roofline. But other aspects of the concept – like the front end appearance, likely will be “adjusted” prior to introduction.
In profile, the Genesis looks very BMW-ish, yes?


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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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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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