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AutoPacific Announces 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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Cadillac Top Brand, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Top Car, Toyota Sequoia Top Truck and Top Vehicle

Tustin, California, May 29, 2008 – A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc. summarizes the results of its 2008 model year vehicle satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new passenger car or light truck.
In a year that promises to be the toughest in a decade, owner-based awards like AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award will help customers make their purchase decisions.
The brand with the highest satisfaction rating is Cadillac. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction in 2008 is the new-for-2008 Toyota Sequoia Large Sport Utility Vehicle. The passenger car with the highest overall satisfaction score is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
There are twenty-eight Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. At the manufacturer level, multiple top ranked award winners include: General Motors (eleven categories), Toyota (nine categories), Ford (six categories), Volkswagen (four categories), Honda (three categories) and Hyundai (two categories).
“Cadillac wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award as the top brand in a close race. Strong satisfaction performance by Cadillac cars and trucks has Cadillac winning over other leading luxury marques including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Top ranked finishes by Cadillac’s Escalade, CTS and DTS helped cement their industry topping position.”
Peterson continues, “Vehicles that are all new received top rankings in several categories: Cadillac CTS, Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion xD, Toyota Sequoia, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Veracruz, GMC Acadia, Saturn Vue and Nissan Rogue. These new-for-2008 vehicles were strongly rated by their owners showing that the industry continues to improve as new vehicles are added to the hotly contested American car and light truck markets.”
From a vehicle type perspective, Traditional Sport Utility Vehicles received the highest ratings as a class closely followed by Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles. Peterson says, “Clearly, SUVs continue to be one of the most popular and satisfying vehicle types available in the USA today. Even with skyrocketing gas prices, SUVs are attractive and Crossover SUVs fill the bill for most SUV buyers with better fuel economy.” Cars scored slightly below industry average followed by minivans and pickup trucks.


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New York Auto Show 2008 – Mitsubishi “i”

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One of the coolest things about working on the VehicleVoice team is the differing taste the team has. Trucks, SUVs, muscle cars, small cars. Lunch can be interesting, to say the least. While I appreciate anything with wheels, I’m slowly becoming more and more interested in minicars. Maybe it’s Europe-envy, or an increased sense of green, but I‘ve always been attracted to minimalism. From architecture to coffee without the fancy names.


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Mitsubishi RA Concept – North American International Auto Show

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Mitsubishi showed its RA Concept at the North American International Auto Show. The RA is a two-seat diesel powered sports car with styling cues that telegraph shapes to come from Mitsubishi.

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Designed by perhaps the tallest styling team in the industry, both the Chief Designer and Interior Designer are well over 6-feet 5-inches tall. Dave O’Connell, Chief Designer, who is about 6-feet 7-inches tall admitted they “kept shaving off height until the car looked fabulous”. And fabulous it is. Being height challenged I should be able to get into the RA without too much problem, but wouldn’t even venture it. Neither of Mitsu’s stylists would volunteer to get into their head turning cocept.
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All that said, the reason for a concept car is to elicit reactions from showgoers and to help get the brand and the car on consideration lists. RA does that. But, Mitsu management stress that the RA is only a design study that probably won’t be on the road any time soon. RA picks up Mitsubishi’s new face… a downward scowl that gives a shark-like front end appearance. This front end look premiered on the Mitsu Lancer and will go a long way at giving Mitsubishi products a readily identifiable look. The body contours now look very organic with fluid shapes providing muscular fender flares tightly wrapped around meaty tires.
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RA is Teaser for Next Generation Eclipse
Being a two-seater, the RA certainly isn’t a production proposition. Mitsubishi needs a product that can sell 60,000 units a year to be happy and a two-seater just won’t do it. Think of RA as showing us some of the shapes that may be seen on the next Gen Eclipse.
Now, about the next generation Eclipse. The present Eclipse is based on Mitsubishi’s large PS platform. So, Eclipse tends to be bigger and heavier than most would like for the small sporty car class. The next Eclipse may not be based on PS. The GS platform of the Lancer, Lancer Evolution X and Outlander could also provide the basis for the next generation Eclipse. This would give the Eclipse the hardware needed to be a truly world class sporty car. Most of those bits, of course, would come from the Evolution X.
We could conceptualize a 4-seat sporty car using RA styling and powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder from Lancer, the 2.0L Twin Turbo from the Evolution X, and a 3.3L V6 from the present car. In that way, you’d have the secretary’s car, the boy racer and the luxo model. Add AWD and Mitsubishi’s outstanding paddle shift transmission and you have a winner.


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VehicleVoice#66 – The New Mitsubishi Lancer – Like Driving a Video Game

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Our fearless leader George Peterson got tapped by Mitsubishi to try out their all new Lancer. He gets asked to do these kinds of things a lot, but rarely does he come back from a test drive this jazzed about a compact sedan.
When he finished with his review, it was so glowing that Mitsubishi produced this video, which played in airports around the country on CNN Airport News. We got permission to play it here, for all of you folks who prefer driving to flying. Check out George’s take on this new sports sedan and why he thinks it’s like driving a video game.
Show Runtime – 1:25


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2007 Mitsubishi Galant RalliArt

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The current generation (PS41) Mitsubishi Galant has been on the market in the USA since Fall 2003. Designed to be fully competitive with the big dogs in its class – Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima – Galant is about the size of the Accord, bigger than Camry and Altima (and the Hyundai Sonata). The car feels big for a Mid-Size Car, but size alone does not make for a competitive Mid-Size entry.

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Our impression of the Galant is that it is a good basic car beset by too many cost-reductions that could be obvious to the buyer. Where most product planners would lament that they were $50-$100 short of a great car, the Galant planners were probably lamenting of a $500 shortfall. Somehow, the financial community won the product content battle and it’s tough to sell an obviously cost reduced car agaist the likes of Camry and Accord. The last generation Nissan Altima learned that lesson.
Premium Mid-Size Cars – Most Competitive Car Segment
In this most competitive of car segments, a car has to be superb to achieve class-leading status and Galant falls a bit short but it does deserve a look. It is now the oldest of the major competitors in the class. OK, all its major competitors are on a five-year product cycle. Camry was all new for 2007 as was the Altima. The Honda Accord received a major rear end freshening for the 2006 model year. Sonata was all new for 2006. With a normal cycle life, the Galant would be due for a major change in late 2008 as a 2009 model. So a major change for the Galant is not late – yet. Most Asian brands have a moderate mid-cycle freshening to keep interest up, but Galant got a very minor change for the 2007 model year and added the range topping RalliArt version.
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We had not driven a Galant at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific since its launch and the intro of the new RalliArt edition gave us the perfect opportunity to see how the Galant has evolved.


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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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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Mitsubishi Prototype X

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Racers Rejoice: Prototype X
While most US car buyers are not that familiar with the Lancer Evolution, the vehicle has a cult-like following in Japan and among those familiar with Rally Racing . The EVO is also one of the most popular vehicles in the video game circuit. If you want to win, select the EVO.
America had to wait decades to get its hands on the EVO. The Lancer Evolution VIII was the first to be offered in the U.S. market, and gained popularity among performance enthusiasts as a true street racer.

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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer – Game Changer

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The all new Mitsubishi Lancer will be introduced at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. While some of us have been lucky enough to drive the car early, Mitsu has embargoed the driving impressions until late January.

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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Lineup at Ventura County California Press Preview

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Mitsubishi Concept X Show Car

Today, we can reveal a bit more than we could previously. We can actually show you the car. And AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers believe that the new Lancer could be a game changer for Mitsubishi in the USA. Mitsubishi stylists benchmarked the Mazda3 and the Alfa Romeo 156 when they began development of the new Lancer. The resulting car projects much more than simply a Mazda/Alfa clone. In fact, the Mitsubishi Concept-X show car telegraphed much of what the new Lancer looks like over a year ago.
Unique Aggressive Front Appearance
We’d describe the front end of the Lancer as very unique with a strong face that is not characteristic of small cars. Mitsubishi describes the front end with much more flowery adjectives… “A ‘shark-nosed’ front end inspired by jet fight air intakes”.
Usually small car styling wimps out to the lowest common denominator. Not the Lancer. It looks contemporary and aggressive. Nicely done. This front end style even meets the European pedestrian protection standards and does it without becoming blunt-nosed.
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From the Side, Lancer Proportions Communicate Small Car – Style Hints More Upscale
In the side view, the Lancer has a sweeping character line from front fender through the doors ending in the rear quarter. Looks a lot like the character of the Acura TL. It is in the side view where the dimensions of the car compromise its proportions. For a car with such an expressive overall style, the wheelbase looks a bit short and the decklid truncated. Not enough to neuter the image of the Lancer, but enough to reinforce that it is a Mainstream Compact Car.
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The fast backlite is a complete departure from the previous Lancer that sacrificed style for package. Here, the short wheelbase and fast backlite result in a rather small rear seat. Mitsubishi planners say the parent company wanted a smaller rear seat to maximize its competitive position in rallying. Huh?


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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer – Mitsu Back on Track

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This article by John O’Dell of The Los Angeles Times appeared in the Sunday December 3 edition. AutoPacific‘s George Peterson is attributed extensively in the article.
Mitsubishi hopes new Lancer gets it back on track

The redesigned compact is seen as crucial to the struggling automaker’s U.S. recovery efforts.

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By John O’Dell, Times Staff Writer
December 3, 2006
Mitsubishi Motors Corp., once a shooting star among the smaller Japanese automakers fighting for space in the U.S. market, needs a hit. Badly.
The company, beset by problems here and at home, has seen its U.S. sales plummet 64% from their high in 2002.
Renowned at one time for cutting-edge design and technology, Mitsubishi was among the first automakers to use four-wheel steering and to offer a convertible sports car with a retractable hard top.
It pioneered the direct-injection gasoline engine, for more power with increased fuel economy; and active “yaw,” or body-roll, controls that keep a vehicle from pitching uncomfortably from side to side on curves.
These days the company is better known for cheap loans and woeful resale values.
“It’s a shame, because they’ve always made good cars,” said industry analyst George Peterson, president of market research firm AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin. “But they lost their image.”


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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer – Story on December 11

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Just returned from the Long Lead Press Preview for the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer as the AutoPacific/VehicleVoice correspondent. With the USA being the lead market for the all new Lancer, there has been a series of story embargoes established. We can’t show you photos of the production car until December 11. At that time we can also describe the car, its specs, etc. Driving impressions are embargoed until January 24. The actual worldwide introduction of the Lancer will be at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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While we can’t officially say anything, the Lancer promises to be the car that re-establishes Mitsubishi in the USA. I think that we can safely say (while honoring the embargo) that the Lancer is a game changing car for Mitsubishi. More distinctive than all other small cars with the possible exception of the 2006 Honda Civic, Lancer will turn heads. Above is a photo of the Concept X first shown at the 2004 Paris Auto Show.
Stay tuned. Intro is late March, 2007. This one’s worth waiting for.


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