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Toyota Launches Japanese Version of Scion xB

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The Scion xB was launched in the USA in 2003 first in California, then the Southeast and finally nationally. The xB has been a pleasant sales surprise for Scion and Toyota Motor Sales, USA. In fact the Spartan xA hatchback was projected to outsell the xB by a wide margin and the reverse happened. Interestingly, when first images of the xB were released VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) research and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) forecasts projected that xB would be more of a success than predicted by Toyota itself.
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Scion xB by Toyota Motor Sales USA
The xB is a rolling box. It is a low-priced people mover with a huge rear seat and little cargo room, but has proved popular with young and old alike.
The Scion concept is to take Toyota vehicles on sale in Japan and sell them in the USA with minimal changes. Originally, each vehicle was to be a one-off. In other words, each Scion would live for only a few years and then be dropped. A new vehicle would be launched that would provide Scion dealers with equal or more volume. In this way, there would be no successor to the xB. Because of the popularity of the xB, there may indeed be a successor.
Launched in 2000 in Japan, Toyota has just released its successor to the bB (xB’s Japanese name). While not as boxy as the present xB, the Japanese bB is clearly evolutionary. It continues the highly space-efficient packaging, if not the funky styling, of the present vehicle.
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Toyota bB launched on December 26, 2005 in Japan
If Scion xB continues, expect it to be a mild evolution of the new bB in Japan. But the scary thing is the whimsical description Toyota uses to describe the bB in Japan, “A Car-shaped Music Player that Incorporates Youthful Sensibilities”… WOW!


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Honda's Newest Civic Earns Its Reputation

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Honda introduced the latest version of its Civic in early Fall 2005, the eighth generation of a product at the core of Honda’s existence in North America. Though Accord remains Honda’s best-selling product, Civic is a close second. Civic’s annual sales have remained at or above the 300,000-unit mark since about 1997, despite that the seventh-generation was a shadow of former generations and received heavy criticism from public and press alike for its de-contented feel and lack of enthusiasm versus prior iterations. In spite of this, as recently as 2004 the Civic outsold its nearest competitor (Ford Focus) by more than 100,000 units. Though the seventh-generation sold well, it did so by skating on a solid image generated by previous iterations. The new-for-2006MY Civic restores the substance behind the reputation.
The results of this transformation are being immediately felt. The eighth generation is praised even more than the prior car was criticized. It recently won Motor Trend Magazine’s Car of the Year award and is a finalist for the same honor in the North American Car of the Year competition. With such advance praise, we were looking forward to a turn behind the wheel. Now that a Civic EX has spent a week in AutoPacific’s Southfield, Michigan office, we’re happy to say that we’re also impressed.
The Civic has returned, long live the Civic!

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New 2006 Chrysler 300C "Heritage Edition" Debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show

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VehicleVoice [(http://www.vehiclevoice.com) & (http:/.vehiclevoice.com)] is an admirer of the Chrysler 300 and 300C. Chrysler will debut its new Heritage Edition 300C at the Los Angeles Auto Show and we’ll be there to cover its unveiling. In the meantime, here is a teaser press release from Chrysler.

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• New “Heritage Edition” model pays homage to the 1957 Chrysler 300C which was described as the “Beautiful Brute”
• 2006 Chrysler 300C Heritage Edition offers luxurious performance, exclusive features and unique heritage badging
• New model is the first Chrysler brand vehicle with SmartBeamTM headlamp technology
Auburn Hills, Mich. – Paying homage to the great Chrysler 300s of the late 1950s, the Chrysler Group announced today the new 2006 Chrysler 300C “Heritage Edition,” debuting January 4 at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Available in dealerships this spring, the limited-production Heritage Edition is a performance specialty vehicle offering the power of the award-winning 5.7-liter HEMI® engine with the fuel-saving Multiple Displacement System (MDS), high-performance styling cues of the popular SRT line-up and exclusive features, including the first-time use of SmartBeamTM headlamp technology in a Chrysler vehicle. And, to contemporize its illustrious past, the Heritage Edition has a chromed bodyside molding with a distinctive tri-color 300C badge that is modeled after the badge on the 1957 Chrysler 300C, a vehicle described in its day as the “Beautiful Brute.”
“The Chrysler 300C Heritage Edition honors the long line of beautiful Chrysler 300 vehicles by combining power and fuel-economy in a sporty, stylish package,” said Jeff Bell, Vice President — Chrysler.
Production of the 2006 Chrysler 300C Heritage Edition will begin this spring at the Brampton (Ontario) Assembly Plant.


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Subaru B9 Tribeca. New SUV Falls Short with Subi Purist.

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The B9 Tribeca is Subaru’s first effort in designing a larger SUV. It was introduced to the majority of consumers through a 30 second spot featuring the song, “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. The ad concludes with the tagline claiming the B9 brings an end to our perception of what a typical SUV is, and attempts to establish a new definition for the SUV. The song and visual cues of the ad depicts other SUVs (much larger and utilitarian in size and functionality) falling to dust when the B9 crosses their paths.
Unfortunately, the B9 may be the one that will disintegrate and vanish into air before its competitors. It is brought to you by a company known for appealing to a unique group of individuals who are perceived to be tree-huggers and granola-eaters. From an engineering standpoint, the B9 Tribeca is a great vehicle featuring all that Fuji Heavy Industries technology Toyota just bought from General Motors (GM sold its stake in Fuji to Toyota in Fall 2005)… advanced all wheel drive, ABS, other technological features. Although the B9 Tribeca has an impressive and exquisite interior wrapped in a very distinct (controversial) exterior, it is doubtful the new vehicle will appeal to a large audience.
The Subaru B9 Tribeca was included a VehicleVoice Beauty Contest. As expected, its styling was controversial… in the middle of the pack. It will take a person wanting to make a definite statement to buy a B9 Tribeca. Of course, to break out of the product clutter, that is exactly what Subaru was trying to achieve.
Subaru of America Attempting to Move Upmarket
With the introduction of the B9 Tribeca and the earlier intro of its new Legacy lineup, freshened Forester and Impreza, Subaru is trying to reposition and reintroduce themselves to consumers. The question is whether or not Subaru has the goods to move upscale in product content and price.

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Bugatti Veyron – 253 MPH and Still a Little Late

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For those of you who do not live in the Los Angeles Times sphere of influence, you may miss the writing of Dan Neil their Pulitizer Prize winning auto journalist. You can catch up on his reviews, Highway 1 editorials and podcasts at the LA Times website (http://www.latimes.com). This article on the upcoming launch of the Bugatti Veyron supercar is just one example of Neil’s writing.
By Dan Neil, Times Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2005
PALERMO, Sicily — At 200 mph, the Bugatti Veyron pounds a beautiful, howling hole in the sweltering haze hanging over the motorway.
This, the fastest production car in the world, is broad and low, an enameled ellipse in a spiffy two-tone paint scheme. By comparison, its now-vanquished supercar rivals, such as the Ferrari Enzo and McLaren F1, are all edges and blades and angles, like F-16 fighter planes or Japanese stunt kites.
The Veyron is not, strictly speaking, the fastest car I’ve ever driven, but the one that’s faster had a jet engine and a parachute. The guardrail to my right is blurred into a dirty stream of quicksilver. Houses fly by before my brain has time to register the word “house.”

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About nine seconds ago, I was dawdling at 100 mph. Then I squeezed the throttle. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox clicked twice, the engine took a huge lung-busting toke of atmosphere through its twin roof snorkels — and then things got interesting. Something slammed me from behind and I realize it was the seat. Captain, it appears we have fallen nose-first into a wormhole.
Two-hundred mph. And I’m not even in top gear.
… house….


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Mercedes-Benz GL-Class: Third SUV, Built in America

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The Mercedes introduction of the third prong of its latest attack on the American SUV market is the 7-passenter GL-Class. The GL-Class complements the 5-passenger M-Class and 6-passenger R-Class “Grand Sports Tourer” (whatever that is) as Mercedes-Benz broadens its people-carrier offerings to meet the needs of SUV buyers.
The full technical details of the GL announced at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2006, were precluded by the first photos and brief technical specifications shown here:

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Ford Edge – Ford Shows its Edge in January

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Among the 2006 North American International Auto Show introductions will be a new addition to Ford’s sport-utility lineup – the Ford Edge. The Edge uses a car platform, in this case that of the recently introduced Fusion, and adds a more powerful 250-horsepower V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Lincoln also gets a version that becomes the second-generation Aviator. Ahead of the official introduction, Ford has released an illustration that gives us an idea of what the truck will look like.

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Saab 9-5 – New Face for Top Saab

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Saab’s 9-5, last launched all new for 1998 model year, is getting a bit long in the tooth, and an all-new iteration is still some way off. In today’s auto market a five year life cycle is long, let alone a seven year cycle. But the venerable 9-5 still has years to go before it is all new.
[Apparently, Kirk Kerkorian (now owner of 9.9% of GM) is asking serious questions about whether Saab should be part of General Motors or not. Does this mean further deemphasizing Saab, killing Saab, or spinning Saab off? Don’t know at the moment. But, that’s another issue.]
Saab hopes to generate some interest in the meantime with a 2006MY refresh that went on sale in the States in December 2005. Updates include interior and exterior styling changes and refinements to the platform and engine lineup. Our first look at the update was at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show in September.

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Suzuki SX4: A Post-Modern SUV for Suzuki

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Suzuki’s new small Post-Modern SUV (or crossover, or sport wagon) joins its North American lineup after an introduction at the 2006 New York show in April, 2006. Sales are scheduled for late Summer 2006 in the States, and the U.S. and European spec versions will carry similar styling. The SX4 is the result of a joint project between Fiat and Suzuki, with production by Suzuki at their plant in Hungary and using a Suzuki platform. (The Fiat, called Sedici will, of course, not be seen Stateside.) While this product is well-suited for international markets, its appeal in the States is likely to be limited and largely driven by a combination of value-pricing and its relatively fuel-efficient 2.0L DOHC I4 drivetrain. North American buyers will choose between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

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Hyundai Santa Fe Set for Detroit Debut

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Though already on sale in Korea, an unveiling of the next U.S.-spec Hyundai Santa Fe will be at the 2006 Detroit auto show in January. Production will start at Hyundai’s new Alabama assembly plant in Spring 2006 for a Summer launch. Though details on the North American version have not been entirely laid out by Hyundai, educated guesses can be made. Exterior styling will be similar if not identical to the Korean-market version launched in November 2005.

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