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Nissan Titan Onyx to Expand Titan Range

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Titan Onyx Suggests Future Personalization Options
At the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, alongside and overshadowed by the updated 2007 Quest, was a Nissan Titan concept called Onyx. Following the press conference and walking the show amongst other industry watchers and journalists, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents noticed a lack of activity around the Onyx. With any luck, the car-buying public that the Chicago show truly caters to took more notice the following week.

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Nissan created the Onyx concept to gauge reaction for potential future special edition packages or perhaps dealer-installed accessories. The idea is not a bad one, as the other truck manufacturers offer various add-ons, and there is a perception that Nissan buyers may be more into personalizing their ride than some other makes. Nissan has a strong reputation among the tuner crowd, and if they stay loyal to the brand for a truck, they are likely to take their penchant for personalization with them.
Nissan is committed to expanding the Titan lineup, and though the Onyx was only a very small step in that direction, heavy-duty and diesel variants of the Titan will likely arrive before the end of the decade. Showing the concept Titan also likely endeavored to generate some attention for Nissan’s full-size pickup at the show, where it was heavily overshadowed by the unveiling of Toyota’s next Tundra.


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Nissan Quest Gets Interior Redo

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Chicago Auto Show Provides Backdrop for 2007 Quest Introduction
Nissan took a gamble with its current Quest minivan, launched for 2004, with expressive and distinct exterior styling and an unusual interior layout, particularly with regard to the location of typical driving gauges and the overall look to the center console. The gamble did not paid off in the sales the company hoped for, so they take another gamble by admitting that the 2004 product wasn’t perfectly conceived and introducing corrections for the 2007 model year.
At the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan acknowledged that perhaps the interior went too far pushing the styling edge, and that it hurt sales. Brave for admitting a mistake, the company did so as they announced that they have addressed many of the interior issues with the 2007 model year. Nissan also ‘fessed up to this being the most expensive mid-cycle change in the company’s history. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were on hand for the show. Our first look at the Quest’s updated interior reveals improvements that will make the minivan much easier and more enjoyable to live with, but perhaps difficult to market. These changes bring the Quest’s interior up to the level that it should have been all along, but do not give Nissan advertising staff much unique to sell.

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Introducing Nissan Versa

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New Entry Car for Nissan.
Nissan formally introduced a new entry into its 2007MY lineup at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. The Versa was introduced alongside its larger sibling Sentra. Sentra is being pushed upmarket ever so slightly, in price and size. With the Versa and Sentra, and possibly a third entry in a year or two, Nissan will be trying to win back a portion of the market they have not paid much attention to this century AutoPacific and Vehicle Voice correspondents were on hand to watch the show.


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Nissan Updates and Repositions Sentra for 2007

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Will They Be Successful?
Once planned for 2006MY but sent back for an exterior redo, the new-for-2007MY Sentra instead arrives at dealers in September 2006. It was unveiled at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. Production continues at Nissan’s Aguascalientes, Mexico, plant, which was also expanded to build the Versa.
Checking out the Nissan Sentra on the stand, Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents appreciated the revised interior and improved materials in the pre-production car shown, but were underwhelmed by the exterior. The new car is bigger and offers a sharper, angular look compared with the outgoing car. This change further refines the sedan design language started with the new-for-2004MY Maxima, itself up for an update for 2007. The resulting Sentra is a dramatic leap forward from the current car, but perhaps not a big enough leap to stand out in the marketplace.


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Automotive Lease Guide Releases Residual Value Awards

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Automotive Lease Guide is an influential and closely watched barometer of the value of brands and vehicles in the USA. ALG’s data are used by leasing companies to set the values for vehicles two and three years in the future and are critical in determining what lease rates a lessee will pay.
While ALG’s Residual Value Awards are not of the ilk of Motor Trend, Automobile, Car & Driver enthusiast awards, they provide an interesting counterpoint to awards based test track measurements, zero to 60 times and seat of the pants opinions. Here is the text of the ALG release…

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ALG’s annual Residual Value Awards honor those vehicles in each automotive segment predicted to retain the highest percentage of their original price. For the third consecutive year, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. heads the list with the Honda Brand winning the Industry Brand Residual Value Award. Honda also received two individual segment awards: the Odyssey for the Minivan Segment and the Accord for the Midsize Car Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Honda Odyssey and the second win for the Accord.
Acura, a division of American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is the winner of the Near Luxury Car Segment for the TL.
BMW of North America, LLC has once again made a strong showing by winning the Luxury Brand Residual Value Award for the third consecutive year. MINI USA, a division of BMW of North America, has won the Compact Car Segment for the MINI Cooper for the fourth time.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. took home the most Residual Value Awards this year by winning six individual segment awards: the Avalon for the Fullsize Car Segment, Tacoma Pick-up for the Compact Truck Segment, Tundra for the Fullsize Truck Segment, RAV4 for the Compact SUV Segment, 4Runner for the Midsize SUV Segment, and the Sequoia for the Fullsize SUV Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Toyota Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia; and the third consecutive win for the 4Runner.
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC is the winner of this year’s Luxury Car Segment award for the CLS Class.
The Sports Car Segment award this year goes to Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for the 911 Carrera.
And last but not least, the CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) award goes to Land Rover North America, Inc. for the Range Rover Sport.
“In an era of negative pricing and overcapacity, Residual Value excellence is increasingly difficult to achieve,” said Raj Sundaram, President of Automotive Lease Guide. “Both the segment and brand winners clearly demonstrate that quality products combined with effective pricing strategies will rise to the top.” Sundaram added that, “While the top rankings did not change, several brands have shown significant improvement over last year, highlighting the importance manufacturers are placing on residual value as a long-term objective.”
This year’s awards are based on 2006 model year vehicles. For the fourth year, ALG has also included awards for the brand with the highest predicted resale value of all industry and luxury vehicles. The awards are derived after careful study of segment competition, historical vehicle performance and
industry trends. Award winners are featured on http://www.alg.com, The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, and other automotive publications and websites dedicated to bringing the industry’s best performing models into the
public eye.


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Nissan Urge: Small Sports Car Concept Explores Future

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Although Nissan unveiled some production models at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January, the Nissan Urge was also shown as a teaser concept on the stand. VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand to see the Urge Concept in person, so we’ve added photos since this blog was first posted.
The Nissan Urge is a small rear wheel drive sports car; using a six-speed manual gearbox and small engine. Designed by Nissan’s studio in La Jolla, California, the designers are said to have been inspired by their motorcycle enthusiasm in developing this small-car project. The Urge includes color-infused aluminum body panels and integrates an X-Box 360 gaming system.

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Crossover SUVs to Outsell Traditional SUVs in 2006

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Crossover SUVs will outsell Traditional truck-based SUVs beginning in 2006. This forecast comes from George Pipas, Ford’s Manager of Sales Analysis and Reporting in a presentation in Long Beach, CA on December 12, 2005. Refer to the VehicleVoice Blog on December 8 citing a USA Today article on similar observations.

A Few Comments on What a Crossover SUV Is

Pipas’ analysis charts the meteoric rise of Traditional SUVs during the 1990s and the similarly meteoric rise of Crossover SUVs since 1996 when the first crossovers – the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 – were introduced. Of course, defining SUV categories is getting murkier and murkier. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) have used the “at-a-glance” rule to define SUVs. If you can, at-a-glance, tell that a vehicle is an SUV, then by golly it is an SUV. In this way you are not confused about whether it is car-based or truck-based. (Pipas contends that only about 70% of Crossover SUVs meet this at-a-glance requirement with 30% easily confused as cars, hatchbacks, or wagons.)
Escalade Blog.jpg Traditional SUV 2007 Cadillac Escalade – Category Expected to Decline as a Percentage of Overall SUV Universe
The auto industry thinks differently and often gets caught up in definition problems. They have variously called car-based SUVs “hybrids” (a term since adopted by gasoline-electric ‘hybrid’ powerplants) or “crossovers”. In our research, we have found that folks really have not yet adopted the crossover term and still like to refer to SUVs as SUVs. But enough about splitting hairs about what is a crossover and what is not.


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