An annual pilgrimage for the auto industry is to attend the press days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit each January. Unfortunately, this year I cannot attend because my physicians caution that I should not be heaving carry-ons into and out of overhead bins and baggage carousels.
So, I’m jealous.
One of the primary businesses of AutoPacific is to keep on top of what is the latest in the auto industry worldwide, so AutoPacific will still be well represented at Detroit.
I asked each of our staff members to remind me why I should or should not be jealous of them attending instead of me. Read below the break for their input.
Today’s car business is becoming more risky than ever. While the dizzying number of new car startups almost suggests we are in the midst of a wild frontier, it has become increasingly clear how vulnerable even the powerhouse manufacturers have become. The growth of any brand over the long term requires diligence, hard work and sometimes, luck. So it’s with only some surprise that Scion, despite its edgy, cutting-edge image, has taken a rather safe route for the 2011 tC.
The tC represents forty percent of Scions US sales, and is the sole reason for the brands youthful demographic. (According to Autopacific’s 2010 Research Suite® data, the tC has the youngest median age in the industry, at just 26 years of age.) Without a successful successor to the current tC, Scions sales and demographic success would be in serious jeopardy.
VehicleVoice Reviews the tC
Scion recently gave VehicleVoice the opportunity to evaluate prototypes of the second generation 2011 tC at a long lead press event in San Diego, California. Starting from a decidedly Scion hotel in San Diego’s hip gas lamp district, we reviewed the vehicle inside and out and drove several models over a few pre-selected courses in San Diego county.
Before hitting the road, we received briefings on the design and engineering of the 2011 tC which are many. It’s no doubt that Scion has made as many enhancements to the vehicle as the current economic environment would allow. The engine has increased in size from 2.4 to 2.5 liters. (Thanks to sharing with the Camry.) The new powertrain increases horsepower to 180 (+19) torque and torque by 11pound feet, while increasing highway fuel economy by two MPG for the automatic transmission and four MPG for the manual. The intake has been revised as has been the exhaust, in an attempt to give the vehicle a more aggressive note. Not surprisingly, new safety features abound this and every Toyota.
First shown at the New York Auto Show in March, the tC’s design was influenced by the Fuse concept, with it’s racing helmet design. Blacked out A pillars are intended to give the illusion of a floating roofline. While clear on the Fuse concept, were not so sure it has the same impact of the tC, especially in darker exterior colors. We had the opportunity to drive a tC in Scion’s new “cement” color, which has a very cool look. From the rear three-quarter view, the 2011 tC sports more stylized rear tail-lamps and has a more aggressive stance than it’s predecessor. In profile, however, the more aggressive stance the rear cannot overcome the conservative front end. From the A pillar forward, the vehicle is hard to distinguish from other coupes in today’s market. The front headlamps do not carry the aggressive style of the Fuse concept. With so much on the line, you get the feeling that protecting the sales volume targets of the tC played a key role in it’s design.
The interior layout clearly driver focused fashion with easy to read orange backlit gauges and large HVAC controls. While we were not in final production vehicles, the materials fit and finish seemed to have the quality we have come to expect from Scion. The front seats are wider and taller and were very comfortable in our 90 minute loop. Headroom is fairly good up front. Ingress to the rear seats, a typical coupe challenge, is enhanced by front seats that glide far back easily and return to their previously set positions. Rear seat headroom gets tight for those over 6 feet in height.
On noticeably smooth San Diego roads, the tC is well mannered and relatively quiet for a vehicle in its price point. We did not appreciate the changes to the tC’s exhaust, but suspect others might. The improved manual transmission is smooth and easy, with a very light clutch. Six speeds and more horsepower improve 0-60 times by almost .6 seconds on the manual,and .8 seconds on the automatics. Standard eighteen and optional nineteen inch wheels and tires and offer good cornering without sacrificing ride quality.
With desintation charges the 2011 tC comes in at under $19,000 for the 6 speed manual and under $20,000 for the 5 speed automatic. Given its content and refinement, the tC remains a great value.
With the 2011 tC, Scion has clearly sided with enhancing the value proposition rather then pushing the design image of its sales leader. Can you blame them? In the current economic situation, even the coolest learn about conservatism.
Winning for a third year in a row, owners in the Sporty Car segment have kept the Scion tC number one. Beating out noble competitors, both import and domestic, owners within the segment prove once again that the tC is a real winner. The tC earned class-leading scores in such critical categories as:
• Flexible/changeable seating, rear (second-row) seat comfort (rear seats recline) and ease of loading/unloading cargo
• Fuel economy/gas mileage
• Price/monthly payments along with top marks for operating costs
We got the opportunity to briefly drive the new Ford Fiesta in Port Hueneme in anticipation of Ford’s “Fiesta Movement” program where they will place 100 5-door Fiestas with influential Millennium drivers. Millennium means they were born between 1979 and 1985 and influential means that they have over 500 Facebook friends and thousands of followers on Twitter. To get qualified participants – or “agents” as Ford is referring to them – Ford held a contest on their website. There were about 3,300 applicants. Since all 100 of these European Fiestas will have manual transmissions we hope Ford screened for ability to shift and clutch.
The Fiesta has been on sale in Europe since August 2008 and about 117,000 have been sold to date. With the assistance of the EPA, Ford has been able to bring in 145 into the states for testing and evaluation purposes. The 45 not in the Fiesta Movement program will be used for other drive duties. Those have automatic transmissions.
During the short drive we were able to form some conclusions…
• Fast A-Pillars: The styling of the Fiesta is great – using Ford’s European “kinetic” design language. But, the styling comes with a price. Getting into the front seats is tough because the A-Pillar is so fast. The Fiesta is another car that you have to think about how to get in without injuring yourself.
• Shin Warmer: The left side of the console gets so hot that it is objectionable. “Shin Burner” may be a better term than “Shin Warmer”. This is an issue that needs to be addressed prior to launch in the USA.
• Lacks Peposity: A small high image B-Car… certainly personified by the Fiesta… needs to be “peppy”. The 1.6L 4-cylinder engine has 118 horsepower and, frankly, it feels like less. AutoPacific happens to be evaluating a Scion xD now as well. It is a 1.8L 4-cylinder with 128 horsepower with an automatic transmission. The Scion auto feels much better than the Fiesta with a manual. Very surprising.
Ford’s powertrain plan includes an EcoBoost version of the Fiesta, but, hopefully, Fiesta’s performance can be enhanced prior to its launch in the USA so you won’t have to spring for EcoBoost to get sparkling performance.
For the second year in a row, the Scion
tC brings home the Vehicle Satisfaction Award in the Sporty Car Segment. Owners are satisfied with tC’s stylish Exterior and relatively Low Price Although it has remained relatively unchanged since 2005, the tC continues to score high in Overall Quality, Safety and Reliability.
The youthful, edgy and economical Scion
brand has a winner in the all-new xD. Owners awarded the xD the highest satisfaction ratings in the Economy Car Segment for the 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. xD received strong satisfaction scores in critically important attributes for Economy Car buyers, including Reputation, Reliability and Overall Quality, making the xD the uncontested winner in the Segment.
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
“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.
src="/mt-img/Hako-at-Show.jpg" width="350" height="263"
You have to look long and hard to find a more difficult job than designing future Scion products. In its short life, Scion has raced to the forefront of Gen Y desirability. From zero to 173,000 units in just 4 years. Toyota Motor Sales claims the Scion brand to have a median buyer age of just 30 years old, which makes it the youngest brand in the United States. From the same group of people who bring us the Camry and Avalon, both standards for Boomer buyers, but neither evoking a youthful image.
Popular Release Series Continues with Second-Generation xB
In an effort both to freshen the vehicle and to inspire buyers to do their own customization, Scion began offering Release Series special editions with the first xB. There were four with the first generation, none built in quantities of more than 2500 units, and the first for the second generation is on display at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.
Release Series 5.0, continues the number sequence began with the first generation. Typical of the Scion RS products, only 2500 units of the 5.0 will be built. As before, changes to create the xB RS 5.0 are mostly cosmetic. Among the notable elements is the first xB moonroof. The RS 5.0′s exterior color, called Gold Rush Mica, was inspired by the color the introduction car wore at the 2007 Chicago auto show. The RS 5.0 also gets new wheel covers and a KenStyle body kit as standard; a color-keyed rear spoiler is optional. The exterior color carries into interior trim and seat fabric, and there is the requisite numbered badge.