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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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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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Mitsubishi ConceptCT: 2006 North American International Auto Show

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Mitsubishi Considers North American Small Car Entry
Updated February 1, 2006
As Mitsubishi considers the option of an economy or image compact entry for North America, the ConceptCT arrives on the 2006 auto show circuit, starting with the 2006 Detroit auto show in January. The concept uses a system Mitsubishi calls MIEV (Mitsubishi In-wheel Electronic Vehicle) technology. The basics of the system, which uses outer-rotor, in-wheel electric motors to move all four wheels as well as a 1.0L three-cylinder gasoline engine, was introduced at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. By using the electric motors and a traditional gasoline engine, Mitsubishi is creating a type of hybrid system. While the final decision on a B-segment for the States has not yet been taken, Mitsubishi is seriously considering the option, as well as exploring variations on hybrid technology.

Mitsu_Concept-CT.JPG

The Small Car Challenge
The challenge for any maker introducing a new small car to the American market is how to cut through the clutter and make their small car entry a car buyers want rather than one they are “sentenced” to drive. Achieving an aspirational small car has been the holy grail of automakers since the days of the Pinto and Vega, but Scion and Mini have been successful of late with the xB, xA, and Cooper.


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Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder – Cold Weather Intro for Warm Weather Ride

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Mitsubishi will unveil the latest Eclipse Spyder at the 2006 Detroit auto show this January. Sales are likely to start in spring 2006, in time for summertime top-down motoring. While unveiling a convertible in the Midwest in January may seem an unlikely venue, Mitsubishi has a history of launching Eclipse production and concept models in Detroit. The all Eclipse coupe was released early in 2005 and has been a moderate success in the American market to date. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) styling research has the styling of the Eclipse rated very strongly.

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The Rental Car Test – Every Design MUST Pass the Test

I just picked up a Hyundai Santa Fe from Hertz at DTW. My plane from Atlanta to Detroit was delayed by weather enough to have me picking up the Santa Fe in the dark. Well, Santa Fe did an outstanding job passing the rental car test. You know the one. This is where you pick up your car at the rental place, get in and you can find the ignition easily, adjust the steering wheel, mirrors, seats, climate control and radio without thinking hard about it. Oh yeah, and you can do it in the dark.

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Keep it Simple, Stupid… Still Rings True
This is a challenge that many car stylists and designers fail to consider when they are designing their new products. But ease of use is a hugely important thing not only to rental car drivers but to everybody driving a car day-to-day. No-one wants a car that is difficult or confusing to drive and the rental car test helps guarantee ease of use.


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Easy Drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

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Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to drive the Ford Explorer, Jeep Commander, Mercury Mountaineer, and Jeep Grand Cherokee, for varying amounts of time. The Explorer and Commander experiences were shorter press preview drives, on routes chosen by the manufacturers to best showcase their vehicles. On the other hand, the Mountaineer and Grand Cherokee were in our office for about a week and I had the chance to drive them both in my normal daily environment for a couple of days.
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Dear Valued Hybrid Customer…

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This editorial appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, November 30, 2005. Written tongue-in-cheek, Jenkins pokes fun at the hype hybrids have achieved to date. Indeed, his commentary reflects some of the perceptions gathered in our September, 2005 VehicleVoice (http://vehiclevoice.com) Hybrid Study.

Dear Valued Hybrid Customer…

Business World/by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
We at the Toyota Motor Corporation are writing to address certain misconceptions that have arisen about your Toyota Prius model, which we are proud to note is driven by many celebriies, including Prince Charles and HBO’s Larry David.
Prius blog.jpg
Our pioneering gasoline-electric hybrid, introduced in 1999, has become an object of adoration to the world’s enlightened car buyers. Our competitors, including American’s Big Three, are rushing out hybrid vehicles of their own. Unconfirmed media reports say that we at Toyota intend to double our hybrid output to 500,000 vehicles next year. Along with other members of the auto industry, we will be lobbying for tax breaks and HOV privileges for hybrid vehicles.


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Chevrolet Camaro & Dodge Challenger – It's All About Street Cred

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DETROIT’S MUSCLE-CAR REVIVAL: ALL ABOUT STREET CRED
The latest Mustang is a success in the image ranks and in the buff books. Its sales success has surprised even Ford and production capacity has been increased so they can sell even more. The other historic Detroit brands will revisit the rear-wheel-drive coupe idea at the 2006 North American International Motor Show in Detroit. The first announced concept is the Dodge Challenger shown below. Still under wraps is a new generation Chevrolet Camaro.
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Though Ford has consistently offered a Mustang since 1964 and kept it alive (even if some iterations were less memorable than others), both GM and Chrysler Group abandoned the product formula. Mustang has the edge and success at GM, Chrysler Group, or for any other contenders requires that they establish modern-day credibility with the consumer.
In the heart of most car product planners at American car companies beats a rear-wheel-drive V8-powered coupe or convertible, going much further back than the muscle-car era that gets so much attention these days. As a result, whether timing is by design or by reaction, Dodge and Chevrolet are expected to show concepts on the muscle-car theme at the 2006 Detroit show this January.


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