Honda Element:

Honda Element Goes Urban

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New York’s SC Prototype Previews New Version of 2007 Element
On sale in fall 2006 is a special Element, previewed by the SC Prototype on Honda‘s stand at the 2006 New York auto show. While the standard Element focuses on its ability to haul stuff and people to the beach and back, the SC is about looking cool in the city. The SC loses the Element’s body cladding (gaining a dramatic, metallic copper paint on all sheetmetal) and also loses three inches in ride height, resulting in a lower, more aggressive stance. This aggressive stance is complemented with a custom front bumper, projector-beam headlights, large twenty-one-inch alloy wheels, custom grille, and a slightly lowered roofline.

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VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were there for the reveal, as we were the rest of this year’s New York show. Honda successfully brought the Element from the beach to the city, and we only hope the production car actually offers twenty-one-inch wheels and tires! In particular, lowering the Element and dropping the plastic body panels bring a sharper, more stylish look to the box. The standard Element is all about practical, but the SC wants to be the center of attention.

Sign Me Up:
This urbanization of the Element is an interesting move away from Honda’s initial “Dorm Room on Wheels” concept that resonated not only with young buyers but with more mature buyers as well. The median age of Element buyers is in their upper forties – somewhat embarrassing for Honda as they were seriously targeting GenY buyers. Oh well, guess you can’t prevent an old fart from buying your vehicle if they really feel young at heart. This SC prototype has real potential young and old.


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The Perfect Gen Y Car – A Used Car?

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The horrific parade of cars “designed to meet the youthful needs of Generation Y” seems to have taken its proper course. I pray the trend is dead. (No, Dan, as VehicleVoice correspondent and AutoPacific president George Peterson found at a recent Dodge Caliber press event, cars targeted at GenY are alive and well. At least Dodge admitted they would not be embarrassed when the Caliber sells to older folks.)
I remember watching Trevor Creed, head of Chrysler Group design, unveil the Dodge Razor designed for “millenials” at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. The typical Chrysler todo included boom boxes and kids on Razors, those small-wheeled scooters that pre-adolescents use for terrorizing shopping mall parking lots. “What are they thinking?” was my first thought. “Did Trevor get into a terrible Razor accident?”

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Used 2004 Civic Coupe – Perfect GenY Car


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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser – Concept to Reality

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VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) have been closely watching the development of the Toyota FJ Cruiser since retro SUV concepts began appearing at Toyota auto show displays in the early 2000s. The FJ Cruiser, shown in essentially production form during the 2003 auto show season, is the first truly retro SUV to come to market it’s certainly more capable than the pseudo-SUV Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR and the Honda Element (which also uses rear access doors similar to FJ Cruiser). In fact, FJ Cruiser is a true off-roader more of the ilk of the Nissan Xterra.
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2007 FJ Cruiser w/FJ40 in background
On December 26, 2005 Toyota issued the following (lenghty) press release supporting the launch of the FJ Cruiser. Sales will begin in March 2006 with production in Japan.

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser: The Result of Art, Technology and Heritage

12/26/2005 Torrance, CA: Toyota advances both the art and science of the off-road vehicle while recalling its own off-road heritage with the introduction of the 2007 FJ Cruiser sport-utility vehicle (SUV), available in March 2006.
The FJ Cruiser offers a youthful, contemporary spirit and employs the same state-of-the-art comfort, power, economy, safety, emissions and convenience technology available in other Toyota vehicles. As it does so, it provides optimized off-road capabilities, value and styling clues reminiscent of Toyota’s famed FJ40 4×4 utility vehicle, sold in the U.S. from 1960 to 1983. The FJ40, which during its production life served around the world as the safari and expedition vehicle of choice, remains a desirable and collectable off-road vehicle.
“The FJ Cruiser effectively fills a gap in the Toyota lineup that was once our core heritage – capable, affordable and durable vehicles that are youthful, fun to drive, aggressive and tough,” said Jim Lentz, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division. “The FJ Cruiser will deliver true off-road ruggedness, image and performance at an affordable price, making it highly accessible and desirable to a large volume of young buyers.”
The five-passenger FJ Cruiser was designed as a concept vehicle at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif. It was first seen at Detroit’s North American International Automobile Show in 2003. Public and media reaction to the FJ Cruiser concept was so positive that the vehicle was slated for production using most of the same design parameters as the original concept. As an indicator of the vehicle’s unmistakable family DNA, several of the FJ Cruiser’s available color choices are reminiscent of the colors found on FJ40s.


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Crossovers… Media – Industry Forcing a Definition

We at VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and the VehicleVoice Blog-o-Rama (http:/.vehiclevoice.com) often feel that we are fighting an uphill battle concerning the use of the word “Crossovers”. This is a term that has come to mean SUVs based on car platforms and mechanicals. That’s fine. However, it is industry jargon that has not been adopted by the public. The media, picking up on industry jargon is forcing the term where no-one needs it.
An SUV is an SUV or Its NOT
Based on our research, it’s simple. American vehicle buyers have categorized vehicles into several basic categories: cars and trucks further subdivided into luxury cars, mid-size cars, economy/compact cars, sports/sporty cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans/minivans.
The SUV category seems to be giving folks the most trouble. To a typical vehicle-buyer, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. There are big ones and small ones, but an SUV is an SUV. Muddying the playing field, however, is the notion of a “crossover”. A Traditional SUV in this more complicated world is a truck-based SUV like Ford Explorer or Toyota Sequoia. A crossover SUV is an SUV based on a car platform, a “unit-body” platform. But people often forget that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Mitsubishi Montero are all based on unit-body platforms but are not car-based. Does this make them a crossover? NO!
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Chevrolet Trailblazer… a “real” Truck-Based SUV

Post-Modern SUV… Soft Roader… NOT Crossover

So, it’s pretty muddy. What crossovers need to be are at-a-glance SUVs. The basics of the SUV equation are well known so deviating is a risk. An SUV must have a basic two box bodystyle, relatively tall glass for good visibility, a relatively upright windshield that provides a stiff A-Pillar allowing easy ingress/egress, and a command seating position. At the same time interior roominess and the ability to carry cargo is very important. From our perspective, this most American of vehicle types is very easy to understand but easy for a foreign car company to get wrong.
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Pontiac Torrent… Car-Based Post-Modern (Crossover) SUV
Let’s read on about how USA Today recently reacted to the issue of “crossovers”…


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2005 Scion xB Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Scion xB Wins AutoPacific 2005 Compact Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“Young, hip owners of the Scion xB rate the xB highest in the Compact Car category. Sold to perhaps the most difficult people to satisfy (young males), xB owners rate overall satisfaction very high plus giving xB high marks for fuel economy, price, rear seat room… and lets not forget its funky styling.”


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