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2008 Honda S2000 CR Prototype: New York Auto Show

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Club Racer S2000 Arrives Fall 2007
According to John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, the S2000 CR “is the closest thing you can get to a Honda-built race car with license plate holders and a horn.” Introduced at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, this special S2000 uses the same powertrain (237HP 2.2L I4 and six-speed manual), but has massaged in just about every other area with the simple goal of reducing track times. Though the gearing of the manual is the same, there is a new shorter shift knob for even quicker shifts. About the only cosmetic decisions were the exterior and interior color combinations. The S2000 CR will be a standard trim level for 2008MY.

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The aero body kit of the CR is functional and contributes to the overall goal, as well as giving the roadster a take-no-prisoners look, by reducing lift. The front spoiler and large rear wing are the better elements; the nacelles behind driver and passenger leave the impression of mimicking the Pontiac Solstice. The front and rear spoilers were developed to reduce lift, and even the center bulge on the rear spoiler a functional rather than stylistic element. The S2000 CR drops its power softtop and replaces it with an aluminum hardtop, just one of the efforts for reducing weight. Though structural bracing, adding rigidity, takes up the space where the soft top used to stow, the change allows a drop of about 90 pounds.
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LA Auto Show – Honda REMIX Concept

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Yet another sport coupe was announced at the LA Auto Show once again answering questions no one is asking anymore. We can’t help but think that these sporty cars and coupes are ego boosts for young designers wanting a notch in their resume. From a business perspective, the market for low slung coupes is thin. The days of folks traveling as couples is done. Now it’s traveling in groups. Hence the dramatic swing from two-door bodystyles to 4-door SUVs and XSUVs. The days of wanting to sit low to the ground and have obstructed visibility are over. So, what value would a concept like the Remix actually have? It can go a long way at validating the talent of a young designer and can also test new design themes. But, please, no more coupes!
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Honda used the Los Angeles Auto Show as the world debut venue for its Honda REMIX small sport concept vehicle. The REMIX explores the shape and design of a two-seat sports car focused on agile and fun-to-drive performance that can also provide exceptional practicality as a daily driver. [This sentence could be from any generic auto press release. Insert appropriate name for REMIX].
“The REMIX blends familiar Honda themes into a new, fresh design,” said Ben Davidson, REMIX lead designer, Honda R&D Americas, Inc. “Smooth and fluid surfaces provide a sports car identity to the geometric shapes that form the functional aspect of this vehicle.”
REMIX Pretty Conventional – Uses Small Car Platform – Nothing Exotic
Sports car in shape and design, the low-slung REMIX features a wrap-around canopy that adds a fighter jet-feel to the driving experience. The aluminum-color exterior accentuates every line and curve in the geometric, yet fluid styling. Capable of delivering more than just driving performance, the rear storage area supplies generous cargo room. Purely a design concept, the vehicle is fashioned around a front-wheel drive small car platform with a 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. A sport suspension, along with aggressive tires and brakes, further supplement its performance side.
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“Pure Honda to the core, the REMIX concept vehicle focuses on a simple, lightweight and fun-to-drive philosophy,” said John Mendel, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “The concept balances sports car virtues with real-world practicality.”
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The REMIX Small Sport Concept was designed by Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Advanced Design Studio in Torrance, California.


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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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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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Fit For America… Honda Fit, That Is

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New Entry Car Joins Honda’s Lineup
If you’re in the market for an economy car, this might be one of the better model years to buy. Not only does the Honda Fit arrive in dealers in April 2006, Toyota’s Yaris and Chevrolet’s updated Aveo will arrive shortly afterward. And don’t forget the Nissan Versa coming later in the year. Honda chose the North American International Auto Show to unveil their new Fit while Toyota launched the Yaris at the Los Angeles Auto Show , with Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents on hand. Elsewhere in the segment, Kia’s Rio and Hyundai’s Accent were all-new for the 2006MY. The oldest product in the segment is actually the Scion xA, and that model launched nationally for the 2004MY.
What are the keys to this segment? As much interior room as can be carved out of such a small footprint, some type of sporty-look model to offer the ability to not look as though you’re driving the least expensive car in the lineup, and the ability for buyers to customize or accessorize their car. Toyota is writing the book on this with Scion, and Honda is learning a few tricks.
Final pricing has not been determined for the Honda Fit, but a $12,000 price point is reasonable. Though pricing for either Fit or the new Toyota Yaris has not been announced, the Fit offers more standard features and is likely to carry a slightly higher base price as a result. Honda does have concerns about the new entry cannibalizing some Civic sales, but Honda is not creating a sub-brand for this segment, as Toyota has done for its Scion products. The Fit is built in Japan and imported, though if the small car found strong enough demand, Honda could add U.S. production.


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Honda Civic and Ridgeline Win More COTY Honors

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New vehicles from American Honda have swept the 2006 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards. The all-new Honda Civic won the Car of the Year Award adn the Ridgeline Sport Utlity Truck won the Truck of the Year Award. The Civic has been on sale since late Fall 2005 and Ridgeline was introduced in Spring 2005. Both are 2006 models.
These awards mimic Car and Truck of the Year Awards by Motor Trend magazine announced earlier.
The new Civic replaces what may be the most lackluster Civic of all time. The Civic had devolved into a typical econobox that sold on the basis of its stellar image and name, not because it was the hiighly desirable Civic of the past. The new Civic corrects that. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts rate the Civic as one of the best small cars on the road today… aspirational, exciting, and fun to drive.

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The Ridgeline has not sold up to the expectations that Honda announced when the truck was introduced. Having slightly weird styling and being based on the Odyssey minivan platform, the Ridgeline is a great driving pretend truck. Full of innovative ideas that impressed the Car of the Year judges, Ridgeline deserves to succeed. It has not sold up to expectations likely due to its relatively high price point… substantially higher than “real trucks” like the Ford F-Series and the Chevrolet Silverado.
American Honda may use the early lack of success of the Chrysler Pacifica as a case study. Pacifica was overpriced when it was introduced. People did not know what kind of vehicle it is. The idea that Pacific was a “sports tourer” did not mean anything to anybody. But Chrysler played around with its positioning and Pacifica now sells in respectable volumes.
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It’s interesting that Honda’s press release announcing its achievement is pretty matter-of-fact. Ho-hum.


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Ford Reflex Concept Explores Small-Car Market Potential

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Reflex Introduction at 2006 NAIAS
It is said around town that Ford is considering how and when they may re-enter the (very) small-car segment, which includes cars priced from around $10,000 to $15,000 or so fully equipped. This segment is expected to see substantial growth over the next several years. These cars are smaller in size than entries like the Ford Focus or Honda Civic, and most typically wear sedan or hatchback bodystyles. Chevrolet’s Aveo, Toyota’s all-new Yaris and the defunct Echo, the Scion xA, the Hyundai Accent and Kia’s Rio are among examples of vehicles in this segment.
While the 2005 Ford SynUS concept explored the possibilities a boxy urban vehicle might provide (certainly in part inspired by the Scion xB), on the 2006 auto show circuit the concept is for a sporty small car that takes into account room for small children. Enter the Reflex. Reactions by VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) analysts are very positive.

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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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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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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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