We at AutoPacific have just completed a week’s worth of driving the Thailand-built Mitsubishi Mirage. Now we know what drivers in a third world country experience when they drive locally assembled cars. And we don’t like it much.
Satisfied With Acceleration If you are a lucky enough to own a Jaguar XJ, you likely are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of your car. In AutoPacific‘s new car and light truck research, 100% of XJ owners are extremely satisfied. Overall, 51% of new car and light truck buyers are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of their vehicle. About 86% of sports car owners are extremely satisfied. About 71% of sporty car owners and 70% of aspirational luxury cars are extremely satisfied. At the other end of the spectrum are owners of hybrids and small cars. Only 37% of hybrid owners are extremely satisfied with power and acceleration compared with 40% of small car owners. This might be expected since these products are biased toward maximum fuel economy usually at the expense of spirited driving.
Prius Plug In Hybrid Owners Least Satisfied with Power and Acceleration
Toyota Prius owners are least satisfied no matter which Prius is owned. Only 19% of Prius Plug-In Hybrid owners are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of their vehicle. Only 20% of Prius c owners are extremely satisfied. Only 24% of Prius v owners are extremely satisfied and only 27% of the Prius are extremely satisfied. Other Toyotas in the bottom twenty include the Matrix (21%), Lexus CT200h (29%) and Scion xD (30%). Ten of the bottom twenty are hybrids in addition to the seven models from Toyota are: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (24%), Honda CRZ (26%) and Honda Insight (27%). Four economy cars are among the lowest rated: Honda Fit (25%), Nissan Versa (25%), Mazda 2 (27%), Ford Fiesta (28%), Kia Rio (29%) and Hyundai Accent (30%). Completing the bottom 20 are: Mazda CX5, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander and Jeep Patriot.
How Important is Power and Acceleration? Of course, one of the key questions is how important power and acceleration is to these owners. Overall, 39% of owners say power and acceleration is extremely important to them. So the industry is overachieving slightly having 51% of owners extremely satisfied. Among hybrid owners, only 23% say power and acceleration is extremely important (compared with 37% satisfied). Among small car owners, power and acceleration is important only to 28% (compared with 40% satisfied).
There are no bad cars. It’s been years since I’ve seen a really bad car to be sold as new in the USA. Maybe the not lamented Chrysler Sebring came close before it evolved into the Chrysler 200 for 2011. So, as the new V-Platform Nissan Versa is poised to be launched for the 2012 model year as the lowest price new car available in the USA you wonder if a new car priced so low is a bad car? The answer is a resounding no. But with the Versa and new Hyundai Accent arriving almost concurrently on the market it begs brief comparison.
2012 Nissan Versa Sedan
2012 Hyundai Accent Sedan
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released their first crash ratings for Economy Compact Cars. They call them “minicars”. The IIHS often releases results like this to pressure car makers to achieve higher safety results than are required by the Federal Government (NHTSA). Being part of the insurance industry, the IIHS charter is to provide information that consumers can use to select a safer car or light truck – and hence a car that might generate lower personal injury claims in an accident.
Force Still Equals Mass X Acceleration… F=MA
The first thing you learn in Physics 101 is F=MA. Basically, this equation means that something bigger is going to win if it hits something smaller. People have historically bought Lincoln Town Cars partly because they were so big that they were guaranteed a “win” in an accident. The same thinking goes with Large Sport Utility Vehicles like the Chevrolet Suburban.
A very small car is going to lose in an accident with a much larger vehicle. There will be much more physical damage to the small car than to the big one. And all things being equal, people riding in the small car are more at risk. The IIHS and Federal Government have noted that as fuel economy goes up (through vehicles getting lighter and smaller), damage and injuries also go up. In this case, bigger and heavier is better. But with skyrocketing gas prices folks rightly want more fuel efficient cars and trucks.
With that in mind, Economy Compacts have been introduced… Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa are the three that were launched in 2006 as 2007 model year cars. Only the larger Versa aced the crash tests… Versa includes side curtain air bags as standard equipment. Yaris, where side curtain air bags are optional, fails if it is not equipped with these safety enhancements.
The IIHS press release is included below the fold if you want to read the whole thing. But just remember, when it comes to safety, and all other things are equal, the bigger vehicle will win. F will always equal MA.
Chinese Manufacturer Looking to Supply U.S. Buyers with Basic Transportation
Geely is the second Chinese automaker to announce plans, however basic, to crack the North American auto market. Last year, Malcolm Bricklin of Visionary Vehicles announced aggressive, and seemingly unrealistic, plans for bringing vehicles from Chinese maker Chery to the States by January 2007 and selling 250,000 units in the first year or so. While Visionary Vehicles cannot be written off just yet, the company will not meet its initial launch targets set out at the 2005 Chicago auto show. By Bricklin’s own admission, Chery-made cars won’t begin arriving on American shores until late 2007 at the earliest.
By comparison, Geely is hoping to sell a modest 25,000 units their first year. Ambitious goals and lofty talk aside, when either company arrives and which is first remains to be seen.
According to John Harmer, COO of Geely USA, however, being first is not the objective. “We don’t care who’s first. We care that when we do [arrive], we are perceived as worthy,” he told a group of industry analysts and journalists at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Analysts in March 2006. Harmer shed a bit more light on Geely’s intentions at the meeting, where he was one of a three-member panel discussing China’s automotive future, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were there to hear it firsthand.
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.
VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) have been strong advocates of replacing the bottom of Toyota’s lineup – the Echo – in the USA with the Yaris. The Echo was an unlucky car. Echo was designed for the lowest common denominator buyer and was ugly to boot. Sure it was inexpensive, but it was an embarrassment to be seen in. A Hyundai Accent was a better choice especially with its 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Echo and Yaris are essentially the same car, but somehow Echo’s styling came across as terminally dorky and Yaris looks sophisticated. The conventional wisdom is that hatchbacks don’t sell in the USA and cars need to have trunks to sell here. Well, an ugly car with a trunk won’t sell anywhere. Thankfully, Toyota Motor Sales USA convinced its Japanese parent company to bring the critically acclaimed Yaris into the USA in lieu of the Echo.
Toyota will add a Yaris 4-door sedan and 3-door hatchback to its line-up in Spring 2006.
Here is the press release Toyota released announcing the launch of Yaris…
European Favorite Toyota Yaris Arrives in U.S. in All-New Liftback and Sedan Versions
2007 Toyota Yaris 4-door sedan and 3-door hatchback
12/26/2005, Torrance, CA: The 2007 Toyota Yaris will make its U.S. debut when it arrives in showrooms this spring in four-door Sedan and three-door Liftback configurations.
First launched in Europe in 1999, the Yaris was named the 2000 European “Car of the Year” and has become Toyota’s best-selling model in the European market. In fact, Yaris was also named “Japan Car of the Year,” marking the first time the same vehicle captured both honors in the same year. For the U.S., the Yaris will replace the ECHO in the subcompact passenger-car segment.
“As Toyota’s most affordable passenger car, the Yaris will feature contemporary exterior styling and a surprising upscale interior,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “It will be one of the most economic and youthful passenger cars Toyota has built in the subcompact category.”
The Yaris Liftback will be offered in one grade, while the Sedan will offer two grades, adding a sport-themed Yaris S.