I’m at Toyota’s third Sustainable Mobility Seminar at the moment, a deep dive into the issues surrounding sustainable motoring featuring excellent speakers from industry and academia. I’ll admit, my head is still spinning from all the education I’ve received over the last twenty-four hours, but there’s one part of the event I feel compelled to write about – right now. All of us in attendance got the media’s very first chance to drive fully working prototypes of Toyota’s upcoming fully electric RAV4 EV. As AutoPacific’s resident treehugger, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of Toyota’s upcoming electric SUV.
The Toyota recalls over sticking accelerator pedals are causing quite a stir this week, one which has grown in volume, really, over months and years. The fallout may be severe for Toyota, depending on how long it takes to fully resolve the issues and whether or not an additional recall regarding the Prius brake system is also required–voluntary or not. The situation is particularly bad for a company that had built a personality based on reliability and safety. No doubt, they will be taken to task. No doubt, mistakes were made. Also no doubt, the media frenzy is turning an already difficult and serious recall situation into recall fever.
But, while the drama plays out on local and national news, and our hard-working Congresspeople ensure they publicly flog Toyota and get their two cents in and “keep us safe,” there are real people with real questions. Toyota has some answers for customers, and we’d like to share them with you.
Follow the jump for Toyota’s relatively thorough and clear FAQs, including information on both the accelerator pedal and floor mat recalls, and what to do in an emergency.
Nissan’s introduction of its 2008 Rogue Crossover SUV at the North American International Auto Show launches a Nissan competitor to the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander. Rogue’s styling, while “pleasant”, is too milquetoast for even a small Crossover SUV in the first decade of the 21st Century.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were given a download on Rogue at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, but couldn’t really report on it until now. The Rogue is clearly derived from the European Nissan Quashqai
Rogue’s Styling Does Not Communicate Tough, Rugged Bad-Boy. It’s a Chick’s SUV
With Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi adopting much stronger design themes for their small SUVs, Nissan launches a smoothly tailored wagon designed to be inoffensive to anybody. There is nothing intimidating or in-your-face about the Rogue. In fact the most intimidating aspect may be its name.
Nissan perceives that Rogue will communicate a “bad-boy” image that will appeal to young males, but we see only a girly SUV… nothing macho about its looks. So, Rogue will go the way of the many other soft-roaders and be bought by women of all ages. Rogue certainly is not a Crossover Xterra. It looks like a wimp-roader.
Crossover SUVs outsold traditional SUVs for the first time in 2006. Nissan has been behind the curve in getting into the Crossover SUV business relying instead on its traditional entries – Xterra, Pathfinder, Armada. The closest Crossover SUV in Nissan’s stable is the Murano (a winner of AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award) and the Infiniti FX (no, the Murano and FX are not similar – Murano is based on a front wheel drive car platform – FX is based on a rear wheel drive platform). So, Rogue gives the Nissan brand something below Murano to compete with the smaller Crossover SUVs.
Updates Just in Time
Sorento Trying to Maintain or Improve Position in Viciously Competitive SUV Segment
At the 2006 New York auto show, Kia used its commercial spokesman to help introduce an updated version of the Sorento and remind us all of our SUV rights; AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand to see the show. Though the exterior changes are subtle, the Sorento due in showrooms in late summer 2006 gets the power and interior updates it will need to remain competitive against a crop of new entries.
Sorento competes in the Standard Mid-Size SUV segment wnere its most direct competitors are the Nissan Xterra
and the new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro
. Xterra and Nitro offer truck-based platforms and are standard in rear-wheel-drive form rather than front-wheel drive. The Sorento, Xterra, and Nitro are cross-shopped against car-based entries as well, including the recently launched Toyota RAV4
and new-for-2007MY Suzuki
XL7 and Ford Edge
. (The XL7 was introduced at the New York show, too; click here
to see our comments on that model.) Hyundai’s Santa Fe
is also all new for 2007, though it doesn’t use the same platform or engines.
All in all, this is a model year with lots of either new or relatively fresh product in the Standard Mid-Size SUV segment (as defined by AutoPacific), making it an exciting time to choose among them. More horsepower is available, much of it without sacrificing fuel economy as dramatically as before, and many entries are larger.
AutoPacific has said since its launch that the Sorento is a nicely done package offered at a nice price, a view also supported by real-world responses to the company’s annual survey of new owners. Customers liked Sorento much that it won AutoPacific’s coveted Vehicle Satisfaction Award
in its first year. But with the 2007 model year, many Standard Mid-Size SUV entries include standard or optional V6 powerplants delivering 250HP or more. Sorento’s previous 192HP 3.5L V6 would have left Kia at a power disadvantage, for which price may not have been able to compensate.
While exterior changes are just enough to let you know there is something different about this year, the Sorento’s interior updates bring nicer wood and metal interior trim materials, the revised center stack and instrument panel gauges give the Sorento a more refined, less clumsy look and atmosphere.
Editor’s NOTE: The Multi-S was launched as the Kia Rondo late in 2006.
Small Minivan Explores Reaction at Best-Attended U.S. Auto Show
As the Chicago Auto Show has a reputation for having the highest attendance figures of all U.S. auto shows, what better place to test a possible new people mover? While this concept was first shown last September on Kia‘s stand at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, Chicago marked its first North American appearance. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contributors were on hand at both showings, and can promise that there were no real changes between Frankfurt and Chicago, aside from Kia showing a gasoline engine in the States and a diesel in Frankfurt.
In Korea and Europe, where North American minivans are too large and the exception rather than the rule for family transportation, Kia sells a minivan smaller than the Sedona. The second-generation of this vehicle is being developed under the codename UN, and it is expected to join the U.S. lineup before the end of 2006. While the final verdict on the Kia’s U.S. nomenclature is not in, Multi-S is reportedly in the running.
The UN will be a more modern and fully featured than the example currently sold in international markets, making it more competitive in Europe as well as giving it a chance in the States. The concept dimensions indicate a vehicle slightly bigger than the Mazda5 and that the U.S. version is likely to get a four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Kia Motors America Vice President of Marketing Ian Beavis characterized Multi-S competition as “drawing from station wagons, vehicles like the Mazda5 and even small SUVs. The Multi-S did pretty well against the new Toyota RAV4 in research.”
Believe it or not, one of the most anticipated new vehicles introduced at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit is the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size SUV. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) are watching this introduction very, very closely because it will demonstrate the strength of Hyundai’s research and development process and ability to produce quality products at its new assembly plant in Alabama.
This it the second generation Santa Fe. The first Santa Fe surprised pundits when it turned out to be a darn good vehicle and actually won four of the five AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards during its five years in production. The Santa Fe turned out to be a good value, good quality, highly warranted, if quirkily styled sport utlity vehicle what out-pointed products like the Ford Escape and Toyota Highlander in owner satisfaction.
Hyundai has high expectations for the new Santa Fe and hopes to fill half of its Montgomery, Alabama plant with Santa Fe volume. The other half of the capacity is devoted to the new Sonata sedan. Assuming quality is top-notch and Hyundai can maintain its value proposition and strong warranty coverage, the Santa Fe promises to be a winner.
The Hyundai press release for the Santa Fe is shown below.
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…
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