VehicleVoice:

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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Popularity of Crossovers Leaves SUVs in dust

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This article appeared in the December 8, 2005 issue of USA Today. While VehicleVoice agrees in general with what Healey and O’Donnell report, we should not lose sight that folks really have vehicles in only a few clearly identifiable classes: Cars (sedans, coupes, sports cars) and Trucks (pickups, SUVs and Minivans). In VehicleVoice Research (http://www.vehiclevoice.com), there is seldom any comment on “crossovers”. A vehicle is either an SUV or its not. Folks will talk about softer SUVs (crossovers) that maneuver better, get better fuel economy. But, too many manufacturers are forgetting that, at a glance, a crossover needs to be at-a-glance an SUV. Heck, you might get a cross between a wagon and a sporty coupe and put it real low to the ground and call it a crossover. Eeeeek!
Popularity of crossovers leaves SUVs in dust
By James R. Healey and Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY
Buyers are shifting rapidly from traditional SUVs to more comfortable and more fuel-efficient crossover models.
inside2-crossover.jpgWeick
The Ford Freestyle is the crossover vehicle most traded in for by truck-based Explorer owners. The Ford Freestyle is the crossover vehicle most traded in for by truck-based Explorer owners.
The transition had been inching along for several years but has turned into a stampede.
Crossovers, adaptations of car or minivan underpinnings, outsold traditional, truck-based SUVs the past three months and should do so routinely and permanently beginning next year, according to data and projections from Ford Motor (F). (Photos: Hot new crossover SUVs)
PROS AND CONS
Crossover SUVs
Advantages:
Lighter weight
better fuel economy
smoother ride
better handling.
Disadvantages:
Can’t tow or haul as much
less ground clearance
lighter-duty four-wheel drive.
Traditional SUVs
Advantages:
Rugged
able to tow and haul heavy loads
greater ground clearance
heavy-duty four-wheel drive.
Disadvantages:
Heavy
poor gas mileage
stiff ride
clumsy handling


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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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Hyundai Santa Fe Set for Detroit Debut

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Though already on sale in Korea, an unveiling of the next U.S.-spec Hyundai Santa Fe will be at the 2006 Detroit auto show in January. Production will start at Hyundai’s new Alabama assembly plant in Spring 2006 for a Summer launch. Though details on the North American version have not been entirely laid out by Hyundai, educated guesses can be made. Exterior styling will be similar if not identical to the Korean-market version launched in November 2005.

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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.

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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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