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Exhaust Note #11 – When Did Small Vehicles Get So…Nice?

  • May 12, 2008
  • Exhaust Note
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Automotive technology always seems to trickle down from the high end. And why shouldn’t it? Expensive and innovative technologies typically appear in luxury vehicles first, but as they increase in popularity and volume, economies of scale ultimately make them financially viable to mainstream consumers.
Coincidentally, a whole host of formerly pricey accoutrements are making their way into small vehicles at a time when interest in small vehicles is increasing. Yes, fuel prices have a lot to do with increased consumer interest in smaller vehicles, but it’s also a steadily increasing number of young, Generation Y first time buyers coming into the marketplace.


Just last week, Suzuki announced that navigation will be standard – yes, standard – in the 2009 Suzuki SX4, their little entry level car. And it’s no bare bones nav either – it includes all the latest in navigation technology, such as real time traffic, weather, local events, and integrated Bluetooth for your cell phone, which is also capable of reading your text messages to you. Developed by Garmin and Microsoft, Suzuki’s T.R.I.P. (travel, real-time traffic, information and play) system incorporates infotainment features that many luxury cars don’t even offer yet. You can bet that similar technology will soon be available (if not standard) in competing small vehicles in the near future.

This certainly helps take the sting out of driving a smaller vehicle. It was only a few years ago that even the best small cars were penalty boxes relative to bigger ones. It wasn’t just the lack of features, but it was also a lack of refinement. Small cars were noisy and harsh riding and cramped, in addition to being devoid of features. Contemporary small vehicles have become much more stylish and refined, and the advent of advanced technology in these small vehicles makes them much more appealing for those who choose to downsize for reasons of fuel economy. Small vehicles in Europe and Asia have long gone down this road; historically high fuel prices there have made smaller vehicles the default, meaning that many of these vehicles have high end features and refinement that we would see in larger vehicles Stateside.
Much of the increase in small vehicle sales that we foresee will come from Generation Y. This generation is massive, at 76 million people. According to AutoPacific (VehicleVoice’s parent company), only 9% of buyers in 2007 were Generation Y, but this will increase dramatically in the coming years. Currently, many Generation Y members don’t even have driver’s licenses yet, but they will very soon, driving sales of entry level cars. Keeping in mind that Generation Y has grown up with technology and in fact regards it as a given, the mainstreaming of in-vehicle technology is very well timed.
In any case, though Suzuki’s move seems pretty radical, we’ll definitely start seeing other manufacturers offering similar technologies very soon. Even Hyundai – long synonymous with entry level value – just announced a few days ago that they will be offering a version of the Microsoft SYNC system in their vehicles within the next couple of years. Whether you just want to save fuel or you’re just getting started in life, there’s never been a better time to drive a small vehicle.

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