January not only turns the calendar forward, it also opens the doors on what is on the horizon for the automotive industry. Of course, Detroit is weighing heavily on it’s own existence and needs to outsell by a large margin the European and Japanese vehicles also available within our borders. Nevermind that the largess of their profits go to employee subsidees becuase the unions have practically bargained their employers to the table of bankruptcy… Oh… Sorry… Did that already.
So, how does the future look for the “Big 3″…? It looks good… Not THAT good. But good. Will they pull enough numbers from the imports to turn a profit? The short answer is “no”. Will their workforce capitulate to reality and accept some concessions so they have a company to work for in three years? Damn… Sorry… …read more…
Let’s start with Chrysler. They had a good run with the Neon. Remember the Neon? They don’t make it anymore. Why? I don’t know. It was cheap, economical and they sold like cocaine at a porn filming. But no, you can’t get a new one any more. You can buy a Sebring or a Charger or a 300… It seems Chrysler decided America wanted a hemi to drive to the soccer game. Yes, they are fast and some are stylish. But for the same money you can get the size and speed, plus more style and mileage per gallon, from a Nissan or Toyota.
Ford. Oh Henry, what has become of you? You still have the Focus which is a big seller with many options and performance packages. You have hybrids on the way in the Fusion and others. But your style is so stiff. The Taurus is just a larger Fusion and the Mustang is trying to compete with super-cars that leave it outclassed from the word “Go”. The Edge seems to do well marketed as a “crossover SUV” but is really a sedan with a smaller SUV stuck on it. And, while we’re there, let’s face it. The giant, luxury SUV has seen it’s day come and go. These are nothing more than giant “station wagons” for people that did not want to be seen in a van. They could go off-road but who would take them there and scratch up their $40,000 vehicle? It was stupid to buy the things in the first place when there were plenty of Jeeps and used Range Rovers out there to get dirty. BTW – What’s the re-sell on those things these days….?
Come on, Ford, you have control of Mazda, for crying out loud! And Volvo, for that matter. It should make you feel like a slug in a marguarita glass when you see a new Mazda rolling of the lot across the street while you scratch your head and wonder “why?” Sure, the Fusion is loosely based on the Mazda 6 chassis and it’s not a bad looking car… it’s just that the Mazda is, well…., it’s not a Ford. Face it. Ford suffers from the same blight that Chrysler does… They just aren’t “cool” in the minds of many consumers. They had their day and it ended when the first Pinto blew up. Why is it that Ford puts so much into the heritage of the Mustang or Dodge is showing off Challengers and Chargers…? It is an attempt at grabbing back that “cool” mindset of the American Muscle Car.
Unfortunately, the consumers also want handling and interior comfort. Have you ever sat in a BMW 5 series…?
General Motors. Well, it seems GM may be a little ahead of the curve as far as stealing from their European subsidiaries is concerned. They have a few more vehicles that are simply “re-styles” from across the pond. Some are simply the same car with a Chevy badge glued on, for the most part. Look at the little Aveo (Daewoo, South Korea). It has been upgraded for 2009 to better match it’s better competitors. The Yaris and Fit from Toyota and Honda offered better horsepower and fuel economy in earlier versions. Imagine that.
If you’ve never been “over there” or watched, for instance, “Top Gear” on BBC America, then it is likely you’ve never heard of Vauxhall. The folks at GM own them. Which, in reality means GM actually owns Opel and Holden which markets vehicles in the UK as Vauxhall. Confused yet? Well, to further twist your frontal lobe, have a look at the new Pontiac G8 GXP which is a larger and more powerful cousin of the G5 and G6. (Apparently, the two needed a larger cousin…) That, my friends, is a Vauxhall VXR8 which is actually built in Australia by Holden. Of course, it’s been “Pontiac-ed” with the nose and a bit of sheet metal change but it’s still a Vauxhall. To be honest, I think the VXR8 looks better despite the fact that it heavilly resembles a Mitsubishi “Evo” with that big open grill… This, by the way, replaces the GTO which, despite good reviews, did not do well in the showroom…
Look at the Buick Lacrosse which is also moving towards a Vauxhall chassis. The “Epsilon II” platform will carry a few GM shells, including the LaCrosse, the Chevy Malibu and the Saturn Aura. The Vauxhall (Opel) Insignia already is out in Europe and the UK. The LaCrosse resembles it almost to a “T” but some of the changes to make it a “Buick” just take away from the looks of the European version. Why they don’t just change the grill for the different models I couldn’t say. The Insignia looks sharp and already has good reviews. Hey guys, just grab some of that Aveo glue and stick on some new emblems. Done.
As it stands now, The U.S. auto makers are not innovating anything really new. Don’t believe it? Look at a Ford Fusion… Now look at a Nissan Altima… Hmmmmmm.