Looking over the photos in GM’s media website this afternoon, an infographic caught my eye. (Actually, two infographics caught my eye, but this is the more interesting of the two. I’ll mention the other one at the end). In the particular item I’m focusing my attention on, GM defines the competition for its upcoming Chevrolet Spark minicar. It’s an interesting choice for comparison, and seemingly one out of left field. Read on for the punchline.
The infographic is comparing the Chevrolet Spark with the average 1973 full-size American car. That’s right – compared to a fat-ass, 40 year old land yacht, the Spark seemingly holds its own. In case you don’t want to click through on the image to see an enlarged version, I’ll recap its key points below.
As you might expect, the mini-car is 50% smaller than the typical ’73 American full-size sedan.
…and the average 1980 full-size sedan was already probably 25% smaller than these Leviathans. Soon after the 1973 model year, after the first Arab oil embargo, the race for larger cars and larger engines quickly disappeared, and Detroit raced to design smaller cars, including the well-received 1977 Chevrolet Caprice. The oil embargo was a good thing for America in the long run; it snapped us out of the mindset that led to things like the “average 1973 full-size sedan.”
The 2013 subcompacts have front and rear headroom and front legroom that virtually matches the average 1973 American full-sized sedan.
Body-on-frame vehicle architecture is terribly space-inefficient; that’s why automakers began to abandon it decades before this 1973 line in the sand. You’ll note the careful choice of statistics does not mention cargo volume (it’s unlikely that any dead bodies will fit in the cargo hold of a Spark with the rear seat in use, but you could probably fit a half dozen in a ’73 Caprice Classic). Also, no mention of rear-seat legroom. That’s because there is none in the Spark when the front seat is adjusted to match the full-size car’s front-seat legroom measurement.
Where seating height is designed foremost for your comfort -he new subcompacts like the Chevy Spark are actually 6 inches taller than the 1973 sedan.
…and the 1973 sedan’s headroom decreased further after its headliner glue separated from the cardboard backing and it began to sag. In all seriousness, small cars today often are proportionately tall preciselly for this reason. Though they look odd sometimes, it’s a great way to preserve some degree of comfort while maintaining a small footprint.
When looking at the wheels, size does matter. The wheels on the new 2013 mini cars and the 1973 full-size cars are equal. Both maintain their poise on standard 15-inch rims.
Left unsaid is the fact that the 1973 probably had narrow 75-series tires with those 15 inch rims, while the Spark is so small that it can’t really go any larger than 15 or 16 inches without looking over-tired. The Spark will have 185/55-15s.
I’ll give them credit for a creative comparison, but obviously nobody is cross-shopping the Spark against a 40-year old car. But if they want to do that, I’d wager that the Spark probably has a better power to weight ratio than the big boy had in its prime, and its exhaust probably contains (literally) less than 1 percent of the pollutants that the uncatalyzed big-bore V8 in these cars did. I’d really like to see a spec comparison of the Spark vs. a Scion iQ or another true minicar. (Are there any other minicars sold in the US that will compete against the Spark in such a niche segment? I wouldn’t count the Smart ForTwo with its two-seat layout.)
The other infographic that caught my attention contained five points in which GM refuted incorrect assumptions about diesel power as it tries to build interest in diesel powertrains for cars ahead of the US launch of the Cruze diesel next year. That car will have a 2.0 liter four cylinder turbodiesel and will be nothing at all like the last GM diesel cars a quarter century ago. The reason for my amusement? It was GM’s lousy engineering of the Oldsmobile V8 diesel back then that sullied the reputation of diesel engines in the US for literally an entire generation of new-car buyers. The misconceptions that GM is attempting to refute with this infographic were caused by its own incompetence. They aren’t misconceptions unless you’re comparing to the diesels of today; they are probably spot-on if describing the Olds diesels.