There was an interesting article in today’s edition of Automotive News that explored part of the reason behind Chrysler’s dramatic sales rise over the past few months. While industry-wide sales growth in the US has been around 10 percent, Chrysler is growing far more rapidly around a 30 percent clip. The rub: Chrysler appears to be catering to sub-prime auto buyers more than most other manufacturers.
By Charles Krome
After years of lackluster sales—highlighted by a puzzling inability to build on the success of one of the most driver-friendly cars in America—Mitsubishi is in the midst of reinventing itself for the U.S. market. The automaker is stopping production of the Galant mid-size sedan, Endeavor mid-size crossover and style-over-substance Eclipse, and focusing on three key nameplates: The Lancer family of compacts (including the Evolution and Sportback), the Outlander crossovers (among them the recently Savant-reviewed Outlander Sport) and the Mitsubishi i, the automaker’s urban-oriented electric vehicle.
By Chris Haak
When I was growing up, I always thought the word “express” meant “fast.” But then a few years ago, I had a colleague with a different theory on what the word meant. “When did ‘express’ get a new definition that means ‘same thing, only smaller? Holiday Inn Express: same thing, only smaller. Pizza Hut Express: same thing, only smaller.”
By Chris Haak
If you ask automakers what the hot ticket is likely to be in the next several years, they might say that premium compact cars are a potential growth area. After all, with gas prices approaching the $4.00 per gallon line in many parts of the US, uncertainty in the Middle East, and increasingly-stringent CAFE standards on the horizon, we’ll have more small cars in the new-car mix.
With more small cars, that means more variety in the style, powertrain, equipment, and even size. Yes, there are varying degrees of small. To some traditionalists, the Chevy Cruze is small; to a Smart ForTwo driver, the Cruze is a perhaps large, wasteful near-midsize car masquerading as a small car. There are also now cheap small cars – like the base Nissan Versa, and small cars that are more premium – like the Buick Verano. The Mitsubishi Lancer GTS reviewed here kind of falls into the middle of the spectrum. It’s a cheap car with some premium features.
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By Chris Haak
It goes without saying that in the devastating earthquake and follow-up tsunami that hit Japan last Friday, the largest cost will be a human one. Thousands of people have been killed, and the death toll is going to continue to rise in the coming days and weeks as cleanup and recovery operations progress.
There’s also an economic cost to the disaster. Early estimates are that reconstruction costs might exceed $35 billion USD, to say nothing of the diversion of resources away from attempting to grow Japan’s economy and overcome a 20-year period of stagnant economic growth and immense public debt. The auto industry in Japan is not immune from these forces, and in fact has already been significantly impacted by the disaster, with more to come.
By Carl Malek
In an interview with Autocar magazine, Gayu Eusegi, Mitsubishi’s Head of Global Development, issued a statement which suggested that the company’s Evo franchise will meet its end after the company concludes production with the Lancer Evolution X. According to Eusegi, this surprising decision is part of the company’s shift from a maker of rally-inspired cars to a leading maker of environmentally-friendly vehicles. On that note, AutoCar has indicated that the company has plans to produce eight new models with Pure EV and Hybrid electric capability by 2015 with the intent of taking a big share of the growing green car market. With that statement in mind, its easy to see how the fun but fuel-thirsty Evo model in its current form could be an enormous contradiction to the company’s new policy of being a leader in EV and hybrid technology.
When later asked about the possibility of a hybrid powered Evolution model, Eusegi appeared to put that notion to rest as well by saying, “Maybe the world can change and maybe someday we can do a motor race by electric vehicles. Maybe then we can enter the market again.”
By Chris Haak
The conventional wisdom is that green cars such as hybrids and EVs have to look like something a little different from the standard three-box sedan if they hope to enjoy sales success. Accordingly, it explains why the Prius outsells the Camry Hybrid.
Well, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV certainly fits the bill of looking different. Technically, I suppose that it’s a one-box car, though in reality, it is far more ovoid and organically shaped to call it a box. It’s smaller than nearly everything on the road today, and will certainly attract attention wherever it goes. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive an i-MiEV (Japan spec, right hand drive) at a media event, and I found the car to be a curious blend of the normal and abnormal as I tallied a few miles in the little EV.
By Chris Haak
Call it naïveté, call it giving folks the benefit of the doubt, call it whatever you want to. But as a long-time buff book reader (I subscribed to Motor Trend continuously between 1987 and July 2010, or about 23 years), I never paid much mind to critics that accused media outlets of providing favorable editorial coverage for certain manufacturers and vehicles in return for advertising dollars. Is the Motor Trend Car of the Year award driven by the best car, or by the best advertiser? I’d always assumed that these magazines would take the high road and provide a fair and accurate description of the industry and its vehicles so that their readers could make informed choices when considering how to part with their hard-earned money.
But sitting at the breakfast table this morning with my newly-arrived October 2010 Road & Track, reading a single paragraph almost made me spit out my Cookie Crisp cereal. At once, this single paragraph caused me to completely discount nearly everything else that I had read and was about to read in this magazine, and indeed, in many magazines. The paragraph in question is found in R&T‘s “New Cars for 2011″ section, a 28-page spread that highlights the changes to 2011 model-year vehicls with nary a critical comment. That in and of itself is not reason to raise eyebrows, as “buyer’s guides” that tiptoe around a car’s shortcomings are certainly nothing new, but here’s what raised my hackles.
By Chris Haak
Mitsubishi has been having a tough couple of years in the US market. Last year, when the overall light-vehicle market was down 21 percent, the three-diamond company’s sales tanked more than twice as fast as the overall market, with a 45 percent drop. This year, when the rising tide is supposed to be lifting all the boats, Mitsubishi’s US sales are basically flat.
There are two bright spots in Mitsubishi’s sales figures, though: the Lancer compact sedan and the Outlander compact crossover. Not coincidentally, those two models are Mitsubishi’s freshest ones, and the company’s most competent, most normally-styled vehicles. While the aging Eclipse on pace to sell just 5,000 units in 2010, and the fleet queen Galant sedan selling at just about double that pace (and far from the pace of the sales-leading Camry), it seems that Mitsubishi needs to refresh its lineup to have any hope of increasing sales from their depressed levels back to the heady days of zero percent financing loans with no money down to unqualified buyers early in the last decade.
By Chris Haak
We’re not quite sure why this is even news today, since former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz told reporters two years ago, in 2008, that the Chevy Volt would sell for about $40,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit. But as the Volt’s fall 2010 launch date approaches, the company has confirmed that Lutz’s prediction proved true. At that time, Lutz also noted that the Volt in its first generation would blow past its cost target by some $10,000, or 33 percent over the $30,000 bogey at the time the program’s development began.
Why is the Volt so expensive, when a new Prius goes for about half the price with similar interior space (actually, the Prius seats five, and the Volt seats only four) and an all-electric Nissan Leaf goes for $32,780? And why should you consider a Volt over a Prius or Leaf?
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