When the RAV4 landed, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In a world of unified corporate identity the RAv4 goes off script with a look all to its own. While the old RAV sold on mini-truck looks, the new one is undisguised crossover. The new nose has grown on me slightly since I recorded the video above, but I still find the look a little awkward. Since I was scolded for wearing striped pants with a striped shirt the week I tested the RAV4, feel free take my style opinion with a grain of salt as you click through the jump.
Officially this is just a concept, but the Lexus LF-NX is supposed to preview an upcoming competitor to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Using the familiar 2.5L 4-cylinder hybrid powertrain, the LF-NX will be available in FWD or AWD variants, though specific figures like power output have yet to be announced.
Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible. (Read More…)
MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because the German owners of the iconic British brand have decided American domination hinges on making the biggest MINI yet. Enter the MINI Countryman. Or as I like to call it, the MINI Maxi.
As a small, independent, enthusiast-oriented automaker, Mazda is constantly in a fight for its life, and with its profits eaten away by a rising yen, this is more true than ever. And though Mazdas tend to consistently receive critical praise for their handling characteristics, styling has long been something of a sticking point for the brand. Last year Mazda launched a new look, called KODO, which aimed to position the company as “the Japanese Alfa-Romeo.” And though the first KODO car ever shown was a rather stunning sedan (since nicknamed the “Mazda-rati”), its first production KODO design is a rather more prosaic compact crossover, the CX-5. Which, in a way is fitting: if Mazda wants to survive to build Miatas and Speed3s, it will need to sell a grip of compact platform-variants like this one. Not only does this CX-5 look like it should sell better than the aging Escape-rebadge Tribute it replaces, its fuel economy (ranging between 26-33 for FWD/MT and 25/30 with AWD/AT) is finally competitive too. Now, as long as it drives like a Mazda…
As a global vehicle, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is already something of a name-shifter. In Europe the compact crossover is called the ASX, and in Japan (and Pacific Rim export markets) it’s part of the proud RVR lineage that dates back to the Eagle Summit. And now it’s shifting shapes as well, morphing into a set of French twins: the Citroen C4 Aircross and the Peugeot 4008. And unlike their big siblings, the blatantly Outlander-based 4007 and C-Crosser, these twins are from the new school of brand-engineering. In terms of sheet metal, only the doors carry over directly from the Outlander Sport… although the roofline gives away the secret. But the fact that PSA is rebadging Mitsubishis at all might just give you a little insight into why Mitsu is doing relatively well as a company, despite a weak image and sagging sales in the US: a little market share in a lot of markets still pays the bills.
Tick off all the boxes on an Audi Q5 order form, and you’ll find yourself staring at a $58,350 tab. Too much for a compact crossover? Well, the example seen here will set you back $20,000 less. Now I know what you’re thinking: “A mere $38,400 for a right-sized chunk of German engineering? Sign me up!” Not so fast—to save twenty large you must give up something. But what?
Bloomberg reports that Ford will not build its Kuga compact crossover at its Louisville, KY plant due to the falling Euro and UAW recalcitrance. According to the report
The promise of Kuga production in Louisville began to fall apart in November when UAW members rejected Ford’s request to match givebacks it gave General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. Ford’s U.S. rivals, which each reorganized in bankruptcy last year, were granted a six-year freeze on wages for new hires and a ban on some strikes until 2015… The euro has fallen 14 percent against the dollar since Ford reached a tentative deal with the UAW in October to build the Kuga in Louisville alongside its mechanical twin, the Escape. At the time, the dollar had declined against the euro, lowering the cost of U.S.-made goods. Since then, the euro has dropped amid concerns Europe’s debt crisis may trigger another recession.
Barclays analyst Brian Johnson explains
This is a reminder to the UAW that Ford’s U.S. cars don’t have to be produced in the U.S. Ford’s global architecture allows them to build anywhere. That’s good news if the U.S. has competitive labor costs. It’s bad news if they don’t
The Compact Crossover segment has changed a bit since last month, as the Honda CR-V enjoyed strong demand en route to over 20k monthly sales. Rogue had a strong month as well, but still ended up about 5k units shy of last month’s segment leader, the Ford Escape. Terrain seems to be going a bit weak compared to recent months, and even Equinox was down a bit from its July 2009 number. Sportage is way off ahead of its new model rollout, but once the 2011s come in, expect Kia cute ute to mix things up in the 7k-ish and above monthly volume range.
With Ford and Honda running away with the compact crossover segment, a tight pack of competitors is gathering around the 100k annual unit mark (graph after the jump). Hyundai has already thrown its redesigned Sorento into this fearsome battle with promising results so far (20k units YTD), but Kia’s Sportage has been battling in this segment since before it was cool. Literally. As far as we can tell, it’s the oldest continuously-sold compact CUV nameplate in the US market… which makes you wonder what a continuously-evolved Chevy Tracker might have become. Anyway, after years of Tracker-like neglect, Sportage is coming back with a fresh set of Peter Schreyer-tailored duds. Not to mention a direct-injection, turbocharged engine option (“270-plus horsepower” according to the press release), Bluetooth, and the UVO hands-free system (think SYNC). As you can imagine, the price has gone up some…
These cars may never go off the road, but it’s also beginning to look like their sales won’t go off the rails any time soon either. Kia’s Sportage was the big year-over-year loser last month, but it’s about to be replaced with an all-new model. The battle continues…