The Truth About Cars » segment The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:35:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » segment June Sales: Compact CUVs Tue, 06 Jul 2010 21:33:01 +0000

Ford’s Escape wasn’t the best-selling compact crossover in June, but it only needed to cruise to an easy victory as the best selling compact crossover in the first half of 2010. Honda and Toyota’s offerings are still over 10k units behind the mighty Escape on the half, with the Equinox claiming fourth place, and Rogue and Forester neck-and-neck for fifth.

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Sales Chart: The “Big Six” Midsize Sedans In 2010 Fri, 02 Jul 2010 19:34:26 +0000

These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But there’s danger down below. Hyundai’s Sonata has been making steady progress all year (June excepted), and the Malibu has enjoyed more modest, but equally steady growth. Altima all but matched Camry in February, and gave Accord a scare in March. There’s still a tight pack of four nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Time to start coming up with a new nickname for the D-Segment?

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Analysis-Retentive Edition Tue, 18 May 2010 23:54:01 +0000

About a half-hour after TTAC’s 15 Years of Compact Car Sales graph went up today, the normally enthusiast-oriented car blog Jalopnik gave the internet its own take on compact-car segment analysis with a post titled The Ford Fiesta Will Dominate The Small Car Segment. Some might question how this is supposed to jive with Jalopnik’s alleged commitment to “awesomeness,” but our concerns are far more prosaic. Examples: the absence of the Fiesta’s actual competitors like the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, and the absence of interior volume comparisons which would expose this “comparison” for the fraud it is. And that’s just for starters…

Of course, Jalop’s Ben Wojdyla covers his own ass by disclaiming that

We’ve run the numbers on the Ford’s newest entry to the compact car segment — the Fiesta — and put together the following chart comparing it to the top four highest-selling small cars (one size larger than the compact segment) in the U.S. marketplace. We think it explains very well why we think the Fiesta’s going to sell as well as we claim…

…There are certainly many factors not considered here including interior space, styling inside and out, buyer loyalty and all the vagaries which make the small car segment such vicious competition.

Let’s ignore the segment-definition semantics and focus on interior space for a moment, as this is clearly the most important missing link. By comparing the B-Segment (subcompact) Fiesta with C-Segment (compact) “competitors,” Wojdyla is assuming that Americans simply don’t consider size in their vehicular purchases. Though almost anyone could confirm just how misguided this perspective is, let’s use a real world example by comparing Ford’s Fiesta with a real competitor: Toyota’s Yaris sedan with automatic transmission.

According to Toyota, the Yaris weighs 2,346 lbs to the Fiesta’s 2,400 lbs. Its 1.5 liter engine makes 14 horsepower and 9 lb-ft less than the Fiesta’s, and offers only a 4-speed autobox. This drivetrain deficit translates into a Fiesta-identical 29 MPG in the city, but a more C-segment-like 35 MPG on the freeway. In short, the Fiesta’s got a more modern drivetrain… big surprise considering the Yaris has been around since 2005.

Where the comparison gets, well, apt, is the interior volumes and pricing. The Fiesta sedan offers 85 cubic feet of EPA “passenger volume” and 12.8 cubic feet of luggage capacity. By comparison, the Yaris four-door offers over 87 cubic feet of EPA “passenger volume” and 12.9 cubic feet of trunk room. Based on our “build your own” research, a base Yaris sedan with autobox costs just under $800 more than the cheapest available slushbox Fiesta sedan, but comes with more equipment, including such basics as a CD player. We’ll let Michael Karesh fill in the gaps on pricing, but suffice it to say they’re pretty much a wash.

Regardless, what Jalopnik’s “analysis” and prediction of Fiesta dominance assumes is that a slightly smaller Yaris with an updated drivetrain and styling (and a blue oval where the “T” should be) will sell in the kind of volume that will challenge C-segment entries. And this is where things fall apart completely. In its four full years of US sales (2006-2009), the Yaris sold 70,308, 84,799, 102,328, and 63,743 units. In those four years, Toyota’s C-Segment competitor, the Corolla, never sold fewer than 296,874 units (2009). Honda’s Fit also has the same four years of sales data, and despite earning rave reviews it’s never cracked 80k annual sales. Honda’s Civic averaged over 300k units per year over the same four-year period.

Given how flawed Jalopnik’s premise is, and how poorly it was argued, one has to wonder: why print this at all? Was this just filler? Was Wojdyla merely phoning in a half-baked concept? It’s certainly possible… after all, no blogger can be completely on top of his game at all times. But then, economy-car segment analysis isn’t exactly Jalopnik’s idea of filler. And, as the Detroit Free Press (and Bloomberg, and, well, everyone) reports, Ford’s Fiesta marketing machine is swinging into high gear today, as The Blue Oval gears up for its self-proclaimed “biggest launch of the year” by launching its new Fiesta ads.

Now, we don’t want to make any accusations without proof of an explicit quid-pro-quo, but we’ll let you connect the dots. Instead of making passive-aggressive but ultimately unprovable implications of auto-media shenanigans, let’s simply let the circumstances speak for themselves. Jalopnik’s Fiesta “segment analysis” is just too off-base, too out of character, too convenient for Ford’s marketing efforts and too perfectly timed to coincide with said marketing to not raise a few eyebrows. We don’t think TTAC should should have a blogopoly on segment analysis, sales breakdowns, and the like, but these kinds of content only work when they actually create meaning. Jalopnik’s attempt was confusing at best, and cynical prostitution of the facts at worst. In the future, they’d do best to stick with the “awesomeness.”

[Editor's note: The tortured relationship between automakers and the media outlets that cover them has long been a major topic of interest here at TTAC (check out our "Media" tab for more). Over decades, competition between auto media sources has created a buyer's market for credibility and given rise to a range of implicit and explicit quid-pro-quo agreements, in which OEMs trade journalist access and advertising dollars for favorable coverage. Jalopnik has officially and emphatically disclaimed any form of quid-pro-quo in this instance, and we must reiterate that we have no evidence of any such agreement.

The original purpose of this post was to "peer-review" the content and context of Jalopnik's comparison analysis in the spirit of this site's commitment to the truth. Our conclusion that the comparison was ultimately misleading and poorly timed remains unchanged. As does our respect for Jalopnik as an enthusiast site that should never have to stoop to anything as embarrassingly pedantic as segment analysis. After all, that's our job.]

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Remember The Aztek! Thu, 19 Nov 2009 19:02:05 +0000 A paper-bagger if ever there were one... (

When Pontiac’s infamously retina-searing Aztek pops up in popular auto industry analysis, it’s usually as little more than a throwaway punchline. So credit‘s Matthew DeBord for trying to leave the Thesaurus entry for “ugly” out of a recent piece dedicated entirely to one of the great modern styling miscalculations. Unfortunately, his admirable restraint serves only to further a wholly unsupportable thesis:

GM needs to remember the Aztek, because it represents the kind of risk-taking design that the post-bankruptcy firm will need to go forward. The temptation for the New General will be to copy successful market formulas, rather than try to define new market segments.

DeBord’s fundamental error is his misguided belief that the Aztek was a pioneer in the burgeoning crossover segment:

The Aztek, introduced in 2001, was an attempt to do something entirely different… It’s easy to berate GM for always failing to see where the market is going. But in this instance it was the first to recognize the need for a new kind of vehicle to fill the crossover segment, which would grow rapidly in subsequent years. A crossover is basically a 21st-century station wagon. SUVs are usually built on the same platform used for trucks—and they often feel that way when you drive them. They also inhale gas. Crossovers, by contrast, are built on platforms used for cars, so they have better road manners, and they’re more fuel-efficient. There were some crossover-ish vehicles before the Aztek, such as the Subaru Forester, but these were seen as neo-wagons, or small/compact SUVs. With the Aztek, GM created something that had SUV size, minus the SUV stigma. An innovative GM? Well, yes. GM can sometimes be, for all its detractors, troublingly ahead of the curve. And the Aztek was first in this mold.

Er, no. The Lexus RX is, without question the pioneering model of the modern CUV segment (although proto-crossover precedent has existed for decades), having debuted in 1998. Had DeBord taken a minute to check Wikipedia’s “Crossover SUV” article, he might have saved his readers and ours from having to gaze once again upon the Aztek’s grim countenance. Instead, his entire thesis falls apart.

The Aztek’s emergence no fewer than three years (or one development cycle) after the RX in 2001, more than indicates that GM essentially copied the RX in concept. In fact, the Aztek’s only “innovation” was an overemphasis on “lifestyle” branding that was an unfortunate hallmark of the Ron Zarrella-era General Motors. And which saddled the Aztek with epically unlovable styling and doomed it to its current status as a rolling mark of shame. If there’s a lesson here, it’s that GM should copy innovative designs early, and steadily improve them instead of over-marketing them into niche irrelevance or worse.

Unfortunately, DeBord’s lessons from the Aztek experiment couldn’t be more different. And the implications for GM’s future are troubling.

The Aztek didn’t work, but it demonstrated that GM had the capacity to invent a product that people didn’t know they wanted. The General can still do this—the forthcoming Chevy Volt-extended-range electric car could be a game-changer for the company. But it needs to keep doing it.

And even though it might fail miserably … well, that’s the auto industry. Success is never guaranteed. But blandly hewing to what has worked, falling victim to fear rather than having the confidence to completely miss the mark from time to time, will not bring GM back to its glory days. Or even, someday, enable the company to return to profitability and pay back the taxpayer. So remember the Aztek. It may not have been great. But it gave birth to a new idea in the auto business, and that’s gold.

Or, remember the Aztek as a colossal missed experience, rife with the usual lessons of old GM… and a monstrous warning for Volt optimists.

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