Scion is quite sure of one thing: the new iQ is a much better car than the smart fortwo. What they’re much less sure of: how many of the targeted fine young North American urbanites will buy one rather than periodically use Zipcar. I’m neither young nor urban, but I’m going to do my best to pretend. Why might I buy this car—or not?
Well, it sure looked like the Kia Soul was poised to take out the Nissan Versa as the king of the small cars, especially in light of Michael Karesh’s lukewarm review. But the new Versa has roared back into contention last month, outselling the two next-closest nameplates combined. The Soul is hanging onto its lead in the YTD numbers, but that won’t last if the Versa keeps up this pace. On the other hand, an updated, more efficient Soul is hitting the market soon, and Kia’s new Rio should help take the fight back to Nissan. Meanwhile, The Fiat 500 still has yet to outsell the MINI, Sonic and Veloster are just entering the market, and Hyundai’s brand-new (and reportedly supply-limited) Accent can’t move past Honda’s aging Fit. But really, there’s only one story here… how about that Nissan Versa?
Do you have automotive tastes common among people of a certain age? Not a fan of huge wheels or firm seats? Want something economical? Meet the new 2012 Nissan Versa.
It’s been… several months since I last indulged my strange obsession with Kia’s forthcoming funky take on first-gen Scion xB values, known as the TAM. And back then, all I had to share were a few crummy photos. Now, thanks to Youtube user daniel78park, we can see the Tam flying down the Korean freeway in glorious cell-phone-o-vision. And though I’ve always assumed the TAM was just a boxy, city-delivery variant of the Picanto/i10 platform, it seems my weird crush is more than that. Automotive News [sub] reports
Kia has dubbed its EV effort the TAM project. Kia’s first EV will be a small vehicle based on the platform underpinning the Hyundai i10 minicar. The company plans to produce 2,000 units in 2012.
Hold up… is my weird crush electric?
So, what’s your checklist? If you read this site regularly, you have one: the characteristics of your ideal next car. Perhaps more than one, if you have the need or desire for more than one type of car. One of my checklists concerns my ideal compact hatch. The latest contestant: the 2012 Hyundai Accent SE.
I like to tout myself as the youngest full-time auto writer in the industry, but sometimes it backfires – like when an Acura exec came up to me on my first press trip (at 19 years old) and warmly told a few assembled journalists and PR types that he hadn’t seen me since I was this big.
On the other hand, my youth gave me particular insight into two products that launched within the last month, and are aimed squarely at my demographic – the Hyundai Veloster and the Chevrolet Sonic. Both cars launched at the 2011 North American International Auto Show, though their reception couldn’t have been more different.
Under Penske management, the Smart minicar brand sold fewer than 6,000 vehicles last year, capping a sales decline that led Mercedes to take back management duties for the brand. And, according to the new folks in charge of Smart, there’s only one real problem with the brand: awareness. Or, more precisely, lack thereof. We’ve heard this song before from Smart’s new GM, but now Ernst Lieb, boss of Mercedes U.S.A., is picking up the tune, telling Automotive News [sub] that
With the marketing activities that we’re going to have, we’ll see some positive momentum. The biggest problem the car has right now: Nobody knows it.
Which, of course, is nonsense. Nonsense that allows you to appear aware of the sales problem without acknowledging a single problem with the product itself, but nonsense none the less. And Smart’s not the only micro-car brand that’s reaching for it either, as Fiat-Chrysler marketing boss Olivier Francois has the exact same excuse for Fiat’s weak start, telling AdAge
I don’t think we have a car problem; people love the car. I think we have an awareness problem.
Are Americans incapable of seeing, recognizing or being aware of anything that weighs less than 3,000 lbs? Or is it possible that there are a few things wrong with the Smart and 500?
When Toyota built the first generation of its Vitz subcompact in 1998, the firm had no plans to sell it in the US under the Yaris nameplate (as it was called in Europe). Instead it sold a four-door and two-door version of the Platz, which was mechanically identical but had unique sheetmetal (except for the front doors), as the Echo. The Echo fell into a pattern that seems to have repeated itself several times in Toyota’s recent subcompact past: a year of growth, and then a drop. Eventually, Toyota brought the Yaris nameplate to the US, with a hatchback option in tow, and found its strongest performer in this class since the Tercel.
Now, with the hatchback bodystyle back in vogue, Toyota’s dropping the Yaris sedan altogether for the new generation, debuting later this year. It’s not the JDM/Euro Yaris/Vitz which Bertel showed us back in December, but it is being built at the revolutionary Sendai plant he visited in Fbruary. And without a sedan counterpoint, it will definitely mark an entirely new approach for Toyota’s US-market subcompact strategy.
In contrast to rapid changes in the compact and midsized segments, the subcompact segment is moving along established trendlines. Kia’s Soul has completely overtaken this segment’s previous champ, but that’s been a long time coming. A new Accent is arriving at dealers, and that model’s starting to take off… in fact, if there’s news here, it’s that the Accent appears to be outselling the segment’s next-freshest offering, the Ford Fiesta. Otherwise, Aveo and Rio are dropping off ahead of their replacement by new models, the 500 is getting closer to MINI’s monthly volume, and Mazda2 can’t quite get past the Cube The YTD chart doesn’t show too many changes either… but watch this space as the A/B segment heats up with new models later this year.
For most Americans, the term “small car” typically refers to a C-segment sedan like the Honda Civic or Ford Focus, cars that now qualify as midsizers in many key metrics. Subcompact, or B-segment cars are generally considered the smallest of the small, as their name implies… but ask an American to describe a car smaller than a subcompact, and they’ll likely look at you quizzically before hesitantly suggesting “Smart car?” Yes, the A-Segment, known in Europe as the “City Car” or Microcar” class, is such a rarity in the US that it’s basically synonymous with the one car “competing” in it (Fiat’s 500 hasn’t quite broken into the public consciousness yet).
But, with Chevy execs confirming once and for all that the on-again-off-again (for the US) Chevy Spark (a.k.a. Daewoo Matiz Creative) will in fact be sold in the US (likely as a 2013 model) early next year, the American A-segment is about to get a whole lot of attention. But the question is this: does the fact that America’s first new A-segment car in a decade is a Chevy help or hurt the segment’s chances (consider that previous US A-segment cars like the 500 and Smart are positioned as premium offerings)? Is this car, with its 80 HP/82 lb-ft, 1.2 liter engine a pioneering game-changer that will introduce America to a whole new world of tiny cars, or is it just CAFE compliance fodder? One thing is for certain: everyone from Hyundai to Ford (which have the i10 and Ka waiting in the wings) is going to be watching the Spark with great interest.