Trucks Descend, Crossovers Take The Center Stage
By Lauren Woods
Automakers are following a common pattern and the said pattern is forcibly created by the shift of market to small and fuel-efficient cars. As obvious as it is, the demand for trucks is waning. As a fact, analysts are saying that they are descending on the auto industry's center stage to make way for crossovers and compact cars. This is the very reason why automakers are unveiling more and more compacts and crossovers.
Auto shows mirror what auto enthusiasts want to purchase. They are the barometers that gauge the desires customers. Those vehicles that occupy the center stage are likely to be the hot-sellers. In 2006, mileage was given significant attention. This year, auto shows give emphasis on crossovers, compacts and number of full-size trucks from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.
"Small cars are still in the picture this year, but the people who decide what vehicles will be introduced at which auto show have to plan years in advance," said George Pipas, sales analyst with Ford Motor Co. "No one product totally dominates the landscape in North America like it does in Europe where all those small, high-mileage cars are seen running around," he said. "It was serendipity that minis were introduced last year, the same year gas prices topped $3 a gallon, and that the lack of attention to minis at the Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago auto shows this year is based on lower gas prices."
"If your car gets 20 m.p.g. and you buy one that gets 22 m.p.g., you still feel you've conserved fuel because you're driving a more fuel-efficient car than you had," said Joe Phillippi, principal with AutoTrends. "This is what happens when gas goes below $2 a gallon, and it doesn't take long to pay more attention to high performance than high mileage," Phillippi added. "Most people would rather drive something a little bigger, fancier and costlier, even if a little thirstier."
Another Toyota pride is the 2008 Highlander sport utility, which will go on sale this summer. The hybrid version of the vehicle will be available in fall. Both versions boast increased horsepower and performance.
The Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, a trade group for the major automakers, has created a display of alternative-fuel machines in North Hall of McCormick Place to elucidate enthusiasts how fuel cells and hybrids work. Hybrids are not static. In fact, Chevy earlier unleashed the Volt, which boasts advanced parts accessories and driving performance. The vehicle does not draw attention because of the efficiency of Stillen cold air intake, but because of the sum of all its auto parts. Volt boasts 40 miles driving on batteries alone before a 6.5-hour recharge or switching to a 3-cylinder gas engine to generate power for an extra 600 miles. Saturn Astra, a two- and four-door hatchback that serves as replacement for the Ion, also embraces the industry's spotlight.
Diversity is the byword for 2007 auto shows. "Product diversity is what makes auto shows exciting," said Ford's Pipas. "No one size fits all." At Ford, the Freestyle crossover and Taurus (previously Five Hundred) sedan stand alongside the Mercury Sable (formerly Montego) with the arrival of a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 260 horsepower. This move is in response to the clamor for more auto power.
Speaking of power, Pontiac also unravels its midsize, rear-wheel-drive G8 sedan that is set to arrive early next year with a 3.6-liter V-6 or 6-liter V-8 and 6-speed automatic or manual transmissions. The V-8 delivers active fuel management to power cut 4 cylinders and save fuel. Dodge, on the other hand, is introducing its redesigned Dakota. Volkswagen brand will also set forth the high-performance R32 derived from the Rabbit platform, with a 3.2-liter, 250-h.p. V-6 and AWD.
Nonetheless, despite diversity of vehicles, crossover sport-utility vehicles represent the fastest-growing segment of the industry. According to WardsAuto.com, "Crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs, are expected to leapfrog over four vehicle segments to become the highest-volume sector in North America by 2009."
About the Author
Given her background on cars as an auto insurance director, Lauren Woods finds the world of cars to be constantly changing. Visit Stillen Cold Air Intake for more information.
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