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Old 10-01-2007, 11:08 AM   #1
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What would it take to make small cars desirable?

What would it take to make small cars desirable for the US public?

My perception of this is that Americans prefer more "roll-on" torque than other markets, meaning that in any given gear when you punch it there is an expected amount of power. In other markets where smaller engines are offered, the drivers iether do not demand the power because they have few or no interstate like roads, or the drivers accept that they must downshift to get the power they need for these situations.

The US has long since had big engined vehicles and automatic transmissions. Our fast freeways and lifestyles reflect our preference for these types of vehicles. To get the public inteterested in smaller engines that must be "worked" a little more to produce the required power requires an incentive and a change in thinking. I think small, fun to drive cars in almost every price range is the key.

After the hangover from the generally dull 4cyl cars of the '70s, the '80s "hot hatch" cars were the hot new thing. One example, the '83 VW GTI made about 100hp in a sub 2000lb car, was fun to drive, good for the day 30+ mpg, and practical. Others evolved thier platforms in all sorts of vairants and eventually led up to our current import tuner market.

So now small fun to drive cars are often considered kid or tuner cars, and don't appeal so much to as wide a market as they should.

So, what would it take to get your Mom/Dad/Uncle/Aunt into a smaller fuel efficient car? The Fit/Versa/Caliber concept seems like it might work, but they don't seem to quite hit the mark as FE is disapointing for the implied economy they should return.

So if you ran GM or Ford or Toyota or Honda, what would you do to get more of the public into smaller cars?
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Old 10-01-2007, 11:14 AM   #2
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I don't think that small cars are gonna be popular any time soon. It seems to me that the car one drives is an important status symbol or way of expressing oneself in the US. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that the US would have 'faster' roads. In a country like Germany where you can go as fast as you can on the Autobahn, small cars are very common.
I'm not saying that cars aren't status symbols in Europe as well, it seems however more so in the US. Plus there is a notion here that a small car is not 'manly' whereas a man in other parts of the world doesn't have a problem at all to cruise around in a small car (as long as there are some nice rims on it of course)

So all in all I think that things might turn around some if the gas prices get up to say 8 or 9 dolars, but more important if small cars are not conceived anymore as unmanly, unsafe and some other things starting with 'un'
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Old 10-01-2007, 11:33 AM   #3
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Over $10 gas for the foreseeable future
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Old 10-01-2007, 12:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by beatr911 View Post
What would it take to make small cars desirable for the US public?

My perception of this is that Americans prefer more "roll-on" torque than other markets, meaning that in any given gear when you punch it there is an expected amount of power. In other markets where smaller engines are offered, the drivers iether do not demand the power because they have few or no interstate like roads, or the drivers accept that they must downshift to get the power they need for these situations.

The US has long since had big engined vehicles and automatic transmissions. Our fast freeways and lifestyles reflect our preference for these types of vehicles. To get the public inteterested in smaller engines that must be "worked" a little more to produce the required power requires an incentive and a change in thinking. I think small, fun to drive cars in almost every price range is the key.

After the hangover from the generally dull 4cyl cars of the '70s, the '80s "hot hatch" cars were the hot new thing. One example, the '83 VW GTI made about 100hp in a sub 2000lb car, was fun to drive, good for the day 30+ mpg, and practical. Others evolved thier platforms in all sorts of vairants and eventually led up to our current import tuner market.

So now small fun to drive cars are often considered kid or tuner cars, and don't appeal so much to as wide a market as they should.

So, what would it take to get your Mom/Dad/Uncle/Aunt into a smaller fuel efficient car? The Fit/Versa/Caliber concept seems like it might work, but they don't seem to quite hit the mark as FE is disapointing for the implied economy they should return.

So if you ran GM or Ford or Toyota or Honda, what would you do to get more of the public into smaller cars?
Replace the state and federal income taxes with $8.00 per gallon gasoline and diesel taxes.
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Old 10-01-2007, 12:59 PM   #5
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sometimes I wish there was a premium tax put for big gas guzzlers so that the rest of us do not have to suffer from other people's thirst for gas and the ensuing rise in gas prices.

i was in texas this past weekend for work and i was so shocked by all the big car rolling around. trucks, SUVs, 8cylinder beasts... while i see a ton of civics in california, i barely managed to see ten during my whole trip.

the worst part is that tiny little women often drive a gigantic truck or suv all by themselves. the auto industry has done a great job at marketing them to people... i have to give them that. i for one am not that gullible but the majority of the people in our society is.
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Old 10-01-2007, 01:07 PM   #6
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Marketing.
Add the 'cool' factor.
If you notice what kind of image that a Geo Metro has vs. a Mini Cooper, the Mini is considered 'cool', while the Metro is considered ... well you know.
Marketing can also make an ugly car 'cool' and people will call it ' funky styling ' vs. 'ugly styling'.
Make something considered 'cool' to the younger crowd and people will shun common sense. They will look past the obvious and buy it anyways thinking it will make them 'cool' as well.
There are a lot of ugly cars and trucks on the road that people think are cool looking ... because they were told that they should feel that way.
Movies and the media have given the small cars like the Metro a wimpy, nerdy image.
Also I might add similarly,motorcycles like Harleys and Katanas have a 'cool' image to them that you won't find in mopeds.
I think a lot of it has to do with the way mopeds have been portrayed in the media.
With motorcycles, a lot of that macho sex appeal image stems from the fact that here is a person that is willing to be daring and take chances by doing something dangerous.
Although the person on the scooter is taking the same risks as the person on the harley or rocketbike, ( in fact far more due to lack of acceleration ) the fellow on the scooter is seen as a wimp that would be frail The other fellow is seen as a strong bully type of person that will go the extra mile to survive - something desirable to women.

Another thing about the Mini that makes it cool is that it is sold through BMW dealerships.
It's like having two identical pairs of butt ugly sunglasses - one with a generic name and one with Gucci stamped on the side.
Insantly the Gucci glasses are considered 'cool' with their 'bold retro styling'
while the other are sneared at and mocked.
Marketing can sell anything.

( Not directing this at Minis at all by the way. I actually like them - despite their brick like .Cd figures . )
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Old 10-01-2007, 01:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbum View Post
sometimes I wish there was a premium tax put for big gas guzzlers so that the rest of us do not have to suffer from other people's thirst for gas and the ensuing rise in gas prices.

i was in texas this past weekend for work and i was so shocked by all the big car rolling around. trucks, SUVs, 8cylinder beasts... while i see a ton of civics in california, i barely managed to see ten during my whole trip.

the worst part is that tiny little women often drive a gigantic truck or suv all by themselves. the auto industry has done a great job at marketing them to people... i have to give them that. i for one am not that gullible but the majority of the people in our society is.
Actually there is a $25,000 tax write-off for companies that buy larger size SUVs !
The larger the weight of the vehicle, the more they can write of on their taxes.
I seem to remember upwards of $50,000 or more.
How's that for backwards laws !
Also, they can claim this each year that they own the vehicle.

Welcome to Texas where every third car is a truck... a BIG truck !
( I too have noticed that the majority of Hummer H2 drivers are small women with kids. Sold on safety. If you'll notice, one of the colors for Hummers is even school bus yellow ... not that it means anything.
Also I can't blame these women for wanting to protect their kids. I'd do the same if I were them.)
I just have to shake my head at the wastefullness of it all though.
A lot of people get angry at Hummer drivers for their bad gas mileage, not taking into consideration that here in Texas, Dodge 'doullie ' pickups are more common than weeds and get even less gas mileage than Hummers do !
Ask a little lady why she needs one and you'll almost always hears something like " So I can pull my horse trailer or a boat. " O.K. that's fine ... but why do they have to drive it down the street just to go get a milkshake ?
Image. Image is everything. People don't want to be seen in a small car because it makes them appear weak. It's the smallest people that drive the biggest trucks.

I might add that there is a gas guzzler tax, but I think it only applies to cars that cost a certain amount ( Like a Ferrari )
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Old 10-01-2007, 01:38 PM   #8
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I think we all agree that more expensive gas iether from taxes or plain expensive oil will get more people to smaller cars. But what would successfully get people into smaller cars now, rather than $5 gas?

Nerds has good points with the cool factor and the safety factor points, these have been prime sales motivators for decades, especially the safety one. If marketing can get around all obstacles, what would be some cool yet safe enough concept or foreign market cars with the cool factor to be sucessful in the US?
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Old 10-01-2007, 02:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbum View Post
sometimes I wish there was a premium tax put for big gas guzzlers so that the rest of us do not have to suffer from other people's thirst for gas and the ensuing rise in gas prices.
i was in texas this past weekend for work and i was so shocked by all the big car rolling around. trucks, SUVs, 8cylinder beasts... while i see a ton of civics in california, i barely managed to see ten during my whole trip.

the worst part is that tiny little women often drive a gigantic truck or suv all by themselves. the auto industry has done a great job at marketing them to people... i have to give them that. i for one am not that gullible but the majority of the people in our society is.
Actually, there is a gasguzzler tax. My father looked into buying a viper the other year and I remember him talking about it.

We need obese cars to carry our obese people. I dont see the SUV dying anytime soon.
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Old 10-01-2007, 02:44 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by beatr911 View Post
What would it take to make small cars desirable for the US public? . . . So if you ran GM or Ford or Toyota or Honda, what would you do to get more of the public into smaller cars?
I think it is total bs to say that the american public doesn't want fuel efficiency. We have come to expect a certain degree of performance/acceleration and safety from our cars to be sure, but it is the manufacturers who are not delivering. Here's the car I would design and build if I were in charge of a major manufacturer:

- Basic sedan or hatch/wagon.
- Four doors, seats 5
- 1.3/1.4 liter engine 85-95 hp
- 6 speed manual tranny with typical gearing for 1-5 and 6 being the highway gear that puts the overall final drive ratio at approx 2.25:1
- 2,200 - 2,400 lb. curb weight
- 4-5 star crash ratings
- 0.25 drag coefficient (same as Insight, not hard to do)
- offered in base, no frills model
- starts at $15k, same as a civic or corolla.

EPA MPG would easily be 40 city / 50 highway. This is such a no-brainer, it would sell like crazy, and there isn't a single manufacturer doing it. Why not!!?? I say it's because they want us to think we have to pay $20k+ for the "fuel efficient technology" of hybrids. If they offered the car I just spec'd then guess what would happen to prius and civic hybrid sales and their profits?

I have a recent posting that compares gear ratios in hybrids vs non-hybrids, and what I've found leads me to believe that the manufacturers are deliberately witholding a very basic fuel saving concept from their "economy" line ups: http://www.gassavers.org/showthread.php?t=5204
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