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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Detroit 3 race to build fun, fuel-frugal cars
www.freep.com
Mark Phelan
July 6, 2008



In secure conference rooms, engineering centers and design studios across metro Detroit, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are working to create a new generation of fuel-efficient vehicles without repeating the mistakes that crippled them when oil prices and emissions regulations shook their world in the 1970s and '80s.

Chrysler, Ford and GM can't afford to blow it again, and getting it right this time presents huge opportunities. Unlike the 1980s, when small Japanese cars started the race a full lap ahead of the Detroit Three, the new technical challenges are equally daunting for everyone. "They've all been dealt the same hand this time," said Michelle Krebs, editor of AutoObserver.com. "Now it's a matter of how they play it."

Haunting their efforts is the ghost of failures past. Detroit's automakers reduced emissions and fuel consumption in the '70s and '80s, but at the cost of style, performance, quality and reliability -- the things that make a car desirable.

The things that keep a car company in business.

Ford and GM have tapped their European operations for compact and subcompact cars like the Ford Fiesta.

GM's Asian engineering centers are working on a funky little Chevrolet based on the Beat concept shown at the 2007 New York Auto Show to challenge Toyota's hip Scion brand.

"Any manufacturer that doesn't make vehicles that are appealing and enjoyable will suffer," said Rebecca Lindland, analyst with Global Insight of Lexington, Mass. "Somebody else will build that car, and the American people will buy it."

The answer lies in advanced engine technologies, widespread use of technologies borrowed from hybrid cars, lightweight materials and creative design. Along the way, the big SUV will virtually disappear and well-equipped small cars like those that dominate Europe will become common.

The automakers that offer style, fuel economy and fun will win. Those that don't may be left at the starting line.

"A car that's fun doesn't have to be blindingly fast," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics, a Birmingham consulting and forecasting firm.

Source: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080706/BUSINESS01/807060529&imw=Y
 

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GM has the resources to bring us small, fuel efficient vehicles (see Opel, upcoming Beat) but the lingering question is "how long until they get here?"
 

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GM has the resources to bring us small, fuel efficient vehicles (see Opel, upcoming Beat) but the lingering question is "how long until they get here?"
More evidence that management is doing some of the wrong things. It's just a shame that these wont be here next year or even late 2009. This is just what the doctor ordered for GM. Combined with the new 33mpg Highway rated Malibu and Aura, and the new 1.4T/C engines for the new "Cobalt" GM could have nice sharp blade to cut back into the market.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
GM should have had a plan in place when they lost the Suzuki-built Chevrolet Metro in 2000.

Despite the lambasting it got from people like Jerry Flint who thinks anything the big 3 sell has to be made in the U.S. (while conveniently ignoring the success of import "world cars"), the Aveo was a good idea at the time for a low-cost subcompact to battle the likes of the Echo. But unlike the Metro, the Achilles' heel of the Aveo, the fuel economy, is unimpressive, especially in stop and go city traffic. The engine is old and uncompetitive, the same one used by Daewoo for years in its old Kalos in the 90's.

Meanwhile GM Daewoo, with an infusion of cash from its new parent, was investing in updating the Daewoo Matiz / Chevy Spark's engine through improved technology that increased fuel economy and performance overseas.

The new Chevrolet Matiz will also have a choice of two engines - a 0.8 litre three-cylinder 52bhp unit and a 1.0 litre four-cylinder 66bhp unit - both complying with the Euro 4 emissions standard. Fuel consumption is around 15% lower than their predecessors. Both engines also benefit from developments that improve overall noise and engine isolation, such as a three-point torque axis/hydromount engine installation and all-new inlet and exhaust systems optimised for airflow and noise levels through the use of new materials. Low friction valve gear, with roller cam followers, also contributes to smoother, quieter running.
These improvements, combined with an overall weight reduction from the use of high strength steels and a lowering of the drag coefficient (Cd) from 0.399 to 0.344, result in a significant cut in fuel consumption.
On 3/16/2005, I noted the new Matiz, and possible rumors of it coming here (in some form), which I strongly supported.

Now we are hearing (possibly incorrectly), that it could take as long as 2012 to see a Matiz-derived (?) Beat come to the U.S.

If true, that's unacceptable planning from the white hairs in charge in Detroit with their heads stuck in the gas sloshing 60's and their wallets stuck in the SUV/Truck 1990's - their eggs in a Volt basket along with stick shift Cobalts and mega-sized SUV and "mild" (read: unimpressive) BAS hybrids.

I can hope that GM's been planning a small car surprise behind the scenes. But I won't ignore the passing of 5 years - if it takes that long, or longer - like it was nothing. If GM is forced into bankruptcy in part because of bad choices, like banking on a $40,000 Volt to change their image while only paying cursory attention to small, ultra-fuel efficient minicars ---- if once loyal GM buyers flock to Honda for a fuel efficient, affordable Fit, leaving GM in the "not considered" category ---- management will have only itself to blame.
 

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GM has the resources to bring us small, fuel efficient vehicles (see Opel, upcoming Beat) but the lingering question is "how long until they get here?"
At least three years development time for the Beat. If we see the Beat in 2010,
that would be the realistic time line. Remember, GM recently delayed the next
Silverado, so that resources could be put into more relevant car and crossover
programs.
 

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Suzuki should import the Swift and the Splash right now into North America. They're both excellent little cars. I'd say GM should bring the Agila (which is the same as the Splash), but that would involve leading, and we wouldn't want GM doing that. Suzuki should be smart and get their little cars here as soon as possible. It would be nice if they could bring the Jimny to the US as well... it's a cute, rugged little Samuari-like vehicle that I see quite often and really like.
 

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Actually, thinking about it, I bet that Suzuki is really kicking themselves for not targeting the US with their current Swift. It is worlds better than the current US Swift (Aveo clone)... it's probably the best small car out there right now. It could easily go head to head with the Yaris, Versa, and Fit, even if Suzuki's small dealership numbers can't compete in volume.
 

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Detroit 3 race to build fun, fuel-frugal cars
www.freep.com
Mark Phelan
July 6, 2008



In secure conference rooms, engineering centers and design studios across metro Detroit, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are working to create a new generation of fuel-efficient vehicles without repeating the mistakes that crippled them when oil prices and emissions regulations shook their world in the 1970s and '80s.

Wow, only 20-30 years notice that oil prices could go up. How can you expect a car company to react in that amount of time??? Oh yeah, GM new it would never happen again....


"Any manufacturer that doesn't make vehicles that are appealing and enjoyable will suffer." Somebody else will build that car, and the American people will buy it." The automakers that offer style, fuel economy and fun will win."

In the words of Hyundai and Homer Simpson.... DUH! Still, everyone working in the Ren Center should be require to tatoo that on their forehead. Why GM doesn't get this is shocking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Suzuki should import the Swift and the Splash right now into North America. They're both excellent little cars. I'd say GM should bring the Agila (which is the same as the Splash), but that would involve leading, and we wouldn't want GM doing that. Suzuki should be smart and get their little cars here as soon as possible. It would be nice if they could bring the Jimny to the US as well... it's a cute, rugged little Samuari-like vehicle that I see quite often and really like.
If they can do it (if it can meet crash reqs), the Splash would be great. I haven't checked the Swift's fuel economy -- from what I've read it seems to be more of a fun go cart and less of a fuel-sipper, which is what Suzuki really needs right now.

American Suzuki doesn't even offer a scooter cheaper than the expensive Burgman line. It's like American Suzuki was trying really, really hard to get away from the image of small, fuel efficient, and cheap --- pushing them into heavier SUVs and now pickups.

Now, suddenly, they are left without the kind of super fuel efficient car they are best at everywhere else in the world at a time when Americans are valuing fuel efficiency above other concerns.

In essence they've been caught with their pants down trying to emulate GM's SUV/Truck focus.
 

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I think the main focus needs to be on the Delta size first. Get the Cobalt replacement here asap done right to give the Corolla/Civic some serious competition. Then the Aveo and hopefully some Beat variants need to get competitive. If they make a Beat but it's mileage is well below the competition then it's another weak seller. For now, the Delta size is where the big sale numbers will be, especially if we really see highway mpg in the 40+ range as rumored.
 

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As I'm seeing it, it is the American makes that started to go in the right direction 2+ years ago. Even the GMT-900s have the right idea. GM has putting more effort on improving fuel mileage while others have been going backwards. Take the sequoia, tundra, element, civic, corolla, scions, and ridgeline for example. They all went backwards in gas mileage either as a product or for the company while every new GM product has stayed even or gone up in the past 2 years. I cannot think of 1 GM product that has gone backwards in EPA ratings in the past few years. Yet toyota, honda and nissan have a HUGE number of vehicles that have gone backwards in the past 10 years.

One only has to examine the scion brand line. The original ones got great gas mileage and would be perfect in todays high gas cost environment. Now scions get worst gas mileage than the average GM or Ford midsize sedan.

Hwy mpg comparison - 5-speed manual base models
2004 scion xa - 34 mpg
2008 scion xd - 33 mpg

2005 corolla - 37 mpg
2009 corolla - 35 mpg

2004 civic - 39 mpg
2008 civic - 34 mpg

2004 Cavalier - 33 mpg
2008 Cobalt - 36 mpg

Hwy mpg comparison - Small engine models with 4wd
2002 sequoia - 16 mpg
2008 sequoia - 16 mpg

2002 Suburban - 16 mpg
2008 Suburban - 19 mpg

Not that you couldn't find a honda or toyota that got better gas mileage than what was shown. Point; GM is not in a bad position when it comes to EPA ratings though people like to think they are.

More small cars are needed for GM if they really want to make a come back. Better gas mileage is also necessary, not only by GM, but by every make.
 

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.....please correct the record. GM is not racing to build "fun, fuel-frugal cars". They've all but said it will be FOUR YEARS before they will build the Beat et al. And with the new Cobore hardly looking fun to drive, GM has a long way to go before it can offer such.

....maybe taking four years is rushing for GM?
 

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so how hard is GM kicking themselves in the 'nads for letting their piece of Suzuki go? "Zuki's got a little bit of knowledge about these small cars that are no doubt going to be popular, and GM needs some of that. gotta love their foresight....
 

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import them until you can retool the plants here in north america?
 

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Suzuki should import the Swift and the Splash right now into North America. They're both excellent little cars. I'd say GM should bring the Agila (which is the same as the Splash), but that would involve leading, and we wouldn't want GM doing that. Suzuki should be smart and get their little cars here as soon as possible. It would be nice if they could bring the Jimny to the US as well... it's a cute, rugged little Samuari-like vehicle that I see quite often and really like.
I like the look of the Agila, but I would love to see the next Meriva here. With suicide doors it would be unique in it's segment.
 

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My take is that maybe the big three ought to take this all as a personal "Manhattan Project."

Make it priority 1.

Develop a sense of urgency, and make some dramatic moves to move product along in a more expeditious development cycle.

Use the model that this country used when we ended up going out and fighting World War II. That is the type of leadership these folks need to latch onto!
 

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so how hard is GM kicking themselves in the 'nads for letting their piece of Suzuki go? "Zuki's got a little bit of knowledge about these small cars that are no doubt going to be popular, and GM needs some of that. gotta love their foresight....
Suzuki is the pimp of small car builders.

GM was stupid to not take advantage of Suzuki's ridiculously awesome oversea car lineup to compete against Scion.
 

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My take is that maybe the big three ought to take this all as a personal "Manhattan Project."

Make it priority 1.

Develop a sense of urgency, and make some dramatic moves to move product along in a more expeditious development cycle.

Use the model that this country used when we ended up going out and fighting World War II. That is the type of leadership these folks need to latch onto!
Well put brother!
 

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Suzuki is the pimp of small car builders.

GM was stupid to not take advantage of Suzuki's ridiculously awesome oversea car lineup to compete against Scion.
So they no longer have any stake in the company? Can't they just create another "Vibe/Matrix" type of program asap?
 

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So they no longer have any stake in the company? Can't they just create another "Vibe/Matrix" type of program asap?
GM sold its stake in Suzuki a couple of years ago. GM used to own like 20% of Suzuki. Now it's just a mere 3%.

I don't think GM has much of any say in Suzuki anymore.
 
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