The Automotive News Week in Review - January 8, 2010
Ford Jumps Ahead With Radical MyTouch Instrument Panel
Although fully digital dash displays might remind some drivers of misguided attempts by 1980s automakers to embrace the future using unreliable technologies not quite ready for mass consumption, the decades between now and then have allowed informatics science to largely catch up with the whims of designers. This is most apparent in examining the Ford MyTouch and MyLincoln systems (pictured) which were unveiled this week at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The crux of the MyTouch design is its ability to offer a dash display that is fully configurable by the driver. Not only can vehicle owners choose what information is displayed on the two 4.2-inch displays located on the instrument panel immediately behind the steering wheel, but they also can make use of an eight-inch touchscreen found in the dash's center stack. Drivers can interact with the system either through voice commands or by using buttons located on the steering wheel which have been modeled after those currently found on cell phones and PDA's.
MyTouch and MyLincoln are set to debut on the 2011 Ford Edge and 2011 Lincoln MKX crossovers later this year, but the company's overall plan is to deploy the technology across 80 percent of its U.S. lineup by 2015.
Tata Group Confirms Tata Nano Headed To United States
With public acceptance of small city cars growing over the past few years, largely thanks to their promise of exceptional fuel economy combined with a low purchase price, Tata Group has decided that it finally will import the Tata Nano. This diminutive four-door hatchback raised many eyebrows when it first went on sale in India in March of 2009 due to its shocking MSRP of approximately $2,000 USD. The Tata Nano offers the ultimate in no-frills motoring, with a 35 horsepower motor matched to a platform that weighs only 1,350 lbs. Fuel mileage for the mostly featureless vehicle comes in at 47 miles per gallon combined.
The Tata Nano won't make it to American shores before 2013, giving the brand time to add in a more powerful engine that is better suited for dealing with U.S. highways and driving habits. In three years time, the mini-car will no doubt be competing with other, similarly sized battery-powered options from upstart automakers like Th!nk, which may cloud the market for what is currently the world's cheapest passenger car.
Continuing the theme of miniature cars more focused on frugality than driving thrills, Toyota has revealed a few details surrounding the latest - and smallest - member of its Scion sub-brand, the iQ Hybrid. An almost identical copy of the Toyota iQ design that made the show car rounds in 2008 (pictured here) and is currently on sale in Europe and Japan as a standard gasoline-powered vehicle, the Scion iQ Hybrid will make it to U.S. showrooms in five-door hatchback form in 2011.
Although Toyota has so far remained coy about mechanical details, the vehicle will most likely be powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine matched with a battery-powered electric motor that together produce in the neighborhood of 120 horsepower. The small size and lightweight construction of the Scion iQ Hybrid will enable it to offer at least 60 miles per gallon around town, which would place it at the top of the American fuel miser pyramid. A gasoline edition of the Scion iQ, as well as a two-door hatchback, a sedan and even a convertible are also in the works for later release, with the Scion borrowing the European market's 93 horsepower, 1.3-liter inline-four.
Automakers Receive Year-End Sales Report Cards
Advertising and brand image aside, perhaps no external yardstick of how a brand is perceived by the car-buying public offers greater insight than yearly sales figures. While 2009 will most likely go down in history as one of the most tumultuous periods for both the automobile industry and the world economy as whole, there were still a few companies out there that managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and finish the year on a positive note.
Specifically, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai each managed to outperform their 2008 sales figures in terms of individual vehicles moved. Subaru in particular increased its sales volume by an impressive 15.43 percent, with 216,652 of the Japanese car company's products finding new homes in 2009 compared to 187,699 in 2008. Kia saw a 9.75 percent sales jump, while fellow Koreans Hyundai were hot on its heels with 8.29 percent better sales.
Every single other car brand saw their overall 2009 numbers decline compared to their performance the year before. Volkswagen and subsidiary Audi managed to keep their downturn restricted to single digits (4.34 percent and 5.75 percent fewer cars sold respectively), but next in line Ford reported a discouraging 14.34 percent discrepancy. Hardest hit were Saturn (61.35 percent drop) and HUMMER (67.09 percent drop).
Top 10 Best Selling Vehicles of 2009
Although 2009 brought doom and gloom to car companies around the world, in the United States it also delivered a shot in the arm to dealerships across the country in the form of Cash For Clunkers program. With government rebates supposedly aimed at encouraging the sale of more fuel efficient vehicles, it would logically follow that the 10 best selling cars and trucks would reflect this newfound green philosophy.
Unfortunately, the 2009 list of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States is startlingly similar to the 2008 edition, with a single exception. Coming in at number 10 is the Dodge Ram full-size truck, one spot lower than its finish the year before. New at number 9 is the Ford Fusion, whose 180,671 units sold enabled it to crack the list it was excluded from in 2008. The number 8 Honda CR-V jumps two spots from 2008 while the number 7 Nissan Altima maintains the status quo - as does the number 6 Honda Civic. Honda's third entry on the list, the Honda Accord at number five, drops from the number four spot it held in 2008 - an entry which has been claimed for 2009 by the Toyota Corolla (5th overall 12 months before). The Chevrolet Silverado pickup came in third, losing its penultimate spot to the Toyota Camry, while the overall sales winner was the Ford F-Series pickup, claiming its 33rd year in a row as the best-selling truck in the United States.