Friday, December 30, 2005

Small-car outlook improving in the US

I guess one good thing about 2005's increase in US gasoline prices is the increased interest in small cars. I've always liked smallish cars (small for the US, at least) but they've been largely ignored and vilified by American buyers. I know we're fat as a nation, but so am I (just look at my picture!) and I like fairly small cars. Most of the time I'm the only one in the car, after all... driving to work, the grocery store, etc. All things are relative, of course. My Subaru Legacy Wagon would be considered a fairly large car in Europe, but in central TX it's dwarfed by the Tahoes and H2s the 5'5" soccer moms are herding around.

Toyota's new Yaris is encouraging, as is the surprising popularity of the Scion xA and xB. The Kia Spectra5 seems to actually sell, I see quite a few of them around, and I'm guessing most of those are bought because people actually want one, if they're going for cheap the Spectra sedan is significantly less expensive. Even American companies are putting a little effort into it! Ford's Fusion isn't going to make me give up my turbo Subaru, but it's much more interesting than the Contour it (belatedly) replaces. Chevy's Cobalt is trying to be a car someone would buy voluntarily, as opposed to the ancient Cavalier people bought because it was cheap. Chrysler's PT Cruiser has strangely been a sales success, and I guess it's going to have to carry water for the Neon until they have a newer small car.

Yeah, I realize the cars I'm pointing out are all over the map... the Yaris is roughly xA sized and the Fusion is much bigger. They collectively represent a realization that Suburbans don't make efficient one-passenger commuter vehicles. The change will be slow, of course, because Americans will keep putting gas on their credit cards for a while and for many people it would cost more to dump the Expedition in the current SUV-unfriendly used market and buy something practical. Also, lots of people are stuck in lease-type arrangements in which they'd have to pay a big penalty to ditch their H2 before the end of the term, so as those deals come to a close I hope my view down the road will be less choked with lane-filling dark-tinted-window SUVs carrying one person and their cell phone.

1 comment:

Alex said...

fusion, zephyr, milan... not enough people know that it's just a mazda6 with a different body. great car though