Friday, January 09, 2004
Infiniti QX56--Yet another large luxury SUV. This one seems a little larger, and a little more luxurious than others, but does it break new ground? Though Infiniti has been around longer than Lexus, it languished for so many years before Carlos Ghosn took over, that it is the new kid on the block, and feels the need to prove itself. That means filling all the standard niches of a luxury line: small luxo SUV, large luxo SUV, BMW 3-series competitor, 5 series competitor, etc. From the pictures it looks competent, and not hideous, like their M45 sedan.
Nissan Actic--The Japanese had to have a crazy bizarre concept, and Nissan gave Detroit what it expected. Considering the fact that it costs millions of dollars to make these concepts, and considering the fact that in a month no one will remember them, what is the point again? They're fun to look at years from now, and laugh at, but wouldn't all that time and energy be better served by making concept cars that showcase what POSSIBLY could be in future vehicles, rather than IMPOSSIBLY showing up? Just a thought.
Mitsubishi truck and Eclipse concepts--I wanted to talk about these separately, but they are linked together on the MSN press releases page. The Mitsu truck is decent looking, but anytime you wander into a market niche that is as competitive as light pickups are, you're asking for trouble. I'm sure Daimler Chrysler will give Mitsubishi a Dodge pickup platform to play with, so that will keep costs down, but Mitsubishi has trouble selling cars in this country, let alone trucks, so a whole new area to invest money in might not be wise. As for the Eclipse concept, I can't tell if it is coming or going, I hope not too many design cues are taken here and put on the next generation Eclipse. I like the current Eclipse styling, it's quite a popular car in Los Angeles.
Pontiac G6--When the concept car was introduced at last year's autoshow, I thought it was one of the best looking mid size sedans I'd ever seen. The production version, I feel, falls short. As a young, yuppie-type guy, if I had to choose an inexpensive mid-size sedan I'd go with the Mazda 6, or the Honda Accord coupe. I wouldn't take this one. The interior is clearly the same interior on the Chevy Malibu, with few changes. I do think it is a major step forward from the Grand Am, but I wish GM was more daring in it's car line. Even the new Corvette, which I think is amazing, doesn't stretch the envelope enough. Just looking back at cars from the 50s and 60s from the Big 3, and you can see that they were over the top and stupendous. And they sold well. This is too ho-hum. Lutz should know better.
Nissan Pathfinder and Frontier--Well, they look competent. I guess the important lesson you can learn from the releases here, is the importance manufacturers have to place on timely refreshenings and updates of their product line. The Big 3 should take note here, at the promptness with which Ghosn replaced the Pathfinder, which from a design standpoint, was clearly the oldest in the Nissan line. These vehicles don't look earth shakingly different though, and won't be blockbusters.
Scion TC--For those of you who are reading this blog from outside of California, you might not be familiar with Scion, but you will be soon. Scion is of course, Toyota's attempt to grab at my age group, with cheap, well built cars, that are small. This will slot in, I would imagine, between the Xa and Xb. I had heard rumors that they were merely going to give us the Toyota Avensis, which is a great car sold in Europe and Japan. This looks more like a sporty Corolla, with brushed aluminum interior instead of faux wood. I'm sure it will sell well, but I hope it has more power than the current Scion line up, which is VERY underpowered.
Kia KCV III--I don't know what the KCV I and II were, perhaps North Korean missile trucks, but this is the third generation. They're taking the same route as their Hyundai overlord, and making a sports car, that will never see the light of day, except in styling cues. I would think it a good idea for Kia to make a very cheap sports car, but it might not be possible with bumper restrictions, and gas requirements. Has it been done before? An ultra cheap sports car? Not recently...
Mercedes-Benz SLK class--The ultimate girly car has been updated. They've taken the face of their SLR McClaren, but I don't like it. I think the current Mercedes are quite well styled, this is too squeezed in the front. Mercedes sales have been slipping as of late, so let's hope I'm wrong.
Mercedes Benz Grand Sport Tourer--Following in the footsteps of the Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Matrix, it's a station wagon, pretending to be something else. Styling wise it's not too bad, but when you make something that looks like a station wagon, you risk alienating a certain segment of the population: Men.
Pontiac Solstice--This is the production version! The market for small roadsters has basically been dominated by Mazda since 1990. Sure there's the Toyota MR2, but it has an even smaller trunk than the Miata, and it really doesn't break new ground, except for its mid-engine design. Then there's the S-2000, which is a little too race car for most drivers, and it's hard to squeeze power out of it, when you have to rev to 9000 rpm. The Solstice could really make in-roads here, and since it is rumored to sell for less than 20k dollars, it'll probably make a splash. I think all small roadsters are a little effeminate, so GM would be wise not to make this a balls to the wall sports car with no frills like the S-2000, and risk alienating women, who will be the biggest purchaser of this car. The design is only slightly toned down from the concept, this is good work from Pontiac and GM.
Suzuki Reno--This car looks like the Ford Aspire; it is clearly dated, and does not break new ground. Suzuki should take the route of the old Honda CRX and make some kind of inexpensive coupe hatchback that kids can buy, and modify. Instead they come out with this, and attempt to make it cool, by making a heavily modified version. It just won't work.
Saturn Curve--This concept is well made. I like it. But if published reports are that Saturn will be rebadged Opels in a few years, what's the point? Saturn doesn't have any identity, other than the fact that they don't have salesmen, and you don't haggle for your car. I feel Saturn's biggest problem is one simple thing. Their cars are UGLY. This is not an ugly car. Build it, and people will buy it. Word on the street is that this will be made.
Volkswagen Concept T--I'm glad Volkswagen recognizes the fact that many people use the old Bugs as dune buggies for desert racing, and have built this car. Volkswagen seems hell bent on a suicidal route to luxury, but with this car they might realize that they were also once players in off road racing. I don't think this will make it to production, or anything like it, but perhaps Volkswagen should try to embrace this area and make sporty, off road cars. It's an area that no one really goes for, and Volkswagen already has experience in this area.
Well that's about all for the concepts. I may have missed a few, email me if I did, and I'll do a writeup. For some insane reason, there really isn't a website with a clear breakdown of all the cars on display. I think that's pretty stupid, especially when the manufacturers want as much media attention as possible. The MSN site breaks things down by press conferences, showing some cars that have been out for awhile, and are only showing their American premieres. They should make that clear.
The future of this site will be analyzing articles by various car news agencies, and whatever big thing is going on in the industry. And pretty much any ideas, or rants I have, I'll write up too. See you in a bit...