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Oracle of Delphi

Automovtive News Opinion - Marketing CAFE: Bigger isn't better anymore

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Automotive News

December 24, 2007 - 12:01 am ET

"Bigger is better" is dead.

True, that marketing philosophy has proved lucrative for the better part of a century. Americans like big cars and trucks and big powertrains to haul them.

But now that Congress has passed a 35-mpg corporate average fuel economy standard, that philosophy is obsolete. Automakers must prepare consumers for some big changes.

The industry must show the public what the future will look like. Vehicles will shrink, and engines won't be quite so large. But with the right mix of styling, technology and performance, marketers still can create excitement.

Yes, it will force some new thinking among automotive marketers. The old 0-to-60 yardstick won't disappear entirely, but it will apply to a shrinking niche of performance cars.

That's OK. The success of the Toyota Prius proves that some consumers appreciate such mundane attributes as good fuel economy. As gasoline prices creep toward $4 a gallon, good fuel economy will become a marketing necessity.

Moreover, small cars don't have to be boring. Europe's rally cars attract a devoted crowd of gearheads, and Chrysler LLC sized up that niche with its Dodge Hornet concept.

To their credit, automakers saw all this coming. This year, the Tokyo and Frankfurt auto shows featured fleets of concept cars powered by hybrids, diesels and other fuel-stingy powertrains. We are confident that the upcoming Detroit show will continue that trend.

Here's a suggestion: Automakers should rummage through their product lineups in Japan and Europe for practical people movers. Don't assume that American consumers won't like hatchbacks simply because they weren't popular in the era of $1-a-gallon gasoline.

It's encouraging to see that General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are evaluating their European lineups for vehicles that might sell in America. Properly priced, a Chevrolet Zafira could do well here.

Here's more advice: Don't be bashful. The public has displayed a taste for style statements such as the Mini Cooper and Scion xB. In such a crowd, generic transportation won't cut it.

In the future, vehicles such as the Nissan Cube and Ford Verve will up the ante. Beware of the old marketing verities. Bigger-is-better is sooo last week.

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They'll have a hard time selling this idea. xB? Mini Cooper? Both niche products.
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So it's 1972 all over again; car performance seems to have reached its peak and we'll soon be stuck with a bunch of downsized cars with small engines. Great...so much for choice. I lived in Italy for four months and the majority of the small cars on the roads are average at best. Only the rich can afford the full-size Audis and Mercedes-Benzes. I guess that is where this country is headed.

I would be willing to buy a hybrid or electric car if it was offered in a mid-size or a full-size, but you will never catch me in a compact. I'm tall and I tend to haul a lot of stuff and a compact is not going to cut it.

Good thing I'm graduating this spring so I can get a Mustang before the government bans them too.

Edited by mustang84
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Guess I'll be holding onto my Impala until I can afford a Cadillac...

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style statements such as the ..... Scion xB

What statement is that? "I drive a Fridgidare"?

How about this idea instead; Rather than rummage through their European and Asian market lineups, auto makers rummage around their R&D departments for engine technology not widely used or left on the development bench all together.

In GM's case, who has a wider array of gasoline saving technology either in production or in development? Gm has FlexFuel, modern diesel technology, cylinder shut off, hybrids of both the light and full variety, electric vehicle technology, alcohol fuel experience <GM Brazil>, E-Flex development, fuel cell development.... and those are just the ones we know about.

Direct question do GM; What is the point of developing all of that if you're not going to actually deploy it? This is like being given a take home test, where you're allowed to use the book, completing the test..... and then not turning it in.

Why can't these technologies be deployed in tandem?

I'm still waiting for Chevy to release an E85 burning, AFM, 2-mode Hybrid Avalanche. At 20 mpg average, running E85, the truck described above would get 133 miles per gallon of gasoline. This isn't rocket science. Chevy is already doing hybrid Tahoes, but amazingly they did not make them E85 compatible.

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In many ways, I don't see it being any worse than the 90s and Zarella.

At one point in time, performance was all but dead at GM, even the Corvette was in jeopardy.

I think we'll hopefully sooner rather than later engineer our way out of this.

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Small cars are good...and needed.....BUT, there needs to be cars for other people too....

Agreed. I'm all for making great small cars. I think people would buy small/efficient cars if the ones in the US weren't so cheap minded. If more people buy them, that raises the CAFE for the company and allows them to also sell the larger cars.

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CAFE numbers are based on sales, not just models offered, right? So they have to make the high mpg vehicles very appealing so they get the sales so they get the CAFE numbers...

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Instead of forcing smaller and slower cars onto us, why not give lucrative incentives to automakers to build more fuel efficient vehicles. Economics teaches us that change occurs more easily when it is encouraged through incentives rather than forced by restrictions and penalties.

Give even further incentives for automakers to build hydrogen FC's and EV's, and to expand clean infrastructure. If your vehicle is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, there's no reason to downsize or compromise comfort and safety. I'm all for getting America off SUV's, but this isn't the right way.

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Boys and girls, this does not need to be the end of the world. The cars you are driving NOW are the results of DOWNSIZING in the '70s and early '80s. Don't believe me? The largest cars today are barely more than 200" long; whereas, a 'mid-size' Malibu or Challenger was that length in the '70s. Most 'family' sedans were 212" or more and the Lincolns and Imperials of the era pushed 230" in length. The sky did not fall. In fact, the 'downsized' Impalas and LTDs of the late '70s were quite large inside - they did, however, suffer somewhat from the 'detuned' engines of the era, but fuel injection, coil on plug technology, and others have improved upon that.

I am glad Congress has smartened up to the fact that Detroit ran around the early CAFE rules by convincing the public that trucks is where it is at. I may be a little cynical, but did the public demand trucks because the missed large cars, or did Detroit and Madison Avenue conspire to 'convince' the public everyone had to have a SUV or a pickup? Let's face it, I'll bet more than half the people motoring around in gas guzzling trucks don't need to be, but they have been brainwashed by lifestyle advertising that the should be in one.

It does not need to be 1981 again. I survived that era, slipping out of my '67 Polara into an '82 Rampage - talk about culture shock, but I loved that little truck when it wasn't breaking down, that is! Yes, my '91 Caprice was my favorite car I've owned, but I don't regret the Optra I am now driving.

I think that the automotive world has proven that left to their own devices, the horsepower/size wars will rear their ugly heads once again. After making significant fuel mileage gains in the '80s, we have been backsliding for at least a decade. Or is a 260 horsepower minivan really that necessary?

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Boys and girls, this does not need to be the end of the world. The cars you are driving NOW are the results of DOWNSIZING in the '70s and early '80s. Don't believe me? The largest cars today are barely more than 200" long; whereas, a 'mid-size' Malibu or Challenger was that length in the '70s. Most 'family' sedans were 212" or more and the Lincolns and Imperials of the era pushed 230" in length. The sky did not fall. In fact, the 'downsized' Impalas and LTDs of the late '70s were quite large inside - they did, however, suffer somewhat from the 'detuned' engines of the era, but fuel injection, coil on plug technology, and others have improved upon that.

I am glad Congress has smartened up to the fact that Detroit ran around the early CAFE rules by convincing the public that trucks is where it is at. I may be a little cynical, but did the public demand trucks because the missed large cars, or did Detroit and Madison Avenue conspire to 'convince' the public everyone had to have a SUV or a pickup? Let's face it, I'll bet more than half the people motoring around in gas guzzling trucks don't need to be, but they have been brainwashed by lifestyle advertising that the should be in one.

It does not need to be 1981 again. I survived that era, slipping out of my '67 Polara into an '82 Rampage - talk about culture shock, but I loved that little truck when it wasn't breaking down, that is! Yes, my '91 Caprice was my favorite car I've owned, but I don't regret the Optra I am now driving.

I think that the automotive world has proven that left to their own devices, the horsepower/size wars will rear their ugly heads once again. After making significant fuel mileage gains in the '80s, we have been backsliding for at least a decade. Or is a 260 horsepower minivan really that necessary?

What in the modern world is really done out of necessity?

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Boys and girls, this does not need to be the end of the world. The cars you are driving NOW are the results of DOWNSIZING in the '70s and early '80s. Don't believe me? The largest cars today are barely more than 200" long; whereas, a 'mid-size' Malibu or Challenger was that length in the '70s. Most 'family' sedans were 212" or more and the Lincolns and Imperials of the era pushed 230" in length. The sky did not fall. In fact, the 'downsized' Impalas and LTDs of the late '70s were quite large inside - they did, however, suffer somewhat from the 'detuned' engines of the era, but fuel injection, coil on plug technology, and others have improved upon that.

I am glad Congress has smartened up to the fact that Detroit ran around the early CAFE rules by convincing the public that trucks is where it is at. I may be a little cynical, but did the public demand trucks because the missed large cars, or did Detroit and Madison Avenue conspire to 'convince' the public everyone had to have a SUV or a pickup? Let's face it, I'll bet more than half the people motoring around in gas guzzling trucks don't need to be, but they have been brainwashed by lifestyle advertising that the should be in one.

It does not need to be 1981 again. I survived that era, slipping out of my '67 Polara into an '82 Rampage - talk about culture shock, but I loved that little truck when it wasn't breaking down, that is! Yes, my '91 Caprice was my favorite car I've owned, but I don't regret the Optra I am now driving.

I think that the automotive world has proven that left to their own devices, the horsepower/size wars will rear their ugly heads once again. After making significant fuel mileage gains in the '80s, we have been backsliding for at least a decade. Or is a 260 horsepower minivan really that necessary?

Why does the blame for horsepower wars and people driving trucks go to the manufacturers? Those things are driven by consumer demand. I'm far from convinced that the manufacturers conspired to convince people to turn trucks into replacements for commuter cars (though they didn't fight it, either.) Seems like maybe there should be more efforts to shape consumer demand instead of telling the manufacturers what to do. Think hybrids would have caught on nearly as well as they have if there hadn't been tax breaks?

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Bull&#036;h&#33;

x2. also, families don't want "Zafiras". let's rip off the writer's head and poop down the throte.

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In many ways, I don't see it being any worse than the 90s and Zarella.

At one point in time, performance was all but dead at GM, even the Corvette was in jeopardy.

I think we'll hopefully sooner rather than later engineer our way out of this.

so california can set new self important rules and cause the whole cycle to start all over?

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Instead of forcing smaller and slower cars onto us, why not give lucrative incentives to automakers to build more fuel efficient vehicles. Economics teaches us that change occurs more easily when it is encouraged through incentives rather than forced by restrictions and penalties.

Give even further incentives for automakers to build hydrogen FC's and EV's, and to expand clean infrastructure. If your vehicle is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, there's no reason to downsize or compromise comfort and safety. I'm all for getting America off SUV's, but this isn't the right way.

how's this. a complete blanket exception from CAFE for the bulk of their lineup if they also sell say, 250,000 alt fuel / hybrid / zero emissions / cars that demonstrate new techonologies like electric hydrogen biofuels etc. and while we're at it, tax credit of their IRS bill of 3 grand per car for each green car sold.

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