Friday, April 20, 2007

New York Daily Snooze

Okay, so I went to the press days at the New York show over two weeks ago, but I haven't posted my thoughts about the show thus far. The reason: I had no thoughts. This year's New York show, to me, was a snooze. I could basically count the all-new intros on one hand, and three of them were the micro concepts from Chevy, of which only one will emerge. The Infiniti EX concept was impressive, and the Hyundai Genesis (above) was a stunner (aside from the front end that looks like a Camry from some angles). The Ford Shelby GT500KR was bad-ass, the Ford Flex (below) is "polarizing" and the new Subaru Impreza was a disappointing Mazda3 knock-off. Aside from that we got to see some new grilles from Buick. Whoopdee-friggin-doo.

With the Javits Center expansion, New York will grow in size. But this year the show seemed to make a major leap back in relevance. Ugh, I hate swallowing my New York pride.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The New Hotness

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted, but I was gettin' my travel on. I stopped by New York for the auto show, and then flew out to Cali for my new job. It's been a whirlwind two weeks, but I'm ready to reinsert my two cents into the blogging world.

My thoughts today center on a really great phenomenon I see occurring. For years, US car enthusiasts had every right to complain that the coolest cars were not making their way to the US market. It seemed everyone else had access to kick-ass Evos and Skylines, Alfas and TVRs, while American consumers had to make due with magazine photos.

Well, the tide has begun to turn. It started, if memory serves me correctly, with the Evo in 2003. Soon we'll be getting the Nissan GT-R, successor to the Skyline GT-R that we've been missing out on for so long.

But high-performance sports cars are not the only category to finally cross the ocean. Over in Europe, they've been making bad-ass small cars for years, whereas the US consumer equated size with price, and turned his nose up at small entries from luxury marques, such as the BMW 318ti and the Mercedes C Coupe. Well, things have changed--gas prices, the passing SUV craze, etc.--and Americans have decided that small can be good. Certainly much credit must go to the Mini Cooper (thank you Italian Job), and sure enough Audi saw the opportunity and slid the new A3 right into the bottom of its deck. Now the word is that the restyled C Coupe will be arriving in the US next year. BMW is bringing over the 1-Series, Volvo the C30...I can hardly contain myself! We'll even be getting the Smart ForTwo for those who want an uber-small Euro car.
So what's my point? For years US car nuts were denied some of the coolest road burners because there was no market for them here. (To be sure, the rest of the world missed out on much of the SUV explosion, but I didn't hear much complaining coming from Europe or Japan.) But US consumers have gotten--if I may say so--much cooler. Okay, maybe that's not really true. Maybe they've just gotten more sensitive to fuel economy. But the US car market is getting cooler.

Further to the point of the demise of the size = price equation, it took years for the small luxury SUV market to develop here. Until recently the only entries were the crappy, overpriced Land Rover Freelander and the cool, overpriced BMW X3. But now that segment is about to explode, with pretty much every luxury make about to intro its own.

It's about time that the American consumer woke up and smelled the "petrol". Now, how much longer do I have to wait for some kick-ass diesels?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Styling 101

Okay, I seem to be posting a lot lately about styling and some automakers' lack of creativity with their new models. Subaru has been featured in the last two posts, the latter declaring that they seemed to have ripped off some Mazda mojo. Well, the fact is, Subaru landed itself in a bit of a styling crisis with its new winged design theme. This is no secret. Now the company has realized the error of its ways, and is bringing its styling dept back down to planet earth. Problem is, they've plunged back down too fast, and seem to have burned up upon reentry. Subaru had some solid bright spots in styling, most notably in my mind the current Legacy (above).

But now panic has set in, and the home office seems to be directing the design squad to be as bland and conservative as possible. Case in point the new Tribeca ("B9" is history). When I saw it, it just rubbed me the wrong way. Not to say it's not an improvement--my god, the B9 was a train wreck. But this new effort seems a bit...Magoo. Autoblog pointed out some Pacifica and Touareg influence, but I'm thinking next-gen Chrysler Town & Country, complete with winged badge crowning the grille. The Tribeca is a great vehicle, with an interior unparalleled in its class. But with styling like this, how will it possibly stand out in the sea of CUVs hitting the market?