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?

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