Issue 3(33) / March 2010

Toronto Auto Show 2010. Exhibition Notes.
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Toronto Auto Show 2010. Exhibition Notes.

The 36th annual international auto show recently took place in Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It accommodated under its roof about a thousand of novelties of the auto world. Estimated over 300 thousand people visited the exhibition.

Apparently due to recession all exhibit items were economically housed on just two sites, not three as usual. The budget for souvenir merchandise, which used to be generously handed out to everyone, was noticeably cut down as well. However, traditionally the auto show is considered to be a major event for Canadian consumers who prefer to take a careful look at all novelties, “try” them and plan a future purchase, all in one place. As usual, practically all world auto brands supplying cars to the North American market brought their latest models for display. Although for the first time in all exhibition years Saturn, Saab and Hummer models were not presented, as their manufacturing stopped due to the crisis and disturbances in the brands’ owner General Motors.

The Green are Coming

No doubt that the auto world’s main trends for the near future are still the same: the cars’ efficiency, comfort and security. However, over the past years two more important requirements came forward: economical efficiency and environmental friendliness. These are the criteria for a modern vehicle to be in demand by consumers. Of course, most auto makers keep up to their standards. Moreover, in the spirit of new tendencies almost all companies, including GM, Ford, Lexus, Mitsubishi, except maybe for Suzuki, having demonstrated their environmental awareness, brought an array of hybrid versions of their cars. Toyota stood out having displayed four hybrids in the spirit of its recent announcement of changing the focus, and the goal to fit all its vehicles with hybrid engines by 2020. It was good to see that “green” cars have become significantly cheaper, much as other, more popular models. The reason is evident – decrease in demand. According to experts, the exhibition clearly and unmistakeably demonstrated the actual state of affairs in the auto industry. As for hybrid vehicles, the use of new technologies allowed to significantly decrease the weight of lithium batteries and consequently that of vehicles. Secondly, many models went into mass production, which also had impact on the price. For instance, Toyota Camry became $10 thousand less expensive. Experts say that demand for these autos will only be growing in the coming years, and by and large they are the cars of the future due to their economical efficiency and low fuel consumption.

As for novelties, this auto show featured a number of models which are rather attractive for the Canadian market. Let’s look at some of them.

European Ford came to Canada

Not accidentally, of course, and it came in handy. It is known that the American Ford stayed on the surface during recession to a great extent due to the profitable European site, which manufactures high quality and reliable cars for Europe, and they are constantly in demand. Two new attractive Ford models were displayed right at the main Auto Show entrance. Based on many criteria experts recognized this model as one of the best. Indeed, the car is designed in the contemporary style. The small Ford has 5 doors, 1,6 litre 4-cylinder engine with the capacity of 120 horse power. It is almost a perfect model ideally suited to the modern dynamic world. Moreover, Ford Fiesta – is an absolutely new car, from design, materials and technologies to the engine and the process of its creation. Interior design features are beautiful and multi-functional. In the “core” of the car one can find many achievements of modern technologies. Ford Fiesta owner can listen to the music recorded on iPod or Mp3 player, connect a phone to the audio system via Bluetooth and make calls without taking hand off the steering wheel.

Despite the fact that Ford Fiesta is an A class vehicle it has many functions attributable to “big” cars, such as a multi-functional display, Ford Key-Free system and an engine start button Ford Power. Intellectual technologies familiar to drivers of previous Ford Fiesta models remained in the new car. They are automatic outdoor light turn-on, automatic windshield wipers with rain sensor, soft and gradual interior light turn-off, automatic folding mirrors, windshield heater and climate control. This is why the vehicle is rightfully referred to as “a big car in a small body.”

This model will soon steadily relocate from the exhibition space to a factory conveyor – just about two steps are left to the mass production. According to Ford management, Ford Fiesta mass production will soon commence on the American continent, and in the beginning of 2011 the car will appear at all Canadian dealerships.

Fiat under the American brand cover

An interesting Canadian premiere! No one, except for connoisseurs, expected to see here, in North America, a very well known to Europeans Italian Fiat, only in a new capacity and appearance. And it is not quite what it seems to be. An elegant compact vehicle suited many people’s tastes. Today it is a 3-door A-class hatchback with a 1,4L Engine, 100 horse power capacity, fuel usage 6,4L per 100 km in the city, and 4,3L on a highway. Airbags, ABS, EBD and other “gadgets”. Fiat 500 can be easily called a successor of the similarly named model which was manufactured in the sixties and the seventies of the 20th century and was very popular in Europe. From 1957 to 1975 the company produced 4 million Fiat 500 cars! It looks like the change in ownership considerably reflected on marketing priorities of the oldest American car maker Chrysler, which is now owned by a transnational concert Fiat headed by CEO Sergio Marcionne. It is a first-born in the miniature class with such a rich content, all leading technologies and knowledge was invested in it. The company cherishes this small car; it signifies optimism and cloudless future. Fiat 500 promises to become a sales hit in North America. The reason is that starting from next year this model will be manufactures at a company’s facility in Mexico, and will be supplied to both Americas’ markets. By 2011 the same facility will launch a cabriolet 500C. In such a manner, acting “under the cover” of a purely American brand Chrysler, Fiat seems eventually to become a competitor to the other “big two” of the US car industry - Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.

Canadian premiere of a new generation of Ford Focus 2012

It will appear on the Canadian market as early as beginning of 2011. There will be two modifications: A 5-door hatchback and a 4-door sedan. The car’s new frame will be 55% made of high-strength steel, which will make it more robust. The car is equipped with rain sensitive windshield wipers, a parallel parking system, a dead zone warning system, a rear view camera, remote engine turn-on and a compact navigation system.

A new Buick Regal of GM boasts a lot of advanced technologies for its class: Bluetooth, USB-connection, good navigation, 10 airbags. The vehicle is fuel efficient and very attractive in general. GM Canada’s Vice President Marc Comeau made an announcement about plans to manufacture a new 2011 Buick in the Canadian town of Oshawa. It is expected that these cars will appear in Canadian dealerships in about a year.

Hyundai Motors within a couple of years suddenly rocketed in the table of ranks, and is now firmly in the 4th place among well known international leaders of the car industry. They say that hired engineers and designers from a number of German and Italian companies ensured the success. In 2009 Hyundai Genesis was recognized as the best car at auto shows of Detroit and Toronto – in both cities it was awarded the Car of the Year prize. Hyundai also brought some novelties. A new Sonata2011 of the sixth generation was officially presented on the Canadian market, and it was recognized as the best family car.

Market levelling trends

When you admire a new Suzuki model Kizashi (the four-wheel drive version), its interesting design, you cannot help noticing its resemblance to Toyota Camry. Over the past years experts have noticed a growing trend in various manufacturers’ model levelling. For example, it is becoming more difficult to spot the difference between some Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Buick and Hyundai models.

Generally speaking Toronto auto show 2010 can be referred to an exhibition of the manufacturers of spare parts that supplying same components to various automakers. Maybe it is a consequence of the recession period where in absence of a sufficient budget for new technologies, for the sake of cost cutting, companies are buying frame parts, mechanic and electronic components from the same suppliers. Of course it cheapens the manufacturing process but also erases cars distinctive features. Earlier every company used to have its own distinctive face, and now we are witnessing that different manufacturers’ models look more like a twins. Among companies making cars for the middle class only Audi is always ahead, never copies anyone, and is usually being copied. For instance, it was Audi to first place an air collector on the front bumper to improve aerodynamics, and immediately many other brands took this idea on board.

Alex Bar

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The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 3.1 percent in January, following a revised 1.3 percent increase in December 2009. The latest gain boosted the SA index from 107 (2000=100) in December to 110.4 in January, its highest level since September 2008. The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 99.5 in January, down 3.3 percent from the previous month.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that the latest tonnage reading, coupled with anecdotal reports from carriers, indicates that both the industry and the economy are clearly in a recovery mode. “While I don’t expect tonnage to continue growing as robustly as it did in January, the industry is finally moving in the right direction. Although there are still risks that could throw the rebound off track, the likelihood of that happening continues to diminish.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 69 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2008. Motor carriers collected $660.3 billion, or 83.1 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.