Issue 3(45) / March 2011

Toronto Auto Show:
Between Recession and Upturn

The annual Toronto Auto Show - 2011 recently took place in capital of Ontario. An overall impression: it is relatively quiet on the auto “battlefront”. Obviously, the world auto industry oriented for North America’s market still keeps balancing between recession and upturn. The majority presented core models were restyled, updated versions of existing models that are still selling well.
Toronto Auto Show: Between Recession and Upturn

This is understandable – automakers are fighting for customers, and their efforts manly target increase in sales, because they need to make money now, today and it works better with the cars which have earned their reputation, while there is no significant increase in prices.

Best spots of the exhibition space are traditionally (it is a tradition already!) taken by hybrid and electric models – there is more of a tribute to the current trends, because it is not proper and “politically correct” to appear at a XXI century exhibition without “green” models. According to the experts, everyone is discussing advantages of eco cars but people are still buying popular models running on common gas.

There were fewer fuel hungry cars and SUVs at the exhibition. A popular principle of fuel cost minimization took shape as an interesting solution. The turbo technology coupled with a small engine increases the capacity considerably.

FIAT. The exhibition starts with a shiny Fiat-500 series – several color solutions of one model. The Italians during the latest recession merged with the Chrysler Corporation are trying to start selling a euro-successful retro-model in America, in order to bite off a piece of a “pie” belonging today almost exclusively to MINI (BMW), also brought from Europe. But as it turned out, the current FIAT-500 is made in Poland that not so famous by quality of assembled cars as Italy or Germany. People are getting curious, but the price of $ 24K spoils the appetite. Many wish it were less expensive.

Ford Motor Company - “found on the Road Dead” – just recently the Canadian youth would interpret the word FORD. Today, having survived the recession with dignity, Ford is essentially considered as a leader among American “Big 3” automotive companies. It was the only company steadily moving forward, without filing for bankruptcy. It was due to the competent management and huge investment into development of its products.

Thanks to the profitable European branches in the “Old World”, it managed to survive the overall recession and continued to demonstrate the advantages of its line of product. During the last century Ford foresightedly opened its branches on the European continent. Ford Europe currently owns plants in Belgium, The UK, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Turkey. They manufacture passenger cars, light trucks and minibuses. Worth to mention that Ford’s pick-up truck F-150 has topped the best-selling list for 50 consecutive years. In a year 2010 alone they have sold twice as many of those compared to GM, and three times as many compared to Dodge trucks.

Current year models manufactured by Ford are equipped with a totally new line of powerful, cost efficient and eco-friendly Ecoboost engines.

At a recent auto show in Detroit Ford Explorer (priced at $30,000-$44,000) took the first prize in the best crossover and pick-up nomination. It is a completely new, cost-efficient crossover model with the highest safety standards. An important design feature ensures enhanced safety for back passengers. All the back seats are equipped with three-point seat belts, and second row side seats – with ISOFIX fixtures and a new feature – self-inflating seat belts, acting as airbags.

A new Ford Focus Electric is an eco golf class sedan with a decent cruising range (up to 500 km) has become a sensation on the North American market, received awards from several auto magazines, and was recognized as the “green” car of the year. A distinguishing feature of this car is that it is a combination of an electric vehicle and a hybrid model.

The company also demonstrated a new fuel model of Ford Focus, with an updated frame and a new engine. Presented last year, it went into mass production and since then gained huge popularity.

Chrysler brought a totally new model Chrysler-200, replacing an outdated and not sought-after Sebring. This news was even marked with the words “Thank Goodness!” in a promotional leaflet. An interesting fact – Gorkovsky plant in Russia bought Sebring manufacturing several years ago, but they failed to set up a profitable business with Volga Siber (the Russian model’s name). The model was recently discontinued due to the lack of success and demand.

Mitsubishi presented two new electric vehicles MIEV, which already went into mass production. They can travel 120-130 km without recharging the batteries, which weigh 80% of the car’s weight (!). But they have a less than “zero” emission. Maybe in the near future the battery characteristics, their weight and price, charging time might be reasonably reduced – the scientists and engineers are working on it, and the demand for such cars should grow.

Judging by the fact that KIA placed its advertising on the cover of the exhibition booklet, the most expensive spot in the magazine, it is on the way to the long awaited success. This huge breakthrough into the top 10 list of world auto manufacturers is the matter of not so distant future. Over the past years the number of KIA fans has been steadily growing, and they give credit to the good price/quality ratio of the company’s cars. Interestingly, a hybrid concept car KIA-RAY was developed by the company’s studio in America. A stylish, futuristic 4-seat light sedan is made using newest technologies in the hybrid car manufacturing. The KIA Motors Corporation presented for the first time an absolutely new hybrid sedan Optima. This model, created in accordance with a new KIA design concept, targets the North America market. Optima Hybrid is equipped with an innovative power engine, which ensures exceptional efficiency and the best in class fuel economy - 5,9 L/100km Optima Hybrid 2011, which will become available in the beginning of this year, is equipped with a “completely parallel hybrid system”, which allows the car to accelerate up to 100 km/hour within just 9,2 sec., with the maximum speed of 195 km/hour and decrease fuel consumption by 40,7%, compared to the traditional Optima.

BMW presented a new generation a 6-series convertible - this car will become available for sale in spring 2011. It preserved the style of the previous 6-series model. The German company emphasizes that absolutely all body parts are completely new. It should be mentioned that the wheelbase of the new generation 6-Series Convertible has become much wider than before (+74mm). Besides, BMW made the convertible’s body 50% more rigid, which should improve the steering response and maneuverability. The new cabriolet is equipped with a soft convertible roof, which can be folded down within 19 seconds (set up within 24 seconds). It has a big 300 L trunk, it may be increased up to 350 L with the roof up.

In 2011 the convertible will be manufactured as 650i and 640i versions. The first model will have a 4,4 L supercharged fuel engine, which develops 407 h.p. (the engine will work with an 8-gear automatic or traditional 6-gear mechanical transmission.) The BMW 650i convertible’s maximum speed will be limited at 250 km/hour, and the car will be able to accelerate 0-100 km/hours within 4,9 seconds.

Jeep showed a restyled crossover Compass, which will soon appear in Canadian showrooms. This time it is quite a serious upgrade. Compass’ appearance was drastically changed - now this compact crossover looks like a flagship Grand Cherokee. Besides, the interior now boasts new expensive trimmings (even the plastic became soft, which is very rare for the American car), interior design changed, too. The new car now looks much more harmonious.

Moreover, Jeep decided not to economize on the car’s equipment. Even the standard model will have a stabilization system, climate control, a power pack and many other features.

However; they decided not to touch the engine. The car will still be equipped with 2.0 L (158 h.p.) or 2.4 L (170 h.p.) fuel engines, and 2.0 L (140 h.p.) diesel engines. Standard models will be a front-wheel drive, although four-wheel drive will not disappear. But suspension and steering control settings will change.

Interestingly enough, in 2012 Toyota is planning to start selling an iQ based electric vehicle in Japan and in the US. In 2015 Japan’s biggest car manufacturer is planning to start a gradual transition to ... hydrogen. Toyota considers this type of fuel to be very promising.

Alexander Bar

blog comments powered by Disqus
Scary Statistics!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average commercial drivers' life expectancy is 16 years less than similarly situated people in other industries:

- 54 percent of commercial drivers smoke tobacco versus just 21 percent of the general public

- Just 10 percent of commercial drivers exercise on a regular basis

- Half of commercial drivers are overweight or obese, compared to only 33 percent of the adult population as a whole