Americans in general have never associated small cars with high price tags. They are seen as regular transportation and not premium vehicles. In Europe this is simply not the case rather small cars are very popular and the price tags are not cheap. They are fully featured cars with options many small cars do not have in the U.S. With the new CAFE standards coming soon automakers in the U.S. are starting to realize that maybe we need to be a little more like Europe. Smaller cars with higher fuel efficiency and more options.
The Detroit Auto Show was all about downsizing. Engines were being downsized using lower displacement and it is all about getting more from less. Utilizing forced induction both in the way of turbo charging and super charging the automakers are doing what they can with the latest technologies. It is going farther then that.
Americans are realizing they need less. Not everyone technically needs a Suburban to haul the kids to soccer practice. The reality of it is when you are taking two kids to soccer practice you are not towing a 25 foot boat. In fact most people that have large vehicles do not need them at all. It is a perception and comfort thing. While I know some of you are readying your pitch forks, just hear me out. Yes, some people do need their large vehicles. Some people actually do need SUV’s. I drive an SUV and do use it to tow boats up north. If we weigh out how much I need an SUV it is probably more then some but still less then others.
The automotive manufacturers are starting to bet on the little guys. Ford’s new small car line up will begin with the new Fiesta. The Fiesta has a base price just above $13,000 but that price can get very close to $25,000 after customizing it with a myriad of options. Next Ford debuted the next generation Focus as a 2012 model at NAIAS last month. The new Focus will be more refined while offering more options and features. While they have not talked pricing you can naturally assume it will cost more. The current Focus pricing starts a little over $16,000 topping out around $22,000. It is estimated by some that while the base price of the the new Focus will increase slightly, a fully optioned Focus might approach $30,000. That is a lot of coin for a small car. The question is, are Americans willing to pay a premium on these new small cars? Some are probably scratching their heads saying how could they charge so much. We as Americans have been asking for the same product that Europe has been getting for years. Ford has finally listened and decided it would be cheaper to amortize costs, thus the “ONE Ford” strategy comes to play. Cars will be developed by Ford to be sold globally with minor changes for safety regulations and such.
Chevrolet is betting on the new Cruze to carry its sales in the compact car market. This new model will replace the lackluster Cobalt which itself replaced the Cavalier. The new Cruze is said to be rated at 40 mpg on the highway which is an impressive number to be sure. The car is said to be dynamic to drive and offer the premium feel of a larger car. That is exactly what these smaller cars with larger price tags will have to do.
So will we Americans embrace these smaller cars with larger price tags? I think it all depends on where the starting price tag is. This all goes back to my post about why strippers are important. The base price on a model is what seems to drive traffic to show rooms. Maybe that will change with time and it will be features that drive customers to the showroom. One thing is for sure, the pricing and options work in Europe where people are paying more for less. Are you really getting less? In the end it is all about how you look at it. You are getting more miles per gallon, you are getting more technology and amenities all in a slightly smaller package. So the question is, will people buy these small cars that all the auto manufactures are betting on?