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Blog

Classic Velocity Blog

Small is Big

Classic Velocity

The annual pilgrimage to either the Philadelphia or new York auto show is always revealing in one way or another. This year we had to be in NYC for other reasons, so it was the NY International Auto Show. Like LA and Detroit, the NY show usually has some world premier or major announcement tied to it. I missed whatever that was, but the unofficial theme was evident; Small is Big, and perhaps more so because this is NYC. If you can't make a case for small cars here, then give up and try Limousines.
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It seems that everybody has a "City Car". The Swiss Smart Car may have started the movement (or re-started the movement - remember the Isetta?), but now all kinds of manufacturers are in on it. Two seats, plus some space for a few bags of groceries. The length of a motorcycle, and able to park head-in at the curb without sticking out too far into traffic. Scion had one, as did Nissan, and the Toyota Yaris probably qualifies in this category as well.
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It seems that everybody has an Electric Vehicle (EV). Smart is introducing one, Nissan has the Leaf on tap for later this year, Hyundai has one, Mitsubishi has the Miev. They are all very small, they all get fully charged in a short period of time, they all have a range equal to the average american commute (although interestingly the numbers are all different), and they are all intelligent, so they charge when juice is cheapest if you want.
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It seems that everybody has a small Hybrid. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are most famous, but the Chevy Volt is on deck, Ford is moving its hybrid technology in the Fusion downscale to the Focus, the Kia Ray is a stunning small hybrid concept, the Fiat 500 already has a hybrid on deck, and may be introducing that technology into even the Chrysler/Dodge world. Of course, there were plenty of bigger vehicles with hybrid power on hand as well.
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It seems that everybody has a small High MPG vehicle. This should get even more interesting with new government fuel economy targets to meet, but if this show was any evidence, the message has been received. European manufacturers are bringing their cool small cars here (eg: Fiesta, BMW 1-series), Asian manufacturers are bringing their microcars here as fast as they can pass the US safety hurdles. And, US manufacturers are producing small cars.
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It seems that everybody has a small Micro-SUV.
Scion and Kia and Nissan have small funky-looking youth-oriented funmobiles, but they are joined by more conventional looking options like the Mazda 5, the Honda Fit, the Mini Wagon, etc. Europe has a ton of these that we don't get here, and hopefully that will change.
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It seems that everybody has a small performance car. The Subaru WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Evo are both legendary giant killers, but the BMW 1 Series, and the new compact Lexus CT200h (yes Virginia, its a hybrid) have a mix of luxury and performance that is impressive. You can add the unique Volvo C130 to the club as well.
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As a fan of small cars, this was an encouraging show. There seemed to be some innovative rethinking of features and functions, some attractive styling, luxurious appointments, and some deceptively spacious interiors all within compact exteriors. Perhaps after all this time, good things will come in small packages in the USA.....