• Jan 16th 2007 at 11:36AM
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According to Rebecca Lindland, a market analyst for forecaster Global Insight Inc., "Detroit automakers need to diversify into cars because they can't rely on SUVs to prop up their balance sheets any longer. Toyota needs to reach out to pickup buyers in order to continue its expansion."

It was not difficult to see the truth to this statement while walking around the Detroit Auto Show with my wife. We looked at and and took pictures of the Chevy Volt, and minutes later were sitting in and talking about just how large the Toyota Tundra is. Speaking of which, it's huge! I looked at some figures - I think it is fractionally larger than the Detroit pickups in every single category, which seems to make it much larger all-around.

(I've got more opinions after the jump)

So, Ford and GM are working on new midsize sedans and small cars. They are pushing fuel economy to their consumers. I think most consumers are getting their message loud and clear. Ford showed up with their Aistream van-thing; Chevy showcased the Volt. Hydrogen is a talking point in Detroit these days. GM has had their hydrogen platform for a long while now, and Ford brought one with them this year.

Toyota, on the other hand, filled it's area at the show with trucks. The Tundra was their star at the show, followed by the FJ Cruiser. At least, that it what I noticed. I will note, Toyota brought their hybrid sports car, which I think is very cool. But, did they push it? I don't really think so, at least not to the extent Chevy did with the Volt.

So, what's the point? This is just my opinion, and I would appreciate yours in the comments, but I think that all the manufacturers want to sell as many cars to as many markets as they can. If that means building electric cars, GM will build them. If it means huge pickup trucks, Toyota will build them. Detroit is already good at trucks, and have built and will build more alternative fueling options. Toyota and Honda are already good at small and midsize cars, many of which come with alternative fueling options.

As an aside, I think that the automotive market is in an interesting state of flux right now. I did a Google search on "fuel economy", and I got two articles, one on top of the other, which completely contradicted each other. One article claimed that consumers buy based on horsepower. The next said that consumers buy based on economy. Of course, they are both right. Consumers want different things based on their needs, and the most successful carmakers cater to them all. We will make our votes with our checkbooks. What will the industry look like in 20 years? Time will tell.

I thought it was funny that the horsepower article was on top of the economy article. Will performance and horsepower eventually be the headstone on the buried hybrids' grave? I don't think so. I expect Toyota will probably produce some sort of high-powered hybrid model soon, like their FT-HS model. I expect to see ultra capacitors make their mark, storing power up to be used in quick blasts of performance. As battery companies continue to refine existing and develop new technologies, I think we will see more performance from hybrids and electric cars. The Tesla is just one example of what can be done with the right budget and backing. It won't be the last.

It's a good time for the green cars. Keep your eyes on our site as the next few years unfold. While the Prius doesn't excite many of the gearheads out there, just wait. Performance and economy won't be mutually exclusive for long. Can you have your cake and eat it too? I hope and believe that the answer is yes.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      In response to Jim, the Accord Hybrid had a problem in sales because the fuel efficiency was not impressive for a gas/electric sedan. Consumer Reports recorded a overall average of 26 mpg, or the same average as a Ford Escape Hybrid. The Accord Hybrid's real enemy is not the average buyer, but it's own price tag. The 2005 Accord Hybrid retailed for over $30,000. The reason the Prius and current Civic Hybrid have sold well is that they are more practical in cost and the fuel economy benefits are visible. CR rated the Prius with 44 mpg and the Civic Hybrid with 37.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'm really not that interested in more power. Why do we keep increasing the horsepower ratings with no appreciable fuel mileage increase? I know they work at opposing ends of the spectrum but an F-150 pickup today has 300+ hp and only gets 2mpg more than the truck of 20 years ago that had, at most,180hp. What gives? Most auto journos say cars are heavier today due to all the amenities and luxury items but thats a cop-out. Cars are made from better, lighter, stronger materials today and looking back thru my auto magazines, I cant see any difference in GVWR. Now, I read in the news that automakers are trying to coerce our politicians into relaxing the cafe standards on the grounds that they are too ambitious. phooey.
      • 8 Years Ago
      *Gasp* How Dare you say Toyota makes trucks and SUV's because people want them.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I hope you're right, Jeremy! I was one of the few who was VERY excited about the hybrid Accord - plenty of power with fuel economy approaching that of the Civic and 4 cylinder Accord.

      Unfortunately, the Accord Hybrid hasn't sold that well. I think Honda hasn't figured out how to market it; Toyota's 'performance' hybrids haven't done as well, either (highlander, ...).

      I still think it is an awesome car, and will be deeply saddened to see it go. I hope other models replace it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Toyota and Honda are already good at small and midsize cars, many of which come with alternative fueling options"

      Toyota has zero alternative fuel vehicles. Honda has one, the Civic GX in limited markets.

      Toyota did have the RAV4 EV until 2003, but they sold in only tiny numbers. In 2005 Honda only sold about 500 Civic GX CNG vehicles.

      Mercedes is actually the only manufacturer with both clean diesel and flex fuel cars available in the USA. If you want an alternative fuel vehicle your choices are a E85/diesel truck or a German diesel car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Can't relate to the extreme environmental movement which would try to have Americans stuff their fat behinds into 2-cylinder Yugo-type vehicles which get 50 miles per gallon. How arrogant, elitist!

      Having said that, I am in favor of innovation which would include a vehicle of substantial size(American tastes), with great performance, and which does get excellent gas mileage.

      I think it is doable.
      • 8 Years Ago
      On the contrary. With oil futures plummeting because of unusually large supplies on hand, green cars will be *less* attractive by spring 07.

      Toyota, as usual, is ahead and paying attention to economic conditions.

      People respond more strongly to their pocketbook than to the flaming rhetoric of the recently-empowered greens.

      The rise of the SUV occurred after the last retrenchment in oil supplies. Maybe the return of the sports car is next. Anyone want to start investing in Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini ?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Can't relate to some within the extreme enviro movement who would try to have Americans stuff their fat behinds into miniscule 2 cylinder Yugo-type vehicles. How arrogant, elitist!

      Having said that, I am in favor of innovation which would result in good sized vehicles(American tastes), combined with exciting performance, and great gas mileage.

      I know it is doable.
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