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.