US auto market: Good Bye, Pick up! America discovers small cars

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Good bye, pick up! America discovers small cars

US auto market: Good Bye, Pick up! America discovers small cars-discovers

Toyota iQ: The car, which is only three meters long, represents vehicles that are small but still well equipped

Source: Toyota

For decades, driving on American roads was associated with gas-guzzling giant bodies. For manufacturers like Chrysler and General Motors, the crown of creation was until yesterday the road cruiser. But the Americans are already in the process of switching to smaller cars. With great consequences.

S.You don’t have much time left – half a year, a whole year. Possibly two. In any case, the deadline for the last opportunity is running out. History is about to slam a door with force, to close a historical experience – the height of the gasoline age and what America has made wonderful of it.

If you just want to quickly grasp what drove General Motors for twenty years to blindly and stubbornly stick to building American road cruisers with old-fashioned technology, huge machines, monstrous dimensions, and a consumption of around 25 liters – Then buy a return flight from Frankfurt to New York on the Internet during the last days of December. It costs only 417 euros and five cents.

Once you’ve left Kennedy Airport, all you have to do is hold out your arm. Take hold of the heavy, fully metal chrome handle halfway up. Open the field of your pick-up that you bought on the fly.

With that you begin to understand why the other two big names in the American industry, Chrysler and Ford, behaved just like GM. Why all three of them, one like the other with their technically outdated cars, were heading straight for the crisis, for bankruptcy, with the best possible view.

Why they could sit by and watch the small, efficient cars from Europe, Japan and South Korea make the race. Why Toyota got filthy rich and then passed GM as the world’s number one in the auto industry.

If all of these incomprehensible things still haven’t been properly understood, then pull yourself up onto the bench of your pick-up. Look around you. In your back is the loading platform, on which you can always have your piano, the rainwater barrel from your garden, your motorcycle and your couches close at hand. To the front there is a view of a hood that would cross two bays in a German multi-storey car park.

You are now sitting in the most popular car model in the United States, a Ford F-150. A 2.6 tonne drum with an eight-cylinder block and 300 hp, air conditioning, brand new. You paid only 15,000 euros for this without much haggling. They ignite the engine. You put the automatic on "Drive", you accelerate – and the brawny, rattling, slowly but powerfully rotating machine pulls you and your mighty truck effortlessly, gravely out onto the highway. After a day or two on the road, you will be absolutely certain that the screws and welds of your pickup truck hold more American mentality, more myth and everyday life together than Jeans, Hollywood and Coke could ever claim together.

Nobody at GM, Ford, and Chrysler wanted to believe America could get out of its American cars. But in 2007, when fuel prices rose, Ford sold only 691,000 units of the all-American bestseller F-150. This year there are still 475,000, despite lower prices, and news from Canada is just now that another car model, past the F-150, has become the most popular. It’s the Civic, a small compact car from Honda. In the United States, the swift departure of a large, unique, and overwhelming auto culture is looming. That turn will be sad and bitter. The end of a great national era.

There is always someone who says: “After that, nothing will be the same as before.” With every little wobble, someone in Germany always says that. But during this economic crisis everyone says it. Most intelligent Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who fears for the sales of the top models from Mercedes.

But Zetsche says his “Everything will be different” for a surprising, cleverly observed reason. The customers didn’t dwell on costs and prices for long, says Zetsche. The financial is not that important in this class. But recently the new question has apparently been whether it has to be the top model again – or whether one could not be seen with a series below. Back one gear, one size smaller. This is what could stay.

Enormous power, enormous torque, luxurious equipment, generous height and elongated length – the technical things that determine the prestige of a car have recently been joined by two sensitive new additions – weight and carbon dioxide emissions, which are directly related to fuel consumption.

This is the reason for Zetsche’s foresight that in a few years’ time cars like the Range Rover, the Mercedes S-Class or a Porsche Cayenne could attract the same attention as a fur coat at the party convention of the Greens, cigarette smoke in the airplane toilet or one disused washing machine in the forest.

Small ones cost the same as their big predecessor

Despite the economic crisis: In Germany there is neither compulsion nor stinginess behind the fact that buyers and manufacturers alike are about to get a different picture of the car. A subversive change in appreciation and attitudes is underway on the streets and in the garages, including in the golf class and even among the smaller cars below. A few days ago the Central Association of the German Motor Vehicle Industry announced that private customers in particular were buying new cars one class smaller. But that has nothing to do with fear of a crisis or a tight financial situation. The little ones do not skimp on the equipment. On average, they cost practically the same as the larger model before. This change is not a fashion. It will change the streetscape in Germany as in the USA.

Four years ago, the VW management found it absurd to build a car underneath the Polo. It is now clear that Volkswagen will build a whole family of small cars – the “up!”, A car 3.50 meters long with a three-cylinder engine. It will be available as a two- and four-door model, as a minibus, possibly as a convertible, and first and foremost as a two-seater, in a version shortened to just under three meters. The situation is now very similar with manufacturers of large cars such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes – with the small car Mini, with the Audi A1, the Smart and the compact A-Class.

That does not mean that the car class society is about to move to the next lower floor as a whole. Not deeper. Only smaller, and above all more economical in terms of consumption. It won’t be poor or flawed to have a small car. For example the Toyota iQ, a city flea with three and a half seats, three meters long. But in its best configuration it will cost pretty much as much as the cheapest Golf.

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