Friday, March 11, 2005

Meet Ford’s newest star… but don’t get too cozy

We’re so hungry (at least I know I am!) for a smart and trendy small car to compete with the likes of the Chevy Aveo and the Scion. The Ford Ka’s groundbreaking design, transformed into the even sleeker StreetKa, would have been a perfect competitor capable of blowing the others out of the water. But, of course, it was not to be, and we will continue to wait and wait, as Ford is pulling it from the market. The StreetKa, which is currently Euro-market only, is powered by a new 95bhp 1.6-litre 8v Duratec engine. Pininfarina handled both development and production and, thanks to Pininfarina, the StreetKa possesses a unique style and ‘Speedster’ image. "Streetka is an accomplishment on many levels. It further extends our line-up of exciting and stylish models, it demonstrates how derivatives can quickly and accurately tap into customer appeal and it’s the most tangible example yet of Ford’s commitment to produce fun, stylish and affordable cars," says Paul Thomas, managing director of the Ford Motor Company. Thanks for the tease, Mr. Thomas. Not nice!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Copen, for the hair dresser in all of us

America is soon to be awash in a new crop of small convertible. Mazda will be introducing its new and improved MX-5 Miata, while Saturn will have the Sky, and Pontiac will finally begin selling the Solstice. However, there is one small little convertible worth importing that won't make it to our shores. What's more is this little pocket of fun has a feature that all the aforementioned cars do not: the Daihatsu Copen is the world's first baby-roadster with an electrically operated metal roof. With a quick push of the 'transmute' button, the Copen's metal roof retracts, and 25 seconds later you're enjoying the experience of open-air motoring. The TT inspired Copen is certainly an adorable little guy...

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Monday, March 07, 2005

let me explain the menu

Geneva was not the only international autoshow opening last week. On the other side of the world, in the land of oz, the Melbourne international autoshow opened to visitors as well. For those unfamiliar with the Australian automarket, I offer an analogy: Australia is the Jersey diner of the autoworld. Everything is available in this remote automotive smorgasbord. The menu is long and reads like Tolstoy. All European makes are here, including Fiat and Renualt, and so are the European Fords and GMs, plus some American models and small Japanese and Korean brands, like Dihatshu. In addition to all these choices, there are the old school Autralian classics, the big sedans, the V8 sports tuned hot rods, and, of course, the Utes. So, whether you're on a diet and looking for a fuel efficient European hatchback, or want a massive early 70's-inspired car for your big petrol appetite, you can find it down under. Just take a look at the exhibitor list and click through to some of the Australian brand websites. You'll enjoy the selection of models. Now if only they delivered. . .

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no longer missing?

Those longing for the of new C6 executive sedan now have a sliver of hope. Peugeot Citroen has confirmed that an eventual return to the US market is now part of their long term strategic plans. Tre magnifique! But, as of now, there is no time table for return. Zut alor! Peugeot once had a small but loyal following in America. Those days, however, are long gone, and you're now more likely to see a "Nuke France Now" bumper sticker than an old 405. Despite some dynamic designs and compelling motor cars, both companies will find the U.S. market a foreboding challenge worthy of Reynald of Châtillon. The design flair and French eccentricities that are common to these brands (Viva la difference! ) have never resonated well in America and the Francophobia that has long gripped us won't help. We like our big luxury cars, our shiny chrome, and anything else just won't do. Unless there is a major change in the cultural and political structures of America's heartland, I doubt the future will be bright for the new crop of French motors.

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