TheCarConnection.com Names ‘Six Cars That Can Save Detroit’
The fate of America’s automakers–two of the three, at least–is hanging in the balance. And while Detroit’s destiny looks grim, TheCarConnection.com‘s editors see at least six vehicles on the horizon that could dramatically change the fortunes of the former Big Three.
“Despite the dire financial situation at General Motors and Chrysler,” says TheCarConnection.com’s executive editor,
At General Motors, the likely entry to the future of the automobile is an electric vehicle with hybrid-powertrain backup. Chrysler’s betting on a traditional crossover vehicle, but with potential hybrid and diesel power trains. And at Ford–which stands alone financially and shows real strength in future products–a range of new small cars promises to recast its lineup entirely.
The vehicles that could change the game for
Chrysler has the least visible path to a turnaround. Since it accepted federal loans, the company’s struggled to show Congress and consumers that it’s serious about reclaiming its history of great products. That’s changed, now that Chrysler has shown off the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The latest version of Jeep‘s venerable sport-utility surfaced last week at the New York Auto Show and garnered plenty of positive commentary from the press. The new version’s now a cousin of the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class; even though Chrysler and Mercedes are going their separate ways, the Grand Cherokee now shares the ML-Class’ running gear, though it has its own new fuel-efficient 3.6-liter V-6 under hood. All-wheel drive is an option, and a two-mode hybrid version is likely in the works. It’s also possible Chrysler will bring back the diesel option found in today’s Grand Cherokee. Most important could be the Grand Cherokee’s quality perceptions: a close-up look at the prototype showed a far more sophisticated look and feel, which could go a long way at correcting consumer opinions of Chrysler vehicles.
The Dodge Circuit EV is a completely different beast–a new electric-powered roadster that borrows its architecture from the Lotus Elise and its motive force from a set of batteries and motors. The Circuit promises hundreds of miles of driving range, quick and nimble reflexes, and a potential on-sale date of 2010–if Chrysler can make its way out of the reorganization that’s bound to come, with Congressional oversight or with the help of
General Motors has long been the country’s biggest truck producer–but its future will begin to tilt toward fuel-efficient cars with the introduction of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, which TheCarConnection.com first unveiled last September in exclusively obtained photos. The Volt‘s no ordinary hybrid, GM promises–it’s an electric vehicle with a gasoline engine used as backup power. All driving force comes from batteries recharged by the fossil-fuel-powered “generator.” Fuel economy of more than 50 mpg is possible in a package that seats five adults–and gas mileage is likely to soar far higher, depending on how the government decides to measure the Volt’s fuel economy. GM may finally have its own Prius–and a way out of its truck-heavy past.
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a completely different creature. Think of it as the Honda Civic for the bowtie brand–a compact car done right. The Cruze–which has been courting the world’s auto-show audiences for the past six months–will appear next year and will become the new entry-level Chevrolet around the globe (that is, until the subcompact Spark goes on sale). A small 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine will power the Cruze, and TheCarConnection.com predicts 40-mpg fuel economy as GM presses all its new products into a new level of frugality.
Ford is in far better shape than the other
Ford is also plotting the next generation of its Focus compact lineup. The current car isn’t the best car in its class–TheCarConnection.com’s editors rate it 7 out of 10. Next time around, Ford’s not wasting a drop of the product energy it invests–not only will there be a Focus sedan, but you can expect coupes, hatchbacks, and probably a small crossover to replace the Escape, all from the same components. Ford‘s European operations are taking the lead with the new Focus, so great handling and styling seem to be sure bets.
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