TheCarConnection.com Names ‘Six Cars That Can Save Detroit’

April 20, 2009

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 20 /PRNewswire/ — TheCarConnection.com‘s editors look to the future of a vastly different auto industry and find three winners in the making.

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.

The Detroit automakers have hope thanks to their new embrace of cleaner, greener cars. The Obama administration is encouraging–in some cases, commanding–the car companies to build smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles, and the Big Three are responding with green vehicles and green twists on new vehicles already in the pipeline.

“Despite the dire financial situation at General Motors and Chrysler,” says TheCarConnection.com’s executive editor, Marty Padgett, “there are still vehicles in the product pipeline that could emerge as the best in their class. GM, Ford and Chrysler each have a potential home run on their hands, ready for the market in the next two years.”

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 Detroit include:

Chrysler: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2011 Dodge Circuit EV

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 Italy’s Fiat.

GM: 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

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: 2011 Ford Fiesta and 2011 Ford Focus

Ford is in far better shape than the other Michigan-based automakers. It hasn’t taken any federal assistance, and says it has enough money to ride out the current sales crisis. The future looks brightest in Dearborn, Ford’s hometown: not only does it have a brand new 2010 Ford Taurus full-size sedan on the way, it’s already begun telling the American public about its 2011 Ford Fiesta–its first homemade subcompact since the 1970s. The Fiesta‘s been drawing rave reviews from the European automotive press, and a few American outlets–including TheCarConnection.com–have had test drives in the Fiesta and proclaim it a winner. If Americans want to buy smaller cars and get great fuel economy, Ford has a winner aimed right at them.

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.

About TheCarConnection.com and High Gear Media

TheCarConnection.com is the flagship site of Palo Alto, Calif.-based High Gear Media. High Gear Media is a next-generation publisher of websites targeting car-buying audiences by vehicle and lifestyle. TheCarConnection.com’s consumer-friendly reviews gather the most respected opinions from around the web and add expert analysis and advice to help car buyers select the right car.

High Gear Media also publishes GreenCarReports.com, AllAboutPrius.com, AllCarsElectric.com, and MustangBlog.com among its 27 automotive sites.

SOURCE TheCarConnection.com

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