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Honda CR-Z Mugen Will Pack 197 HP

Honda CR-Z Mugen

A couple of days ago, Honda revealed new details about the upcoming CR-Z Mugen model, which will be unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The one-off prototype will have a 1.5-liter supercharged power unit and an IMA hybrid system, developing about 197 hp (200 PS / 147 kW) and 181 lb.-ft (245 Nm) of torque.

Honda CR-Z Mugen

Aside from this revised engine, the car will feature an aerodynamic bodykit, a high-performance braking system, a sport-tuned suspension and 17-inch alloy rims.

Honda CR-Z Mugen

Source: Honda UK via WCF

Chrysler Will Introduce Natural-Gas Cars In 2017

Khodro Soren ELX

Cars running on natural gas are not very popular around the world, except for several countries like Brazil, Iran and India. In United States there are only a few and if you ask someone to name an alternative fuel, the first answer they’ll have is probably ethanol. In other parts of the world, 2% of all cars are running on natural gas so this shouldn’t come as a surprise that automakers are starting to research on this technology.

Fiat is already selling a bunch of natural-gas vehicles (aka NGVs) in Europe and South America, and most likely Chrysler will do the same thing in the years to come as part of making its lineup green. In addition, Fiat will probably own the majority stake in Chrysler so they’ll implement this strategy for launching NGVs.

Honda Will Resume Production At Its Plants In Japan

It’s nice to hear that the automotive industry is recuperating after the damages caused by the tsunami and the several earthquakes that hit Japan several weeks ago. Honda has announced that they will resume their production at their Japanese plants starting with April 11th. Despite the fact that full capacity at its plants is possible, they are going to keep the production levels at 50% due to shortage of parts supply.

Honda And Mazda Suspend US Orders For Their Japan-made Cars

2011 Honda Insight Hybrid

At the end of last week the automaker Mazda announced that they will suspend all orders coming from the United States for the models built in Japan. This decision has been made only a couple of days after the factories reopened. Jay Amestoy, the company’s American spokesman said that this decision will affect shipment of cars that were due to arrive stateside in May. He also mentioned that the company hasn’t established a specific date when the activity will resume its normal course.

Mazda USA imports almost all its range from Japan, except for the U.S.-built 6 and Tribute models. The cars that are made in Japan are the 2, 3, 5, MX-5 (Miata), RX-8, CX7 and the CX9. As a reminder, the automaker halted all operations at its Hofu and Hiroshima factories from March 14th through March 21st.

Starting from today, the factories will shut down again and the company stated that its United States sales will not be affected since its American subsidiary has enough cars in stock. Last year, Mazda imported 83% of the cars that were sold in the US.

Another Japanese car manufacturer, Honda, has decided to suspend US dealer orders for the vehicles imported from Japan, including the Civic Hybrid, CR-Z, Insight, CR-V, Fit, along with the Acura RL and TSX models.

As far as Nissan is concerned, they said that they will make only 50% of the cars planned for May, and the other 50% will be delivered once all the factories are up and running at full capacity.

Mitsubishi and Toyota have not suspended dealer orders.

Source: Carscoop

Honda Performance Development Introduces ARX-01e LMP1 Racer


Highcroft Racing has dominated the LMP2 class in the American Le Mans Series for the last four years and in 2011 they’ll step up in the big leagues with their new ARX-10e model that uses the engine and the chassis as the previous model. Some of the most significant changes they’ve made include the heavily updated aerodynamics package and a larger air restrictor for the V8 3.4-liter engine, which now offers more power.

The ARX-01e was developed by Wirth Research and uses the Honda Racing Development (HRD) branding, instead of last year’s Acura designation.  Tequila Patron, the former sponsor, has stepped up to title-sponsor the ALMS series, the new car is being used by Michelin to promote its latest performance street tires.

The first tests with the car were organized at Sebring a while ago, where it will take part in the 12-hour race this week.

Source: Highcroft Racing via Autoblog

Top 10 – Best-Selling Models This Year ?

The car industry went through hell in 2008 and 2009 when the annual domestic sales in the US plummeted to approximately 10 million units which is a lot less in comparison to 2005 and 2006 when people bought almost 16 million cars. This downfall in the economy drove the all-mighty General Motors and Chrysler into the dreadful Chapter 5 and caused tens of billions in losses among their financially stronger competition.

Luckily, last year things took a turn for the better as the annual sales rates went up by 2 million, despite the fact that Toyota added a couple more pages to their recall book. Thanks to the fact that the economy is showing signs of improvement, consumers are visiting the showrooms more often now.

The guys over at 247Wallst.com were curious to see which cars will be the most popular this year in the United States and for this reason they came up with ten models that they think will be quite successful among buyers.

2011 Ford F-150

First, the Ford F-Series of course, as it has been the top-selling vehicle in the United States for decades. The high demand of light-trucks is traced back to the early days of automobiles and it should come as no surprise to anyone if the F-Series will remain master of his domain in 2011. The starting price for this car is around $23,000. According to a forecast published by 24/7 Wall St., Ford will be selling approximately 535,000 units of their hit F-Series this year.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevrolet Silverado promises to be another successful light-truck in the US this year. This car segment has to be one of the most crowded and the Silverado will have to face up some serious competition coming from the GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram and the Toyota Tundra. A forecast for 2011 shows that Chevy will sell about 310,000 units of their Silverado model.

2011 Toyota Camry

Their guess is that the Toyota Camry will also be preferred by many of the US car shoppers. The Camry is one of those Japanese cars known for being fuel efficient and offering a high quality level. 2010 was not so good for this model, because of Toyota’s long history with recalls. The starting price for this model is $20,000 and according to the estimates made, the Japanese automaker will sell about 305,000 units.

2011 Honda Accord

No top of best-selling cars would be relevant without the Honda Accord. Although last year wasn’t very good for the model, mostly because of the outdated model, the freshened one which will be launched this April promises to bring more people to the Honda dealerships. The Japanese automaker will sell about 280,000 cars according to the same sources.

2011 Toyota Corolla

Another Japanese car, this time we are talking about the Toyota Corolla (which frankly I never liked), a model that has always been priced below the aforementioned Camry. Targeted to take customers away from the Honda Civic or other “value” based cars that come with smaller power units, the Corolla offers a pretty good package, except for the rather boring and unattractive look. 24/7 Wall St. says that Toyota will be rolling out about 270,000 units of their Corolla model which has a base price of $15,000.

2011 Chevrolet Malibu

The flagship of GM’s Chevrolet division is the attractive Malibu, a model launched back in 2008. The new one was an instant hit and the cheapest you can get will set you back $22,000. How many units Chevy will sell this? Estimates say that about 265,000.

2011 Honda Civic

It seems that the US market will be invaded this year with Japanese cars as on the 7th place we find the Honda Civic. Back in the days, the car was one of the smallest sedans money could buy in North America. Since then, the car has grown in size and power in order to appeal to a broader audience. Just like the Accord, the Civic sales figures have decreased last year due to the “rusty” look. Honda should sell about 245,000 units of their very popular model.

2011 Ford Fusion

Introduced about five years ago, the Ford Fusion is a looker, at least in my opinion. The model is positioned as a mid-size sedan, right between the Focus and the Taurus. Last year it was named the Motor Trend Car of the Year. You can have one if you are willing to spare at least $18,000. 24/7 Wall St. forecast says that about 235,000 people will buy it.

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Here is a personal favorite – the Hyundai Sonata which I think that will do way better than the estimated 225,000 units. Hyundai is one of the few automakers that have grown in the recent years when the recession affected almost all of the automotive industry. With the introduction of their new model which is drop-dead gorgeous, Hyundai will have a very bright future in the year to come.

2011 Nissan Altima

To round up the top, the Nissan Altima is another mid-sized sedan, popular for its fuel efficiency. Last year the sales went up, but not by much. Like the Honda models, the Altima is an aging model. If you like it, you can have one for at least $20,000. Nissan will probably sell around 205,000 units of this model.

Here is the top for the best selling cars in 2010 in the US:

  1. Ford F-150 – 528,349 units; (413,625 in 2009);
  2. Chevrolet Silverado – 370,135 units; (316,554 in 2009);
  3. Toyota Camry – 327,804 units; (356,824 in 2009);
  4. Honda Accord – 311,381 units; (290,056 in 2009);
  5. Toyota Corolla – 266,082 units; (296,874 in 2009);
  6. Honda Civic – 260,218 units; (259,722 in 2009);
  7. Nissan Altima – 229,263 units; (203,568 in 2009);
  8. Ford Fusion – 219,219 units; (180,671 in 2009);
  9. Honda CR-V – 203,714 units; (153,431 in 2009);
  10. Dodge Ram – 199,652 units. (177,268 in 2009).

We are eager to find out which cars will be a hit in terms of sales. We will have a preliminary top 10 after the first half of 2011. Stay tuned.

Source: 247Wallst.com

In Depth – 2011 Honda Odyssey

2011 Honda Odyssey

From start we should say that the 2011 Honda Odyssey doesn’t look like a traditional minivan and it seems that it has borrowed a couple of styling ideas from the Civic model, dropping the Accord Crosstour-inspired styling which wasn’t that great. Although the front and back of the car don’t do mate up well in profile, take them individually and you have a pretty good looking front and rear appearance. The flying buttress D-pillar aids the rear end of the car achieve a more contemporary appearance, similar to those of the crossovers.

The engineers at Honda really wanted to make the back of the car more entertaining and have come up with a bunch of new features for the rear-seaters. The first one would have to be that the third row of the Odyssey has two sets of LATCH anchors while the second row can have three sets. Unlike Chrysler, Honda didn’t use the seats folding into the floor technology as they think that there are rare situations in which we would need a minivan to act like a pickup truck. Instead, the Japanese automaker developed a system that allows the second row seats to be moved laterally in order to make room for passengers or car seats while at the same time improving the third-row access through the center. In addition, that optional second-row-center seat can be moved upfront so that an infant car seat can be placed closer to its parents.

2011 Honda Odyssey

The cockpit of the Odyssey is pretty similar to other Honda and Acura models we have seen before. The one thing that we don’t like about it is the fact that the climate controls are located above those for the navigation and audio systems, a huge error taking into consideration that most of us set an automatic temperature level and after that we barely look at it.

The minivan has been fitted with a V6 3.5-liter that outputs 248 hp and a 250 pound-feet of torque. The engine revs quickly and offers a terrific throttle response plus Honda did a very good job matching the gear’s ratios of the all-new (optional) 6-speed automatic gearbox. As standard equipment, the 2011 Odyssey comes with the VCM – Variable Cylinder Management which is capable of shutting down two or even three of the engine’s cylinders when you do not need the power, thus improving the fuel efficiency.

2011 Honda Odyssey

Along with a couple of other measures, including the 100 pounds weight reduction, allowed the Odyssey to obtain excellent EPA ratings. The minivan will do 18 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission. With the optional gearbox, the car improves those numbers by a single mile-per-gallon. Pretty impressive for a minivan that has a curb weight of about 4,400 pounds. These figures allow it to be the most efficient 8-passengers car at the moment.

It wouldn’t be a real minivan if it didn’t had some video screens for the kids in the back which is why Honda decided to offer an optional 16.2-inch widescreen that folds down from the headliner in the second row. Also available is a more conventional screen, measuring 9 inches. However, you need to know that the big screen is in fact two normal-sized displays that are united. Although you can stretch out a movie on both screens, these were designed for selecting two video sources and playing a video format on both screen will look quite bad. Although it has a HDMI port, video game fans shouldn’t get excited because most of today’s games are widescreen high-definition and they will not look very good on the optional screen.

2011 Honda Odyssey

The biggest disadvantage of the 2011 Honda Odyssey is without any doubt its price tag. Although the starting price is pretty attractive at only $27,800, if you want to get that 6-speed optional gearbox you also have to get the DVD player and the navigation system as these come bundled. This optional package will set you back $1,500 and we don’t understand why the DVD and the nav system must come bundled with the gearbox. We will have to wait and see if the Odyssey can face other cars from this segment like the Nissan Quest.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Honda Exhibits Civic Sedan And Coupe Concepts

Honda Civic Coupe Concept

Although advertised as concepts, the production versions of both the coupe and the sedan will look very similar to these if we were to judge the company’s history with concepts. This means that the upcoming Civic Coupe will have an Accord Coupe-inspired styling which should make it very appealing in our opinion, considerably better than the outgoing generation. If you are interested in the sedan version, it will look just about the same as the 2011 Civic. Although in the front it will look a little bit angrier in comparison to what you were accustomed to, the headlights along with the carried-over grille are very familiar to most of us as Honda decided to stick to what they know, and they know well.

Honda Civic Coupe Concept

According to what Honda said, for the first time in history, the natural-gas Civic will be available in all 50 states in comparison to previous generations when the cars were available only in selected areas. According to the press release, the i-VTEC (“intelligent” variable valve timing and Lift Electronic Control) technology will be more efficient for the upcoming 2012 models. The soon-to-be-released Hybrid version of the Civic will feature the latest generation of the IMA – Integrated Motor Assist gasoline-electric hybrid system and will have the very first application of a lithium-ion battery pack in a hybrid made by Honda.

Honda Civic Sedan Concept

Most of the upcoming Civic models will get the Eco Assist technology that is already available in the Insight and CR-Z hybrids. The 2012 Civic will be the first Honda model delivered in the United States that will benefit from the Eco Assist technology in a gas-only powered car. As we mentioned before, Honda will be working on expanding the availability of the gas-powered model (GX) which is at the moment the only OEM-built, dedicated CNG passenger vehicle that is assembled in the United States.

Honda Civic Sedan Concept

As far as safety is concerned, all of the 2012 Honda models will be fitted as standard with VSA – Vehicle Stability Assist. In addition, the upcoming 9th generation of the popular Civic will have the company’s proprietary ACE – Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure for managing the front collision energy.

Top 10 Releases In 2010 Part 2

In the first part of the article we presented the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Porsche Boxster / Cayman, Mazda 3, Mazda Miata and the Cadillac CTS / CTS-V. In the second part we will be reviewing the remaining five cars from our top. We start with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and see where the rest of the top takes us.

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Although it might come as a surprise for many of you, the Fusion Hybrid from Ford is by far the most advanced car in our top 10. With the electric power engaged, the car is able to reach a respectable to speed of 47 mph. The powertrain of this hybrid is not only compact but very refined, you can barely hear it. As far as the in-car entertainment is concerned, the Fusion Hybrid is packed with the Sirius Travel Link that offers info regarding traffic, sports, and weather and movie times. The car was designed in order to keep the distraction level of the driver to a minimum as all the computer functions are voice controlled. The car is great fun to drive and something new in comparison to what you are accustomed to. The handling, the ride are all strong points of the Ford. The car is equipped with a 2.5-liter inline-4 DOHC 16-valve conventional engine that is capable of producing 156 hp and 136 lb-ft. Being a hybrid; it also features a AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor that offers 106 hp and 166 lb-ft. The transmission of the Fusion Hybrid is a continuously variable automatic type. The base price for the car is $28,350. According to the EPA ratings, the car will do 41 mpg city / 36 mpg highway, one of the best in its class as far as fuel efficiency.

Honda Accord

Honda Accord Sedan

Honda Accord Coupe

The 2.4-liter standard engine of the Accord is surprisingly very quick, offering plenty of performance for a car from this class. The automatic gearbox never draws attention to itself and works just as you might expected. If you don’t like the sedan version, maybe the coupe draws your attention with its sleek exterior looks and the powerful V6 engine capable of producing 271 hp, more than enough for most of us. With this engine, the Accord Coupe is able to do the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.6 seconds. The base price of the sedan version is $21,765 while the coupe can be yours for $30,015 with the entry-level trim. The transmissions available for the Accord include the 5 or 6-speed manual and the modern 5-speed automatic gearbox. According to the EPA ratings, the car will do 17-22 mpg city / 25-31 mpg highway.

Honda Fit

Honda Fit

Why another Honda? The Fit is very fun to drive, quite affordable and the cockpit will invade you with high quality materials that you will only find in more expensive cars of the upper segment. Not only it has a very reasonable price, but also it is very cheap to operate, making it a very wise decision for budget-minded drivers. The 117 hp 1.5-liter power unit isn’t something to brag about, but it is quite enough for the Fit. If you want a car from the upper segment and cannot afford it, the Honda Fit is the perfect “imitation” of a more expensive car. The 117 hp power unit can be fitted with the following transmissions: standard 5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic with manumatic shifting and 5-speed automatic for a more relaxing drive. According to the EPA ratings, the Honda Fit does 27-28 mpg city / 33-35 mpg highway.

Audi S4

Audi S4

A top without at least one car from Germany would not be fair, wouldn’t it? When it was first introduced in 2004, the Audi S4 was equipped with a V8 engine, but for the 2010 model, it lost 2 cylinders, however this does not mean that the car is underpowered. On the contrary, the supercharged V6 packs 333 hp which is only 7 hp less in comparison to the V8 power unit. If you want extreme driving pleasures, go for the $1100 torque-vectoring rear differential, which makes the Audi S4 an oversteering titan. In a recent test, the Audi S4 performed better than the BMW 335i, although it weighs about 400 pounds more and offers just about the same performance figures. The engine of the car is linked to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual or a standard 6-speed manual gearbox. The base price for the 2010 Audi S4 is $46,725. According to the EPA ratings, the S4 will do 18 mpg city / 27-28 mpg highway.

BMW 3-Series / M3

BMW 3-Series


Another German car, this time the BMW 3-Series / M3. You can go for the 328i model that packs 230 hp and will do 30+ mpg on the highway or for the more powerful M3 variant, a car that is equipped with a remarkable V8 engine that is capable of outputting 414 hp @ 8400 rpm. The M3 needs only about 4 seconds to do the 0-60 mph sprint. The 3-Series is a very comprehensive range, the car is offered with a coupe, sedan, wagon, four-door M3 configuration plus a folding-hardtop convertible for summer days. The base price for the 3-Series is $33,675 while the M3 has a starting price of $69,025. The engines can be fitted with one of the following transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting and a modern 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. According to the EPA ratings, the BMW 3-Series will do 13-23 mpg city / 20-36 mpg highway.

Other cars that didn’t made it into our top include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the beautiful Nissan 370Z, Chevrolet Camaro, Porsche 911 Carrera, Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Lexus IS Convertible.

Picking out any of these cars from our top is a good idea as they all combine the most important ingredients of a car: fun to drive, comfy interior, a bundle of safety features and more than decent powertrains, especially for the sportier cars like the M3 or the S4.

Fiat Promotes Natural Gas Engines

After almost 30 years of absence from the US market, the Italian Fiat SpA is returning back to the United States with the help of Sergio Marchionne. Along with this return, Fiat might bring one of their specialties – the natural gas power units that equip a wide variety of their models. According to Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat & Chrysler Group, by brining the natural gas engines, it is an efficient way to reduce the emissions thanks to the fact that they are more affordable in comparison with competing technologies. He added that the upcoming electric cars manufactured by Toyota and General Motors have “too many obstacles”, like the long recharge time for the batteries.

According to Constantinos Vafidis, the person who oversees hybrid and transmission development at the research center of Fiat in Turin, Italy, “natural gas is very suitable for the United States. Especially for public services and goods transportation, where vehicles are refueled from a central base.”

On the European continent, the Italian automaker Fiat is the market leader in natural-gas power units, taking 80% share of the methane-powered automobiles and 55% of the light commercial vehicles. A professor at the MIP management school of Milan’s Polytechnic University, by the name of Giuliano Noci, stated that “Fiat will use its technological leadership in natural gas, in a region discovered to have huge reserves. It’s almost a mandatory strategy. Fiat should lead the natural-gas car market as it’s far behind in the electric vehicle sector.”

Back in September, Alfredo Altavilla (the head of the Italian Iveco truck unit), stated that the natural gas is a “more affordable solution” due to the fact that it is less expensive to produce in comparison to other types of engines. He added that the extra costs for a power unit that uses natural gas is $3,000 in comparison to the $3,300 for a diesel engine and $8,000 for an electric hybrid.

Helped by government incentives, Fiat managed to sell 127,000 methane-powered cars last year in Europe (including the versions of the Ducato van and the Panda compact). In 2009, United States became the largest producer of natural gas, overtaking Russia. Lucio Bernard, who is the director of Fiat Powertrain, stated that “we’ve had contact with the U.S. and Canadian governments.” Canada and United States have become more interested “after the recent discoveries of shale-gas reserves in the region.”

In Italy there are more than 800 fuelling stations for natural-gas vehicles, making it a very robust market, probably the most robust in the entire world. On the contrary, in the United States, General Motors just began commercializing automobiles that have natural-gas power units to fleet customers. The only manufacturer of cars that have compressed natural engines in the United States is the Japanese automaker Honda. Fiat is currently taking into consideration joining the United States market with natural-gas cars. After a 30 year absence, Fiat is returning to the US with the compact 500 model. The Italian automaker is planning on selling 50,000 units of this model.

Chrysler is joining Fiat in a natural-gas car association in Washington and is considering launching such cars in the United States in the years to come, depending on the demand for such cars. A spokesman for the company by the name of Vince Muniga affirmed that “we’re always looking at alternative propulsion systems and how to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, so this is one thing we are looking at.”

Unlike Fiat, the Japanese automaker Toyota and General Motors are giving their attention to hybrid electric automobiles, as an alternative to traditional gasoline cars. On November 30th, General Motors started manufacturing the Chevrolet Volt, a gasoline-electric care that has a starting price of $41,000. GM is planning on selling 10,000 units of this model next year and 45,000 cars in 2012.

Toyota became more popular worldwide once it introduced onto the market the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car – the Prius that was launched about 10 years ago. In 2012 in United States, Chrysler will start making an electric version of the compact Fiat 500. The network of recharging stations for electric-powered cars is very underdeveloped at the moment, similar with the situation of the refueling gas vehicles stations. In the United States there are 1,300 stations for the approximately 110,000 cars that use natural gas, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles. The Petroleum Marketers Association of America recently stated that in the US there are about 160,000 stations for gasoline-powered cars.

In 2009, Marchionne separated the Dodge and the Ram brands in order to create a standalone truck unit. His plans are to increase the stake of Fiat-Chrysler from 20% at the moment, to 35% by the end of 2011. His 5-year plan for Chrysler is to introduce small and large commercial vans to the United States in 2012.

An IHS Automotive analyst by the name of Phil Gott, recently stated that “that gives them the freedom to introduce Iveco products into the Chrysler lineup. The target customers would be the heavy duty fleets, they could cut their fuel costs in about half.”

The United States is holding the 14th place for natural gas vehicles sales in comparison to Italy, ranked 6th, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicle. Surprisingly, Pakistan holds the number one spot with 2.3 million cars and about 3,000 fueling stations. The CEO of Fiat & Chrysler Group hopes to raise the United States figures. He added last week that “Fiat’s technological leadership in compressed natural gas in Europe is a key asset for the United States natural gas-vehicle-market.”

Honda 2010 Overview

Honda Accord CrossTour

Without any doubt, this year (at least the beginning of it) looked very promising for the Japanese automaker. Why? Take a closer look at Toyota which is drowning in hundreds of thousands of recalls on various models and two out of the Detroit 3 climbing out of the dark days of bankruptcy. But despite the fact that Honda had everything in its favor, things did not go as they expected, on the contrary. Honda’s United States sales and overall share went down this year. The brand sales in November are up only by 4% in comparison to the market’s 11% rise.

According to Lincoln Merrihew who is the managing director of a market research firm called Compete Automotive, it seems that “Honda is not riding the wave”. Some might say that this is because of bad timing as two of their most important models, the CR-V and the Civic are at their final year of product cycle and the Accord is following them, a fresh update is due in 18 months. The reasons for their low sales are not limited to these factors only, as the buyer consideration has also decreased; the outdated inventory system also caused serious losses. Add to this the various reputations among youngster, and the entire image does not look very pretty for Honda.

Some of these issues can be however easily repaired but Honda made another major mistake back in February when they held back production and inventory in the wrong moment when the economy was slowly gaining terrain, allowing other automakers to aggressively promote their new cars.

Things are not all bad for the Japanese car manufacturer as the repurchase loyalty rate among owners has been rising from a 42% back in 2001 to approximately 56% in 2009, according to the data published by R.L. Polk. The market’s industry is approximately 44%. Lonnie Miller, analyst at Polk said that “Typically you get a spike with your own customers when you have new-product launches, and Honda has been pretty quiet. With sales performance and repeat selling, your owners get rejuvenated with new products.”

Back in 2007, Honda posted an 11th consecutive year of record sales and it also managed to grab four awards of the 19 categories available (the most of any brand), in J.D. Power’s APEAL survey that measures how gratifying how an automobile is to own.

As far as the battle for the most popular hybrids are concerned, Toyota’s Prius model is outselling the Insight 8 to 1. The executives over at Honda United States planned to sell between 60,000 and 80,000 units of the Insight in 2010; by November they only managed to deliver 19,325 units. For this particular reason, Honda decided to introduce a cheaper Insight model that has less features, which is with $4,610 more affordable than the Prius. We will have to wait and see for a couple of months if this new more affordable Insight can get the attraction of more people that are looking for a hybrid car.

Another model that was outshined by Toyota is the Accord Crosstour which didn’t stand a chance against the Venza model manufactured by the rival Japanese carmaker. Toyota managed to sell 43,325 of the Venza by November, in comparison to just 25,927 Accord Crosstour. It seems that the Crosstour inventories and the discount necessary to sell them are larger in comparison to the Venza, according to TrueCar – an auto research company.

Honda Accord CrossTour

Back in July, Honda made a big case when they announced the CR-Z model, despite the fact that they have set a very modest 15,000 cars sales / year. Even worse than that is the fact they only were able to sell 4,373 cars in the first five months since it was introduced, and about 3,000 CR-Zs are resting in an inventory as of November 1st, waiting for their customers.

We mentioned before that Honda has problems with its inventory system. Dealers affirm that the sales target could be achieved if the system called MOVE – Market-Oriented Vehicle Environment will be updated as soon as possible. Both small and large dealers agree to the fact that Honda’s manufacturing, allocation and inventory are not properly aligned as they require a combination of math and luck in order to get the right models in stock.

To offer a relevant example to this problem, the Honda Odyssey has many pricey options like leather seats, power tailgate and rear-seat video, thus the model has many more trim levels and features. Most of the dealers consider that they are better judges of the local tastes in comparison to the factory representatives.

Honda’s vice president of sales and logistics planning, Dennis Manns, affirmed that the new allocation system “will provide dealers with an intuitive, more localized and market-focused way of managing their inventories.” It seems that the current inventory system used by the Japanese automaker is one of the important reasons why the dealer satisfaction scores have fallen.

On the good side, it seems that Honda’s sales in the North American truck market have gone up if we take into consideration the fact that in August they have increased production capacity. The officials over at Honda said that their CR-V, Pilot and Odyssey models are doing very good. Most of the executives as well as some Honda dealers are looking at a much more positive 2011. They are hoping for an economic recovery aided by the introduction of the new Civic and CR-V models that are due in 6 months, and with the launch of the Accord which will occur in mid-2012.

Testing The 2011 Honda CR-Z

2011 Honda CR-Z

The Insight was the first hybrid automobile launched in North America about 10 years ago. Since it was introduced, it had a very hard time finding customers that were willing to pay for a carbon-conscious hybrid that managed to bring a very good fuel-economy ratio, but did not offer enough room for baggage plus the fact that it had only one additional seat. These impediments made lots of people to wait for the more practical Toyota Prius which was a hit from day one.

A few years later in 2003, Honda launched the hybrid version of the popular Civic model, but did not improve sales for the hybrid department of the Japanese manufacture. In 2005 Honda launched the hybrid version of their Accord model, but similar with the Civic, it didn’t attract many customers that were looking for a hybrid model as they still preferred the Toyota Prius.

Five years later, Honda decided to bring a new approach to the hybrid market and launched the Insight which is a five-door, low-drag wedge that is very similar with the Prius. The new model was more popular than the Civic or the Accord, but still did not stand a chance against Toyota’s model that offers more space in the back, more space for cargo and most important, better mileage. All these advantages of the Prius allowed it to outsold the Honda Insight 6 to 1 (80, 141 Honda’s, 12, 115 Toyota’s). These figures are available only for the first months of this year, because if we look back in 2009, Toyota was even more successful, managing to sell three times more cars (Prius) in comparison to the hybrid lineup (combined) offered by Honda (Civic + Accord + Insight).

Taking all these into consideration, Honda had to come up with a new model that would change the situation dramatically. With the 2011 CR-Z EX model, the Japanese automaker is hoping that it will attract more customers that are looking for a hybrid model. The CR-Z is considered by many as the spiritual successor of the iconic sporty CRX model that was launched in the 80s. The 2011 model is in fact a 2-seat version of the Insight rather than a reiteration of the model that was launched approximately 25 years ago.

Putting it head to head with the Insight, the 2011 CRZ model from Honda has a 4.5 inch shorter wheelbase, measuring 95.9 inches. The CRZ is however wider by 1.8 inches, totaling 68.5. Honda did not fully change the new model compared to the CRX from the 80s as both are three-door, two-seat hatchbacks. Plus the flashy styling of the 2011 model is inspired by the CRX.

The heart that powers the car is an electric motor, Honda’s proprietary IMA – Integrated Motor Assist located between the 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve engine that outputs 113 hp, and the 6-speed manual gearbox. The current hybrid configurations of the Civic and Accord are equipped with a 1.3-liter power unit. Due to the fact that it has a 6-speed manual transmission, the 2011 CR-Z is the only hybrid with three pedals. For extra money, you can get the CVT transmission that will cost you extra $650.

Having a closer look at the power unit of the CR-Z, you will observe that it is identical in displacement with the Fit’s 117 hp engine. However, the engine resembles more with the first generation that powered the Fit’s, a 1.5-liter power unit. This IMA is exactly the same to the one on the Insight – a 13-hp electric motor that is powered by 84 1.2-volt nickel-metal hydride batteries. It can offer 58 pound-feet of torque, which is similar with the Insight. The combined output of the gasoline and electric engines is 122 hp and a torque of 128 pound-feet. The torque is 123 pound-feet, for those of you that will choose the CVT transmission.

2011 Honda CR-Z

The 2011 CR-Z is 100 pounds lighter in comparison with the Insight, totaling 2644 lbs and it has an additional 24 hp, allowing it to reach 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, which is 0.7 seconds faster than the Insight. However, compared to a 1988 Honda CRX Si that has a 105 hp engine, it is slower by a second as far as the 0-60 mph sprint is concerned. We should also mention the fact the CR-Z is 558 pounds heavier than the CRX.

Equipped with the 6-speed gearbox, the car will do 31 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA’s test procedures. Fitted with the CVT transmission, it will do 35 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Compared to the Insight (40 mpg city / 43 mpg highway) and the popular Toyota Prius (51 mpg city / 58 mpg highway), the CR-Z is less efficient.

It appears that the CR-Z will not be a hit for Honda because many people will still continue to prefer the 5-door Insight which is not only more efficient and practical, but it costs just about the same. For people that can’t or won’t spend that much, there is the Fit which is however less efficient, but other than that, it is better and quicker. Of course, those that will buy the CR-Z will not be disappointed as it is a pleasure to drive. It offers a superb chassis, excellent ergonomics and a perfect shifter. The model is equipped with the efficient stop-start function which was further tuned by Honda for the 2011 CR-Z. The power unit cuts when the driver is slowing at a stop as early as 20 mph; once the driver shifts into gear, the car will power up without any unpleasant vibrations.

All things considered, the 2011 Honda CR-Z is a good car but it does not stand a chance in comparison with the Fit and the popular CRX model. It can be labeled as a green car but no way near the Insight or the Toyota Prius. However, it looks and drives fantastic.

Source: CarAndDriver.com

Japanese Automakers Aiming At The Chinese Market

2011 Mitsubishi Galant

It seems that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are attempting to expand their sales in the China which is at this moment, the largest automotive market in the world and it seems that it will remain the same for the following years.

Mitsubishi has set up its first 50/50 joint venture in the Middle Kingdom and is expecting to double the capacity there. Honda is also planning on doubling the production at the Wuhan factory where in the near future it will start producing hybrid cars.

These attempts to conquer the Chinese market come as a direct response to General Motors and Volkswagen AG, as these companies have already a strong activity in China. The most important international automakers that hold the first places for most cars sold to the Chinese market are VW, GM, Hyundai, Toyota and Renault-Nissan.

From all of the Japanese car manufacturers, Mitsubishi is the last one that formed a 50-50 joint venture in China. The Fuji Heavy Industries, who is a manufacturer of Subaru cars, also has no production there, but its plans are to sign a partnership until the end of the year.

2011 Honda Civic Sedan

Honda is currently constructing a secondary assembly plant for the Dongfeng Honda Automobile Corporation, one of the brand’s 50/50 joint ventures. Although the initial capacity of this new assembly plant was set at 60,000 units per year, Honda recently stated that they have increased the number to 100,000 cars.

By 2013, the capacity of Honda’s factory in Wuhan will reach 120,000 units per year and in the upcoming years; it will be able to make 240,000 cars annually. The Dongfeng Honda plant has at the moment an annual capacity of 240,000 automobiles.

The Japanese newspaper Nikkei noted that the new plant will be making the Civic subcompact model and that by early 2012, Honda will start manufacturing hybrids in China. Seiji Kuraishi who is Honda’s boss in China, confirmed that the Japanese automaker will start making hybrids in China in the near future, but did not shared other details regarding this topic. The Nikkei newspaper also noted that the Fit and Civic hybrids are two of Honda’s options for the Chinese factories.

Honda’s sales in China reached 475, 695 cars this year until September, which is a 16% increase in comparison to the similar period of last year. However, only 63 hybrids were sold in the first 9 months of 2010.

Honda is hoping that by 2013, their manufacturing capacity in China will reach 890,000 units per year, including the 480,000 cars at the Ghuangzhou Honda joint venture as well as at the 50,000 units manufactured at Honda Automobile China, which is a local venture that makes cars for export.

Mitsubishi will be buying a 50% stake at the GAC Changfeng Motor Corporation where at the moment it has only 14.6% shares. GAC Changfeng Motor can make 80,000 cars per year. The models being built there are the Mitsubishi Pajero SUV and the Changfeng-badged SUVs. Within the next five years, Mitsubishi wants to start making 250,000 cars at the factory. In July 2012, the Japanese automaker will start producing a new vehicle there. Mitsubishi also owns 25% of Fujian Motor Co., a venture that has a 150,000 annual capacity which produces the Mitsubishi Lancer and Galant sedans.

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