Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are two small cars better than a mini van?

With dual-income families on the rise, it is not uncommon for families, especially those with younger children, to have a mini van and a second vehicle for one of the working spouses. But is having a mini van truly necessary? Perhaps it would be more economical (and better for the environment) to have two small cars, and for special events or trips, when a larger vehicle is necessary, rent a mini van for the day or weekend. One Ottawa blogger ponders the question: Are two small cars better than a van and a compact?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fiat to go micro in 2009 and green by 2012

In an interview last week with Automotive News Europe, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne mentioned that the company is hoping to sell its first microcar by 2009. It's a "true beauty," said Marchionne. We can speculate that it might look quite a bit like the concept microcar that Fiat presented to the world in 2005, pictured here. Perhaps they can call it the "Piccolo" (italian for small), but more likely it will end up being a variation on the Panda, their current (slightly ugly) almost-micro car.

Fiat has been having great success with its updated version of the Fiat 500, the Fiat Nuova 500; it's selling very briskly in Europe and is garnering many awards, including the prestigious EuroCarBody 2007 and the European Car of the Year 2008. It would appear that this success is giving Fiat confidence to go even smaller... Roughly 30 centimeters smaller to be precise (to get into the microcar category).

In the same interview, Marchionne asserted that "Fiat will be the carmaker with the lowest average emissions in 2012," and that they "do not need hybrids to get there." To all the hybrid devotees out there (yes, it almost seems like a religion these days), this must sound scandalous. But it's actually quite simple; going with increasingly smaller cars is likely the way they are going to achieve this goal. Perhaps he was reading my post from March...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Slowdown in new car sales is slower than trucks

Following up on my last post, although I wasn't able to find the data for small cars specifically (for now, it seems that all sales data that is publicly reported in Canada lumps all car sizes into one "passenger cars" category; this needs to change!), there do seem to be some noticeable divergence in car sales vs. truck/SUV sales in Canada. In the last Statistics Canada New Motor Vehicle Sales report published November 15th, we find that 4% less passenger cars sold in September 2007 than a year before. In the same period, trucks and sport utility vehicle sales declined 5.2%. Canadians were buying less new vehicles, but the slowdown was more acute for bigger vehicles. This is consistent with the anecdotal reports I've heard of increasing sales of small and economy cars; my suspicion is that the passenger car data is being buoyed by this segment.

Interestingly, the slight positive lead in growth (if you want to call a slower slowdown a "lead", at least for September) for cars has only been evident back to July 2007. Before that, for a solid year, and generally prior to that, the truck and SUVs category was the one growing faster in Canada. It would seem that the Canadian addiction to larger vehicles is only barely starting to fade. Let's hope we don't fall off the wagon...