Friday, August 07, 2009

A tumultuous year: Small never looked so good!

Due to other ventures, this blog has languished to the bottom of my priority list. Perhaps it's fitting given the tumultuous year it has been in the auto business; just keeping up-to-date on the drama of the American Big Three (GM, Chrysler, Ford) would be a challenge, rendering some posts obsolete within days (case in point: the small Pontiac G3: discontinued shortly after being released). After all, this blog is not about mergers, buy-outs, bail-outs, bankruptcies or subsidies: it's about small cars.

Overall, the economic downturn has been good for "small", and not only for cars, but as a general philosophy of frugality, of living more simply. In the car sector, the recession has accomplished what $150 USD/barrel oil, and the resulting high gasoline prices, last year couldn't: people are now actually buying small cars in droves. In Canada, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants showed that by the end of 2008 the market share of sub-compact cars reached 8.7% (of total automobile sales), double the previous year's numbers. It's not a stretch to think that for 2009 the market share will be well into the teens. In the United States, the popular Cash-for-Clunkers program (which was just extended by the U.S. Senate yesterday evening) has propelled the small-ish Ford Focus to a top seller. In the U.K., which has their own scrappage program, it's a small car (the Ford Fiesta) leading the pack as the top car being chosen after trade-ins.

These are exciting times for small car enthusiasts. If this was 1969 again, Honda might have thought twice before dropping the idea of the selling the small 600 here in North America. This time around, I hope companies stop heeding the old stereotypes that imply that we need bulkier, faster, gas guzzlers just because we live on this side of of the world. Let's hope that we the consumers are the ones who are allowed to make a choice from the full spectrum of products, including the small cars available in the rest of the world.

Which ones am I anxiously waiting to test drive? The TH!NK city (a small electric car), the Fiat 500 (just awarded the title of "Best City Car" for 2009 in the U.K.) and the Toyota iQ (a tiny car that's much sexier than the Smart car). Hurry up and bring them over to this side of the Atlantic!