U.S. Automakers Push Fuel Economy

Five years ago, Zetsche said, people would ask what would happen if one of Daimler's Smart subcompacts disappeared into a pothole in New York City. By Monday, the company has had 500,000 inquiries about Smart on its Web site and plans to sell the two-seat mini-car in the U.S. in 2008.

Published: 11-Jan-2007

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. promised to make a hybrid car that travels 40 miles on a six-hour charge from a household electric outlet before its flex-fuel gasoline engine kicks in. Ford Motor Co. introduced a redesigned Focus compact with a voice-activated music player to attract young buyers.
 
Toyota Motor Corp., meanwhile, showed off a five-passenger, 381-horsepower pickup, while the star of Honda Motor Co.'s presentation was a sports car with a V-10 engine.

U.S. and Japanese automakers have traded places at this week's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Americans, trying to wean themselves from the gas-guzzling pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles they pushed in the 1990s, have rediscovered the car and fuel economy. The Japanese are going for the big and powerful.

"It's ironic to see these roles being reversed," said Rebecca Lindland, a market analyst for forecaster Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Mass. "Detroit automakers need to diversify into cars because they can't rely on SUVs to prop up their balance sheets any longer. Toyota needs to reach out to pickup buyers in order to continue its expansion."

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