Autos | Turnaround vehicles?

Big Three mix up models for 2010

The editors at Cars.com took a look at current or planned new car introductions they believe can help turn the Big Three around in 2010 and beyond. PRNewswire

Ford Motor Co.

Ford Fiesta: A feisty import from Europe could erase memories of its last U.S. version. Ford's new version claims to get around 40 mpg. Its price starts just north of $13,000, which sure helps in the current economy; it could build a new generation of Ford fans from teens and 20-somethings.

Ford Taurus: Ford needs a car like this to appeal to baby boomers looking to downgrade from expensive luxury makers and still generate profits. The Taurus has a name with equity and enough extra features that could make it a big moneymaker. Despite its sharp looks, the Taurus' cramped cockpit may put off some family shoppers, but Ford's powerful EcoBoost engine could make dads overlook the tight fit.

Ford Explorer: The Explorer's move to a unibody platform should help it drive more like a car and get more carlike mileage. Although the SUV category has slumped, a new Explorer could help cement Ford in the family car business, where it has seen modest success with the Flex and the Edge.

Chrysler

Jeep Grand Cherokee: Chrysler is wise to kick off its rebirth with a unibody family hauler that has an advanced off-road system to satisfy the broadest swath of consumers. But the Cherokee's mileage is likely to lag its competitors despite an estimated 11 percent gain in mileage — and Chrysler desperately needs to solve past reliability problems.

Fiat 500: The company plans to start selling the 500 in January 2011 at "salons" in select urban dealerships. While it could become as successful as the Mini Cooper, that level of sales volume won't be enough to help Chrysler pay off its government debt, much less reach profitability.

Chrysler 300: This style-centric rear-wheel-drive sedan helped revive Chrysler in the early 2000s, and it's getting a redesign for the 2011 model year. The 300 could provide plenty of profit margin, along with a huge cabin. Mileage could be a concern, but with an improved interior expected and lots of space, the 300 could win back fans of flashy looks while the masses focus on value.

General Motors

Chevy Equinox/Traverse: These models, already in production, have sold well and made the brand a true innovative player in the family car market. The Traverse is now the top large crossover, beating out Toyota's Highlander and Honda's Pilot for a few months now. The Equinox has a top-class cabin and class-leading gas mileage.

Chevy Cruze: The Cruze is GM's effort to get a 40-mpg small car on the market. The Cruze is more a competitor for Toyota's Corolla or the Honda Civic. Now owned in part by U.S. taxpayers, GM sees the Cruze as a shot at making its case that they can build a desirable, fuel-efficient car, proving that the federal bailout was worth it.

Chevy Volt: Could the electric-gas hybrid be GM's opening shot in the electric-car wars, or will it be outmoded the moment it arrives? It's reasonable to ask why consumers would pay upward of $40,000 for a car that gets great mileage when they can buy another car that gets great mileage for closer to $20,000, say the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. Of course, federal tax credits should chop a hefty $7,500 off the Volt's MSRP.

Big Three mix up models for 2010 02/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 3:30am]

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