Why Golden Manufacturers Keep Laying Rotten Eggs

posted in: Online Around the Net | 4

The BMW 1-series was a bust as was the Audi A3 in America. Sales are in the tank and everyone sits back and wonders why we don’t buy small cars.  We buy small cars, just not yours.  Heck look at the Mini.  Maybe BMW is just not as cool.  Oh right, BMWs are way cool and they own Mini.  Maybe it was the Euro against the dollar, price walk ups from the 1-series/A3 to the 3 or A4 respectively, true mileage gains, looks… I don’t know.  Or maybe these manufacturers are looking through beer goggles.    

Let me break it down for you like a fraction through flip flops and tip tops.

First some flops:
Cadillac Cimarron – lipstick on a pig
Pontiac LeMans – speaking of eggs
GM EV1 – who believed GM was serious, they conspired with Standard Oil to get rid of streetcars
Smart Car – most people like their t-bone on a plate
Geo Metro Convertible – when the sun comes up, some tops should not be off
BMW 1-series – are you serious with that price
Audi A3 – ditto

Tip tops:
Toyota Prius – forward looking company sees future and puts solid product reputation behind it
Mini – slightly expensive but incredible customization makes car feel like an extension of you
Honda Fit – timing is everything, especially when you plan for it.  Did you hear me Kia Borrego?  I forgive you, you’ve got Soul now.
VW Golf Rabbit – constant improvements on a good ride

I know I’m missing some cars like the Honda Insight, ahead of its time, but manufacturers should take a lesson from their youth.  Don’t come at the public with a two-beer buzz expecting to get laid that night.  In the end, you will slur your words, look sloppy and show your hand before reaching the egg.  The best laid ideas (sorry, I’ll stop now) come from listening, understanding, planning and patience.

Take for example the inspiration for this story, the VW L1.  Originally, VW started experimenting with its concept in 2002.  But Piech put it on the shelf saying it wouldn’t be financially viable for ten years.  Well, with a four year development cycle he’s timed it right for this diesel hybrid weighing under 850 lbs and getting 170 mpg.

The engine is mated to a 10 kilowatt electric motor, which VW integrated into a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.  The drivetrain features a two-cylinder turbodiesel displacing 800 cubic centimeters putting out 20 kilowatts (26 horsepower) in Eco mode; and 29 kilowatts (39 horsepower) in sport. Maximum torque is 74 pound-feet.

The L1 has a claimed drag coefficient of just 0.195. That matches the General Motors EV1 which is the most aerodynamic production car ever built.  Carbon-fiber skin stretches over 12.5 feet and 45 inches high to conceal two seats, placed fore and aft of each other, and the carbon-monocoque like McLaren MP4-12C uses.   It looks more substantial than a Smart with more padding for accidents and stability at freeway speeds.  But the test will be in the price, marketing and ultimate utility.  Will it be reasonably priced?  Will they position correctly?  Does the bonnet have room for my many hats?  You see, I wear a lot of hats at this magazine so I want to make sure they all fit when I test drive this car.  Either way, I kinda dig this concept.


4 Responses

  1. EMPM, Esq

    I like it, too, but I don’t think the general public will ever take to the motorcycle seating position. I think most people would rather be nagged by their wife sitting next to them than from behind. I prefer the long and narrow look over the Smart car’s short and dumpy looks, but I just don’t see people getting over that seating layout.

    I think that the Mini and the Fit have been successful because they got something right that BMW and Smart haven’t: proportion. A Mini and a Fit look like they are normal cars, just smaller. Any longer they just don’t look right (ex: Clubman) and any shorter they look foolish (ex: Smart). Plus they both have useable rear seat room. Smart and the 1 series can’t say that. I believe that BMW would have had a better chance at success if they would have only brought the 5 door 1 series over and not the coupe that we got. I believe the luxury 5 door is going to eventually catch on. Lexus thinks so, too, with their new hatch that we may see in 2012. The problem with the Audi A3 is it is just a really nice Golf. Why buy an A3 when you can get a R32? Or a 4 door GTI for less that offers more performance for the money? Or for a few grand more, an A4 Avant?

    I am glad that Mini has created a foothold in the US for their product and I hope that it means we will see more small vehicles in the US. Another problem that I won’t get into is the fact that ‘Mericans love their trucks and SUVs, which really suck to have to drive on the roadways next to when you are in a small car. We’ll leave that for another day.

  2. wetnoodle

    I love the R32..see the new one coming out? They are’nt bringing the stick over here though..bastards.

  3. Anonymous

    I like the A3 – even though everyone we know has had issues with theirs. But if I didn’t need to fitt a dog and a double stroller in the back, that would be my ride.

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