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Discussion Starter #1
Can anyone suggest some websites to get up-to-date car industry news, especially information like spy-reports and upcoming car models?

I'm sure many of you check out such sites, considering we are all interested in a car with a certain level of secrecy about it.

I get the daily updates of thecarconnection.com through my email, and I know of gminsidenews... but I'm looking for something with a much larger scope.

For instance... occassionaly on the Scion message board I frequent someone will post a thread relating to "Japanese Cars We Should Have in the States" and I will see these amazing (ok, kind of freaky) cars which may make it over here to the States, but I never hear Thecarconnection.com refering to such things, so I know there has to be a better source out there.

The GENERAL word I hear often is that America may begin seeing it's share of small, unique, economy priced cars that Japan and Europe have had for many years. But I rarely hear the details or latest-news on such models. Anyone have suggestions or news blogs of this type that I should be aware of?
 

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Not a lot of spy stuff, but auto.com, (auto section of Detroit Free Press newspaper), is something that I get on my PDA through Avantgo, and probably has a RSS feed. Some good inside stuff once in a while.
 

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naoki said:
The GENERAL word I hear often is that America may begin seeing it's share of small, unique, economy priced cars that Japan and Europe have had for many years. But I rarely hear the details or latest-news on such models. Anyone have suggestions or news blogs of this type that I should be aware of?
This sort of interst in what the rest of the world drives comes to the states it seems every decade or so. This is esspecially true when gas prices go up. People get all excited about small cars, they start buying them, and then the gas prices go down or the novelty wears off, we realise we can get a much bigger car for the same price, and the little cars dissapear. However it seems the grass is always greener on the other side of the ocean. The problem is most really aren't that cheap or all that great. Niche cars like the Mini, Bug and XB will probably continue to have some appeal, but more ordinary econo cars that most of the world drives don't have staying power in the states.

Waves of small foriegn cars came in the late 30's, late 40's, late 50's, late 60's, most then held in through the 70's and 80's due to high gas prices and poor offerings by domestics, followed by a boom in mini cars in the late 80's, again fueled by high gas prices, and here we are again with renewed interest in mini cars about one decade later.

However with every wave of new imports enevitably came much defeat. With the exception of a few niche cars like the VW, most were kept out by better values from Domestic manufactures. This changed significantly in the 70's, but even then imports had to addapt by making bigger cars for our market. In the late 80's cheap mini cars became popular because gas prices went up, but when they went down those little cars mostly dissapeared again.

Bottom line, most Americans prefer big cars. Hell, most seem to think cars aren't even big enough, they've got to have trucks. Gas has gone up again, so little cars will no doubt make it across the ponds again, but unless gas prices keep going up and stay up, look for most of them to go back home. The problem with bringing them over when ever there is a fad or craze and then dropping them, is it costs manufactures lots of money. All those unsold cars at the tail of the trend have to be discounted, parts and support for those that have been sold has to continue (often times with little in common with more solid selling models, so parts inventory is a nightmare) and all the while they generate little if any profit because Americans won't pay much for small cars. Sportscars and niche cars are the exceptions.

I personaly love small cars, always have since my first AMC Metropolitain. They're cheap to operate and more fun to drive. Most Americans disagree. To answer your real question about web info on new product offerings I don't have much to add to what people have posted here, but years ago when I cared more about the car business, I used to subscribe to a trade magazine by the name of Automotive Industries I think, and it would have great insights into what was coming down the pike as much as a decade out. Alot of what was in it was about manufacturing technology and management trends, but they had alot about the cars too. That mag is probably still around and maybe they have web site. When ever new econo cars from abroad come to America, they're usually just the same as over there but made US compliant, so a good source of info is British mags and sites, they usually cover European and Japanese cars.
 

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naoki said:
Can anyone suggest some websites to get up-to-date car industry news, especially information like spy-reports and upcoming car models?

I'm sure many of you check out such sites, considering we are all interested in a car with a certain level of secrecy about it.

I get the daily updates of thecarconnection.com through my email, and I know of gminsidenews... but I'm looking for something with a much larger scope.

For instance... occassionaly on the Scion message board I frequent someone will post a thread relating to "Japanese Cars We Should Have in the States" and I will see these amazing (ok, kind of freaky) cars which may make it over here to the States, but I never hear Thecarconnection.com refering to such things, so I know there has to be a better source out there.

The GENERAL word I hear often is that America may begin seeing it's share of small, unique, economy priced cars that Japan and Europe have had for many years. But I rarely hear the details or latest-news on such models. Anyone have suggestions or news blogs of this type that I should be aware of?
http://www.cheersandgears.com/

oh yeah, you might find the top article of that page interesting. i know i did! :thumbs
 

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The place I generally get my daily news from is the Detroit News Auto Insider website. http://www.detnews.com/autosinsider/ They run their own articles and editorials, and during the week they also have links to newsworthy auto articles on other sites so it ends up being fairly comprehensive. Their editorials are biased towards mostly the domestics, and what is going on with them. However, they do not always paint a rosey picture for the domestics either.
 

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Thing is that what most Americans consider "small" are "large" to other countries (to me I will always associate "Mecedes Benz" with "taxicab"). What Europeans consider "small" (M-B A series, Ford KA, MBB "Smart Car") are not even considered for import.

The last time euro-small made it to this country was the original Mini (current version is *three feet* longer) and the last time really small made it here was the Isetta (had a front opening door because it was so short you could park it nose-in to the sidewalk) and the Messerschmidt in the 50's (Nash Metropolitan was large in comparison and had a big (1500 cc) engine. It also had "three on the tree" to Americanize it.

Now my wife wants a Smart Car, has ever since she drove one in the UK. In the US a city car makes sense so long as you have a road car as well. In the last 30 years I have never lived more than five miles from an Interstate and sub-sub-compacts have never done well on them - short wheelsbases are not great for stability at speed. (In my yout, the propensity of a VWs etc to be literally "blown off the road" by a larger car passing at speed was reality, not a saying). To most Americans a 599 cc engine belongs on a motorcycle, not a car.

So sub-minis have a place but only in multi-car households, not as a sole possession. They are popular with young people who usually cannot afford them.

For one thing, "small" does not equal "inexpensive" either, the cost of making a two-seat eight-foot Smart Car is not going to be much less than a larger Hyundai or Honda and the cost of certification is going to be equal if not greater.

Finally two seat cars always are going to be less versitile than a four seater. For a starter car it has no place to put a baby seat. For grocery shopping, luggage space will be limited.

Might mention that this is from the persective of someone who grew up with two seat English cars, just recently sold my last Fiero, and whose daily driver is a Reatta. Of course we also have a Bonneville and a TranSport for when more is needed (all 3800/4T60 so spares are easy).

That said, when the Smart Car becomes available, we will probably obtain one. Might even drive back from Califonia if that is the only importer and that would be interesting...

ref www.zapworld.com
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I seem to have misplaced my Wired Magazine, which has a 1 page article on the emergence of Smart in America. As I'm sure you all know, we'll be getting the "FourMore", which is an "SUV." IF we were to also get a 2-seat Smart, it will be after the bigger SUV which they find better for an American introduction.

But the Wired article speaks more about how great the original 2-seater is, and how Canada will be getting that model at the end of this year (?) or the middle of next year (?) or later next year (?). I'm not quite sure.

So if anyone is interested in getting one of these, you might wanna wait before you import from across the pond. Expect to seem them coming from the north in the coming years!
 

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Canadian version will have a 700 cc diesel engine and I have never cared for Diesels (dirtiest engine I ever worked on was a MB 240D). We want a ForTwo (originally called the City Car but probably changed because of an electric car of the same name produced in Florida in the 1970's) "Passion" (with a/c and automatic/manual transmission). The whole appeal is "small" and a four seter just does not qualify.

For current info see http://www.thesmart.co.uk/index.html or http://www.smartcar.ws .
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Ok, so the fourfour is what is coming to Canada? Cuz I thought it was some version of the fourtwo?

Well, if the Canadians do get something you like by January '05... I'll be happy to drive it down to Orlando for you, that'll be about when I'm moving down there! :lol
 

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Just to touch on small cars… the smallest vehicle I have ever driven was my fathers Geo Tracker (96) 2 door convertible. Its 143 inches long with an 86 inch wheelbase. You can literally reach back from the front seat and touch the vehicle’s tailgate. Now its still not as small as some of those Euro small cars, but length-wise it is extremely short compared to other American vehicles. It was the worst highway vehicle I have ever driven! LOL. It was great for around town driving and short jaunts. But on the highway, forget it. It was choppy and bouncy, would get blown around in the wind, and against a strong headwind it would begin to slow down due to a lack of power! I don’t think I would want to own a small engine city car as my only ride!
 

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padgett said:
Now my wife wants a Smart Car, has ever since she drove one in the UK. In the US a city car makes sense so long as you have a road car as well. In the last 30 years I have never lived more than five miles from an Interstate and sub-sub-compacts have never done well on them - short wheelsbases are not great for stability at speed. (In my yout, the propensity of a VWs etc to be literally "blown off the road" by a larger car passing at speed was reality, not a saying). To most Americans a 599 cc engine belongs on a motorcycle, not a car.

So sub-minis have a place but only in multi-car households, not as a sole possession. They are popular with young people who usually cannot afford them.
I agree with all that you have said about mini cars, but they really aren't that bad on the freeway. The short wheelbase and small wheels do make for a choppier ride, but it's not that bad. Ive had many cars of all sizes over the decades, but the one that I have had that was the smallest and most under powered was my '72 Honda 600 sedan.

For those that don't know, the 600 was a car (not a motorcycle) powered by a 600cc air cooled twin cylinder engine. It had a 4 speed trany and couldn't be much more than 30 or 40 HP, I can't remember now. I used to drive that car everywhere, and when I was in college in San Francisco, I used to regularly drive it home to Santa Barbara to visit family and friends. I had other bigger cars then, but I was usualy kinda broke, and any money I could save on gas I could spend on beer! So it was like an only car for awhile. Also a little car like that was perfect in the city, I could park it anywhere. There were always parking spaces that no one else could fit in, so it was almost like reserve parking!

I absolutly love small cars, they are a blast to drive, and the original Mini was a 600 with more power, so I much prefered the Mini, but the only time I was reminded that the 600 was under powered was with more than 2 people in the car, going up a steep grade or a strong head wind. It's actually amazing how little HP you actualyneed to get around. I always try to keep this in perspective when we talk about the Solstice having a measly 170hp. Padgett, you and your wife will no doubt love your Smart, and I wouldn't be affraid of the freeway at all, I drove thousands of miles in the 600 and Mini, not to mention Metropolitans, VW Bugs and even a 47 Crosley Sedan. Big cars are more comfortable, no doubt, but they are not nessisarily more fun.

PS- If anyone out there has a Honda 600 or wants to get one, don't do what I did! I accidentaly left the oil filler cap off after topping up and drove off. Well the 600 engine doesn't have a baffle in the valve cover, and so the camshaft blew all 2 quarts of oil in the crank case out in about two city blocks! What a mess! The crank bearings are like a motorcycle, they are a roller type and do not take well to being run dry even for a moment. I refilled the crankcase and went on, but about 6 months later she threw a rod. :cryin
 

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I had a Honda S-600 briefly while in the sevice. Was a wonderful 2 place roadster I do not think they sold here (was thutty odd yar ago). I recall them bringing the 600 line into the US briefly in the early seventies but within a decade most dealers were claiming they never heard of them.

Only 600 I know of waaay back when was the FIAT Multiplia which was sorta a minivan, the 850s were the smallest FIATs recently imported and they were a 4 cyl, water cooled, rear engine. FIAT/Abarth Mille Miglia Allemano 1000 had a 1 liter engine and could do about 130 mph. Double Bubble 750 and 850 versions were more common.

The Citroen 2CV had a 2 cyl air cooled engine (Sahara model had one in each end) of 354 cc AFAIR.

Think the smallest engine in the original Mini was an 848cc with the 997 cc Sprite engine optional. The slightly larger MG 1100 was 1097 cc but eminently swappable as was the Austin America 1275 cc available with an automatic no less, & all imported in the '60s.

I once had an RVEECO'd and warmed over 70 VW Camper and the nice thing was that two of us could have a drag race out of every light and not only would no-one notice, we would never break the speed limit 8*).

Like today, in the 60s there was an entire import subculture going fast and furious just with mostly English imports not Japanese.
 

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As we walk down memory lane: In '71 I wanted a Honda 600... bad. I was on a motorcycle as my only way of getting around LA and was looking for something with a windshield, heater and four wheels. Wanted a new car 'cuz my only experience with a used car was trying to keep an MGA running. Honda didn't have a car dealer network yet but you could buy one at a motorcycle dealer for list @ $1250+TT&L less haggle. At the time a Maveric was $1950 and a Mustang was around $2500. The only reason I didn't get one was that my legs were too long to close the door all the way and still get my feet on the pedals. I could ride shot gun in a friends but just couldn't drive because I was too tall. (6'-4")

In '72, the local Pontiac dealer started selling the Honda 600 and later the 600 coupe (not quite as square in the back). They never sold the 600S roadster in LA.

The smallest engine I can think of on a street legal vehical was a either a Suzuki (or Yamaha?) they sold in '68 and '69 with a 360cc engine. Think it was less than 8' long. Would make a Samuri look like an H2. Top speed was said to be 45MPH but suspect that was with a tailwind, down hill.

And don't forget the Subaru 650 (back then pronounced su-BAR-u). Wasn't it Bricklin that headed up its US distribution?

How big was the engine in a BMW Isseta of the mid sixties. Even remember seeing a couple of streched three door versions the looked like little Dimaxions.
 

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padgett said:
I had a Honda S-600 briefly while in the sevice. Was a wonderful 2 place roadster I do not think they sold here (was thutty odd yar ago). I recall them bringing the 600 line into the US briefly in the early seventies but within a decade most dealers were claiming they never heard of them.
Your're right, by 1989 when I got mine, most dealers tried to tell me that you couldn't get parts, and many had no idea what a 600 was. But the truth was, Honda Motor Corp. used to have this great company policy to supply all the nessisary parts to keep any Honda product ever made going. So I used to push the parts departments and low and behold... there are parts for that thing!! This wonderful policy has also kept my '67 305 Dream alive too. Unfortunately, a few years back when the founder of Honda Motors died, they did away with this policy, but there are still tons of new parts out there. No doubt about it, Honda was a great company, and maybe it still is.
 

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AeroDave said:
Your're right, by 1989 when I got mine, most dealers tried to tell me that you couldn't get parts, and many had no idea what a 600 was. But the truth was, Honda Motor Corp. used to have this great company policy to supply all the nessisary parts to keep any Honda product ever made going. So I used to push the parts departments and low and behold... there are parts for that thing!! This wonderful policy has also kept my '67 305 Dream alive too. Unfortunately, a few years back when the founder of Honda Motors died, they did away with this policy, but there are still tons of new parts out there. No doubt about it, Honda was a great company, and maybe it still is.
Wow, a lot of Honda 600 fans here! Is there a strong following for these vehicles? Parts availability for old cars can become a problem, but it seems to me as long as the car has a loyal following even by a modestly large group that they are able to keep parts around, and get replacements made. It might cost a little more to keep it going that way, but its better than the alternative.

The internet has made it so much easier to locate parts too, although it has taken some of the fun from heading down to the bookstore and paging through Hemmings and the swap sheets.
 

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Fformula88 said:
Wow, a lot of Honda 600 fans here! Is there a strong following for these vehicles? Parts availability for old cars can become a problem, but it seems to me as long as the car has a loyal following even by a modestly large group that they are able to keep parts around, and get replacements made. It might cost a little more to keep it going that way, but its better than the alternative.

The internet has made it so much easier to locate parts too, although it has taken some of the fun from heading down to the bookstore and paging through Hemmings and the swap sheets.
Yeah the 600 is infectious, like most small cars. It's sort of a poor man's Mini because it's the same dimentions but way cheaper. You can get a real strong running one for about a grand. Hard to make them go very fast though, but I do reccomend it for a real cheap, but fun way to get around town.

Some of the most oddball cars have passed through my garage over the years, and yeah, you can get parts for just about anything. Just need information, and the best place for that has always been type clubs. Meet up with old timers in any marque, and they will hook you up. Hemmings is also good. I guess the internet is probably a good source too, but I don't really know, I still just use networking with clubs and Hemmings. I find alot of stuff that's out there never makes it to the web because the old timers that have the stuff you need don't always get on well with computers, but I'm sure the net helps. I'm not really in the old car biz anymore, so I'm not looking for parts so much anymore. I got stuck on airplanes, and until the Solstice came out, I hadn't really thought seriously to much about cars in years.
 

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Maybe the internet is better for some cars than it is for others depending on how many enthusiasts are using the internet. I think its biggest advantage is the forums, which essentially work the same way the clubs do. Allowing networking and communication between members. However, instead of being local or regional, it easily opens it up to members across the nation.

It must be us younger enthusiats of "old" iron... I consider my Fiero old... that are really into using the net for this kind of thing! :cool
 
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