A popular 1980s song by Huey Lewis and the News identified how it’s “Hip to be Square”. This is not the case in the 2012 auto marketplace. Modern auto industry is going to expensive lengths to break any impression their vehicles could be interpreted as garden variety. Recent auto shows, vehicle styling, new powertrain and connectivity technology as well as a wide assortment of vehicle types have presented a rich candy store-like experience when looking for a new car, truck or crossover vehicle.
Despite best efforts to brand themselves as attractive vehicles, some products miss the mark in a very competitive industry. The following four vehicles are the vanilla for 2012.
One of Chevy’s most storied names, the Impala logo rode on some iconic and thrilling vehicles. Entering into 2012, the current four-door sedan Impala cannot be fairly included with the most memorable ancestors. Without a major redesign since 2006, the 2012 model year Chevrolet Impala rolls into dealerships with diminished enthusiasm. Bland exterior appearance and an interior feeling like an older style vehicle (a front bench seat can actually be ordered for the 2012 Chevrolet Impala) indicate passing trends. The addition of a 300-horsepower, 3.6 liter V-6 engine does add some effective take-off for the sedan for 2012. Without doubt, the most excitement the Chevrolet Impala has generated over the past several years has been on the tracks of the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.
The good news for the Chevy Impala is the future of the marque is secured. At the 2012 New York Auto Show, one of the showstoppers of the exhibition was the 2014 Chevrolet Impala.
Suzuki Grand Vitara
Suzuki’s position in the North American market remains modest. Content with selling a four-vehicle line-up (one of which is a rebadged Nissan Frontier), the automaker is seen as an offbeat choice for automobile buyers. The Suzuki Grand Vitara is one vehicle based on the brand’s philosophy of building simple, family transportation. However, in a crossover vehicle war where other automakers are bringing guns to knife fights, the Grand Vitara is lost in the North American shuffle.
Riding on a ladder-frame chassis, the Suzuki Grand Vitara is quite an accomplished off-road vehicle but lacks the refinement many customers currently expect from North American crossover or small sport utility products. Styling could be called safe, a starting price under $20,000 and available four-wheel drive are some details attracting just under 5,000 customers in 2011. Since the 2011 model year, Suzuki dropped the 230-horsepower V-6 powerplant option leaving only a 166-horsepower four-cylinder to fend off the Ford Escape during the past two years. A comfortable choice for families, buyers of the Suzuki Grand Vitara may simply realized their transportation is not considered the life of the soccer field parking lot.
The Lincoln division has been a product of Ford Motor Company’s neglect for a firm luxury car presence. When the Mercury brand was vanquished from the marketplace, there was a pledge to commit additional resources to Lincoln line-up. Since then, there has yet to be a truly earth-shattering product from Ford’s premium badge. Considered the biggest disappointment of the division is a large crossover vehicle called the Lincoln MKT.
Based on the same platform as the Ford Explorer, the Lincoln MKT appears starkly different. Assembled with the current trend of Lincoln styling identity that has been greeted with mixed reviews, the MKT was launched in 2009 as a 2010 model year. Despite the formidable space and the availability of a 3.5 liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, the Lincoln MKT features very few distinguishing features to set it apart from even a well-equipped Ford brand product. In 2011, the MKT lost one-third of its sales volume from the previous year indicating a sense of disinterest from luxury product buyers for the crossover. With a 2013 model year refresh, the Lincoln MKT is likely to remain overlooked in a category where expectations are high.
For what is a defining move to increase the profile of the Lincoln MKT, Ford has resorted to a tactic that may not bring the most tranquil feelings to consumers. The large crossover Lincoln is being marketed through fleet car channels for limousine and even as a hearse.
The Toyota Corolla is accepted as a true representation of ‘bread and butter’ transportation. A vehicle name connected to over 39 million automobiles produced for the global marketplace since 1966, Corolla owes its endurance to non-complex styling and engineering in addition to a fair price tag.
Despite the presence of the car in other markets in other forms, the North American Toyota Corolla has attached only to a four-door compact sedan. A decently powered, fuel-efficient car, the one thing the Corolla is not is a flashy automobile. Undergoing mild styling refreshments that could go unnoticed even by a trained eye, some generational shifts in the Corolla are not even immediately detectable. While the Corolla’s price and size would allow it to compete as a youth-oriented vehicle, Toyota has long ago focused the Scion brand on the market of younger motorists.
The Toyota Corolla could be on the verge of falling victim to the symptom that ultimately claimed the Ford Model T. In the late years of the Model T production during the mid 1920s, the Ford Motor Company fell from the top of the sales charts to more attractive, frilly vehicles. While Henry Ford beloved his simple, affordable Model T, others involved in the Ford Motor Company (including the founder’s son Edsel) overruled their boss in order to create the more marketable Model A successor. It is unclear if the Corolla will follow the Model T’s trail or if the Toyota product is the epitome of a North American car-buying segment simply willing to settle with soulless design.
Information and photo source: American Suzuki Motor Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Toyota Motor Corporation