Small Cars in Big Numbers
In the post-globalized era, chain stores and fast-food eateries can be found almost everywhere on the planet. But when it comes to the most common car models, some of the biggest names remain unfamiliar to Americans.
“The rest of the world is really not a lot like us,” says Bill Visnic, a senior analyst for Edmunds.com, which provided this list of globally popular cars. “Small, compact, affordable cars more or less represent what the rest of the world drives.”
America is big, Americans prefer big, and frankly, Americans are big. As the following slides demonstrate, small cars are popular just about everywhere else, and have been for years, because they’re economical to buy and to run. They make the most sense just about everywhere else but here. But Americans are coming to their senses and becoming more environmentally aware.
Several cycles in recent years have made U.S. consumers consider scaling down. In 2008, Visnic says, we were on the tail end of the SUV boom, and Hummers were still around. Now in 2011, after a recession and huge economic downturn, comes another jump in gas prices. “It shifted our national consciousness, what the needs are compared to the wants,” says Visnic. “The late '90s through the middle 2000s was very much a market driven by wants rather than needs, and we saw that rise of SUVs, [while] pickup trucks got a lot more ostentatious. We kind of lost our minds for a while there.”
Approximate cost in USD: $17,000
Also known as the Holden Cruze and the Daewoo Lacetti Premiere, depending on the country where it’s sold, the Cruze is the first true global compact car for GM, after it went bankrupt in 2009 and then restructured. It’s already become quite popular in the U.S., but the important factor about the Cruze, Visnic says, is that it’s carrying the flag for GM now as it expands the Chevrolet name. “It was very fractionalized all around the world previously. In China they carried a lot of different names because they were with joint venture partners. In Europe, Opel carried the flag for GM. So they’re consolidating everything and reforming everything under the Chevy brand.”
Approximate cost in USD: $14,000
Ford has been on the global car map since the 1970s with the Fiesta subcompact, which only recently came to the U.S. in 2010. This is one of two Ford models on the list developed under the company's global process called One Ford, both models which Visnic says are much better efforts than in the past.
But with these they’ve done a more productive job in making it work in all the different world markets, says Visnic, plus they’re just really great cars.
Approximate cost in USD: $22,000
Just about everybody knows the compact Accord. It is a prime example of what Honda does globally—take a nameplate and use it everywhere. They’ve developed the car with a certain set of very basic assumptions—size, weight, engines, Visnic explains. “But they adapted them ever so slightly to the regional tastes of where they are selling them, and build them close to where they are selling them.” Clearly their method is succeeding.
“Honda’s formula has always been more coming up with one very general set of assumptions about what an Accord is and enabling your process to make it ever so slightly different for different markets,” Visnic observes. “They’re extremely good at it. That’s one of the reasons these cars are so popular around the world. They’re equally good no matter where they are. None of them is ever a compromised version of the good Accord that’s somewhere else.
Approximate cost in USD: $16,000
As with the Honda Accord, everybody recognizes the Civic subcompact. Honda takes the Civic general platform: A civic everywhere will be this size, have this kind of engine (can be pretty diff US/ Europe) then you have ever so slight difference in, say, width, which is important in Europe with narrow streets. People have to park a lot in urban areas. That is pretty much the way almost any world car: Engines that work here don’t work elsewhere because of fuel economy and power level—In Europe you have to offer a diesel in just about everything you sell—diesel is cheaper. In Europe around 50% of cars have diesel engines, Visnic says, so Honda designs the car to accept a wide range of engines, to be adaptable.
Modern cars come with a maintenance regimen recommended by the manufacturer, but some dealers will try to sell you their own more expensive plan with extra, often needless services. If you let them. Don’t.
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