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Automakers Duke It Out With Small Cars At This Year's Detroit Auto Show

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On: Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 10:27AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Automakers Duke It Out With Small Cars At This Year's Detroit Auto Show

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Dateline: the Detroit Auto Show. In this corner we have the redesigned Honda Civic squaring off against the downsized Toyota Prius with the sporty Hyundai Veloster waiting to step into the ring. But before these upstart Asian entries think they’ll take home the championship belt, look out for the American Detroit Big Three as they step into the ring with their own small car knock outs.

We’ve got the GM subcompact Chevy Sonic itching to take on the Honda Fit and the Ford Fiesta. But hold onto your seatbelts! Ford is coming into the arena with their own newly redesigned Ford Focus that they’ll pit against the Chevy Cruze or the Hyundai Elantra any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Folks, this is shaping up to be a small car battle royale the likes of which we’ve never seen before. No matter who is victorious in the auto show showdown, it will be the America car buyer who’s going to come out on top as the winner!

Let’s go to Jeff Schuster, global prognosticator for J.D. Power, for some color, “This is arguably the first time we've had a collection of smaller vehicles from the domestics that is truly competitive.”

With gas prices heading to the stratosphere, domestic car makers are bursting back into the small car market in a big way. When you’ve got consumers itching for hybrids and the government regulating tougher fuel-economy standards be implemented by 2016, then you’re looking at a one-two punch that’s going to change the auto industry for years to come.

“It's an area of the market that's just exploding,” so says Margaret Brooks, Chevrolet's small-car marketing director. “The ones doing best in the segment are much more upscale than anything that was available just one or two years ago.”

And don’t think for one minute that luxury is going the way of the dodo. We’re seeing all kinds of small cars lining up with impressive pedigrees. Look for the Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback or BMW AG’s front-drive compact, the mysterious sounding UKL and the Buick Verano as they all try to get a foothold in this emerging compact car arena.

Let’s go to the tale of the tape. Take it away Mr. Schuster of J.D. Power, “Even with better powertrains and features, though, automakers will strain to stand out in a more crowded segment. The subcompact segment should grow to 7 percent in 2015 of the overall U.S. market from 3 percent last year, he estimates. Compacts should rise to 32 percent from 29 percent in that stretch.” Remember where you heard it first, folks!

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