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15 Cars to Watch In 2010

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On: Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 3:47PM | By: John Welch

15 Cars to Watch In 2010

Detroit Free Press columnist Mark Phelan has compiled a list of 'hot cars' to watch for 2010. He lives in Detroit, he writes for a Detroit-based newspaper, Mark Phelan should know what we should be interested in next year, right? Meh, it's hit or miss. My thoughts on his thoughts and the cars he thinks about to follow . . . also, what should be omitted from this less than authoratative list . ..

"Intriguing or significant" is the phrase used by Mr. Phelan to describe the cars populating his list. My beef with this philosophy is that some of these cars do not meet those requirements. For me. Consumers with the ability to actually buy these vehicles may have differing opinions. Too bad for them, this is my blog, and it's my opinion that some of these cars have no business occupying American showrooms. My prejudices aside, this is an interesting article that may spark an interesting debate: What will Americans be buying next year?

Chevrolet Cruze: This car belongs on this list. For years GM has fed consumers a massive line of bull regarding upcoming small cars. The lowly Cavalier soldiered on, basically as the same car, for damn near thirty years. The Cavalier's replacement, the Cobalt, promised European refinement for bottom dollar rates. The Cobalt was nice, an improvement over the Cavalier, but the interior was still down-market and the exterior styling was woefully 'last-century'. The Cobalt would have been a class leader, had it been introduced in 1998 instead of 2004.

The Cruze represents GM's last real chance at getting the small car right. Designed by Daewoo and already for sale around the world under several different badges, the Cruze appears to have all the makings of a quality small car. No one in North America has actually gotten their hands on one yet, so the jury is still out.

Chevrolet Volt: So, it costs forty grand, has a flashy IP, goes for forty miles without burning any fossil fuels, and GM thinks it'll top 230 mpg. Awesome; too bad the Cruze is fifty times more important in the grand scheme of things. Get back to me when you're charging 15 grand for a car that is worth . .well, 15 grand. Nobody will buy this thing in numbers; should have gone with hydrogen, repairs will be expensive, and has anybody thought about what a 220 socket running juice all night is gonna do to electric bills? Better luck next time; this car will be a flop. Not a total disaster, GM will recoup most of the funds required to produce the silly thing in the first place, but this is not the car that will save GM. They already make that car, it's called 'Camaro' . . .

Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger: The first new cars to be built under Fiat ownership, the second generation 300 and Charger are very important to Chrysler. Successes in the US market, these cars didn't fare to well in the rest of the world. Whereas Mr. Phelan feels "They'll be under a microscope, because the originals were so good," I don't agree. They'll be under a microscope, sure, but the originals were not that good. Crappy, elephant-hide interior materials, ponderous size, and bad economy all combine to besmirch cars that heralded the return of rear-drive to the American four door sedan. These cars sold well in our country, and should continue to do decent business in their second iteration. "The cars' styling recaptures the originality and excitement of the first Chrysler 300," uhhhmmm, by 'recapturing' you're essentially eliminating the word 'original' from your marketing department's literary arsenal. Good thing Mr. Phelan doesn't dream up ad campaigns for a living. . .

Ford Explorer: Phelan is dead-nuts correct about this vehicle. The old Explorer (truck-based body-on-frame design) does not appeal to crossover buyers. The new Explorer (car-based, uni-bodied) will not appeal to the old Explorer's demographic. That's a pretty serious problem there. Ford won't be able to give them away if both segments of the SUV driving public are turned off before the vehicle actually hits the market. Ford needs to curtail the Explorer's schizophrenia, or just name its new crossover something else. The Ford Reconnoiter maybe?

Acura ZDX: You know how I feel about this one, rectal thermometer on wheels . . . next!

Cadillac CTS Coupe: This car is one of several extremely desirable versions of the CTS that will supposedly break cover next year. I've seen the commercials, read all of the Internet hype, viewed every last artist rendering. I treat cars like this from GM as a bad tease. A mean, self-centered ploy GM uses to keep us interested. If the CTS coupe and/or wagon are actually produced, they should be fantastic cars. I'll believe it when I see it . . .

Ford Focus: To match the Chevy Cruze in Euro refinement, Ford presents American consumers with the updated third generation Focus. The second generation skipped our shores all together. Ford has continually updated the first gen Focus over the years, a move that is eerily similar to GM's inability to replace the Cavalier. Are we Americans really so dumb that we would put up with old, inferior products just to catch a sweet rebate deal? It would seem that we are; the 2002 Focus is selling like hot-cakes here in 2009. Gawd, we are dummies sometimes . . .

Ford Fiesta: This one is a segment buster. The success of BMW-made Minis on these shores prove there is a market for high-end small cars. The beauty of the Fiesta is that it is most certainly 'high-end' in fit and finish, but not in price. The interior is blessed with soft-touch plastics and intuitive ergonomics while the exterior is decidedly less staid than the Festiva of old. Phelan's article leads one to believe this car will appeal to a broad range of customers, from facial jewelry-encrusted college students to octogenarians. This car, if the price is right, could be a real winner . . .

Honda Accord Aztek Crosstour: Honda doesn't get a ton of ink here at the AutoShopper blog. Maybe that's a sign of relative normalcy within the Honda corporation, but it is more likely caused by Honda's product offerings in the US. Taking a look at Honda and its auto line-up, you get the feeling that Honda considers Americans to be a bunch of headless 'Soccer Moms', concerned only with moving people from place to place in vehicles that give off an air of wealth. Priced at $31,000-ish dollars, the Crosstour fits that bill. And it is exceedingly boring, just like everything else sold by Honda. It is also exceedingly ugly, like the ZDX, BMW X6, Toyota Venza, Pontiac Aztek, so on and so on. Some of us slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging Americans are aware of your stellar foreign market products, Honda; howabout you throw us an Accord Type R instead of this V6-only insult to the eye?

Note to Automakers: the car/SUV/crossover thing produces nothing but hideous abominations nobody wants; let a truck be a truck and a car be a car.

Hyundai Sonata: Over the top design? Yeah, maybe. No six-cylinder option? Phelan neglects to mention that part. This sedan should be successful enough; I could care less though. It's a front-drive, mid-size family sedan, complete with a pointy nose and Hyundai's excellent interior materials. The Accords and Camrys of the world may be nervous, but I'd still prefer a ten -year old BMW. A Korean family sedan isn't going to register very high on my 'Hawt' list, no matter how innovative it is. Sorry.

Jeep Grand Cherokee: How did the Cherokee tribe determine who held the mantle of "Grand Cherokee"? Was there a playoff or something? A fight to the death? What's that? There is no such thing? No matter, the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee is nice enough to get over its nonsensical badge. Rugged yet strangely modern, the new GC hit the styling nail on the head. Hopefully the recent upturn in SUV and truck sales bodes well for this handsome 'ute, I'd love for it to be around long enough to spawn an SRT version . . .

Lexus LF-A: Lexus likes to stalk its prey. First, in 1990, it leveled its cross hairs on Mercedes and Jaguar with the LS400. As we all now know, this was a bull's eye. Last year, they aimed squarely at the BMW M3, lofty prey, to say the least. The Lexus IS-F is dynamically inferior to the M3, but if you've ever driven an M3 you know that everything is dynamically inferior to the Bavarian standard. The IS-F has sold well, another feather in Lexus's cap. Now, after years of rumor and speculation, Lexus is stepping up to tackle the big fish — Enzo, Carrera GT, ZR1 territory.

The LF-A has been in the works for many years, but it looks like it may make its way to market by mid-2010. Another case of "I'll believe it when I see it," this car will inject some much needed six figure-plus product into Lexus's lineup. I wonder how difficult the front/mid-engine layout and 500 bhp V10 will be to control? You and I might be able to handle it, but will the dofus lawyer who is trading in his RX for a a new mid-life crisis-mobile be able to keep the LF-A out of ditches? I have this funny feeling that we will soon see many a news story featuring a recently destroyed LF-A and its idiot, over-compensating driver. They also like to spontaneously combust during testing, so maybe some nice "LF-A Ablaze" shots to add to all the Enzos and McLaren F1s and Gallardos we've seen burn to the ground over the past several months . . .

Scion TC: Why is this car on this list? Because second generation Scions have proven to be complete failures? That's the only logical reason I can come up with. Ugh, I wanna slap the guy that thought front wheel drive COUPES were a good idea . . . probably the same jerk who thought Scion was a good idea . . .

Toyota Sienna: Here we have a Toyota product that actually matters. A strong seller for many years, the Sienna is due for an update. Popular with families and florists, the Sienna holds/occupies a large cross section of the van/SUV market. Keeping the price low and adding a few extra horsepower are all that Toyota needs to do to keep up with the competition (the Honda Odyssey mostly) as the Sienna has always been a capable vehicle, if not a little bland. Long live the minivan; no identity crisis fueled arrogance going on with the humble minivan . . .

So, that's the Mark Phelan "15 Hot Cars to Watch in 2010" list, as modified by one John Welch. I urge you to read his article, as it is less opinion-driven and features a few more hard facts on each of these vehicles.

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