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Experimental Engine Could Deliver Econobox Mileage and Sports Car Performance

Mahle tests new downsized engine technology.

by on Jul.23, 2013

Mahle's modified VW is being used to test the new downsized engine technology.

A German manufacturer best known for its heavy duty truck engine components could re-write the rules when it comes to passenger car powertrains.  The company is the Mahle Group, and it’s presently showing off a “demonstration vehicle” with an experimental   three-cylinder 1.2-liter single turbocharged gasoline engine that promises to meet very tough emission regulations while maintaining performance in mid-sized cars.

Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Mahle entered the U.S. market some 40 years ago supplying aluminum pistons for heavy duty truck engines.  Mahle last month opened its American headquarters and R & D facility in Farmington Hills, Michigan, in Detroit’s western suburbs.

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The German company’s powertrain subsidiary is barnstorming its experimental car, dubbed a “downsizing demonstration vehicle,” to U.S. vehicle manufacturers with the objective of gaining research—not engine-production—contracts.  But longer-term its design could provide the industry a significant alternative to conventional engine designs.


Daimler Betting Small Can Be Big

Maker looking for more downsized Mercedes, Smart models.

by on Jan.22, 2013

Perhaps nothing symbolizes the Mercedes-Benz brand like its classic S-Class model. But while the big sedan is set for a remake next year, expect Mercedes and the sibling Smart brand to put an increasing emphasis on downsized products that reflect the ongoing shift in the global luxury market.

Nonetheless, downsized doesn’t have to mean down-market, emphasized Dieter Zetsche, CEO of parent company Daimler AG.

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While Zetsche stresses it is “very important to maintain and strengthen our role in traditional segments,” he is quick to add that, “If we want to grow and don’t want to lose our customers, we have to downsize.”

Mercedes offered a hint of what’s to come during a sneak preview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month, providing reporters a brief look at the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA.


Should You Downsize?

Saving gas isn’t everything - especially if you don't get the vehicle you need.

by on Mar.10, 2011

How small is too small? The Mini Rocketman concept.

With fuel prices spiking — and some markets are now reporting figures of more than $4 a gallon — plenty of folks are rethinking how small they should go.

Even before the latest crisis in Libya sent global petroleum markets into turmoil, American motorists were starting to downsize.  February sales numbers showed a significant spike in demand for compacts and subcompacts.

But last month also saw a surge in sales of big pickups and SUVs, as well.  Old habits die hard, especially in a market where bigger is generally seen as better.

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But the figures also suggest that for many American motorists, downsizing is downright difficult.  Trading in that big SUV for a compact sedan just might not work for many buyers, especially those with large families, or for those who might need to tow or carry lots of “stuff” for business or pleasure.

Is downsizing right for you?  The question isn’t as easy as it might seem.  For one thing, there are both practical and emotional factors to consider.


Opinion: 2011 Could Bring In A Dramatic Shift In Driver Behavior

Rising fuel prices, tough rules, alternative offerings all could bring big changes.

by on Dec.30, 2010

How small is too small? American buyers will downsize -- but how far?

The numbers at the pump down at Sunny’s Sunoco are spinning fast, these days.  And getting faster all the time.  He’s pumping regular at $3.19 a gallon, this morning, a big jump from just two weeks ago, but likely nothing compared to what we’ll see in the months to come.

Curiously, I hear a lot less complaining about fuel prices than I did in 2008, the last time we saw that rapid upward spiral.  Perhaps panic will set in again if we start nudging $4 a gallon, but it just seems like most Americans have come to expect that number as an eventual reality.  But it’s more than a matter of grin-and-bear-it.

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Buyers are fighting back in their own ways.  By driving fewer miles, according to government data, and by switching to more fuel efficient vehicles.  Some are even considering vehicles that don’t few fuel at all, at least not in the liquid sense.  And if fuel prices really do soar to new records in 2011, the pace of change could outstrip even the most optimistic forecasts –though don’t expect American roadways to start looking like those in Europe and Japan.


American Motorists Are “Euro-Sizing”

by on Mar.18, 2009

Honda Civic is a mileage champ, but is it becoming one of the new sales champs, as well?

Honda Civic is a mileage champ, but is it becoming one of the new sales champs, as well?

Americans are on a diet.  No, they’re still spending too much of their money asking the kid behind the McDonald’s counter to “supersize me.”  But even if our waistlines keep growing, our taste in sheet metal is leaning towards smaller and smaller models.

Last year, in a significant shift, midsize cars were knocked off the throne as the king-of-the-hill segment in the American automotive market.  The new sales king is the compact car, reports George Peterson, of the research firm, AutoPacific Inc.

The news probably shouldn’t be surprising.  The run-up to record fuel prices, last year, had everyone rethinking their driving decisions.  The pickup and SUV markets imploded, while sales of hybrids hit record levels, mid-2008. But with fuel prices running less than half their peak, truck sales are showing signs of recovery, while mileage-misers are in a slump.  Last June, Toyota sold more than 20,000 Priuses.  This year, the trendline is running at well under a third of that volume. (more…)