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WJR: Minicars, Maxi Hopes?

Where do small cars fit in…in a country where big sedans, full-size pickups and massive sport-utes dominate the road? This year’s Geneva Motor Show actually provides a hint. With crowded streets and gasoline running upwards of $4 to $5 a gallon, Europeans need small cars, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to settle for cheap econoboxes. And they don’t have to with hip, stylish and unexpectedly luxurious vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or the upcoming BMW 1-Series. Even for buyers on a budget, vehicles like the new Ford Fusion redefine the concept of small. Though only 13 feet nose to tail, this tall, “urban activity vehicle” has plenty of room for five adults. And the Fusion will be coming to the U.S. early in 2004, where it will join a growing list of hip small cars, like the PT Cruiser, the new Mini, and Nissan’s March. Will consumers buy in? Small cars barely make a ripple on the U.S. sales charts today, but industry insiders are betting this flood of product may prompt a comeback.

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