Will Cars Like Junior and Fiat 500 Be the New Upscale for Echo Generation?

October 4, 2010

With the buzz around the introduction to the U.S. of the 2011 Fiat 500, I figured there had to be something about this tiny car that appeals to a growing segment of the population. I mean, we’ve already got some pretty cool small cars zipping around and doing quite well sales-wise, including the Honda Fit, Kia Soul, Nissan Cube, and Scion xB.

Coming soon for the 2011 model year are the Nissan Leaf all-electric, Scion iQ, Mazda2, Honda CR-Z, and maybe even a 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

Welcome to the new world of minis – oops, I forgot MINI in the above round-up. But my point is that there must be something in the water or the air or maybe the Echos – those born from  1977 to 1997 – are really going to shake things up. After reading an Automotive News story, I’m struck by the thought that cars like the General Motors/Vauxhall Junior (and the aforementioned Fiat 500) will be considered upscale by the members of the echo generation.

I can totally see that. Can’t you?

After all, the Opel/Vauxhall Junior minicar, which will go on sale in Europe in 2013, will be an “iPod on wheels,” according to Alain Risser, the automaker’s sales and marketing head – who even, says Automotive News, compares Junior to “the cult hit Fiat 500.”

While the minicar’s destined for Europe right now, want to make any bets it’ll be headed here soon after? Just don’t expect it to be called Junior. That’s supposedly just a codename.

That’s all well and good – that the Echos will have their cute, highly fuel-efficient minicars – but what about the rest of us?

I really like their looks, and might even be tempted to drive the Honda CR-Z, but not on a regular basis. What about those of us who have worked hard and raised families and gradually moved into more comfortable seats – and cars that offer a bit more in the way of size and, yeah, let’s face it, luxury?


Word out of Washington that the Obama administration is targeting up to 62 mpg fuel economy standards  by 2025 (EPA final ruling won’t come until the fall of 2011 after public comments, and all that) is enough to strike fear into a whole lot of people – me included. Think of what kind of vehicle choices Americans will face in 2025 if the proposed standard goes into effect. Actually, the standard would phase in, just as the recently released standards for 2015 will do. But even so, 62 mpg? Either everything will be electric or consumers will be paying a huge part of the family budget for gasoline and various and sundry taxes meant to discourage large (or anything larger than super small) car purchase or lease and use.

One thing I can see if this latter scenario proves true: there will be a lot more room at America’s National Parks. Yellowstone will revert totally to the wolves and bears. Now, while I’m a great nature lover and believe in giving wildlife its natural habitat to roam, I also want to be able to drive there with my family to see and admire them. Come to think of it, unless the Echos won’t be having children, where are they going to fit them on road trips (or just to the mall)?

Bottom line: Great news about exciting new small cars on the near horizon – for the Echo generation and anyone else who cares to buy them. Just be sure there’s product available that the rest of us want and need as well.

Automakers, you may have a huge challenge on your hands. Are you up for it?


[Automotive News]

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