The notion of "longer, lower, wider" as requirements for automotive status made its exit along with disco and Dick Nixon. These days, content is king but price is still paramount in the minds of auto shoppers. The solution? Look to Japan, where a new breed of fully equipped minicars is making the leap from designers' pens to the streets of Tokyo. Epitomizing this new, emerging trend are the 2007 Suzuki Cervo and Chevrolet MW .
Suzuki Wagon RSuzuki Wagon RTiny cars are nothing new in Japan, where discriminatory tax laws and a severe shortage of parking spaces have conspired to create a distinct class of "Kei " cars no more than 11 feet long and limited to a mere 60 horsepower. The upside is that engines averaging 660cc (40 cubic inches) sip sparingly of increasingly expensive gasoline. Add in a generous helping of high-tech features like keyless entry systems, Bluetooth connectivity and four-wheel drive, and suddenly these ugly ducklings are looking rather swan-like. The Servo, MW and their Kei-car kin are also soaring up the Japanese sales charts in Japan, in marked contrast to most other vehicle segments that are experiencing painful slumps. Business Week estimates that the minicar market in Japan has reached an astounding 35% of new car sales in 2006, up from 24% ten years ago.
Minicars like Suzuki's Cervo and Wagon R boast high build quality and offer the same generous warranties that cover their larger siblings. Will we see these mighty mites on American streets anytime soon? You just, er, "mite"... Suzuki after all is 20% owned by GM, and the Chevrolet MW (a badge-engineered clone of the Wagon R) is already making a name for itself on Japan's highways & byways. The General should note that not all Americans drive at highway speeds beneath the big blue skies of Montana - millions of urban commuters would likely give the MW careful consideration, especially if gas prices continue to rise!
Japanese Innovations Writer