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Going Smaller

Big engines that guzzle the gas are getting the boot.  Over in America, the popular Dodge Ram is big on the outside but getting a whole lot smaller under the bonnet.  In the past, the Dodge Ram housed the very powerful and thirsty hemi engines.  We love the performance, but when it comes to filling up at the pump you felt rather like a deflated balloon.  Modern times have put the squeeze on these gas guzzler types, and we’re seeing the smaller 3.6-litre Pentaster V6 engine doing the job for the Ram really well.  In fact, the same Pentaster V6 engine is showing up in the Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Journey and Dodge 300 C.

In North America, the latest Car of the Year was the new Cadillac sedan.  In the past Cadillac sedans have housed big, powerful engines under the hood. This is certainly not so with the new Cadillac sedan which is an AWD or RWD vehicle that is similar in size to the BMW 3 Series.  Now, four and six cylinder engines are used for moving the new Cadillac, and the result has been hugely popular.  Rave reviews for the car’s performance and handling goes to show that smaller engines can still produce an enjoyable and satisfying drive.

It’s working in America, and I think we can expect more of the same here in Australia.  People are turning to thriftier Holden and Ford products, with a marked drop in sales for the current Falcon and Commodore models showing that people are making careful choices about what size engine is going to drive their new car.  If it’s not a new Toyota or Mazda, then Holden’s Cruze is outselling the Commodore.  The Holden Commodore currently sells about 15,000 units a year – which is less than a third of what Holden sold in the nineties.

Ford, like Holden, has worked really hard on producing LPG variants to bring the running costs of the big Australian icons more into line with what consumers want as far as economy goes.  Ford also has brought the EcoBoost 2.0-litre Turbo engine into the Falcon mix which I like the look of, and it appears is very economical.

I hope that we won’t lose the Commodore and Falcon models altogether, but it’s hard to see how Ford and Holden can make them viable.  What they’re up against is people’s tastes, because when people want the smaller engine size, there are a whole lot of cars on the market that offer this in a package that’s as good as, if not better, than Ford and Holden’s models.  The competition all of a sudden becomes much, much tougher for Australian car manufacturers.