“Forty-six percent of drivers aged 18-24 would choose Internet access over owning a car.”

Youth-designed vehicles at Chevy's Geneva Motor Show exhibit

Chevy "Youth-Designed Concept Vehicles," Geneva

The above quote is from a New York Times story yesterday about how GM has turned to a marketing firm to figure out how to attract young people. Their interest in car ownership, or even in cars, is low and continues to sag, according to surveys.

After the bankruptcy, GM finally got religion and hired MTV’s Scratch, part of the Viacom media network, to figure out how to sell product to young people who basically (see comments on the Times story) don’t want to be sold in anything like the traditional industry ways.

Here’s how these branding geniuses think: To excite sales for the forthcoming 2013 Spark, Chevy created some new “youthful” colors,

aimed at “a 23-year-old who shops at H&M and Target and listens to Wale with Beats headphones,” said Rebecca Waldmeir, a color and trim designer for Chevrolet.

In other words, they want to use brands and stuff that appeal to the young and take their cues from how those items get marketed. This, of course, ignores the real problem: meeting the objections and, in some cases, active dislike many young people have for cars.

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Scion FR-S Gets Its Price, Shows Who’s Boss

2013 Scion FS-R

Disneyland for the price of a state fair.

Las Vegas for the cost of an Indian casino.

5th Avenue for the price of Target.

When the right value proposition is dangled in front of us, we’d be crazy not to buy. Sports-car fanatics, at least the ones on a budget, look for the most amount of fun stuffed into the least expensive package. They want a Porsche for the price of a Scion.

Which could be exactly what the new Scion FR-S delivers.

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Mercedes-Benz GLK Updated for 2013

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

It’s clunky, still, and goes against most present design trends, but the new Benz GLK-Class embodies many changes and looks better than its predecessors.

The thing most writers and commenters have criticized is the big chrome trapezoidal lip in front (a bumper, I guess). That’s a miscue, in both shape and finish. Otherwise, it looks like what it is, an SUV with class.

Two engines will be offered in the U.S.: The GLK350 will have a 3.5-liter V6 with 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. This gets you to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds with a top speed of 130 mph. The GLK250 BlueTEC gets a 2.1-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder, upgraded from the European version to meet U.S. specs and provide a bit more power. Output is 190 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.

You can’t get the diesel until early 2013, but that’s the one I’d want. It will offer extra torque and better mileage (figures yet to come). Front-wheel drive is standard; 4Matic 4WD is optional. A 7-speed automatic is standard, with speed controls on the steering column to free up space for larger cupholders, per the press release and Motor Trend. See photo after the break.

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Cars Coming Soon: Chevrolet Impala, Traverse and Trailblazer

2014 Impala teaser

Name the most generic, boring car you’ve ever had the displeasure to drive. Or ride in.

I’ll go first: a Chevy Impala.

For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll admit the only Impala I’ve ever driven (or hitched a ride in) came from the fleet of a rental company. Right off the bat that means I got the most boring version of what might be the most boring car ever made. In my humble opinion, GM may as well have put a brown paper sack on wheels and called it good.

So news of a new 2014 Impala doesn’t necessarily instill feelings of great anticipation. Maybe, though, I’ll be surprised.

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Datsun Returns, and Some Ask Why

1983 Datsun Sentra

Nissan announced this week that it was reviving the Datsun brand to represent the company in developing markets—namely India, Indonesia and Russia—beginning in 2014. Datsun cars became Nissans in 1981-’82.

The company plans to put $400 million into modernizing its Indonesia facility and tripling its dealerships in Southeast Asia. This lucrative market has been dominated by Toyota and is growing rapidly. One report predicts auto sales in Indonesia will rise by 50 percent in five years.

For those in the U.S., memories of Datsun cars can encompass everything from the 1982 Sentra pictured above (one of which was owned by my son, who says it was the absolute worst-handling car he ever drove) to the 240Z280Z cars that were loved by many.

So Nissan will recreate Datsun as a low-end brand to capture some of the burgeoning minicar-subcompact market in developing countries. The question is why did they resurrect the old name?

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2013 Ford Mustang GT Is Muscle-Car Madness

2013 Ford Mustang GT

A guy I once worked with recently traded his car for 100 pizzas.

For him it was a great deal, because he locked in a price on his favorite food. The pizza guy scored a deal on a fuel-efficient ’98 Civic to replace a fuel-guzzling delivery van. Some might call it a win-win, others might say the deal is pure madness. One thing for sure, a car’s future barter value might be something to keep in mind when the world’s currency becomes worthless.

I wonder how many pizzas a 2013 Ford Mustang GT will be worth in 14 years?

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Kit Cars Make a Case, But Used Is Better Option

Ford GT40 kit car

I went to junior high school around the corner from a Lamborghini.

In 7th grade a friend pointed to a house with a closed garage door and said, “There’s a Lamborghini in that garage.” I didn’t believe him, because I never saw it. The garage door was always closed. Every day I’d look, hoping to catch a glimpse of a real Lamborghini. Then, one day…

A bright red, low-slung angular Lamborghini Countach sat in the driveway. I was in awe. It was the first Lamborghini I’d ever seen.

Or was it?

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Buick Regal GS or LaCrosse: Sporty or Stodgy?

2012 Buick Regal GS

My father bought me a yellow 1954 Buick convertible that I drove to college. It was the most garish car on campus, by far, and embarrassed the hell out of me until I got kicked out of school and drove the thing ignominiously home.

That was the era of heavy, sluggish Buicks, three-on-the-tree transmissions and a lot of chrome inside and out. These were not just grandpa-grandma cars; they were for people who wanted to make a splash.

GM has gone just the opposite way, at last, with the 2012 Regal GS, a sports sedan for the world market based on Opel’s Insignia, with some interesting technical and performance features. As I’m sure you know, the company is reaching out to a younger market.

The GS is not only sharp-looking but, from what I read, competitive with most anything Audi, Volvo or Lexus can offer in its price range. Engine, drivetrain, suspension and handling appear to be well-matched and very competent.

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Toyota’s “100 Cars For Good” Program Needs Your Help

Summit Assistance dogs

At the dentist’s office yesterday I read a nice article in Fortune about Toyota’s return to glory. The story highlighted the company’s leader, Akio Toyoda, and his management strategy, which has gotten Toyota back on track after a horrendous spell of bad luck.

Of course, the article spent plenty of time discussing Toyota’s perception as a transportation appliance, its traditional lack of styling and how it is working to overcome those perceptions. It was actually an inspiring story about a proud Japanese businessman humbled by recalls, quality problems, devastating natural disasters and a steep decline in sales and production of its vehicles.

What the article never mentioned is the good Toyota wants to spread by giving away some if its cars.

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