The entire automotive industry is having a banner year. Sales are up. In fact, automakers expect to sell a record 16.2 million vehicles. All this buying and selling is bringing high profits to the companies that build them and to most of the dealers who sell them.
For consumers, this may be both good and bad. There is a profusion of new products on the market, catering to diverse needs. If you're looking for something special, you're more likely than ever to find it.
On the downside, the competition for merchandise means that discounting is more difficult to find. Some brands are offering less confusing pricing structures, but rebates are becoming rarer.
One area that's really exploding is the truck segment, particularly sport-utilities. While vehicles like the GMC Yukon, above, are becoming more car-like than before, the clamor to own one is causing prices to skyrocket. You'll pay thousands more for a truck with features similar to a midsize luxury car, and get a bit less in terms of comfort and safety. As is usually the case, you pay a price to be trendy.
After 12 years, the first completely new Cavalier since its introduction brings higher levels of quality and performance, while keeping the price low. Standard equipment includes dual air bags, a first at this price point, and anti-lock brakes. Starting out at just $10,060, you get a lot of car for the money. For less than $15,000, you can have your choice of 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan loaded with equipment.
Compared with the previous generation, sleek styling will turn heads while ample interior room and a longer wheelbase will appeal to a more practical nature. A more rigid body structure reduces squeaks and rattles, producing a higher quality feel. There is no longer a V-6 available, but the base 2.2-liter 4-cylinder produces a healthy 120 horsepower. Coming this spring is a Z24 coupe version with a noisier, but more potent 150-horsepower1 16-valve engine. A convertible is also on the way, just in time for summer. And, the Pontiac Sunfire is the Cavalier's twin beneath the skin.
Like its twin, the Chrysler Sebring, the Avenger is a sport coupe that offers attributes of both luxury and performance. This won't go head to head with performance coupes, but it offers greater comfort and a more practical amount of interior room.
The Avenger is powered by a choice of two engines. Base models, starting at $13,341, receive a 2.0-liter, 16-valve 4-cylinder that comes from the Neon 2-door. This is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, although a 4-speed automatic is available. If you upgrade to the $17,191 ES model, you get additional horsepower with the same 2.5-liter V-6 found in a Chrysler Cirrus only with automatic transmission. The ES also gets a firmer suspension for more agile handling.
Standard features include dual air bags, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo and locking split-folding rear seatbacks. You'll pay another $2,199 to add a package full of luxury options to bring the ES to near luxury standards.
With minivans making up a large part of Chrysler Corp.'s profits, the company has high hopes for its new 1996 model. As before, there will be both standard and longer "Grand" versions. A more modern look is achieved by the sloping nose and increase in window glass.
A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine will be added to the lineup. Otherwise, the drivetrain choices remain unchanged: 3.0-, 3.3- and 3.8-liter V-6 engines, coupled to either a 3- or 4-speed automatic transmission. Both front- and all-wheel drive remain in the line-up. A new feature will be the available driver-side sliding door, an industry first. New options include...