KBB: Room For Entries In Packed U.S. Market

Equus As if it isn't crowded enough, the auto market is going to squeeze more bodies into the elevator that everyone hopes will stay buoyant enough to keep inching back up after the cable broke in 2008.

Kelley Blue Book has come out with its list of new nameplates that the firm believes will develop a following next year. These aren't redesigns, or next-generation cars and trucks bearing familiar nameplates. Rather, they are entirely new vehicles by automakers hoping to make forays into competitive territory.

Of the vehicles KBB says will be players next year, many are in the luxury arena. Audi is coming out with its first entry into a segment that comprises vehicles that look like sport coupes but have four doors. The A7, notes KBB, is different from vehicles like Mercedes' CLK because it's technically a hatchback.

Another luxury entry is Hyundai's Equus, which just went on sale -- and which, the company hopes, will fight against sedans like BMW 5-Series, and the Lexus LS. The $60,000 car is also benefiting from a new "Equus Experience" Web site that features a video of a wealthy but hip guy driving the car from his office to his James Speyer-esque house in the woods to collect his lithe, swervy wife, for a ride up Coral Canyon. During the video, a series of numbered buttons calls out specific vehicle features.

Kelley Blue Book also sees opportunity for Lexus' CT 200h, which the automaker has been touting with events that are nocturnal hipness. KBB says the car will do well because it has Prius' powertrain, meaning great fuel mileage, but also the kind of power and price that will make it a good competitor to Audi's A3.

The KBB group also likes Mini's forthcoming Countryman, which goes on sale early first quarter. The vehicle is a paradox, since it's a crossover and Mini has traditionally been just that, although it has slowly been growing in length.

Going in the opposite direction, KBB says Scion's forthcoming "micro-car," called iQ, will be a strong competitor to Smart, and probably Fiat 500. The former automaker's sales are now sinking because of limited utility and benefit. Scion says the car's fuel economy will near 40 miles per gallon.

"Smart sales have since cooled, making it harder to predict how the iQ will be received by [consumers]," says KBB, which notes that the car will be priced low, get good fuel economy near 40 miles per gallon and "offer the technology and easy personalization that helped put Scion on the map."

The firm also sees promise for Nissan's Juke, Ford's Fiesta, Nissan' Leaf, and Chevrolet's Volt.

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