The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

2009-MY: What's Ahead for Fleets

July 2008, by Paul Dexler - Also by this author

The 2009-model year is signaling a shift in vehicle preferences. Gasoline at more than $4 per gallon is the key reason, creating a corresponding shift in vehicle preferences not only in the retail market, but also in fleet.

Engines are getting lighter and more fuel efficient, transmissions are increasing the number of gears, and vehicles overall are lighter and more aerodynamic.

Mid-Size Cars

The new Chevrolet Malibu takes the lead in the mid-size segment. It features fully independent suspension all around and a choice of two engines, a DOHC I-4 and a DOHC V-6. Both engines are offered mated to a 6-speed automatic, a first for a mid-size four-cylinder car. The combination of the I-4 with the 6-speed puts the car into the over 30 mpg club.

The Saturn AURA is built on the same architecture. It continues into 2009 with detail improvements and offers a mild hybrid model.

Also from GM in this segment are the Buick LaCrosse and the Pontiac G6 and G8. The LaCrosse Super, the first Buick Eight in many years, offers a V-8 engine and a number of luxury enhancements. The G6 model lineup includes a 3.6L DOHC V-6 engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. Pontiac offers the G8 on its new rear-wheel drive architecture with a standard 3.6L V-6 and the performance option of a 6.0L V-8.

The Chrysler Sebring sedan model continues basically unchanged with a choice of a DOHC I-4 and two SOHC V-6 engines, the larger coupled to a 6-speed automatic. Its cousin, the Dodge Avenger, offers a choice of three engines and an all-wheel drive version on the Avenger R/T.

The Ford Fusion continues into 2009 with detail improvements and increases in standard equipment. Both four- and six- cylinder engines are offered, with optional all-wheel drive. Its sibling, the Mercury Milan offers similar improvements with more upscale trim. Even more upscale on the same architecture, the Lincoln MKZ offers a more powerful standard engine with luxurious interior appointments.

Nissan revised the Altima for the 2007 model-year and it continues basically unchanged into 2009. The coupe model remains in the lineup, and the hybrid model is now readily available. Its upscale cousin, the Maxima, is all-new for 2009, with new styling, a more powerful engine that keeps the same fuel economy numbers and improved handling.

Subaru revised the Legacy and Outback lines. The Legacy is now only sedans, while the Outback is only station wagons.

Toyota Camry, in both gasoline- and hybrid-power versions, continues into 2009 with minimal changes.

Full-Size Cars

The Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum continue essentially unchanged. SRT8 high performance versions of all three are offered.

Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable received a mild restyling and a notable increase in power for 2008 and continue into 2009. The Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis continue unchanged into 2009. The Crown Victoria is no longer offered to retail buyers.

At GM, the Chevrolet Impala holds up the full-size banner. It remains essentially unchanged into 2009. Power comes from a choice of two V-6 engines and a 5.3L OHV V-8. Impalas are all front-wheel drive.

Continuing unchanged, Toyota’s Avalon is built on the Camry architecture and features a stretched wheelbase and a 3.5L DOHC V-6 engine.

Subcompact and Compact Cars

Mazda will release the all-new Mazda6, a larger, sportier design. An all-new four-cylinder is available with a 5-speed automatic transmission and V-6 powertrains that will enhance driveability.

The Saturn Astra is offered in four-door sedan and three-door hatchback form, featuring excellent road holding and fuel economy in a stylish package.

The Chevrolet Cobalt continues with LS, LT, and Sport models and the 2.2L and 2.4L I-4 engines with some trim and option upgrades.

The Dodge Caliber, launched as a 2007 model, moves into 2009 basically unchanged. Both front- and all-wheel drive versions are offered in several trim levels.

Ford has launched the latest iteration of the Focus. Two versions are offered, a sedan and a coupe. Power comes from a 2.0L I-4, and both 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatics are available.

Subaru offers the Impreza and Impreza WRX and adds the WRX STI performance model. They feature new styling, improved torque, a new rear suspension, and a longer wheelbase.

At the upper end of the compact segment, Mercedes-Benz completely redesigned the C-Class sedans. Power comes from a choice of two V-6 DOHC engines. A 7-speed automatic transmission is standard with optional all-wheel drive.

Also at the higher end, Volvo offers its C-30, a three-door hatchback with striking styling and high fuel economy.

The Toyota Yaris, in 3-door hatch and four-door sedan form, continues unchanged into 2009.

At Volkswagen, the Rabbit continues in three- and five-door hatchback configurations, and a 2.5L I-5 engine with 150 horsepower. The same engine and transmission combinations are offered in the New Beetle and New Beetle Convertible.

Light Trucks

New trucks are more powerful, more economical, better looking, easier to drive, and smoother riding than earlier models. In addition, new hybrid drive systems offer true increases in fuel economy.

Chevrolet offers the Silverado line built on the GMT900 architecture. Launched as 2007 models, the trucks continue into 2009 with only detail changes. The biggest news here is the availability of a hybrid version using the new two-mode hybrid drive system. The hybrids offer increased towing and hauling capacity with fuel economy in the 20 mpg range.

GMC also uses the GMT 900 architecture in its Sierra series, which includes a Sierra Denali model at the top end, with an ultra-luxurious cab and a model specific 6.0L V-8 under the hood.

At Dodge, an all-new 2009 Ram 1500 was launched at the Detroit Auto Show. 2500 and 3500 versions arrive late this year.

At Ford, an all-new F-150 will be available later this year. Styling improvements increase comfort and utility, while fuel economy is also increased. Super-Duty models have an F-450 pickup added to the range for increased towing capacity, and a new 6.4L diesel engine meets clean diesel requirements in all 50 states.

The Nissan Titan continues into 2009 essentially unchanged.

The Toyota Tundra full-size truck line offers the option of a 5.7L DOHC V-8 engine, three cab styles, three wheelbases, three bed lengths, three engines, three trim levels and a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrains. The Toyota Tacoma mid-size trucks continue basically unchanged.

Vans and Minivans

In full sized vans, Chevrolet and GMC are continuing the Express and Savana models. A diesel-powered cutaway version specially designed for the ambulance and shuttlebus market was launched in early 2008.

Dodge launched an upgrade of the Sprinter van for the 2007 model-year, and it continues into 2009. The new model uses a more powerful diesel engine with the option of a gasoline engine. Cutaway versions are offered for specialty markets, and dual rear wheels are available.

The Ford E-Series receives a new interior with more available productivity options. Other changes include improved steering and increased GVW capability.

The Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans were all-new for the 2008 model-year and continue into 2009. They offer 3.8L and 4.0L V-6 power coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. A flex-fuel capable 3.3L V-6 is also offered. The Dodge Caravan is available in a cargo version in short- and long-wheelbases.

Mazda offers the compact Mazda5 minivan, on a 108-inch wheelbase with power coming from a 2.3L DOHC I-4.

The Nissan Quest continues into 2009 with minimal changes. Power comes from a smooth 3.5L V-6.

The Toyota Sienna continues into 2009 with minor changes.

Luxury Cars

Luxury cars often point the direction of future developments. Automatic transmissions, power steering, power brakes, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning and automatic climate control were introduced first on high-line cars and filtered down to moderately priced vehicles. Today that practice continues with navigation systems, adaptive cruise control, and HID lighting.

Audi has crossed a luxury sedan with a sports car with its S-8 and S-6 high performance sedans. For 2009, the A-4 sedan and wagon are all new, and a new A-5 coupe has been added to the line.

The Cadillac CTS is pushing Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes for top dog honors in the sports sedan segment. The new model features increased power as well as available sports suspension and a 6-speed manual transmission. Other Cadillac models continue into 2009 with minor revisions.

At Infiniti, the M Series sedan is offered with V-6 or V-8 power. The V-8 model is available with an optional all-wheel-drive system.

Jaguar has launched its XF sedan for the 2009 model-year, replacing the S-Type and featuring new styling, lightweight aluminum construction, and a choice of V-6 or V-8 engines.

The Lincoln MKS gives the marque a new entry in the luxury arena. The car features an exclusive 3.7L engine and contemporary styling.

Lexus offers the LS600hL V-8 hybrid sedan, which combines a 5.0L DOHC V-8 engine with electric motors to offer V-12 performance with the fuel economy of a six-cylinder engine.

At Mercedes-Benz, AMG versions of the S-Class, CL-Class, and E-Class

models join the lineup. All these models are now offered with optional 4Matic all-wheel drive.

Crossovers and SUVs

With a 6-speed automatic transmission, the new Chevrolet Traverse offers a second-row Smart Slide feature for easy third-row access. The Pontiac Vibe is all-new with revised exterior/interior and enhanced safety features.

The Buick Enclave and the Saturn Outlook are based on GM’s new crossover architecture. Fitted with a 3.6L DOHC V-6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission, they are available in front- or all-wheel-drive versions. The Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon offer optional two-mode hybrid power.

Dodge offers the new Journey crossover, with five- or seven passenger seating and optional all-wheel drive. Four or six-cylinder power is available.

Ford has launched the stylish all-new Flex seven-passenger crossover

vehicle. The Edge crossover and the Lincoln MKX continue. For the 2009 model-year, the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner get new more efficient and powerful engines with revised suspension for improved handling.

The Jeep Commander, Compass, and Patriot continue into 2009 with detail changes. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was considerably freshened for the 2008 model-year and received a new 4.7L V-8 engine. Jeep also launched the Wrangler Unlimited, which gives the traditional Wrangler four-door capability.

Subaru offers an all-new Forester with improved power, upgraded suspension and new styling for 2009.

Nissan just launched the Rogue compact crossover with a 170 horsepower DOHC I-4 and a CVT transmission. Suspension is independent all around, and FWD and AWD versions are offered.

Toyota’s Highlander, all-new for 2008, continues unchanged.

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