• Also known for its motorcycles and other products, Honda is an import success story -- a small company that has had best-selling models in many U.S. vehicle classes. Once a leader in efficiency and other environmental concerns, Honda is suffering an identity crisis as competitors meet or exceed its reputation for mileage, quality and reliability. Though Honda beat Toyota to the U.S. market with a gas-electric hybrid car, the company's simpler technology doesn't provide the dramatic efficiencies seen in hybrids from Toyota's and Ford's various brands. Honda's styling, and that of its Acura luxury division, has come under fire recently as well.Despite these slips, Honda's well-earned reputation still shows in popular, well-rounded models like the CR-V compact crossover, the Fit subcompact hatchback and the Civic compact sedan and coupe, the latter of which are impressive despite being years into their current generation. The midsize Accord sedan and coupe remain steady sellers, though the new Accord Crosstour wagon struggles to find buyers. The Insight five-seat hatchback hybrid has underperformed in the market, perhaps because its mileage doesn't compare to that of the Toyota Prius or even the Civic Hybrid. A new two-seat hybrid, the CR-Z, offers even lower mileage, confounding shoppers. Honda's larger vehicles include the unique Element SUV and the mid/full-size Pilot crossover, which seats eight in three rows. Though it was one of the first crossovers of its type, the Pilot has seen its quality slip. The Odyssey minivan remains a strong competitor in a shrinking field. Although it never caught on as hoped, the clever Ridgeline pickup truck soldiers on.Headquartered in Tokyo, Honda Motor Co. remains one of very few independent, unaffiliated automakers.
  • Fiat S.p.A., (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin), is an Italian automobile manufacturer based in Turin. Fiat was founded in 1899 by a group of investors including Giovanni Agnelli. During its more than a century long history, Fiat has also manufactured railway engines and carriages, military vehicles, and aircraft. As of 2009, the Fiat group (not inclusive of its subsidiary Chrysler) was the world's ninth largest carmaker and the largest in Italy.
  • General Motors' mass-market brand, Chevrolet has more models spanning more uses than the other three makes that survived the company's 2009 bankruptcy. With the elimination of Pontiac and Saturn, Chevy now has the affordable vehicle market to itself.Among its cars, Chevrolet's high points include the Malibu midsize sedan, Camaro sport coupe and the new Cruze, which replaces the Cobalt compact sedan. Due for update or replacement, cars like the HHR wagon, Impala full-size sedan and Aveo subcompact aren't up to the newer models' impressive quality. The Corvette is still a world-class sports car, but it, too, is due for an update. All eyes are on the Chevrolet Volt, a battery-electric sedan with a range-extending onboard generator, which is GM's boldest initiative since the EV-1 electric car -- and could revolutionize transportation for efficiency-conscious motorists.Chevrolet's crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks have remained competitive, and the current Equinox compact crossover is one of the strongest products in Chevy's history. The large Traverse crossover, with seven or eight seats in three rows, is a strong seller, and the conventional truck-based SUVs soldier on as the Tahoe and the longer Suburban, which seat up to nine. The Tahoe is available as a hybrid. The compact Colorado and full-size Silverado pickup trucks and Express cargo van lineups offer numerous sizes, cab and box styles and weight ratings. The Avalanche provides the best of SUV and pickup worlds.In the wake of its bankruptcy, and pending an initial public offering of stock, Detroit-based GM is privately held predominantly by the U.S. Treasury, which owns more than 60 percent. The Canadian government owns roughly 12 percent, and bondholders from the now-defunct GM (Motors Liquidation Co.) hold about 10 percent. More than 17 percent belongs to a United Auto Workers health care and pension trust that the union accepted in lieu of earlier cash commitments. The UAW will sell its interest to fund the trust once the company goes public.
  • Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. Sometimes colloquially referred to as simply Alfa, is an Italian manufacturer of cars. Founded as A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) on June 24, 1910, in Milan, the company has been involved in car racing since 1911, and has a reputation for building expensive sports cars. The company was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986, when it became a part of the Fiat Group, and since February 2007 a part of Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.
  • Swedish automaker Volvo's name is synonymous with safety. Although the company has more safety provisions than most automakers, they aren't all reflected in crash tests, where other brands often match and occasionally exceed a comparable Volvo model's ranking. Likewise, Acura and Mercedes-Benz beat Volvo to market with radar-based systems that detect an imminent collision and apply the brakes. Volvo has plenty of safety innovations under its belt, including various airbag innovations and Roll Stability Control, the first system capable of sensing a rollover in progress and acting to forestall it.Broader than ever, Volvo's lineup includes the compact C30 hatchback, S40 sedan and related S50 wagon. The S60 sedan, which led the company into a more contemporary styling direction when introduced, has been redesigned and now echoes the styling seen on other recent Volvo models. The S80 serves in the role of full-size sedan, though it's not as large as the typical luxury flagship from Germany. The C70 retractable-hardtop convertible is a favorite for all-season use, thanks to front-wheel drive, four seats and side airbags that deploy upward for side-impact protection -- rare in a droptop.The V70 wagon has been discontinued, but the XC70, aka the Cross Country, remains on the market. For crossover fans, the XC60 is a more manageable size than Volvo's first crossover, the XC90, which seats up to seven.After 11 years of losses, Ford Motor Co. sold Volvo Cars to Chinese automaker Geely in August 2010, making it the first major brand bought by a Chinese company. Volvo is still headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • Japan's Nissan is a full-line supplier of vehicles in the U.S. market, and the parent of Infiniti. Nissan attempts to emphasize sportiness, with varying success. The Altima midsize sedan is a stealth high-volume seller, regularly one of the three best-selling midsize sedans in the U.S. market. After selling a hybrid version of the Altima in select markets for a few years -- using hardware licensed from Toyota -- Nissan has gone all-in with the battery-electric approach, developing its own four-door, five-seat hatchback: the Leaf, this country's first mass-marketed all-electric full-purpose car, with a range of roughly 100 miles.The car lineup begins with the Versa sedan and hatchback, a compact model with a subcompact's price. Next is the Sentra compact sedan, followed by the midsize Altima, now available as a sedan and a coupe. Based on the Altima, the Maxima is actually slightly smaller, though it's priced dramatically higher. It offers more power, features and premium materials. Nissan doesn't have a full-size sedan.Sporty cars include the legendary Z car, a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive sport coupe and convertible based on one of few platforms shared with Infiniti. Nissan's no-compromises sports car is the GT-R, which has close to 500 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a price that puts all the Infinitis to shame at more than $80,000. The latest sporty model is the Juke, a small crossover that could easily be considered a hatchback car.Other crossovers include the boxy Cube, a roomier alternative to a conventional subcompact car, and and the compact Rogue. The Murano is recognized for its high quality, refinement and mileage in the midsize crossover segment.Unlike some major manufacturers, Nissan hasn't abandoned conventional truck-based midsize SUVs. It still offers the Xterra and the longer Pathfinder, both of which have off-road capability and high towing capacity. Nissan's largest SUV is the full-size Armada, which seats up to eight. After a few years out of the minivan business, Nissan is bringing back the Quest.Nissan competes with domestic and select foreign brands in the pickup-truck market with the compact Frontier and the full-size Titan. Though the Titan offers a choice of lengths, it doesn't have a regular cab version, only extended and crew.Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Nissan Motors is allied with France's Renault and Germany's Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. With more than 40 percent of Nissan Motors' shares, Renault holds a controlling interest.
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