• Though it's a smaller player in the U.S. market than the domestic and many Asian automakers, Volkswagen is a global automotive juggernaut, grouped with Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and two brands not sold in the U.S., Skoda and SEAT. In the U.S., Volkswagen is known for premium cars and SUVs with high-quality interiors that command higher prices than do comparable mass-market vehicles. A diesel-car veteran, VW offers TDI clean-diesel versions of several cars and crossovers.Broader than ever, the VW product line starts with the compact Golf two- and four-door hatchback and its revered performance version, the GTI. Sedan and wagon shoppers are satisfied by the Jetta, which was recently redesigned and is now larger than the average compact and more affordable than before. The 2010 model is the last for the iconic New Beetle, in hardtop and convertible forms. This will leave the compact retractable-hardtop Eos as VW's sole drop-top. The midsize Passat sedan and wagon continue, accompanied by the newer CC, a four-door based on the Passat that has a coupelike roofline. VW's two crossovers are the compact Tiguan and the midsize Touareg. The Touareg, which shares a platform and six-cylinder engine with the Cayenne from majority owner Porsche, was recently redesigned and is now lighter and more efficient. It also offers an optional hybrid drivetrain, VW's first, which is also shared with the Cayenne.In an unprecedented and questionable move, VW teamed with Chrysler to produce the Routan, a minivan that's based heavily on the Chrysler Town & Country and built at the same factory.Headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany, Volkswagen Passenger Cars is part of the Volkswagen Group, majority owned by Porsche AG.
  • More than any full-line manufacturer, BMW's reputation is built on its vehicles' performance. Arguably the originator of the luxury sport sedan class with its model 2002 in the early 1960s, BMW has always emphasized optimal weight distribution and handling, though it now goes toe-to-toe with competitors for power as well. BMW's lineup now contains numerous crossovers and, for 2011, the company's first hybrid models.The descendant of the 2002, the compact 3 Series comes in coupe, sedan, wagon and convertible versions, with a choice of two gas and one diesel engine and rear- or all-wheel drive. Like the convertible version of the 3 Series, the current generation of the two-seat Z4 roadster is a retractable hardtop rather than a convertible soft-top. The subcompact 1 Series, introduced in 2008, is a two-door coupe or soft-top convertible whose high price has held back its sales. The newly redesigned midsize 5 Series sedan continues in the U.S. market, though its wagon variant will no longer be imported, replaced by the peculiar 535 Gran Turismo, a four-door hatchback with a coupe roofline. The related 6 Series coupe and soft-top convertible continue in their first generation. Also redesigned for 2010 is the 7 Series flagship sedan. Crossovers include the five-seat compact X3, the midsize X5 -- which comes in five- or seven-seat versions -- and the X6, a four-door based on the X5 but having a controversial coupelike profile. It seats four.In addition to gas engines, BMW offers hybrid drivetrains for the X6 and the 7 Series, and diesel engines for the 3 Series and X5. BMW's M division currently offers high-performance versions of the 3, 5 and 6 Series as well as the X5 and X6.Headquartered in Munich, BMW is an independent company. It also owns Mini and Rolls-Royce.
  • 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.
  • Ford is the full-line, mass-market brand of Ford Motor Co., which also sells luxury vehicles in North America under the Lincoln name. With the discontinuation of Mercury and the sale of numerous other premium and luxury marques within the past few years, the company's efforts are squarely on Ford, a global brand. Thanks to a series of impressive new models and the goodwill that comes from being the only domestic automaker not to receive a government bailout, Ford's sales, profits, market share and image are all on the rise. Early to the hybrid market with the Escape crossover followed by midsize sedans, Ford is second only to Toyota in its implementation of truly efficient hybrid systems.Ford's recent additions include the Fiesta subcompact sedan and hatchback, which are sold in many markets worldwide and bring high quality and efficiency to the base of the car lineup. Substantial recent upgrades to the Mustang, including new V-6 and V-8 engines, have improved performance along with efficiency. The Fusion midsize sedan has won many awards, including Cars.com's Best of 2010 award for the hybrid version. A recent redesign has turned the frumpy Taurus into a stylish full-size sedan. The car most recently redesigned was the Focus sedan and hatchback, which hit dealerships in 2011. The new world car replaces a U.S. version that had shared the name but not the quality found in Europe.Ford's crossover offering is extensive, including the compact Escape, the newly updated five-seat midsize Edge and the large Flex, which seats up to seven in three rows. Ford is currently phasing out its truck-based Explorer midsize SUV and half-truck Explorer Sport Trac, replacing it with an all-new Explorer that attempts to blend truck and crossover characteristics. The Expedition and extended Expedition EL full-size SUVs can seat up to eight in three rows.Long overdue for a redesign, the Ranger compact pickup remains in the lineup along with full-size F-Series pickup trucks and E-Series cargo vans in numerous sizes, cab and box styles and weight ratings. A new cargo van from Europe, the Transit Connect, is intended for small-business owners and delivery fleets who don't need a larger van.Headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., Ford Motor Co. is independent and publicly traded.
  • 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.
  • Adam Opel GmbH (commonly known as Opel) is an automobile manufacturer based in Germany. The company was founded on January 21, 1863 and began making automobiles in 1899. Opel was acquired by General Motors in 1929 and continues as a subsidiary. Opel is GM's largest European brand and with Vauxhall forms GM's core European business.
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