By Corey Conley
The Good: American small cars.
It’s hard to overstate this turnaround. I know some will disagree, but in North America, the former Axis powers have been mopping the floor with the home team’s compact offerings for nigh-on 30 years, but over the past two years, all that has changed.
Ford and Chevy have spent the past two years rolling out the strongest line-up of bantam-weight cars they’ve ever sold in America, tapping into the small-car proving grounds of Europe for compelling, sporty, fun-to-drive cars that provide enough fun and efficiency to rival anything out of a VW or Honda showroom. (The irony is GM and Ford had been producing these cars all along for other world markets, but never sold them here.)
The result is the Chevy Sonic and Cruze, the Ford Focus and Fiesta. All of these have earned unanimous approbation from critics and consumers; the Sonic for its well-built, spunky power, the Cruze for its big-car maturity and stellar mpg, and the Focus and Fiesta both for their handling, styling, and efficiency. They don’t just improve on their predecessors, they are serious competitors in a cutthroat market.
At January’s Detroit auto show, the final piece slid into place. Chrysler, which has had the roughest time shedding the dregs of its pre-bankruptcy product line, announced its 2013 replacement for the forgettable Dodge Caliber: the Dodge Dart.
Although the Dart has yet to pass through the usual hazing by the automotive press, the car makes a grand first impression. Beneath its aggressive, all-American styling are the guts of Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta, which, along with parent company Fiat, have thrown in with the Chrysler group. It is, quite simply, the most compelling car of its size ever produced by a Chrysler brand.
Leaving aside questions of carbon and fuel efficiency, why are low-profit small cars important for an automaker? It was question no one considered during the freewheeling 90s and early 2000s, as SUVs wracked up fat profits and American small cars like the Saturn L-Series and Ford Focus languished, but excellent small cars are of lasting importance for brand survival.
Small cars are the first purchased for a young driver, the first to be handed down to a teen for college. A strong small car makes that young driver a loyal customer for life; a bad one and that person may never grace your showroom again. Judging by the Big 3’s current small-car offerings, their future has never been brighter.
The Bad: World of Warcraft subscribers likely to fall again
At last count there were still roughly 10 million subscribers forking over cash to Blizzard’s MMO juggernaut, enough to handily beat any competitor. Yet the frost giant staggered last year with over a million players suspending their subscriptions, and with no new content coming out any time soon, subscriber numbers may dip into the dreaded seven figure range when they release fourth quarter subscriber numbers.
It may yet recover when the next installment, Mists of Pandaria, hits shelves, but many are whispering a deeper sort of disenchantment with the seven-year game.
Other feasible culprits are the global economic decline, and the simple fact that there is no new content planned for the current expansion, leaving some players with little to do until MoP drops.
On a personal note, I know a certain level 85 forsaken warrior that’s about to be on ice for a very long time.
The Ugly: SOPA and PIPA reincarnated as CISPA
There’s little to say that hasn’t already been said, but it’s clear these bills, while addressing a real problem, could do great harm to the thriving, free-flowing currents of information on which the Internet depends.
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