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Survey Finds “Surprising” Amount of Customer Dissatisfaction with Small Cars

A survey conducted by market research firm Mintel as part of a larger report on Small Cars has found consumer dissatisfaction with their purchases in the segment. In the study, Mintel found that only half of small car-buying respondents (51%) say they feel “extremely happy” with their small car purchases; by comparison, 80% of all respondents report feeling just as happy with their vehicle purchases.

Our survey revealed a surprisingly high number of small car drivers who aren’t fully satisfied by their vehicles, suggesting that today’s small cars may not have the amenities people want. This is a key insight for Detroit manufacturers as they revisit business and development plans for 2009.

—Mark Guarino, senior analyst at Mintel

Mintel research shows that most small car buyers choose to go compact because of fuel economy. Across income groups, 79% of respondents who purchased small cars say they selected their current vehicle because of gas mileage.

Moreover, 42% of small car owners bought their vehicle to replace a similar-sized vehicle in the same category, according to Mintel.

There is great potential for growth in the small car market. Automakers just need to figure out how to best package and sell the benefits of small cars to consumers. The transition from expensive, gas-hogging SUV to cheaper, fuel-efficient compact will feel like less of a sacrifice if the smaller car offers similar luxury features. Automakers need these innovative strategies to show consumers they are committed to change.

—Mark Guarino

The sampling size was 500 adults 18+ who bought or leased a compact car in the past 24 months. The Mintel Small Cars report was originally targeted for December 2008 but has been delayed to the economic turmoil in the industry and to get a better assessment on how things are going to play out this year, according to Guarino.



ToppaTom, "... like an Opel GT and made of light weight plastics is exciting too. Saleable? Nope. The Insight proves there are not enough geeks."

The original inexpensive 240Z and RX7 sold enough units to a few geeks. Check how much traffic is driver only.

Original 4-seat VW bugs were 1200 lb. With new tech, a cheap 2-seater(or 2+2) should be saleable. If EV's marketed ~no maintenance and fractional fuel cost as 100,000 mi. of fuel cost included in price, they could be saleable. ICE is most efficient at constant RPM. Simple hybrid battery & ultra-capacitor assist could handle most acceleration. There could be so many cheap, fun car possibilites using a light 2-seat base. The F3DM did EV or ICE with 4-seats under $22k USD. The 2010 Honda Insight is to do hybrid under $20k in April. The elusive Tata Nano is to be 4-seat under $3k - enhance it for the US at $6k. The world should be our oyster.


ToppaTom - your comments are good - so by-the-numbers:
1. Do you think key ICE/EV patents haven't been bought and shelved by 'big oil/auto'?
"In 1994, General Motors acquired a controlling interest in Ovonics's battery development
and manufacturing. On October 10, 2001, Texaco purchased GM's share in GM Ovonics, and
Chevron completed its acquisition of Texaco six days later."
2. Americans would have bought a GM small car(if it were dependible and smaller than a 6 cyl. Chevy 2).
3. Is one brainwashed when given no option?
4. If you think the GM, Ford, etc.. and ExxonMobile, BP, etc.. haven't and don't discuss
their mutual benefit - dude, you are defining irrational if you think they don't.
5. Detroit need not make stupid decisions - greedy short-term ones keep the executives rich.
6. When oil returns to $140, then $200+/bl (think it won't?) Nissan, Mits, BYD,.. will rake in dough
on the EV's they're producing.


kelly, good comments – But
1. Do you think there is a “lost” 200 mpg carburetor patent?
Patents are awarded to protect the inventor’s rights to exclusive production for a limited time AND to make the technology public. If you want to hide it you do NOT patent it (and risk the secret getting out and others then getting rich selling it). Patents are PUBLIC.
As to a controlling interest in Ovonics passing from GM to Texaco and then to Chevron; do you think this implies that Ovonics has made some big breakthrough unmatched by anyone else in the world and that GM and Big Oil want to bury it instead of making a killing by using these incredible batteries in the Volt and their hybrids ?

2. GM has tried desperately to build dependable small cars that were dependable and smaller than a 6 cyl. Chevy 2 with high quality and a reasonable price (Corvairs, Falcons, Chevettes, Fiestas Gremlins, Vegas, Mavricks, Novas, Escorts, Ramblers, Novas, Escorts, Ramblers to name a few). And of course, Americans would have bought them. The Asians make high quality small cars and the big 3 cannot compete with them for the same reasons American factories cannot compete with Asian TVs, VCRs, Clothing, Furniture, Steel, toys, motorcycles etc. Plus the auto industry has the UAW on its back.

3. No. One is not brainwashed when given no options. But to which options do you refer? Foreign small cars have been an option (and stealing $billions in US car sales) for over 40 years.

4. Can you show any evidence whatsoever that GM, Ford, etc.. and ExxonMobile, BP, etc.. discuss their mutual benefit and do anything that implies they don’t each properly work toward their own self interest – which is what a company (unless located in Cuba) is supposed to do? This sounds like just a juvenile conspiracy theory chant with no basis.

5. You say Detroit need not make stupid decisions - greedy short-term ones keep the executives rich. Which greedy short-term decisions? And wouldn’t these also make the company rich?

6. I agree oil will likely return to $140, and may go to $200+/bl. And Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, etc will continue to rake in the dough on small cars (and increasingly on SUVs and trucks). But until HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs become competitive, sales will only rise to the 6% range. And 6% of sales means NOT raking in the dough.


ToppaTom - A brief follow-up:
1. Per URL, .. In an interview with the Economist, Ovshinsky subsribed to the former view. "I think we at ECD we made a mistake of having a joint venture with an oil company, frankly speaking. And I think it’s not a good idea to go into business with somebody whose strategies would put you out of business, rather than building the business.
2. Scary, your list of failed US 'small' cars, yet US executives signed the UAW contracts that won't allow import of good GM/Ford Euro small cars(Opel, Euro Ford..).
3. Your car list(2.) quality left little option.
4. OK, GM, Ford, ExMo, BP.. consistently fight CAFE high mileage levels, crush alternatives((1.),EV-1..) accidently - like Enron just misread the markets..I wonder how many oil/auto execs accidently belong to the same country clubs..
5. Which greedy short-term decisions? A five-year-old BYD innovates - sells the first PHEV, Big 3 exec's arrange their million dollar pay, perks, filled personal bank accounts, but arrive in private jets to beg bailout, .. Even you imply, "I love efficient little cars that only (only?) outweigh their payloads by about 15 to 1." is ridicuous - so GM takes a hundred years of experience to make SUVs with 30:1 payloads! Again, I wonder how many oil/auto execs accidently belong to the same country clubs..
6. "But until HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs become competitive.."
They would be competitive, but that would minumize ICE purchases, maintenance, fuel consumption etc and the fox guards(builds) our transportation hen house!

Carefully read what big oil/auto knew at least ten(s) of years ago: "With electric vehicles, we're all at the same starting line." to understand their actions and 'MO'. Even the Volt valids under 40 mi/day travel.


Great discussions. Everybody is right. The US car industry is cluster f**ked with special interests, bloated union contracts, retirement commitments, short-term profit motives, uneducated consumers, unimaginative engineers, blind leaders, auto-insurance safety nazis,and oil money directives. Better to tear it all down and start from scratch. If I lived in CA I would be on the list to buy a new Aptera. The last person to leave Michigan, please turn out the lights. And for all you "highway presence" posters ... I have no trouble seeing 16 wheelers and avoiding them, I could care less if they can see me. No matter what you drive, you lose if you get too close to a semi truck. I feel safer in a quick agile car than a big one that can't maneuver. Those guys are pulling 20-hour shifts and wired out on amphetamines, if you don't stay out of their way, you deserve what's coming.


I am not convinced that a full-scale switch to sub-compacts from mid-size SUVs and larger (if it was possible) will make or break either climate change numbers, the automakers, nationwide employment, fuel supply issues, etc.
It appears to be an issue driven by emotions and individual values - an unwinnable combination - likely driven by an intense desire to see one's comments out there in the world in the form of a blog (guilty as charged). As society moves to electrified vehicles and infrastructure, fully recyclable/recycled/repurposed components, and increased 'intelligent' choices in energy sourcing, this argument will be moot. But at that point i guess we can go back to the same old arguments, because we have nothing better to do, like politics and religion. Blogs (the forum for the lonely, pathetic, angry, and polarized) - what a stupid invention.


Whatever the specifics, most comments have the big 3 fouled up and with new EV technology cars needn't be as complex or expensive.

BYD's Mr. Wang, the 42-year-old Chinese entrepreneur, compares the simplicity of building electric cars to the simplicity of a digital watch vs a Swiss mechanical watch. There's one seventh the parts and nearly no maintenance to the e6.

Consumers don't have to bailout or be overcharged forever. He even sells the Volt(?) buster PHEV F3DM for $22k to those who need exhaust aroma - with the F6DM on the way. Technology isn't the problem.


1. Item 1 discussed the mythical 200 mpg carburetor. Your discussion was about item 4 Big oil Big 3 conspiracy? Ovshinsky and ECD had a joint venture with an oil company which was supposed to benefit both, but was “not a good idea”.
That was a conspiracy ?

2. What is your point about “US executives signed the UAW contracts that won't allow import of good GM/Ford Euro small cars(Opel, Euro Ford..). Are you eager to buy a GM/Ford import? Well complain to the UAW - or do you think GM/Ford put this restriction on themselves?

3. My car list left MANY options; VW, Honda, Toyota, Fiat, Nissan, Hyundai, BYD etc, etc.

4. You say “4. OK, GM, Ford, ExMo, BP.. consistently fight CAFE high mileage levels, crush alternatives((1.),EV-1..) accidently …”
Where is this going?. - They fight CAFÉ because they cannot compete in small cars due to labor rates and UAW contracts

5. You say “Which greedy short-term decisions? A five-year-old BYD innovates - sells the first PHEV, Big 3 exec's arrange their million dollar pay, …… so GM takes a hundred years of experience to make SUVs with 30:1 payloads! Again, I wonder how many oil/auto execs accidently belong to the same country clubs.”
Do you think Toyota and Nissan have recently “advanced” to the point of making Big SUVs and full sized PU trucks? Either way it is not relevant- they all make what they can sell. Again “Country Clubs”; what do they have to do with this? (see # 6)

6. You say "But until HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs become competitive..
They would be competitive, but that would minimize ICE purchases, … and the fox guards(builds) our transportation hen house! "
THINK. How can the Big 3 dictate what the other 100 auto makers produce. THINK. Did RCA make everybody buy expensive US made TVs? RCA was big, now they’re gone, as is most of US industry.

You say “Carefully read .. “.
I think you mean “read into”. It says, for instance “The concept of an electric vehicle has been around for more than a century. But so far it has failed to become mainstream in large part because the batteries have been too heavy, bulky and costly.” BYD will sell you a car made with $3/hr labor - soon? When they get it right.


ToppaTom, we may be on the same side, but:

"Carefully read .." means carefully read text and the reference URL (web address pages) - including between-the-lines.

Ovshinsky's battery(NiMH) was cutting edge, several times better than existing options, viable (see "Who Killed the Electric Car"), and shelved(not bulk sold) by the newly controlling oil company! This type of oil/auto thinking, non-innovation, and actions(AKA: restraint of trade, collusion(in country clubs(?)) etc (see Standard Oil)) permeates all six points and lead to the present US taxpayer auto bailouts. Why significantly improve US cars if Americans bailout GM etc anyway?

Besides opinion, you haven't provided any references.

"BYD will sell you a car made with $3/hr labor - soon?" - having carefully read the references, you know the PHEV F3DM has been on sale ($22k) since last year and gets 60 mi/charge plus the next 240 miles on gasoline. BYD has sold 100,000's of gas cars in China for years. If billions of people aren't a big enough market, buy one and test track it here(US) with two Fed forms. Or, like 'the Big 3' - wait a year or two. Like Honda's etc - your going to see MANY BYD autos.


Automobiles provide most of oil's market(fuel, lubricants,..) and oil enables auto operation(~excepting EV's..).
Through decades, big auto/oil seem naturally in collusion, crushing alternative fuels/systems rather then significantly advancing consumer transportation. Though seemingly self-evident, legality aside, appearently other views exist.

Companies with 100-year experience needing and taking ongoing bailouts or new blood - that is the question.



You say "Carefully read ..' means carefully read text and the reference URL ,,, including between-the-lines.' “
Reading between the lines allows you to believe whatever you want. The free market means that you cannot control it by making agreements at country clubs. If you have a valuable technology you can (publicly) patent it and control it without need of collusion at country clubs. No one will bury it and pass up getting rich, least of all GM which is more than broke. If it is not patentable you better get on it or license it or someone else will get rich with it.
Even OVSHINSKY says “Now well over a billion [NiMH batteries] are sold every year as consumer batteries. It’s not only the battery of choice in the automotive industry, but it enables the automotive industry to have hybrid vehicles.” At
Do you read “collusion in country clubs” from this?
I am at a loss to cite any references – this is just common sense.
I admit I didn’t know BYD PHEV F3DM has been on sale since last year. Oops, you mean last month, in China only – you almost got me there.
We do agree that BYD/China may well take over the BEV, PHEV, hybrid and the entire auto industry in time, maybe soon - and why would 100 years of gas auto making help GM? The reason BYD/China may take over is they can undercut Hyundai, Toyota and GM on price. Even without the UAW on their backs, how long can we expect the US auto industry to survive? But paranoid belief in conspiracy theories and illegal collusion is just the refusal to accept that the people and auto makers do not do what you want them to do.
GM cannot make us buy what they want us to, and collusion will not help. If Big oil also wants the same thing, what will they say in the country club that will help?
You cannot crush alternative fuels/systems. You can only NOT compete in that market. If production of the GM Volt can not put to rest the myth that the EV1 was a winner, what will? Do you think GM lost the drawings?


ToppaTom , I think OVSHINSKY's pride says “.. but it enables the automotive industry to have hybrid vehicles.” while the Wiki reference states "it's possible that Cobasys (Chevron) is squelching all access to large NiMH batteries(OVSHINSKY's) through its control of patent licenses in order to remove a competitor to gasoline."

Note that the free market lead to monopolies(like Standard Oil..), was controlled by them, and history repeats. Power may be more subtile now than "What's good for GM is good for America." Then again, maybe publicly handing GM billions of taxpayer dollars isn't really all that subtile.
"Do you read “collusion in country clubs” from this?"
I read that the decades of automotive non-innovation leading to total dependency on big auto/oil and the familiar pattern of sudden oil price collapse wipeing out alternative fuel/vehicle startup firms isn't accidental. Collusion in a boardroom could be too obvious, country clubs would be easier..

Having taught engineering, I know there's far more innovation in America then seen in US cars. After WW II/our atom bomb, Americans/~the world wanted only American products(RCA noted). It has taken some truly Biblical scale screwups to blow that. Only corporate executives are legally responsible for a company..


Why do you discount what OVSHINSKY actually says, but believe something that WIKI says is POSSIBLE. Chevron cannot squelch all access to large NiMH batteries, it can only control use of whatever patents they hold.
Undoubtedly Ovshinsky’s pride would like to claim that his (now Chevron’s) old patents hold the secret to dirt cheap batteries, but he probably fears public ridicule by his pears, so he implies it and lets the gullible make that claim – those same people that believe the EV1 WAS viable even though GM is struggling to make the $40,000 Volt viable today (even with all the battery advances and $4/g gasoline).
Do you believe GM wants the volt to fail?
When you say “free market lead to monopolies” do you mean, as opposed to Communism or what? And "What's good for GM is good for America." Is hardly evidence to support paranoia.
You should be more specific in regard to “Decades of automotive non-innovation”. You should realize there are hundreds of automakers in the world which should be included in this.
I think you mean GM refused to make the cars you want people to buy. Does Toyota make cars you wish people would buy?
Toyota predicts the new, advanced, improved Prius III will capture only 1.5% of the US market – after 10 years of Prius 1s and IIs. Do you have some conspiracy theory to cover this, rather than admit most people do not want it, based on total cost of ownership?
I agree the GM Volt ($40,000) is not technically innovative. Since the rest of the world is not under Big Oil’s thumb, do you believe the Japanese Prius (at 1.5% of the US market) and the Chinese F3DM (zero innovation, just dirt cheap) constitute the innovation to which we should aspire?
It is apparently essential to the well being of some, to assume evil forces and country club dealings, not free will to chose the car they want, puts us where we are. Unfortunately the government did not force us off oil over the last 30 years and now it will be more painful. That’s the screw up, not the evil scheming of the “not so” Big-3.
We are the reason. Almost enough to make me move to Cuba or become paranoid, almost.
We don’t pay extra for things we don’t like, or buy smaller cars than we want, just so the future might be better served.
And we won’t buy many Volts just like we don’t buy enough Priuses.


Multi-ton SUVs were advertised most by GM etc and sadly bought most. Big auto/oil actions(MO) are best summarized in the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car". EV-1 owners had their cars for years and begged to keep their EV-1's, at any price, and GM CRUSHED THEM. THAT's our auto/oil free market, not some dream world of equal choice. I was in LA once in tears from the Xmas Eve smog and can understand CO2/climate/ICE concerns.
Fortunately, the newly elected Administration understands my views. Later, w/time..


What happened to chevron and batteries was simple. They gobbled up one company that had gobbled up anouther and didnt give a flaming bleep about the batteries. The result was the middle managed it into a coma.. not out of evilness not out of greed but simply out of not giving a flying weasel.

Its happened a zillion times before when a big conglomo buys up a smaller company so why did it seem odd it happened that time?


Briefly, maybe a movie trailer is worth a thousand words:

Deep Throat

Yeah well I'd like free gasoline and unlimited supplies of chocolate too, but that's not going to happen.

Small, high mileage cars are here to stay. Get used to it and at least try to be positive about it.

I remember when Cadillac started putting in 4-doors back in the early '80s and that was a subject of controversy with my grandparents. Sheesh!


@ Kelly
The following was taken from the link you provided:

No matter where you come down on the arguments about the electric car, the one glaring fact that is clear is that GM had a huge start on the modern electric car design, and then squandered it. The Japanese hybrids on the road now were built as a direct result of the work GM and other US automakers were doing a decade ago, out of concern that Toyota and Honda was being left behind. However the US automakers set that competitive advantage aside in favor of looking for a practical hydrogen cell powered car.

The new generation of electric cars won't be available until 2010 at the earliest, almost a decade and a half after the very functional and now extinct GM EV-1 cars hit the roads.


Jorge - Your comment(..killed EV) is right. The movie(in 10 parts) is there and I rewatched it. I forgot how truly arrogant and dishonest auto/oil are in their business practices. GM shouldn't be bailed out and any bailout money spend should be returned from the retirement funds of their executives - past and present.

Kenneth Cooper

Large vehicle owners...don't fret! You will soon be able to keep your gas guzzlers and have them converted to electric hybrids. With several companies coming to market with an after-market conversion kit, you may actually be able to double or triple your city driving mileage and keep your beloved SUV or Pickup.

Companies like Plug In Hybrid, Inc. of San Diego ( has just converted an F-150 and a Toyota Tundra into hybrids and although companies have been doing these upgrades to the Prius for a while now, wouldn't it be great to get Prius mileage in Explorer, Yukon, F-150 or a Dodge Ram?


Few mention the BYD F3DM batteries, which can charge to 80% (45+ miles) in 15 minutes with high amp chargers.

Better Place battery change-out might not be necessary using these batteries.


“Who killed ...” is just a movie. It targets the Hollywood types and conspiracy theorists.
Please, please, just ask yourselves these questions:
1. If the EV1 was such a winner, why has NO ONE built and sold an equivalent winner “almost a decade and a half” later? - NO ONE - Not BMW, Citroen, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Honda, MB, Renault, Saab, Toyota, Volvo, VW, etc - - (Volt, BYD? see #2 & #3)
2. If the EV1 was such a winner “almost a decade and a half” ago why is the Volt just now emerging at $40,000 after 10 years of world wide battery development, even with $4.50/g gas ? - and it won’t outsell the Prius, which is less than 5%.
3. If the EV1 was such a winner “almost a decade and a half” ago why is BYD China the only maker that MIGHT make a winner and capture some market with their F3DM? Even then, it is only because, at $22,000, it’s much cheaper than GM or Toyota or Hyundai could make it for.
3. Did the Prius give Toyota “a huge start on the modern electric car design”? - After 10 years of development, Toyota predicts it will capture only 1.5% of the US market in 2009 – Umm, you realize, with big vehicles yet to go below 25% of the US market, 1.5% is really close to NOTHING.
4. If GM had continued dev & prod of the EV1, where would we be today? GM would have gone broke even sooner, after trying to sell EV1s for $45,000 and/or Volts for $38,000 to $40,000. And why would sales exceed Prius levels?


US and Japanese auto/oil self interest, arrogance and maybe dishonesty are (I assume) responsible for the cancellation of the CARB ZEV, delay of CAFE reductions and the demise of the EV1. Makes no difference since;
1. This terrible “injustice” was exposed long ago but nothing has changed. What has CARB done? Where is ZEV now? Is CARB the evil entity?
2. Do people want a weird looking 2 seater like the EV1 or Insight? Yes, absolutely yes. To buy for themselves? Are you kidding? Hell no! Except for a small percentage of us geeks. That’s why there is no longer an Insight.


How can a new EV firm/vehicle battle "..all the money in the world"? Wasn't the movie exposure of GM big auto/oil tactics, lawsuits, pressure, and dishonesty clear enough?! It was clear enough to smaller car manufacturers!

Personal computers were legitimized and advanced by the IBM PC. GM went the opposite way, crushing the EV threat to their status quo ICE cars and setting EV/transportation progress back by many years!

So, now GM begs tax dollars, breathes EV, and promises the Volt savior? Be rational! The GM hacks will again crush ICE threats if they get a chance - it's what they do!


What kind if insanity is this?
GM crushed their OWN CARS, they did not crush start-up EV firms.
You cannot actually think potential smaller car manufacturers, all over the world, were scarred off by a movie? For over 10 years?
Why do you cling to this childish view of the real world?
IBM went with an open operating system with Microsoft and for a few years was the leader in the business sector. Apple’s operating system was closed and dominated the private sector and still has a complete monopoly on their operating system for business and private "Apple" systems. IBM could not compete with Asian PCs and faded. Now many competing Asian and some American PCs fill the business and private PC sectors.

Microsoft has eventually gained a virtual US (and maybe a world wide) monopoly in PC software because of compatibility issues, some illegal package deals with PC sellers and applications to cover almost everything.
I can see nothing that GM has in common with Microsoft or Apple.
You apparently believe that GM could start making horse drawn buggies and magically drag civilization back into the stone age.

The GM hacks never did nor can they ever crush ICE threats. What kind of fantasy world are you in that you think one competitor can squander or crush some advantage they have, and the entire field will be handicapped.
I am curious as to why you conspiracy freaks do not claim GM holds some dark secret EV technology that has prevented others from making these wonderful EV1 type cars for the last 10 years. Lord knows it’s not because that makes no sense.

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