Conventional wisdom dictates that automakers need to move upmarket to fatten their profits. But with light-vehicle sales softer than expected in some upscale and luxury segments, automakers are again exerting pressure at the low end.
With nearly 1,600 different car and truck models to choose from in the United States, it's easy for the growing number of first-time buyers to get lost in the shuffle at the entry level.
Vehicles built overseas still have a cost advantage.
The Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio dominate the segment. Toyota is refocusing the Echo, which is in a sale slump. Chevrolet has the Aveo, a re-branded Daewoo built in Korea. Ford, Nissan and Honda are looking for entries.
And even Smart, which is DaimlerChrysler's commuter car brand that goes on sale here next year, wants cheaper models.