A full day of new car introductions begins at breakfast time Monday and continues until after 5 p.m. at Cobo Center in Detroit. It’s Day 1 of two Press Preview Days at the North American International Auto Show.
Monday’s highlights are expected to include the unveiling of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lincoln’s MKC compact luxury SUV, the Infiniti Q-series luxury sports sedan, a Volkswagen SUV concept, a Honda urban SUV concept, the Maserati Quattroporte, the Toyota Furia concept – which shows what the next generation of Corolla might look like – and a long list of new production models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
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By sandwiching an 11-inch by 11-inch 402-hp electric motor betwen the 4.3-liter V-6 of a 2011 model year Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, and adding an array of lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 24 kilowatt-hours, the Via Motors company is creating electrically powered full-size trucks that have the capability to recharge themselves using gasoline.
The gasoline engine extends the range of these pickups, which is about 35 miles on pure electric, up to 400 miles combined, says Via president Alan Perriton. It’s similar to the way the electric Chevrolet Volt works, explained Via spokesman Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors and a champion of the Volt. “It isn’t just green,” said Lutz at the announcement of the new company at Cobo Center today, “but green and mean. It runs like a Chevy Volt on steroids. It has faster acceleration than its gasoline counterpart.”
Via is also partnering with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the largest energy utility, based in California, which has a fleet of about 3,500 large trucks. Greg Pruett, senior vice president of corporate affairs, explained that if the utility company’s entire fleet was converted to electric operation, it “would save $10 million annually” in fuel costs.
The cost to convert the pickups to electricity, as well as similar conversions for cargo vans and full-size SUVs, almost doubles the price of the vehicles, however. For a typical eight-year commercial lease, a full-size Silverado will cost about $39,000, while a Vtrux lease for a similarly powerful pickup converted to run on electricity will run $67,000. Factor in the reduction in emissions as well as the ability to use the truck as a small electrical generator in a storm, the Via Vtrux can break even after an eight-year service life, according to the company.
With 530-hp and a top speed of 191 mph, the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte made its world debut in Detroit. Longer, larger and lighter, the new Quattroporte arrives 50 years after Maserati established the concept of a sports sedan equipped with a racing engine.
“The first Quattroporte was a ground breaking concept, a sports luxury sedan which could transport a family across Europe in comfort,” said Harald Wester, Maserati CEO. “The new model will once again shape Maserati’s future.”
The 2014 model comes with a choice of two engines made by Maserati’s sister brand, Ferrari. Both the V-8 and the 410-hp V-6 are twin-turbo motors with direct injection. An all-wheel-drive system dubbed Q4 will be available on the V6 model. The car’s longer wheelbase improves rear legroom but while the Quattroporte is larger, it is also lighter by 220 lbs and consumes 20 percent less fuel than its predecessor.
The Quattroporte is the first of three new products coming from Maserati that will help the brand expand its coverage to 100 percent of the global luxury market. Wester said Maserati US sales were up 17 percent in 2012 to 3000 units. Globally the company’s goal is to grow sales from 6,300 today to 50,000 by 2015.
I’ve been a Ford truck man for 25 years, driving nothing but F150s during that period. My current ride is a 2006 Lincoln Mark LT, which is an F150 in a tux.
And at 160,000 miles, I’m about to retire it and go searching for a new pic-up.
The F150s on display at the North American International Auto Show are fine vehicles. I particularly like the King Ranch version, although the loaded-up Platinum edition would be a nice replacement for the Lincoln.
But for the first time in a long time, I’m tempted to stray from the Blue Oval.
The Dodge Ram won truck of the year for a good reason. It’s fabulous, and I can see myself in the cab. Chevy is also a contender with the new Silverados.
Ford had been the king of pickups for a long, long time. But its next remake of the F150 has some tough competition to clear.
The Toyota Corolla is supposed to be reliable, discrete, worthy and inevitably just a little dull.
That formula has worked well for Toyota and it has sold more than 39 million Corollas since its debut in 1966. That’s even more than Volkswagen’s fabled Beetle.
Toyota is expected to reveal the new design of its latest Corolla this fall, and if it looks anything like the Corolla Furia concept, unveiled today at the NAIAS, you can dump all those negative stereotypes.
Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota U.S.A., told a press conference that as the name “Furia” suggests, the concept vehicle has a “ferocious” look and a “fury” of energetic design elements.
“There are a lot of words designers use to describe it, but just let me say it’s a great looking car. And I’m sure it will cause some surprise from those who may have preconceived notions about the future of Corolla,” Fay said.
The Furia has short overhangs to emphasize the long wheelbase. That should improve interior space, ride and handling.
“It’s only a concept, but the Corolla Furia sends a clear message where we’re going in the future. Not only will the styling be more expressive, but it will also reflect our overall approach to the compact segment in every way,” Fay said.
Toyota has sold more than nine million Corollas in the U.S. since 1968. Over four-and-a-half million are still on the road today.
The current model – introduced in 2008 – was number two in the compact segment last year. In 2012, 2.1 million compacts were sold in the U.S., and Corolla accounted for nearly 300,000, a 13.5 percent segment share. Other contenders in this sector are the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus.
Will Toyota take the potentially risky move of trying to sell a Corolla with the “wow” factor? You only have to look at the Toyota stand, filled with worthy, reliable cars, to realize it didn’t get to be one of the world’s must successful car companies by taking any chances with styling.
A concept small SUV design to be built on a future Honda small-car platform was shown today at Cobo Center. Called the Urban SUV, it is a similar shape to Nissan’s small Juke SUV and Hyundai’s Veloster. The new Honda design has four instead of the three doors of its competitors, and will include all-wheel-drive.
The Honda Urban SUV will hold five people, “the social seating really favored by young adults,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for American Honda Motor Company, who introduced the new design. “We think there is latent demand for the Fit and small cars in general.”
American Honda Motor Company sprang to life in 1959 by selling clever small cars and motorcycles, and now it plans to tap into that DNA to grow as much as 50 percent larger. According to Mendel, Honda Motor Company in Japan is planning to reach six million worldwide sales in early 2017, up from 4 million now. The way the company will accomplish this is largely on the strengths of its next-generation small car platform, which currently supports the Fit compact. The next generation of the Fit is scheduled to be built in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2014.
“We really believe in small cars,” added Jon Ikeda, Honda’s chief exterior designer for North America. “This car is the epitome of that.” Ikeda explained that Honda understands how to make a large SUV, and make such a vehicle capable of carrying a big load, such as a refrigerator. But he says the company questioned how often a customer would be moving a refrigerator, compared to how often a young urban dweller might need to park in a place a foot or two shorter than a large SUV. “It’s going to happen more often.”
“This Urban SUV fits, it’s the right size,” added Ikeda. Although the price of fuel has dropped slightly in the U.S., Ikeda said that economic factors can change in a matter of months, and if a customer has purchased a vehicle that is too big, “it’s our job as a company to create something that doesn’t put the owner at risk.”
Honda did not offer any driveline or other technical details for a production version of the Urban SUV.
With more than 300,000 cars sold worldwide, including a record 66,000 in the US, in 2012, Mini is on a roll. The BMW-owned brand now has seven variants, all with sporty John Cooper Works editions.
The latest Cooper model to join the clan had its world debut in Detroit in the form of the Mini John Cooper Works Paceman. The Paceman itself is a two-door version of the Mini Countryman and shares its all-wheel-drive system.
The Cooper edition adds an aero kit with a coupe style roof, a 208-hp turbocharged motor and 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds. “This Mini has motorsports running through its veins,” said a Mini spokesman.
After suffering through green cars, teeny cars and cars designed by government committees, luxury cars are back big time at the North American Auto Show.
The buzz today is all about the Corvette Stingray and the new lineup of Lincolns.
Maybe its a sign of a better economy. Or maybe automakers realize there’s still a market for vehic;es of pleasure and not just practicality.
But its great to be back at an auto show where fantasy is the driving theme.
There was a time when convertibles were a common sight on U.S. roadways. These days, they largely appeal to a small but dedicated niche.
That’s especially true when you’re talking about a Bentley cabriolet like the Continental GT Speed Convertible blowing into Cobo Hall this week. With a price tag expected in the range of $250,000, it’s decidedly not for everyone – but for the elite few who can come up with that sort of cash there are plenty of rewards.
That includes the traditional Bentley handcrafted wood and leathers, as well as a massive 6,2-liter W-12 engine that punches out a full 616 horsepower. That’s enough to launch the 4-seater from 0 to 60 in just 4.1 seconds, no modest feat considering the GT Speed Convertible’s roughly 2.5 tons of mass.
But why stop at 60. If you’re not worried about speeding tickets – and if you can afford the Bentley you likely can afford the fine – press the throttle to the thickly carpeted floor and you’ll quickly reach a top speed of 202 miles per hour. That makes the new ragtop the fastest cabriolet on the planet if you exclude a few roadsters and even more limited specialty products.
That, is, incidentally, a mere 3 miles per hour slower than the Bentley Continental GT Speed coupe.
“The new GT Speed convertible will appeal to drivers who seek the sensory thrills of the world’s fastest four-seat soft-top and the practicality of a year-round grand tourer,” promises Bentley’s new Chief Executive Wolfgang Schreiber.
Likely few owners will actually ever push the limits of the new cabriolet – at least not with the top down. But, in typical Bentley fashion, this is no ordinary ragtop. The GT Speed Convertible features a multi-layer soft-top that Bentley claims to create a cabin environment virtually as quiet as the coupe when it’s up and locked in place.
But convertible owners are a hardy lot and the maker anticipates many will try to stretch out the al fresco experience as much as possible. It offers a helping hand not only with heated seats and steering wheel but with a neck-warmer, a system that guides warm air onto neck and shoulders when needed.
On hot days, the perforated leather seats also can be cooled to encourage drivers from closing the car up and turning on the air conditioning.
Bentley built its reputation, nearly a century ago, as a performance brand, hammering out a series of hard-fought wins on circuits like the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Continental GT Speed models, both coupe and convertible, harken back to that era, adding plenty of luxurious touches, of course. But the latest iterations are the most powerful and quickest products Bentley has ever brought to the street.
The GT Speed models, in typically British understatement, visually differentiate themselves only slightly from the comparatively mainstream Continental GT and GTC convertible. Sharp eyes will look for a distinctive grille, blackout chrome air intakes and 21-inch alloy wheels.
Audi of America unveiled two hot new models, the 190 mph RS7 and the highly tuned SQ5 SUV, and reckoned that sales in the U.S. would soon hit 200,000 a year.
Last year Audi, upmarket subsidiary of Volkswagen of Germany, sold a record 139,000 vehicles in the U.S., a 19 per cent rise.
“We will reach 200,000 sooner rather than later,” Scott Keogh President, Audi of America, told a press conference at the NAIAS.
The 4-door RS 7 Sportback has a 4.0 liter twin turbo V8 engine developing 560 hp, propelling the car from rest to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Customers, in Germany at least where there are sections of highway without speed limits, can opt to remove the 155 mph speed limiting device. The car will then reach 189.52 mph. If that sounds hard to believe, how about this; Audi claims the car will do 24 mpg.
The SQ5 is a Q5 compact SUV with a 3.0 liter V6 motor developing 354 hp, providing sports car performance, Audi said.
No word on prices for the new vehicles yet.
Late last year Audi announced a $17 billion spending plan through 2016, part of its plan to sell at least two million cars a year by 2020, and overtake BMW to become the world’s biggest premium car manufacturer. Mercedes has similar ambitions.
Audi has a long way to go before overtaking BMW in the U.S. Last year BMW sold 347,583 vehicles, the automaker said, up 13.8 percent from 2011. Mercedes was close behind BMW.
Auto shows are most people’s only chance to see so-called “concept” cars, which are usually more wildly styled than production cars you can buy. BMW introduced today the Concept 4-series Coupe, a longer and wider — and make that “hotter” — version of the company’s top-selling sporty luxury 3-series sedan.
The reason concepts look better is because they’re easier to draw, since they don’t have to meet all the technical requirements such as if the engine will fit or if the doors open wide enough. This is according to Karim Habib, who is in charge of BMW’s car design in Munich, Germany.
There are other secrets to BMW’s generally great-looking cars. One is the company’s focus on rear-drive architecture for its cars, as well as its heritage of having long six cylinder inline engines rather than shorter V8s or V6s. These traits are deliberate, said Habib, something BMW requires its cars to look like.
“That’s what we’re about,” said Habib as the auto show crowd got its first in-person glimpses of the new Concept 4-series Coupe at Cobo Hall. “Big wheels at the corners of the car, and a cabin that is rearward, that’s nice.”
The Concept 4-series Coupe will eventually become a real production car, and it will also look very similar to the car unveiled today, although BMW won’t say when. To make the long, low, wide and sleek Concept 4-series Coupe, BMW’s designers were challenged to a competition to out-draw each other, and perhaps 20 different styling sketches were made.
Habib and other BMW executives reduced that number to six designs that they liked best, which were turned into digital renderings, or virtual three-dimensional models. From these, the best designs were made into four clay models.
“The design has to be experienced in three dimensions,” Habib said.
Then of these four models, the silver low-slung Concept 4-series Coupe was chosen. The entire process took about a year. “I think BMWs always look better in real life,” Habib said, “even though I’m very proud of the photos we have taken.”
Capping Volkswagen Group’s best year in history, the VW brand staged a world premiere of the Cross Blue, its first entry in America’s fast expanding mid-size crossover/SUV segment.
Presented as a six-seat concept, the Cross Blue would have seven seats in production form, said Ulrich Hackenberg, VW Group board member for technical development.
“It is still a concept but gives a glimpse of our presence in the second most important segment in North America,” Hackenberg noted. “The segment could grow by 22 percent by 2021.”
The Cross Blue powertrain is a plug-in hybrid with a diesel engine and two electric motors, a similar powertrain to that featured in the VW Cross coupe concept, also on display.
“When the batteries are charged, the vehicle has a combined mpg rating of 89 mpg,” Hackenberg said.
VW Group’s global sales hit a record in 2012, with more than nine million vehicles sold. The VW brand was responsible for the lion’s share of that total, including in the U.S., where VW had its best year since 1973.
“While the economic waters are still unsettled, we do expect the US market to grow and VW to be a leader in that growth,” said Jonathon Browning, VW North America CEO. “We have three years of double digit growth, with our best line-up of cars in many years.”
Browning introduced the Passat Performance concept, a version of the company’s mid-sized sedan with a 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct injection engine.
“This model has sports suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels and 250-hp from the first use of VW’s new EA888 engine family,” he said.
With a little bit of help from some Cirque du Soleil tumblers, Infiniti launched its new and renamed 2014 Q50 sports sedan at the NAIAS.
Infiniti, the luxury subsidiary of Nissan of Japan, is renaming all its cars, with “Q” referring to all sedans and “QX” for all its SUVs.
The Q50 has engines options of 3.7 liter V6 gasoline, or 3.5 liter gas/electric hybrid. A diesel version is being considered.
Among the many high technology advances in the car are direct adaptive steering and active lane control.
Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen told a press conference, “This exciting new Infiniti Q50 stretches the boundaries of what a sports saloon can be, propelling Infiniti in a bold new direction.”
Before de Nysschen spoke, four performers from Cirque du Soleil did handstands and jumped around in front of the Q50.
That would be good for Infiniti, for which, although it has produced finely engineered cars that perform well, styling has been nondescript. It also has to compete against the global leaders in the premium sector, BMW, Mercedes and Audi of Germany
De Nysschen is a former employee of Audi.
The new Q50 will be launched in the U.S. in the summer of 2013.
“The new Q50 amplifies every driver’s performance preference and enjoyment behind the wheel. We have one of the fastest accelerating hybrid engines, which also happens to be projected as one of the most fuel-efficient. We have advanced performance and safety technologies that can see and react before the driver can. And, we have the world’s first quick and precise Direct Adaptive Steering technology,” said de Nysschen.
He said direct adaptive steering gives a quicker reaction from drivers because it able to anticipate steering intentions.
The Q50’s 3.7-litre aluminum-alloy DOHC 24-valve V6 is rated at 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid powertrain’s 3.5-litre V6 is rated at 302 horsepower and 258 pound-feetof torque. The advanced, 50 kW electric motor is rated at 67 horsepower and 199 pound-feetof torque.
Both powertrains are available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
Like many manufacturers at this year’s show, Infiniti makes much of Internet connectivity and personalized technology. The Q50’s key will recognize the driver and automatically engage preset preferences for things like seats, heating, air conditioning and navigation.
Details of the new Q50 for Europe will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2013 and will include different engines.
“The new Infiniti Q50 is a true game changer in the sports saloon segment,” said de Nysschen. “With its cutting-edge performance, design and technology, it breaks away from ordinary – just like the Infiniti brand.”
In the beginning there was the econobox, the cheap and cheerful little Pony. But Hyundai rewrote the book when it introduced the big Genesis sedan, winning the coveted North American Car of the Year award and proving that Korean carmaker could actually compete in the luxury market.
With the more recent Equus showing Hyundai’s ambitions to move even more up-market, the maker is providing a very clear “hint” of what’s to come with the new HCD-14 Genesis concept vehicle unveiled at the North American International Auto Show today.
The show car “gives a hint of the design direction we’ll be taking, and an indication of the focus we’re placing on driving dynamics and technology,” explained John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America and a former Ford senior engineer.
In its earliest incarnation, Hyundai products were simple, basic and largely forgettable. But in recent years, it has put a premium on styling – as demonstrated by recent models like the midsize Sonata and compact Elantra. The HCD-14 Genesis takes things a step further.
It adapts a coupe-like sedan shape that is more refined than the more mainstream Hyundai entries while still pushing the design boundaries. Credit Chris Chapman, the former BMW designer who is now running advanced design operations for the Korean carmaker – the HCD in the concept car’s name short for Hyundai California Design.
“We instilled HCD-14 Genesis with a premium-sport 4-door coupe road presence,” explained Chapman. “Its sleek and lightweight silhouette does not punish the wind, but uses fluidic precision with dramatic surfacing that conveys natural restraint. Inside, a driver-centric cockpit prioritizes dramatic sculpture over infotainment button overload. Laminated and milled-wood detailing delivers a fresh, topographical map-like visual interest throughout the cabin-length center console.”
Company insiders suggest that the concept vehicle will make a splashy return when Hyundai reveals the next-generation Genesis sedan in the next couple years. And it is likely to influence the bigger Equus, the maker’s even more audacious challenge to the established flagships of the luxury market – the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS.
But a closer look reveals some design details likely to remain with the show car, notably the rear-opening “suicide” doors that stylists love to embrace on the show floor but which have rarely made it into production since the days of the old Lincoln Mark II.
And while electric door releases are out there on a few low-volume models – such as the Chevrolet Corvette – it remains to be seen if Hyundai would find it worthwhile and effective to adapt that technology to something a bit more mainstream.
The HCD-14 serves as a test bed for other new technologies, including an “advanced 3-D gesture-based technology controls.” Might the maker allow a driver to change stations, adjust volume or operate other controls with a simple flick of the wrist – never mind replace the traditional key or keyless fob with optical face recognition? It’s clear the industry, as a whole, is looking for the most effective way to operate today’s increasingly complex infotainment systems while limiting driver distraction.
And Hyundai has shown a willingness to push the edge in order to stand out among mainstream manufacturers as it demonstrates it’s more than just a bargain basement brand.
But what may prove the real measure of the marque’s maturity will be the “driving dynamics” Krafcik referred to. Hyundai may be standing up against the German luxury makers but it still hasn’t quite gotten down the solid and inspiring steering and suspension behavior that draws so many buyers to Teutonic nameplates.
The executive is the first to admit that and says it is perhaps his single biggest focus. Should the HCD-14 show car deliver on the dynamic front it will position Hyundai as a brand the rest of the industry surely will have to respect and even fear.
The slick and luxuriously trimmed MKC concept that Lincoln unveiled at the North American International Auto Show Monday showed lots of light interior colors and an airy large glass sunroof, yet showgoers and industry watchers expressed concern that the production-looking concept may look too much like the 2013 Ford Escape crossover introduced about a year ago, with which the new MKC concept shares a platform.
“Everything the customer touches,” said MKC chief exterior designer Murat Gueler, “is totally detached from anything else” Ford makes. “The front, rear, and side views are completely different.”
It was just a year ago that Ford made a promise to reduce the number of its car platforms — the industry’s way of describing a general size of a certain model line. Critics contend that making a Lincoln that shares a platform with a Ford will not appeal to buyers. Gueler, however, sees that not as a problem.
“The global C platform (that the MKC concept uses) has a lot of good aspects about it. There is an openness to it. Spaciousness comes from our new use of different materials and their light colors,” Gueler explained at the unveiling of the MKC concept.
The MKC concept took about one year to design, with dozens of Ford designers’ idea sketches vying for favor within the company’s design ranks. In concept form, it seats four people, instead of five passengers that the Escape can carry.
“We need to step-by-step build out the Lincoln model line, to reinvent the brand,” Gueler admitted, and although he wouldn’t reveal which Lincoln model he expected to be introduced next, Ford’s Executive Vice President of Marketing for Lincoln Jim Farley told an auto show audience that within the next four years there will be four new Lincoln designs in addition to the MKC.
The fastest, most powerful, standard Corvette in history debuted this morning as Chevrolet marked its best ever sales year.
The seventh generation Corvette boasts 450 hp and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of less than four seconds.
Around the world, Chevrolet is expanding its reach, noted Mary Barra, GM global product development chief, with 60 percent of brand sales now coming from markets outside the U.S. The company had its best sales year ever in 2012 with more than five million vehicles sold.
“Globally, a new Chevrolet is sold every 6.4 seconds,” Barra said. Twenty new Chevy models will be launching globally this year including the Spark EV and new Silverado pick-up truck in the U.S.
Turning to the Corvette, Barra said it has been almost 60 years to the day since the launch of the original model and the new version earns the rare distinction of carrying the Stingray name.
Mark Reuss, GM North America president, remarked that the latest Corvette is a radically new design, sharing virtually no parts with its predecessor.
“It is even more new than the original Corvette which borrowed parts from other cars,” Reuss said. “The car is a technological tour de force with world class interior craftsmanship.”
German automobile manufacturers sold a record number of new cars in the U.S. 2012 and expect to beat that again in 2013, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry.
At a Detroit Car Show press conference Matthias Wissmann, president of the association known by its acronym in German, the VDA, called for a free trade agreement between the European Union and the U.S., which he said if it also included an elimination of nontariff barriers such as overlapping safety regulations, could save consumers billions of dollars on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wissman also lauded the progress of diesel engines in the U.S.
German manufacturers raised their 2012 car sales by 22 percent to 920,400 vehicles. In a car market totaling just over 7.2 million that gave Germans a market share of 12.7 percent, he said.
“More than one new car in eight sold in the U.S. in 2012 bore a German badge,” Wissmann said.
Wissman contrasted the mood in the U.S. now, with the dark recession days of 2008 and 2009.
“The U.S. automotive market has revitalized itself with amazing speed and dynamism. Last year it shifted up several gears. We are especially pleased that in 2012, both in the car and the light truck segments the German manufacturers grew faster than the relevant U.S. markets,” Wissmann said.
“For our manufacturers the automotive year 2012 was the most successful year ever on the U.S. market. All the German brands that are active here recorded double digit rises in their light vehicle (cars and light trucks) sales. In view of the model offensive that our member companies are showing in Detroit, everything suggests we will expand in North America for the eighth year in succession,” he said.
Wissmann said German carmakers sold 125 percent more diesels in the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2012 at 77,300 compared with 2009. He said diesels would win an increasing market share in the U.S., but were unlikely to reach European levels where almost every other new car sold is a diesel.
Wissmann said he wanted the European Union and the U.S. to negotiate a free trade deal, but he was especially concerned about the level of what he called non-tariff barriers, where the duplication of safety regulations raised costs hugely.
“If a vehicle is accepted in Europe, it should be accepted automatically in the U.S. That would cut costs for the consumer by billions of dollars if you cold do that,” he said.
“Let’s do it with electric vehicles,” Wissmann said.
“I call on the leaders and heads of state in the E.U and the U.S. to push to get this done,” he said.
A new bin design that surrounds the bottom of a car’s center console is designed to catch hotel keys, slim smart phones and even slippery french fries that get dropped between the center console of a car and the seat.
The design grew from giant interior and battery supplier Johnson Controls’ “snoop patrol” research, where designers and engineers peek through van windows in public parking lots to watch how consumers use their cars. Johnson Controls’ Han Hendriks, vice president for advanced product development for electronics and interiors, announced the convenient new catch-all design at the North American International Auto Show as part of a new concept “bespoke” interior that the company is hoping carmakers will use in future models.
“Sometimes the light bulb in your head just goes on,” said Hendriks, describing what his designers thought when the catch-all bin came up during an internal weekly research meeting several months ago. If you ever feel you’re being watched as you park your car in a Meijer store lot, your paranoia may be well founded; the Johnson Controls researchers have been snooping on shoppers using their cars for decades.
“What’s more, the bin is not expensive,” he added. The concept interior features more sophisticated details, too, such as surfaces that can accommodate inductive charging of driver and passenger cell phones.
Of all of the new and updated cars debuting at the North American International Auto Show this week, no less than 25 have interior parts designed and refined by Johnson Controls, which is also displaying lighter-weight seating systems and advanced batteries all intended to help squeeze more fuel economy from future cars.
While it slipped into second place in the U.S. luxury market last year, Mercedes-Benz has plenty of momentum going for it, especially as it rolls out an assortment of new products that fill in much of the white space between existing models.
The maker is showing off an assortment of its newest offerings at the North American International Auto Show this week, though one of the most significant of those products will be noticeably absent when Cobo Center opens its doors to the public.
Though the German maker’s stand will feature the completely redesigned E-Class sedan, coupe and convertible range unveiled at the NAIAS today, Sunday night’s unveiling of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA was a preview reserved for journalists alone.
The debut of the all-new E-Class is certainly worth watching. This is “our bread-and-butter car,” stressed Steve Cannon, the head of Mercedes’ U.S. operations, both the brand’s best-seller and the top model in this critical luxury segment.
Among the headline updates, the 2014 E-Class abandons the distinctive four headlight layout that has been a signature for several generations. The new model gets a more sculpted, smoother profile, losing the muscular bulges found over the rear wheels of the previous E-Class.
The interior undergoes some significant changes, meanwhile. There’s now a widescreen navi and infotainment display atop the center stack and the COMAND system will be updated to the latest technology. Redundant, 5-point controls are mounted on the steering wheel.
Mercedes is also boasting of a variety of new high-tech safety features including the Stereo Multi-Purpose Camera system it will share with the 2014 S-Class. It’s capable of seeing the world as we do, in three dimensions, expanding the capabilities of the car’s Forward Collision Warning and other systems – at distances up to 1,650 feet – to spot both cars and pedestrians, when driving in-town.
The E-Class will be offered with a range of powertrains, including a 190-horsepower four-cylinder diesel that will replace the current 6-banger in the E-Class and several other upcoming models. The V-6 E350 and V-8 powertrains will hold over, but the line-up adds a new E400 Hybrid later in the model-year, bringing fuel economy of 24 city, 30 highway.
The maker’s 7-speed gearbox will be shared by all and every engine package but the Hybrid will be available with 4Matic All-wheel-Drive. All conventional gas engines will also get automatic stop/start capability.
While the E-Class may be Mercedes’ best-seller, the maker is clearly aware of shifting trends in the luxury market. It has added an assortment of crossovers in recent years, including a newly-updated version of its compact GLK.
Downsizing is a fact of life in the luxury market and that has convinced the German maker it is finally time to offer something even smaller than the old “Baby Benz” C-Class. So, Sunday’s preview gave journalists from around the world a first look at the CLA, the production version of the Concept Style first shown at the Beijing Auto Show last April.
Based on the all-new A-Class platform, it’s a smaller take on the popular and trend-setting Mercedes CLS coupe-like-sedan.
“Our goal is to repeat the success of the CLS in the youth segment,” explained Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes’ executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Schmidt and other Mercedes officials emphasize that while the CLA might be small they aren’t positioning it as a stripped-down version of the bigger coupe-like sedan. It will feature a lot more features, as well as a more upscale interior than might once have been expected when size and price were indelibly linked in buyers’ minds.
In a break with tradition, the CLA will use a front-drive layout, rather than Mercedes’ traditional rear-wheel-drive design. But like the E-Class, the sleek small car will be offered with an optional 4Matic system.
Expect to see the CLA in U.S. showrooms by autumn 2013, not long after the E-Class, and Mercedes has strong aspirations for its sales potential, says Dieter Zetsche, the marque’s global brand boss and CEO of parent Daimler AG. “With its unique design language, I am convinced that the CLA will make a powerful mark on the image of the Mercedes-Benz brand.”
After setting an all-time sales record for 2012, Jeep is setting its sights even higher and counting on an assortment of new products to help it repeat that success this year.
The maker is expected to significantly expand its lineup over the next several years as it adds models, increasing the extremes of its existing product range. But it’s also updating the current lineup, as it announced during its North American International Auto Show news conference.
“It’s going to be a big year for product,” said Jeep brand chief Michael Manley.
Barely three years after scoring a hit with an all-new Grand Cherokee, Jeep is set to make a number of significant updates for 2014. That covers a wide spectrum, from design tweaks to an assortment of new safety and security features.
But the Grand Cherokee will also undergo several revisions meant to improve its less than stellar fuel economy, including not only an all-new 8-speed automatic gearbox but also a new diesel option that will bump mileage into another category entirely.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Chrysler Group’s off-road brand is refreshing its two smallest models, the Compass and Patriot.
Jeep’s strong sales last year, a record 701,626, might come as a surprise to those who have predicted the demise of the sport-utility vehicle market as fuel costs march upwards. And while pump prices have slipped a bit in recent months, few expect that to be more than a temporary aberration. Certainly not Manley and his planning department.
So, the new 8-speed gearbox comes as a welcome update on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, helping drive highway mileage up to as much as 25 mpg with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 21 mpg with the 5.7-liter V-8. Even the top-line 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT stands to make a measurable improvement, though specific mileage numbers weren’t released.
The new gearbox also is a factor in the 44% increase in towing capacity for the SRT model, now rated at a whopping 7,200 pounds for the 2014 model-year.
But for those who focus on mileage the most appealing addition to the Grand Cherokee line-up for 2014 is certain to be the new EcoDiesel V-6. It’ll squeeze as much as 30 mpg out of the big SUV yet still promises to deliver good performance and towing capacity with its rated 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Though some might disagree, mileage isn’t everything. The newly updated Grand Cherokee will reach showrooms with an updated infotainment system that includes a larger touchscreen and, with the SRT, an optional 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system capable to shaking your fillings out with its 825 watts of audio.
New safety features include such technologies as Front Park Assist, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control,and Selec-Speed Control.
The new 2014 Compass and Patriot models also get improvements in mileage and safety, along with styling updates. Think of the 2014 Compass as “the little brother of the Grand Cherokee,” suggested Chrysler interior design chief Klaus Busse.
The more traditional Patriot’s design comes closer to the original Jeep Cherokee.
With their own transmission update, the two small crossovers are boasting mileage of up to 30 mpg for the coming model-year.
There had been some speculation Jeep might pull the plug on one of the two models as they share the same compact crossover platform. But the updates suggest both Compass and Patriot will be around for at least a couple more years.
And they’ll be joined by other new offerings including an even smaller Jeep to be built in Europe, the maker recently revealed. While it has yet to give its confirmation, sources also expect to see a larger Jeep model to flesh out the top of the line, possibly even reviving the old Jeep Grand Wagoner nameplate.