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2007 Detroit Auto Show – Hunan University New Concept Car


Ah, those crazy Chinese. We all know that the Chinese are poised to enter the USA market sometime in the future. Most of the vehicles will be very conventional. You might say that many will be ripoffs of vehicles sold in Western markets around the globe. Anyway, Changfeng Motor had a display at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. While Changfeng featured their Liebao (“cheetah” in English) Motors entries, they also devoted some valuable space in their booth to this concept vehicle developed by Hunan University.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers ventured down into Detroit’s Cobo Hall basement where Changfeng had its display in Michigan Hall.

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We’re not sure what the Hunan University New Concept Car is supposed to be, but, yes, it does have a single wheel in front and a single wheel at the rear. There are two wheels at the center of the car. I guess this is really a “new concept” in vehicle architecture. We are seeing several folks looking at three-wheeled vehicles, but never one with a leading wheel and dragging wheel.
Any idea what it will achieve?
Hunan Concept FV Blog.jpg

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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Is Jeep's Trailhawk Ready to Fly?


Jeep Looks to the Sky for Inspiration.
Among the Chrysler Group concept and production cars shown at the 2007 North American International Auto Show was the Jeep TrailHawk. As unsuccessful as the Chrysler Nassau concept was as a design study, the Trailhawk successfully takes Jeep design a step further. This is best seen in the front view, where the cropped headlights and backward-angled traditional seven-slot Jeep grille give the concept its hawkish face.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were on hand to see the reveal of the Trailhawk.


Wrangler Ability, Grand Cherokee Comfort
Trailhawk inherits all the off-road capability of the Wrangler platform, based as it is on the four-door Wrangler. The Trailhawk suggests that the platform is big enough to support a larger Grand Cherokee replacement, though there is no certain indication Jeep is headed this way. Platform aside, with any luck the next Grand Cherokee will take some of the TrailHawk’s styling cues.

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2007 Detroit Auto Show – Chevrolet Screams 'We're Green Too!' with their Volt Concept


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The Conceptual Answer?
A tangible concept can help communicate in a way words never could. General Motors’ introduction of its Chevrolet Volt Concept Vehicle at the 2007 North American Auto Show put hardware in the forefront where GM only trotted out talking heads at the LA Auto Show. In Los Angeles, GM simply stood behind a podium and rattled off statistics and their plans for a greener future. But in Detroit they communicated with a concept that probably created the most positive ‘green’ PR buzz they’ve had in awhile.
In fact, the Volt may be a green idea that would get the most jaded of AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers “green”.
Is the Chevrolet Volt the Most Important Concept at NAIAS?
The Chevrolet Volt, seemed to zap the audience into believing GM will rule the global market with a cure-all plug-in vehicle. In terms of powertrain technology the Volt may have been the most important vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show.
The illusive answer to the problem of petroleum-based transportation has been challenging both consumers and automotive manufacturers for years and yet no long-term definitive answer has been delivered. Sure, some auto manufacturers have toyed with plug in electric vehicles but they have either been viewed as science experiments for the environmentally friendly few or self-proclaimed socially conscious. The Chevrolet Volt may be the conceptual (read: theoretical) answer allowing the consumer to choose the most energy efficient solution within their geographic region.

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2007 Detroit Auto Show – 2009 Volvo XC60 – Pre-Shrunk XC90's Coming… Eventually



As the pendulum swings towards smaller vehicles and ‘socially conscious’ consumers Volvo has decided to shrink some of their XC90s. Volvo will expand their Crossover SUV lineup to compete in the arena with vehicles like the Lexus RX350, BMW X3, Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Mercury Mariner (Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute). Some may ask… Does Volvo need another soft roader 5-passenger SUV positioned under its 7-passenger XC90? Is Volvo concluding like many manufacturers that multiple SUVs are required to compete in today’s auto market?
XC60 Violates Volvo’s Naming Strategy
Codenamed Y278, then dubbed XC50, the production version will be called the XC60. This name violates Volvo’s own naming strategy. That strategy, that they have been implementing over the past few years, has each hatchback, wagon or SUV having an odd-number – C30, V50, V70, XC70, XC90. The sedans are all “S” names with even numbers – S40, S60, S80. So, here comes the XC60 and throws all this hard work out the window. Wonder why?

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2007 Detroit Auto Show – 2008 Honda Accord Coupe – Accord to Pass Camry?


There are two Mid-Size Cars that every buyer of a Mid-Size Car has to consider before selecting one of them, or moving on to another – the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. These cars are in the consideration set of almost all Mid-Size Car buyers. On a rigid 5-year schedule, Honda is to introduce its all new 2008 Accord in Fall 2007. Honda used the 2007 North American International Auto Show to tip its hand about styling cues for the next generation Accord. it used the Accord Coupe Concept to do this.

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Unveiling the Honda Accord Coupe concept did more than ‘wow’ those in attendance at the Detroit Show, it put Toyota on notice. The Accord Coupe Concept telegraphs cues that will be found on the upcoming Honda Accord Sedan.
Accord Has Been Top Selling Car As Recently As 2001, But Not In the Cards Now
The current Toyota Camry, which has been the top-selling passenger car in the USA for several years now and in its latest iteration is Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, will again have a worthy competitor offering consumers a distinctive alternative. In the last 25 years the Accord has sat atop Car and Driver’s 10 Best list all but 4 times. Accord was the top selling car in the USA from 1989 through 1991 and in 2001. The Camry has been the top-seller since it wrested the title away from the 1992 through 1996 king – the Ford Taurus for every year except 2001. Will the 2008 Accord again set the sales benchmark in its segment?
The answer to that question is NO. Accord will not become the sales leader until there is more production capacity added for Accord. At the present time, Toyota can out-produce Accord with its Camry and this is especially true since it began assembling Camrys at Subaru Indiana Automotive.
But back to the Accord Coupe Concept…

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2007 Detroit Auto Show – Kia Kue – Knocking on the door of Passion and Pride of Ownership?


Kia Motors America showed the Kue concept Crossover SUV at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. An interesting exercise, it opens the discussion about Kia’s sporting pretentions in the USA market. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were on hand at Detroit to evaluate the Kue and its potential for success. In a word… success as a 2-door – NOT!
Kia “Sporty” Sibling to Mainstream Hyundai Motor America

No there haven’t been to many Kias parked within the flags at the local enthusiast car shows.

In terms of Asian imports maybe Mazda Miatas, Subaru WRXs, Mitsubishi EVOs, Nissan Zs, and Toyota Supras; but no Kias. Being Hyundai’s ‘sporty sibling’ we might be able to follow the train of thought into believing that there may be a following for a supercharged V8 infused with passion and earmarked for that coveted space in the garage. That time may very well come; but we’re not there yet.

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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Mitsubishi Prototype X


Racers Rejoice: Prototype X
While most US car buyers are not that familiar with the Lancer Evolution, the vehicle has a cult-like following in Japan and among those familiar with Rally Racing . The EVO is also one of the most popular vehicles in the video game circuit. If you want to win, select the EVO.
America had to wait decades to get its hands on the EVO. The Lancer Evolution VIII was the first to be offered in the U.S. market, and gained popularity among performance enthusiasts as a true street racer.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Chrysler Nassau

Four-Door Coupe Hatchback: Awkward Bodystyle Answers a Question No One Asked
Chrysler has made it a tradition to introduce its most important, or sometimes just most fun, concepts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit every January. This year, the Chrysler brand contribution is the Nassau. While it does play better in the tin than in photos, we’re not convinced it is a clear direction for Chrysler. After spending a few days at the show, we do confess that ours may not be the prevailing opinion. Even within the office, there were conflicting opinions on the success of the concept.



Nassau takes the 300’s rear wheel drive platform and the SRT8 6.1L HEMI V8 and, with a nip here and tuck there, put a new body on it. Probably inspired in part by the Mercedes-Benz four-door CLS coupe, Nassau takes a stab at the four-door coupe look. Sort of. Instead of a traditional trunk, there is a stylized hatchback, effectively muddling it beyond recognition or clear identification. As Trevor Creed described in the presentation, it is meant to look like a British shooting brake, except that few Americans understand that idea. Shooting brakes were sporting vehicles with a hatchback for some functionality. In the States, we’re more likely to put a HEMI into our SUV than put a hatch on our sporty cars. I’m a wagon and hatchback fan more than an SUV fan, but didn’t find the Nassau as successful as it should have been. The Nassau’s design themes may appear on the next 300, but we wouldn’t count on the hatchback.

Chrysler Group’s design teams often take refreshing risks and many of those have resulted in successful and well-received concepts, even if not production cars. The Nassau is likely to go down as one of the more mediocre attempts, unfortunately. My favorite view of the Nassau is from the front, despite adapted minivan grille it carries. Nassau balances the large minivan-inspired grille with a deep front fascia. The highly stylized headlights indicate Chrysler might move away from the rounded-bottom form headlights found, one way or another, on most of the current range, to a more elegant, trapezoidal shape.

The rear roofline is fast and low, going for a sporting look. But instead it draws attention to the apparent lack of rear headroom. There is an elegance about many sporting wagons, but not in the profile of this crossbreed. Pushing the wheels out to the edges of the body makes for a sleek look and the surface lines on the bodyside do wrap nicely into the taillamps. The C-pillar shape reminds me of the Infiniti FX 45 (view image), but the subsequent glass aft of the pillar for the hatchback makes it look awkward. Also, the hatch opening looks smaller than a conventional trunk and the shape of the glass looks as though it would impede rearward vision, both elements that negate the typical goodness of a shooting brake or a hatchback.

There is a very modern, high-tech feel to the interior, inspired by electronics and cell phones. Interior pushbutton switchgear was patterned after the Motorola Razr cell phone. The design makes for a cool concept interior, but not necessarily a production solution. The interior ambient lighting is a very nice, comfortable and modern blue; the gauges are stylish and easy to read.

There are four bucket seats, with a center console running between passengers front to back. As a concept, the rear seats don’t fold down. The Nassau gets the poor headroom and cramped feeling of a low-roof coupe and the potential image penalty of a hatchback profile. Not to mention that trying to meld practicality with a luxury coupe concept seems rather pointless.

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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Acura Explores a New Sports Car


Acura’s NSX Replacement Still in Development
Acura’s auto show focus for 2007 is on its future, specifically its more distant future. The company followed up the Advanced Sedan Concept, shown in LA, with the Advanced Sports Car Concept in Detroit at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Though Acura described the Sports Car Concept as “show-stopping” and as having been “created to take exotic sports car styling to a new level,” it is in reality no more innovative than its name.



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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Mercedes Ocean Drive Concept


Mercedes-Benz showed its Ocean Drive Concept Car at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Needless to say, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand to see the car in person. What we have here is a Mercedes interpretation of the four-door convertible last seen in production form in the 1960s Lincoln Continental Convertibles and more recently in concept form by an ASC Concept four-door Chrysler 300C Convertible.
Mercedes takes care in describing the Ocean Drive as a “one-off” design study. A concept only. Not intended for production. But as with many concepts, consumer reaction at auto shows is an important gauge whether or not a concept progresses from idea to reality.

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Ocean Drive revives the tradition of large luxury convertibles (so, this was only partially revived by the Chrysler four-door Convertible from 2006?). Beginning with a clean sheet of paper, Mercedes attempted to develop an extremely comfortable and elegant convertible.
Ocean Drive, as a four-door convertible, reminds us that there still may be potential in the premium luxury four-door convertible market. The days of elegant and distinctive droptop transportation with good accommodations in the rear seat have been gone for decades now. Does Mercedes have the resources and gumption to bring it to fruition?

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