Detroit Auto Show:
Last week George asked us to share our pre-NAIAS thoughts on what the show might hold for each the VehicleVoice staffers. One of my interests centered on the reveal of the 2013 Ford Fusion, as it represents one for Ford’s single most important vehicles in maintaining momentum with US consumers. Ford’s last mid-cycle refresh of the Fusion, brought considerable attention to the vehicle and increased sales significantly. At NAIAS this week, VehicleVoice got the chance to review a completely updated model, which takes the Fusion to a new level.
An annual pilgrimage for the auto industry is to attend the press days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit each January. Unfortunately, this year I cannot attend because my physicians caution that I should not be heaving carry-ons into and out of overhead bins and baggage carousels.
So, I’m jealous.
One of the primary businesses of AutoPacific is to keep on top of what is the latest in the auto industry worldwide, so AutoPacific will still be well represented at Detroit.
I asked each of our staff members to remind me why I should or should not be jealous of them attending instead of me. Read below the break for their input.
We reported on the Verve hatchback and sedan concepts that Ford showed at the Frankfurt and Detroit auto shows during the 2007-08 show season, and now we bring the news that Ford has confirmed the production name: Fiesta! The official reveal of the European three- and five-door hatchback versions is in Geneva in March. When the U.S. sees the car in 2010, it will be in sedan form much like the Detroit 2008 Verve concept.
Ford is evaluating offering the hatchback in the States as well. Hatchbacks have been gaining in popularity in the States, but this market so far still buys far more sedans than any other car shape. The hatchback would be a nice addition to the U.S. Fiesta range, but the sedan is a must.
Fiesta is a cutesy name, but Ford already owns it. It has equity all over the world, and little, if any, negative baggage in the States. Yeah, there was once a Fiesta sold here, but who really
remembers it? For the U.S. market, a bad choice would have been reviving Aspire or Festiva names. The success of this product in the States will depend on the product itself, not whether it’s named Verve or Fiesta.
Mitsubishi showed its RA Concept at the North American International Auto Show. The RA is a two-seat diesel powered sports car with styling cues that telegraph shapes to come from Mitsubishi.
Designed by perhaps the tallest styling team in the industry, both the Chief Designer and Interior Designer are well over 6-feet 5-inches tall. Dave O’Connell, Chief Designer, who is about 6-feet 7-inches tall admitted they “kept shaving off height until the car looked fabulous”. And fabulous it is. Being height challenged I should be able to get into the RA without too much problem, but wouldn’t even venture it. Neither of Mitsu’s stylists would volunteer to get into their head turning cocept.
All that said, the reason for a concept car is to elicit reactions from showgoers and to help get the brand and the car on consideration lists. RA does that. But, Mitsu management stress that the RA is only a design study that probably won’t be on the road any time soon. RA picks up Mitsubishi’s new face… a downward scowl that gives a shark-like front end appearance. This front end look premiered on the Mitsu Lancer and will go a long way at giving Mitsubishi products a readily identifiable look. The body contours now look very organic with fluid shapes providing muscular fender flares tightly wrapped around meaty tires.
RA is Teaser for Next Generation Eclipse
Being a two-seater, the RA certainly isn’t a production proposition. Mitsubishi needs a product that can sell 60,000 units a year to be happy and a two-seater just won’t do it. Think of RA as showing us some of the shapes that may be seen on the next Gen Eclipse.
Now, about the next generation Eclipse. The present Eclipse is based on Mitsubishi’s large PS platform. So, Eclipse tends to be bigger and heavier than most would like for the small sporty car class. The next Eclipse may not be based on PS. The GS platform of the Lancer, Lancer Evolution X and Outlander could also provide the basis for the next generation Eclipse. This would give the Eclipse the hardware needed to be a truly world class sporty car. Most of those bits, of course, would come from the Evolution X.
We could conceptualize a 4-seat sporty car using RA styling and powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder from Lancer, the 2.0L Twin Turbo from the Evolution X, and a 3.3L V6 from the present car. In that way, you’d have the secretary’s car, the boy racer and the luxo model. Add AWD and Mitsubishi’s outstanding paddle shift transmission and you have a winner.
Best of Show
You always go to an autoshow with the hope that there will be a truly outstanding example there. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific’s eight staffers at the 2008 North American International Auto Show were extremely impressed with the Lincoln MKT concept vehicle.
A vehicle we will call a Crossover SUV, the MKT is in many ways similar to General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs and especially the Buick Enclave. The thing that makes MKT special is its exterior styling which uses all six Lincoln design cues
(although they say seven at the show, Peter Horbury, Ford’s head designer in North America says he only really uses six) which are critical to the definition of a Lincoln design. Wow, this thing is beautiful. From the bow wave grille to the relatively fast rear end treatment, MKT comes across as a premium, substantial vehicle worthy of carrying the Lincoln badge.
Not only is the exterior stunning, the interior carries on new Lincoln cues which are very upscale, contemporary and modern. A four passenger concept with no pretense at transporting seven passengers, the MKT is decked out like a luxury business jet.
Only Thing Wrong… The Name
A few years back, Ford made the unfortunate error of renaming Lincoln vehicles with alphanumeric names – MKZ (Zephyr), MKX (Aviator), MKS (Continental), and now MKT. Another great concept is the MKR flagship sedan. Better with a real name. Only the Navigator and Town Car have not succumbed to this folly. I guess MKT means Lincoln “Truck”. No, it’s really “Touring”… guess that fits better. Well, MKT certainly ain’t no truck. It’s really special and deserves better… a name.
[Even Mark Fields, Ford's President of North American Operations, botched up the name of the MKS when he introduced it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He first said "MKX". If Ford's biggies can't keep 'em straight, think about salespeople at Lincoln dealerships and prospective buyers].
2009 Ford Flex Crossover SUV is Base for MKT
Based on Ford Flex (Ford Crossover SUV to be launched in mid-2008) underpinnings, MKT is powered by Ford’s 3.5L Twin Turbo GDI EcoBoost V6. This should give it enough punch to qualify as a high performance Crossover. In the MKT the 3.5L V6 has 415-horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque.
Only A Concept – Get them to Build It
In discussions with Ford design management, there was no confirmation that the MKT – codenamed D472 – has been approved for production. In fact, the designers contend that the MKT design has not even been proven feasible. The front fenders and rear quarters have a very crisp blade on the upper surface that would be practically impossible to stamp out of metal. MKT uses plastic to get around that particular problem.
In any event, write, email, telephone Ford to convince them to produce the MKT. If they give the vehicle the go ahead, we could expect to see it in 2010 as a 2011 model year vehicle.
Ford’s press release on the Lincoln MKT Concept is below the fold.
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Ford Targets Millenials with Verve
2008 Ford Verve Concept
Ford will re-enter the small-car segment in the States, one they haven’t really played in here since the not-missed Ford Aspire (often referred to as the Ford “Despair”). If the Verve concepts are anything to go by, Ford is preparing a car that people actually may want to own. Ford of Europe has done well with its small cars, including the current Fiesta. But small cars have been notoriously unprofitable when built in the States where small cars are sold on (low) price alone. In Europe, they are more fully-featured and can command profitable prices. In today’s climate, it is time to take another go at small cars here, and Ford’s take will arrive for the 2010 model year.
At this year’s 2008 North American International Auto Show
, we are actually seeing the third Verve concept. The first Verve concept was a three-door hatchback introduced in Frankfurt in September 2007. The first sedan was introduced in China in November. This January, NAIAS is home to the introduction of another sedan, much like the China car. Ford’s show stand will also feature the three-door. Europe is mad for hatchbacks and the three-door is a no-brainer there. By the same token, the sedan is a given for the States. Depending on Stateside reaction to the three-door, Ford may offer it alongside the sedan. It’s uncertain if it will wear the Verve name, but at least it is a good option.
2007 Ford Verve Guangzhou Concept
2007 Ford Verve Concept
And if you’re unsure who Millenials are, this is the group aged 13-28 – most call this age cohort Generation Y. Ford says 11,000 of them get their first driver’s license every day, and for most the first car is a small car. Giving this one styling cues that can appeal to kids who’ve never known a world without cell phones and adults who have forgotten such a world might allow Ford to meet the goal of making target customers from both groups happy.
Can Audi Make Diesel Sexy?
Enthusiasts the world over have been taken in by Audi‘s R8, which launched with a 420HP V8. At the 2008 North American International Auto Show, Audi fits an updated version of their racing V12 diesel into the mid-engined supercar. In racing form, the 650HP 6.0L V12 diesel has been winning since 2006 and, Audi hopes, changing the American impression of diesel engines as smelly, loud, and slow. After the 2007 600HP Q7 V12 TDI Concept, this year Audi checks reaction to a diesel supercar.
On the track, the Audi R10 has proven diesels can perform while R8 and Q7 V12 TDI concepts bring the racing aura to the practical world. Though the R10 purpose-built race car will never be available in an Audi showroom, these TDI Concepts allow you to imagine the power in a car you can buy.
In the very sexy R8′s case, the concept boasts a 500HP and an amazing 737 lb-ft 6.0L V12 TDI (available from 1750 to 3000 rpm. Less than seven inches longer than the standard V8, the compact diesel is small enough for the R8′s engine bay. This V12 is different from that in last year’s Q7 concept and the racing engine, with newly developed high-pressure pumps for the common-rail injection system and the AdBlue system for reducing emissions. The V12 is mated to a short-travel six-speed manual transmission and 40:60 split Quattro. This drivetrain gets the R8 V12 TDI Concept to 60mph in 4.2 seconds.
Audi AG is dedicated to diesels and sees potential for them in the States, and will make a 3.0L V6 diesel available in the Q7 and then the A4 next year. As diesels gain buzz and mainstream attention for their typically higher mpg, efforts like this V12 and Audi’s racing success erode old stereotypes and help to increase consideration. You won’t confuse the V6 for the V12, but racing and winning gives Audi’s diesel program an image boost.
“Grace Silver” Concept Gets Beefed Up Looks, Too
The R8 V12 TDI Concept looks wider and takes larger air intakes, with RS-inspired rhombus-pattern mesh. The concept gets a continuous aluminum spoiler lip between front and rear diffusers and side air baffles below the sills. The glass roof has transparent sections over the passengers, with a functional NACA duct in the middle, complementing the restyled glazed engine compartment cover. Like the production R8, and fitting for a concept starring an engine, white LEDs in the engine compartment ensure the car’s heart can be seen even at night. The duct, which Audi says is a race-car feature, accelerates air drawn to each of the V12′s two cylinder banks. The concept also features all-LED headlights and taillights. The LED headlights are closer to daylight than traditional headlight options, which Audi says results in less driver fatigue in night driving. Inside, there are larger aluminum elements and more carbon fiber accents.
Popular Release Series Continues with Second-Generation xB
In an effort both to freshen the vehicle and to inspire buyers to do their own customization, Scion began offering Release Series special editions with the first xB. There were four with the first generation, none built in quantities of more than 2500 units, and the first for the second generation is on display at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.
Release Series 5.0, continues the number sequence began with the first generation. Typical of the Scion RS products, only 2500 units of the 5.0 will be built. As before, changes to create the xB RS 5.0 are mostly cosmetic. Among the notable elements is the first xB moonroof. The RS 5.0′s exterior color, called Gold Rush Mica, was inspired by the color the introduction car wore at the 2007 Chicago auto show. The RS 5.0 also gets new wheel covers and a KenStyle body kit as standard; a color-keyed rear spoiler is optional. The exterior color carries into interior trim and seat fabric, and there is the requisite numbered badge.
Freshened Look and Improved V6 Engines for Baby Benz Roadster
2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350
Among the vehicles due on Mercedes-Benz‘ 2008 North American International Auto Show stand this January is a revised SLK. Sales are slated for April 2008.
The updated SLK sports a revised nose and rear fascia, strengthening the car’s visual ties to the big bad SLR McLaren
supercar, and a few changes to the interior. The V6 engines are updated for more power and reduced emissions, though AMG’s 5.5L V8 goes unchanged. At least in the States, models sporting the 3.0L V6 will be badged SLK 300 (instead of SLK 280). The U.S. lineup still skips the European four-cylinder option, with the 2009 range going from 228HP 3.0L V6 SLK 300 to 300HP 3.5L V6 SLK 350 to top-dog V8 SLK 55 AMG.
2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
When It’s a FORUM.
Nissan created the Quest for buyers who needed a minivan but didn’t really want to drive one. It was given an aggressive exterior supported by an odd and innovative interior, which took a major update that made it more conventional with the 2007 model year. But the Quest is too much for most minivan buyers, and sales have disappointed Nissan. Nissan must have done some things right, though; Quest owners gave it AutoPacific’s 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Minivans.
Despite lukewarm response to Quest, Nissan has not given up on the cool minivan concept, proven by this year’s FORUM concept. Jury’s out on whether FORUM succeeds with showgoers, but much thought and detail went into development and it sports features that would be appreciated in any minivan. The not-minivan FORUM’s angry-appliance looks would stand out in a sea of sameness.
FORUM’s dramatic exterior is wrapped around clever features to keep all rows happy. There’s no doubt that FORUM explores features and style for a new Quest, but Nissan executives indicated that if they don’t think a new generation will be profitable, it won’t be built.