It may come as little surprise that many manufacturers are continuing to wave the green flag here at the 2010 LA Auto Show. For the American manufacturers going green seems to mean direct injection and turbo-charging smaller displacement gasoline engines. For the German manufacturers who had hoped to sway Americans into diesels some have reluctantly decided that they should offer hybrids. While the Japanese manufacturers who have been beating the hybrid drum for so long seem to be moving on to ‘pure electrics’. With a few small EV companies really trying hard to make a name for themselves as the electric vehicle market tries to launch yet again (this time at $3.00/gallon gas).
It is interesting to see who is getting credit for what, who isn’t getting credit – and why. For some manufactures getting credit may be as simple as branding a technology that has been around for years and used by many manufacturers (e.g. Ford’s ‘EcoBoost’). Other manufacturers may not receive credit for great products simply because most Americans aren’t familiar with the newer technology or don’t really understand the benefits (e.g. VW TDI)
So let’s take a walk around the LA Auto Show…
BMW used the 2008 Los Angeles International Auto Show to launch its new 2009 7-Series flagship. The primary changes to the 7-Series include revised interior and exterior styling and an improved iDrive system. I guess “revised” may be too mild a word, but even though practically every exterior body panel (except the roof) is new, the 7-Series does not look much different.
At a glance, the primary differentiator between the 2009 7-Series and its predecessor is the pronounced character line running down its bodyside just below the windows. The styling of the front end has evolved a bit with a stronger looking hood surface and front fascia. The headlamps include translucent eyelids and have the subtle halo lighting first seen in the 5-Series several years ago. The Bangle Butt is less pronounced and now the rear end of the Seven looks much more conventional.
Details are important and BMW’s signature cue – the Hofmeister kink at the rear of the DLO (daylight opening) is shadowed in the sheetmetal. Nice touch, but very, very subtle.
You can still show the profile of the 7-Series and Lexus LS460 and not be able to tell the difference.
Once fuel had reach $4.05 a gallon nationally, we watched as truck sales plummeted and small/compact car sales got a little boost. People in the industry began to say that compact cars were going to appeal to more Americans and make up a larger percentage of vehicles sold here in the United States. The trick is said to be selling these small/compact cars for a profit. Up until recently the major domestic automakers had been able to make up to $12,600 profit on Large Luxury SUVs, but selling a small/compact car only raked in about $2,400 bucks. Once you subtract anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for fixed costs you could actually end up with a negative number. Which means that a solid business case to produce small/compact cars here in the U.S. is not always an easy case to make; other than to help offset CAFE. Although, Mazda seems to be able to make a business case for them, and they sell tons of them!
Of course now there is talk of ‘premium small cars’ becoming popular with Generation Y and possibly becoming a more lucrative business venture. With fuel prices dropping again to around $2 a gallon only time will tell what the future of the small/compact car will be here in the United States. Still, injecting premium content into a small car may go a long way in appealing to an increasing number of people who don’t think small size should equal skimpy content.
SUVs are on their way out and Crossover SUVs are on their way up. Those in the market for a versatile vehicle with seating for four full size adults and cargo, the ride quality of a car and the image of an SUV have flocked to Crossover SUVs. It’s not a new concept but the idea really didn’t catch on until Lexus came out with their RX 300 in 1998. XUVs as they’ve come to be called are typically built off of a unitized car platform and owners really appreciate the benefits. They tend to cost less than SUVs, get better fuel economy and handle better.
Giving us all a little break from the green car parade at the LA Auto show, Porsche gave North America it’s first look at the 2008 911 GT2. Based on the current 911 Turbo, the 911 GT2 is a beast, not designed for your average LA attorney. We had a few minutes with David Pryor, Vice President of Marketing of Porsche Cars North America. David, a 911 driver, summed it up like this, “The GT2 is the perfect blend between the Porsche Turbo and the GT3. The GT3, at 415 horsepower, is the most powerful naturally aspirated six cylinder engine in any production car. The twin turbo GT2 has ONLY 530 horsepower.
The LA Auto Show was beginning to feel a birthday party for Ed Begley. Fuel cells, hybrids, bluetec, plug-ins, clean diesel. How about a brief introductory course in the “New European Driving Cycle”? While technology is making green more interesting all the time, you can’t replace horsepower with the warm and fuzzies of a green car. Thank God for Porsche. Certainly, our friends from Stuttgart won’t let us down. Wrong. Porsche came to the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show with a green pitch, albeit somewhat tempered.
Is your S-Class blending in? Does the word BMW sound passé? Are you too young for a Bentley but owning a Ferrari was a lifestage or two ago? There may still be hope. A little known, often forgotten, manufacturer may just have the answer. They offer true exclusivity, segment leading personalization and hand-crafted attention to detail. They’ve been known to produce cars with extraordinary performance and luxury but meant for everyday use.
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When it comes to small, compact hatchbacks, there are a lot of auto manufacturers you think of before you would ever think of Volvo. Recent statistics show that there are more Toyota Prius hybrids sold in the United States than all Volvo models combined. Maybe that’s why Volvo did what they did at the L.A. Auto Show when they unveiled their new C30.
Volvo’s big announcement was also a big step into the unknown for the company that brought you the world’s safest (and some think boring-est) station wagon. But they might be on to something here, as AutoPacific Analyst Keagan Patrick explains.
Show Runtime – 3:08
A New Volvo In Search of a New Demographic
Volvo has sculpted a 3-door, 4-seat hatchback aimed at interrupting GenY’s traditional perceptions of a Volvo. Will it capture the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of a demographic beyond Volvo’s traditional customers? …only time will tell.
Engineers and designers at Volvo have taken Ford’s C1 platform (used for the European Ford Focus in early 2004 and currently used by the Mazda3, Mazda5, Volvo C70 Coupe/Convertible) and built a hip hatchback with some urban flair. Already being sold in the U.K., the C30 is also destined for the U.S. market with a date set for summer 2007. Even though 75% of the 65,000 Volvo C30’s produced annually are destined for Europe, thousands will be shipped to the United States. Whether it was the success of the MINI Cooper or Volvo’s wish to tap into a younger demographic, they have decided to focus on a new segment. According to Fredrik Arp – President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation, the new C30 “is a car that aims for a group of young singles, or couples, with intense urban lifestyles”.
The Ford Escape was Ford’s first Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle. When it was launched, it hit the sweet spot in the SUV market… good size, great interior package, super visibility, well-priced, looked like an SUV. Over the years, Ford essentially did nothing to the Escape to keep it overtly fresh except launch the Escape Hybrid – a really good move, but not something that sold huge volumes of Escapes.
Now, for the 2008 model year, Ford has implemented what the industry calls a “front and rear six”. This means that, keeping doors, roof, windshield, windows, etc the same, Escape gets new styling for the front “six inches” and for the rear “six inches”. In addition, the Escape gets an interior freshening.
The puzzling part of the Escape redo, however, is the use of a eggcrate grille rather than the horizontal bar motif now rolling out on Ford Edge and Explorer and Expedition. While these three SUVs all are on the market now with the new-look Ford Truck front end, Ford insiders confess that the Escape’s front end styling was approved before the Edge, et al and that there would have been a delay if they had circled around to do the “right thing”. Reality bites.