2010 Los Angeles Auto ShowPosted on November 20th, 2010
Electrification and a slightly sunnier industry forecast
By Nina RussinThe LA Auto show is gaining traction. After years of struggling to emerge from Detroit’s shadow, the largest North American auto show on the west coast has become the venue of choice for anything green. This year, alternative fuel unveilings ranged from Jaguar’s stunning C-X75 supercar to the compact Honda Fit EV.
As the first major North American auto show of the season, Los Angeles is also the place where automakers report on the state of the market. While the industry has yet to return to 2008 sales levels, traffic into the showrooms appears to be on the upswing. Land Rover reported that its US sales were up 23 percent year-over-year, thanks to the success of the new LR4.
Mercedes-Benz also enjoyed a spike in sales, up twenty percent for the first three quarters of 2010 compared to last year.
Sales for the all-new Honda Odyssey are up 52 percent compared to the outgoing model, while overall sales for October are up 20 percent year-over year.
Korean automaker Kia set sales records seven out of ten month in 2010, thanks to the popularity of its US built Sorento. Sorento sales have exceeded 100,000 units since the roll-out: a first for the brand.
Super-fast electric carsWhile the C-X75 concept car may never reach production, its beauty alone makes it the star of the show. Inspiration for the exterior comes from classic race cars such as the C and D Types. The front face represents what design director Ian Callum calls “the new face of Jaguar,” while the aerodynamic tail looks like an airplane wing. From the side, the fuselage stretches between large, expressive wheel arches.
Power comes from four electric motors and two gasoline micro-turbines. The C-X75 accelerates from zero-to-sixty in three seconds and has a maximum speed of 200 miles-per-hour. Lithium-ion batteries enable the car to operate in pure electric mode for up to 68 miles.
Porsche is expanding its production. hybrid offerings to include a gasoline-electric version of the Panamera that rolls out next year. The German sports car giant also announced out an all new Cayman: the Cayman R arrives in dealerships in December, priced from $66,300.
Premium greenMercedes-Benz, Volvo and Infiniti unveiled their visions for a greener future, including a fuel cell crossover, electric C30 three-door hatchback, and M hybrid sedan.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the new F-Cell, a five-door crossover vehicle powered by a fuel cell and lithium-ion batteries. Driving range is 160 miles, with a top speed of 106 miles-per-hour. The F-Cell accelerates from zero-to-sixty in just over 11 seconds.
AMG introduces the second-generation CLS, offering driving enthusiasts more power and better gas mileage. A new bi-turbo engine produces 550 horsepower and 590 foot-pounds of torque, while averaging 33 percent better fuel economy than the outgoing model.
Volvo unveiled the C30 Drive E, an electric version of its compact three-door hatchback, at the Paris Auto Show. Volvo displayed the electric C30 in LA, and offered journalists the opportunity to get behind the wheel.
In keeping with its commitment to safety, engineers located the lithium-ion battery pack in the center of the chassis where it is removed from the crash zones. The car achieved a five-star rating from Euro NCAP: the European counterpart to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Volvo is working on a plug-in hybrid for the 2012 model year. A diesel version rolls out first in Europe, followed by a gasoline-powered version for North America.
The Infiniti M Hybrid sedan goes on sale in the spring of next year. A two-clutch parallel hybrid system allows the M Hybrid to run at speeds up to 62 miles-per-hour on pure electric power. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine and electric motor average 30 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Power for the electric motor comes from a lithium ion battery pack.
The M is the first hybrid to have an audible warning which alerts pedestrians that the car is approaching. The sound varies according to the speed the vehicle is moving at as well as its direction.
Green car veteransHonda’s first electric vehicle, the EV Plus, rolled out in 1998. While a lack of infrastructure forced Honda to shelve the project, lessons regarding the importance of driving range and recharging time led to later successes, included two generations of Honda Insight and the FCX Clarity production fuel cell car.
Honda’s newest venture is the Fit EV electric car concept. A production model rolls out in 2012 in Japan and the United States. Based on the compact hatchback, the Fit EV has a top speed of 90 miles-per-hour and a driving range of 100 miles. Drivers can select between three modes: sport, normal and economy. Sport mode emphasizes performance, while the economy mode extends driving range.
An interactive remote key fob lets the driver use his smart phone to check battery charge or start the air conditioner from a remote location. The Fit EV recharges in less than six hours using a 240-volt outlet.
Toyota, which like Honda has sustained its commitment to alternative fuels over the past two decades, unveiled a new RAV4 EV, thirteen years after the original version rolled out. The new RAV is a collaborative effort between Toyota and Tesla. Tesla supplies the lithium-ion battery pack, while Toyota integrates the power train.
Chevrolet delivers Volts; Ford gets new Focus
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car is reaches customers between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Chevrolet plans to produce between 300 and 500 cars this year, followed by 10,000 in 2011 and 45,000 in 2012.
Chevrolet is also launching an Eco version of the 2011 Cruze, which replaces the compact Cobalt. The Cruze Eco averages 42 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
Ford took the wraps off the 2012 Focus, replacing the current four and five-door models. A two-liter four-cylinder engine 40 mile-per-gallon fuel economy on the highway. The direct-injection engine produces 160 horsepower and 146 foot-pounds of torque, and comes with a choice of five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.
A high-performance Focus ST arrives later in the model year, powered by an all-new four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Turbocharging gives the engine V-6 power. Since the engine reaches peak torque at 2000 rpm, it delivers exceptional acceleration off the line.
Et tu Kia?
With everybody jumping on the hybrid bandwagon, could the Korean giant be far behind? Following the successful launch of sister company, Hyundai‘s Sonata Hybrid, Kia announces a hybrid version of its all-new Optima midsized sedan.
The Optima Hybrid rolls into dealerships early in 2011, powered by an electric motor and 2.4-liter Theta engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A lithium-polymer battery pack recharges the electric motor. Kia estimates fuel economy at 36/40 mpg city/highway.
The Optima hybrid stands apart from its gas-powered siblings with a unique front fascia and wheels. Convenience features include a heated steering wheel, cooled glove box and panoramic sunroof. Kia has yet to announce pricing, but promises to maintain its value strategy.
Fiat re-enters the United StatesFollowing its merger with Chrysler, Fiat brings the compact 500 to the United States as a 2012 model. Pricing begins at $15,500, with three available trim levels. Power comes from a 100 horsepower four-cylinder engine. The mid-grade Lounge model features a six-speed automatic transmission.
While its demure looks are irresistible, Fiat insists that the 500 is more than a pretty face. Engineers modified the European model with a larger fuel tank and re-tuned rear axle for US roads. Comfort and convenience features include air conditioning, power doors, windows and locks and cruise control on the base model. The Lounge adds a retuned suspension and leather trim.
Fiat is building the North American spec 500s at Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico assembly plant.
China is the fastest-growing segment of the global automotive market. China’s role in the industry’s future was the focus of Stefan Jacoby’s Motor Press Guild keynote address, which opened the LA show.
In August, Volvo ownership switched from Ford to the Geely holding company. Volvo is Geely’s first automotive purchase outside of China. The 1.5 billion dollar deal was a significant investment for the privately-held company.
Jacoby, who came to Volvo from Volkswagen and Mitsubishi, is optimistic about the new partnership.
“With annual sales of 400,000 units, we have not explored all of the possibilities for Volvo,” he said. Jacoby hopes to double the Swedish automaker’s sales volume over the next ten years.
“We are owned by a Chinese entrepreneur,” Jacoby continued. “China is an integral part of the global economy. We have to respect their investment in global enterprises.”
While Jacoby stresses that Volvo will continue to focus on Swedish design and safety innovations, he also revealed that the company will be introducing some new cars for the Chinese market. Since many of the cars bought in China are chauffeur-driven, Volvo will build some larger sedans to meet the needs of those buyers.
Could a stretch version of the S80 be in Volvo’s future? The automaker will be making an announcement about its model strategy for China before the end of the year.
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