2012 Los Angeles Auto ShowPosted on November 30th, 2012
OEMs predict a brighter 2013
By Nina Russin
Los Angeles is the first of four major auto shows in the United States, and therefore sets the tenor for the remainder of the season. While sales statistics can be misleading, catering spreads which accompany the various press conferences are much more telling.
Before the crash of 2008, the show floor was rife with the spoils of success. It was rare to find any press conference without an espresso machine and plates of scones. Full-fledged buffets with open bars were not unusual. I remember one automaker inviting journalists to take home folding chairs set out for the event. The chairs were nice enough to furnish a summer cabin.
When things went black four years ago, it was hard to find a bottle of water on the show floor, much less a cappuccino. While I don’t condone swag wagons at editorial functions, the lack thereof was certainly telling.
Gradually, the amenities came back, beginning with some ice buckets with refreshments and the occasional Danish pastry. But it was not until the 2012 show which opened to the media this week that “real food” made its reappearance on the show floor.
Product roll-outs reflect a cautiously optimistic industry
Despite its festive atmosphere, there were few surprises at this year’s show. With the exception of the Jaguar F-Type sports car, new models were carefully reimagined versions of successful formulas.
Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales USA opened up the first media day as the Motor Press Guild keynote speaker. Lentz steered clear of controversy, focusing on the automaker’s continued commitment to energy conservation and safety.
Lentz discussed future technology at length, such as an invisibility cloak which debuted on the see-through Prius concept. The technology makes the rear seat disappear when the driver looks back to eliminate blind spots.
Toyota plans to introduce its first fuel cell hybrid vehicle in 2015. The company is currently developing an all-new battery pack and wireless charging for its family of hybrid vehicles.
At its press conference, the automaker unveiled the fourth-generation RAV4: the compact crossover geared towards buyers with active lifestyles. Since Toyota introduced he first Recreational Active Vehicle in 1994, it has sold 1.7 million units, 80 percent of which are still on the road.
The newest model sports a more aerodynamic exterior than the model it replaces, in an effort to boost fuel economy to 31 mpg on the highway: a three mpg improvement over the outgoing model. Buyers benefit from some Lexus trickle-down technologies such as sport and eco modes, which tailor performance to the driver’s needs.
A backup camera and 6.1-inch display screen are now standard equipment. Blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert is optional. The all-new 2013 RAV4 comes in three grades: LE, XLE and upscale Limited. The RAV rolls into dealerships in January.
Hyundai reveals seven-passenger Santa Fe
Hyundai’s new Santa Fe Sport is on a roll, having won numerous accolades including this year’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle award for best value on-road. A new three-row Santa Fe is 8.5-inches longer than the five-passenger car, with seating for up to seven depending on the second-row seat configuration. The new model is aimed at active buyers moving up from the youth-oriented Veloster.
The family-friendly Santa Fe gets its power from a 3.3-liter direct injection V-6, and can tow up to 5000 pounds. Engineers shaved 300 pounds off the chassis compared to the current Veracruz by using high-strength steel throughout the chassis. Convenience options include a premium Infinity sound system and panoramic moonroof.
Mercedes-Benz gets energized
The Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force concept created for this year’s LA design challenge is the automaker’s vision for the future of off-road vehicles. With styling inspired by the current G class, the Ener-G-Force stores water in roof-mounted tanks. A hydro-tech converter separates out the hydrogen as fuel. The Ener-G-Force has an operating range of 500 miles, rivaling some clean diesel vehicles.
At its press conference, Mercedes-Benz also unveiled several new AMG production cars, including the GL63 sport-utility vehicle, with a 550 horsepower engine and zero-to-sixty acceleration time of less than five seconds.
At the top of the AMG line-up is a new SLS AMG Black Series, whose 622-horsepower engine is capable of zero-to-sixty acceleration in 3.5 seconds.
Volkswagen unwraps the Beetle convertible
Building upon the success of the third-generation Beetle coupe, Volkswagen used Los Angeles as the stage for its world debut of the new Beetle convertible. The convertible comes with a choice of three engines: 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline four-cylinder, two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and two-liter turbo-diesel with 41 mpg highway fuel economy.
Pricing for the Beetle convertible starts under $25,000 for the 2.5-liter automatic. Styling follows the direction set by the new coupe: more masculine and aerodynamic than the second-generation model. The new convertible is longer, wider and slightly lower than the former Beetle, with bi-xenon headlamps and a wedge-like profile. A rear spoiler is standard on all models. Special editions at launch celebrate the heritage of the air-cooled cars, with styling inspired by the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
The Beetle convertible goes on sale this December.
Jaguar celebrates its racing heritage
For its styling alone, the new Jaguar F-Type was clearly the star of the show. With lineage dating back to the legendary XK120, C, D and E-Types, Jaguar’s newest sports car is a stunner. Performance promises to be as exhilarating as its styling, with a choice of three engines: two three-liter V-6s, and a 495-horsepower V-8. MSRP begins at $69,000.
Land Rover revealed the fourth-generation Range Rover, whose sleek exterior bears some resemblance to the popular Evoque. Range Rover is the four-wheel drive flagship for Land Rover, combining high luxury with true off-road capability. The new car builds off the footprint of the outgoing model, but features a roomier interior.
An all-aluminum body structure enabled engineers to shave 700 pounds off compared to the outgoing model. The newest Range Rover averages 28 mpg on the highway and accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in just over five seconds.
Fiat expands 500 line-up with Abarth Cabrio and EV models
Building on the success of the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth coupe, Fiat unveiled an open-air version, with a top capable of deploying at up to 60 miles-per-hour. Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged MultiAir engine that produces 160 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque.
As with the coupe, the open-air Abarth has a slightly lower ride height and modified suspension for better performance on the track. It also has a quicker steering ratio than the regular 500c. Buyers who want to upgrade from the standard 16-inch wheels can upgrade to 17-inch rims.
The new Fiat 500e has a range of up to 80 miles, and can recharge in as little as four hours. The electric motor produces 100 net horsepower.
Engineers modified the 500 exterior slightly to reduce aerodynamic drag.
Inside, the Fiat 500e features a thin-film-transfer gauge cluster and a TomTom navigation system which also indicates range and state of charge. The driver can also request to see nearby charging stations.
The Fiat 500e arrives during the second quarter of 2013.
Kia reveals new product offensive
Although 2012 was a relatively quiet year for Kia, at least in terms of new product, 2013 will be much busier. The Korean automaker’s next product offensive begins with a restyled 2014 Sorento crossover, which features a lighter, more rigid body structure. Power comes from a 290-horsepower direct injection V-6 engine.
Buyers can configure a roomier interior with heated rear seats, and add a power liftgate. The next-generation UVO infotainment system includes automatic 911 assistance in the event of a serious collision; vehicle location and service reminders. There is no monthly fee for the service.
Kia will unveil the next-generation Forte sedan models after January 1. The 2014 Fortes arrive in dealerships at the end of the first quarter.
Nissan Hi-Cross concept showcases hybrid technology
Nissan’s Hi-Cross concept is a vision of future crossover vehicle design with hybrid power. The crossover utilizes a one-motor, two-clutch hybrid powertrain which runs off a lithium-ion battery. By minimizing front and rear overhangs, the Hi-Cross can hold up to seven passengers and maintain relatively compact dimensions.
The two-clutch system uses one clutch to decouple the gasoline engine from the electric motor when the vehicle is in full-electric mode to improve efficiency, and a second clutch to smooth out the transition. The quick-charging battery pack borrows technology from the all-electric Leaf.
Chevrolet Spark EV
Chevrolet is introducing an all-electric version of its sub-compact Spark. The electric engine, powered by a lithium-ion battery produces 100 kilowatts of power: the equivalent of 130 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.
The Spark EV recharges using the SAE combo charger, and can recharge up to 80 percent of range in less than twenty minutes. Pricing begins at about $25,000 after the federal tax rebate. The Spark EV initially launches in California, Oregon, Canada and South Korea.
Newest Subaru Forester builds on winning formula
Since its introduction in the mid-1990s, the Forester crossover has been one of Subaru’s greatest success stories, having brought 900,000 new customers to the brand.
An all-new 2014 model is slightly longer and wider than the current model with a roomier rear seat. Styling is more aerodynamic for improved fuel economy. Engineers also improved the standard all-wheel drive system with an X mode which gives drivers better control on slippery terrain.. The2014 Forester has 75 feet of cargo space with the second-row seats folded flat.
There are two models: a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated engine with 32 mile-per-gallon highway fuel economy, and the 250 horsepower turbocharged XT.
The newest Forester features standard rearview camera and smartphone integration.
Audi adds new clean diesel models to North American line-up
Building on strong sales of the A3 and Q7 clean diesel models, Audi is planning to bring TDI versions of its popular A8, A7, A6 and Q5 to the United States. An all-new TDI engine weighs 44 pounds than the first-generation block. Audi estimates average fuel economy for the flagship A8 sedan at 28 miles-per-gallon.
Clean diesel models offer drivers a 30 percent boost in fuel economy as compared to gasoline engines, with fewer particulates, less oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) and lower evaporative emissions. Because of their high torque ratings, diesel engines offer appealing acceleration off the line.
The Los Angeles Auto Show continues through December 9 at the LA Convention Center in downtown LA. For more information visit the show web site.2012, News and Features 2012, Auto Shows, Chevrolet, Fiat, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen
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