2014 Los Angeles Auto ShowPosted on November 21st, 2014
Compact crossovers rule at the season’s first major show
By Nina Russin
Pistons pump, wheels spin, exhaust pipes growl and the auto industry moves forward. From new propulsion systems to connectivity inside the car, technological advances occur at warp speed.
But since the economic downtick of 2008, evolution in the car industry has changed. OEMs have become risk averse. Aha moments, when the blankets come off to reveal something startlingly different, are few and far between.
As one of four major auto shows in the United States each year, Los Angeles sets the tone for the season. While LA is the last of the shows during the calendar year, Detroit being first, it is considered the first show of the auto show season coming closest to the traditional beginning of the industry’s new model year.
The 2014 show was arguably the best attended by media in its history, with press conferences attracting standing room only crowds. New product ranged from the powerful Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS sports car, Porsche 911 Carrera GTS and Ford Shelby 350 GT Mustang to a gaggle of compact crossovers, including the Mazda CX-3, Honda HRV, Fiat 500X and Scion iM concept, the production version of which debuts in New York next spring.
The show, filling both halls of LA’s expansive convention center, seems to have something for everyone, from the dyed-in-the-wool driving enthusiast to pragmatic first-time car buyers. But what it lacks, in this writer’s eyes, are any real surprises.
While manufacturers flood the compact crossover and sedan segments, others, such as the compact pickup truck are largely ignored. Although each press conference in LA threatened to take us to the brink of the ship and jump into uncharted waters, those waters were, in most cases, rather shallow.
Virtual love affair
There were some exceptions, notably Chevrolet’s Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo concept, developed for fans of PlayStation. Inspired by the cars Chevrolet developed with Chaparral Racing 45 years ago, the 2X VGT features an aircraft-inspired virtual propulsion system utilizing mid-mounted lasers.
Gamers can race the Chaparral 2X VGT by downloading an update of Gran Turismo 6 during the holiday season. The 900-horsepower Chaparral accelerates from zero-to-sixty in a mere 1.5 seconds.
What makes this Chevrolet concept significant is this: it not only recognizes but embraces the current generation’s love affair with the virtual world. While other OEMs scratch their collective heads about how to lure today’s teenagers who are less enthused about driving than their parents, Chevrolet has used virtual reality to create what will likely be a very strong bond.
If not green cars, then what?
The other thing that seemed to be lacking was any clear sense of direction for the show itself. Los Angeles lags behind Detroit and New York in global debuts, but in recent times has picked up steam by branding itself as the green car show. It became known as the go-to event for sustainable technology. Honda, Toyota and Hyundai used Los Angeles as the stage for introducing their fuel cell cars, while German automakers including BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz debuted their latest clean diesel platforms.
The green focus was noticeably absent in 2014, although Honda did announce a partnership with FirstElement Fuel to expand its fuel cell recharging infrastructure in California. What then is the focus of the LA show?
A Connected Car Expo concurrent with the media preview fused presenters from Silicon Valley with automotive OEMs. Certainly connectivity is a hot button issue for the industry, as features such as 4G LTE and Google Earth are becoming the price of admission for all new cars.
The Chicago Auto Show in February that like LA lacks the international previews of Detroit and New York has adopted a similar strategy. It remains to be seen whether one show will dominate in this area or if the two events will continue to share the stage.
In the meantime, the Los Angeles show that continues through November 30 has a lot to offer consumers. It is, after all, a good time to be a new car buyer, with dozens of new cars flooding showroom floors and some very appealing incentives at the end of the calendar year. For more information on the LA Auto show visit the event website.
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