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  • 2012 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s biggest consumer show features indoor test tracks

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Dodge Dart at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show

    Chicago is my favorite of the four major US auto shows because of its emphasis on consumers as opposed to focusing purely on journalists. On its 104th anniversary, the show continued to fine-tune its formula for reaching area car enthusiasts with indoor test tracks and an expanded social media program for bloggers.

    A traditional media day opened the show with product reveals from GMC, Hyundai, Kia, Ford and Nissan. A keynote address by John Maloney, president and CEO of Volvo Cars North America at the annual Midwest Automotive Media Association breakfast set an optimistic tone for the product reveals which followed.

    According to Maloney, it’s back to business as usual after the industry’s worst slowdown in recent memory. Although gas prices continue to fluctuate, significant declines in the US jobless rate have boosted consumer confidence. Buyers are heading back to dealerships to replace existing cars, the average age of which is now eleven years. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Automakers focus on green cars and connectivity

    By Nina Russin

    Kia's GT Concept at the 2011 LA Auto Show

    The Los Angeles Auto Show’s star continues to rise, despite financial unease within the car industry. A continuing focus on green transportation solutions has piqued the interest of the international press, helping the show to attract numbers comparable to North America’s three other major shows: Detroit, Chicago and New York.

    While the focus on alternative and hybrid vehicles remains strong, automakers at the 2011 LA Auto Show seemed as, if not more concerned with user interfaces inside the vehicle. Cadillac’s new CUE system rolls out in the all-new XTS sedan, followed by the ATS and SRX later next year. Infiniti takes a personal touch in its new JX seven-passenger crossover, with a concierge service that provides 24-hour access to a live assistant.

    Hyundai and Kia continue to upgrade their proprietary infotainment systems- BlueLink and UVO- while Ford, which pioneered the field with Sync, introduces the next generation My Ford Touch system on the all-new Escape and refreshed Flex.

    At the conclusion of the two-day press preview, Ford captured Nielsen’s Green Marketer of the Year award, while the 2012 Green Car Journal Green Car of the Year went to the Honda Civic Natural Gas model. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Chicago Auto Show

    In the Windy City, it’s all about the horsepower

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Chicago Auto Show

    I would argue that Chicago has more serious gearheads than any other city in the United States. Granted, I’m biased, having spent fifteen years of my professional life there.  People in Los Angeles and Detroit will probably take issue with me, the former having nicer weather and the latter, the big three car companies. None-the-less, I’ve met more people on the streets of Chicago with motor oil in their blood than any other city I’ve spent time in.

    The Chicago Auto Show, which boasts higher consumer attendance than LA, Detroit or New York, is evidence of what I mean. On the first Saturday of the show, it’s hard to find an inch of unoccupied floor space, despite the fact that the event covers more than 1.2 million square feet.

    The Chicago Auto Trade Association which organizes the show knows its audience, tailoring the event with features that appeal to driving enthusiasts. This year, Jeep, Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet have constructed indoor test tracks to put potential buyers behind the wheel. The Jeep track, meant to showcase the brand’s off-road driving capabilities, looks especially fun. I wonder if they’d let me run hill repeats on it in the off hours. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Jeep Reveals 2011 Compass in Detroit

    Trail-rated SUV offers 29 mpg highway fuel economy

    2011 Jeep CompassAfter this week’s freak snow storm, the redesigned Jeep Compass might be just the ticket for drivers along the nation’s southern tier. Originally introduced as a sport-utility vehicle for on-road use, the 2011 model is trail rated, meaning it has passed grueling tests for off-road capability.

    Exterior design borrows cues from the new Grand Cherokee, including a slight “power bulge” on the hood. 2011 models come with standard 17-inch aluminum wheels; 18-inch chrome rims for the upscale Limited model. Interior upgrades include more soft touch surfaces, redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls on the steering wheel, and a new cloth interior with bucket seats. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Prius Family of Vehicles Debuts in Detroit

    Toyota expands hybrid-only offerings with new models for families and urban singles

    Toyota Prius Family of Vehicles

    With over 955,000 units sold to date, the Toyota Prius is arguably America’s most popular hybrid. Today, Toyota revealed plans to expand its hybrid-only offerings with a plug-in version of the current model, as well as two new cars: the Prius v and Prius c.

    The Prius v has an extended cargo area to meet the needs of active families. While its hybrid synergy drive technology is the same as the third-generation Prius liftback, the design is new for the ground up.

    The Prius v seats up to five passengers and has 50 percent more cargo space than the current model. Folding split rear seats and a fold-flat front passenger seat create a variety of configurations for passengers and luggage. Read the rest of this entry »

  • All-New Volkswagen Passat Unveiled in Detroit

    TDI model offers 43 mpg fuel economy

    2011 Volkswagen Passat

    An all-new Volkswagen Passat rolls into dealer showrooms this year, including a clean diesel model with 43 mile-per-gallon fuel economy. Volkswagen unveiled the new sedan at the North American International Auto Show taking place in Detroit.

    Pricing will start at about $20,000. There are three drivetrain options: a 2.5-liter gasoline engine, 3.6-liter V-6, and the 2.0-liter clean diesel. Buyers can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 comes with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, offering better gas mileage than traditional automatics, with performance characteristics closer to manual gearboxes.

    Standard features include Bluetooth connectivity and automatic climate control. All models come with complimentary maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles.

    Standard safety features include intelligent crash response, a system which automatically cuts the fuel supply, certain electrical equipment, disconnects battery power, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lights after a collision. Electronic stability control and antilock braking are standard on all models; manual transmission cars come with hill start assist.

    Volkswagen’s newest midsized sedan, which was designed in Germany and America, will be produced at Volkswagen’s all-new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

  • 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Electrification and a slightly sunnier industry forecast

    By Nina Russin

    Jaguar C-X75 Reveal

    The 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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Eco-friendly cars pave the way to economic recovery

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Chevrolet Cruze

    2011 Chevrolet Cruze

    Los Angeles has become known as the green auto show: a hot bed for sustainable technology. Since LA is the first major North American auto show of the season, it also sets the tenor for those that follow. While the 2009 show lacked some of the bells and whistles of more prosperous times, automakers had a more optimistic outlook than they did the year before.

    Fuel-thrifty compacts

    Chevrolet kicked off the media preview with the North American debut of the Cruze: a compact sedan that replaces the Cobalt. The Cruze is already on sale in Europe; it rolls into North American dealerships for the 2011 model year. A 1.4-liter turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission give the Cruze superior fuel economy: up to 40 miles-per-gallon on the highway. All grades come with antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, ten standard airbags and GM’s Onstar telematics system. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Shanghai Motor Show Begins

    Chinese market growth attracts Automakers’ debuts and green initiatives

    By Jol Dantzig

    Porsche Panamera World Premier

    Porsche Panamera World Premier

    Record numbers of automakers have come to China to participate in the Shaghai Motor Show which opened today, Monday April 20th. Despite the financial turndown around the globe, China remains a strong market for cars, showing an increase of 5% in March. The rise in sales is across all ranges and accordingly displays of major and minor brands included luxury, exotic and increasingly more hybrid and alternative fueled vehicles as well.

    As if to underscore the importance of this show, Porsche chose Shanghai for the world launch of the Panamera, the maker’s first-ever four-door sedan. Porsche is also promising a hybrid version in the near future. Hybrids from Toyota, Honda and Nissan are featured prominently along with Ford’s Fusion and eco-friendly Iosis MAX concept. Similarly, Mercedes Benz is highlighting their new C Class with Bluetec Diesel technology.

    Clearly, the emphasis on green engineering for China and the rest of the world is on display in Shaghai. How soon we see all of these ideas here in the US may depend upon their reception overseas.

  • Scion Introduces iQ Concept in New York

    Micro-car appeals to active urbanites

    Scion iQ Concept

    Scion iQ Concept

    The recent fuel crisis has forced many Americans to rethink downsizing. The Scion iQ, a micro-subcompact car currently sold in Japan and Europe, might be ready to come ashore.

    A customized version on display at this week’s New York International Auto Show proves that small doesn’t mean dull. Five Axis of Huntington Beach, California transformed the iQ exterior with custom lighting, wheels and ground effects. The show car’s lime green paint could stop traffic in Times Square.

    But the real beauty for people with active lifestyles is its versatile interior. Despite its 6-1/2 foot wheelbase, the iQ has enough room inside for three adults and their luggage.

    Engineers made the most of the car’s small footprint by positioning a flat gas tank under the floor to reduce its rear overhang. A compact air conditioning unit located near the center of the front console saves room under the hood.

    The rear seats fold flat in a 50/50 pattern to extend the cargo floor. The rear seat cushion flips up to reveal a flat storage space beneath for stashing a thin laptop, or other electronic devices.

    With an overall width of 71.4-inches, the iQ is narrow enough to weave through traffic. Its overall length is just over 10 feet, so the iQ slips easily into parallel parking spots.

    The concept car’s eighteen-inch rims and LED headlamps appeal to the tuner crowd. A ten-inch multi-function display inside serves as the hub for the navigation system and entertainment console. The touch screen can also play movies when the car is parked.

    An eco lamp illuminates to indicate driver efficiency. Comfort and convenience features include dual-zone climate controls and a downloadable hard drive.

    The iQ comes with standard antilock brakes, vehicle stability control and nine airbags, including the first rear window curtain airbag.

    For a closer look at the iQ, visit Scion’s public web site.