Those automakers in attendance did things much differently this year. The booths, displays, high tech lights, sound systems, and amenities commonly found in prior years were no more. With many questions lingering around the multi-billion dollar bail-out, it was clear that automakers were playing it safe, and keeping spending to a minimum.
Most of the news centered on fuel economy and small vehicles. Only a few dared to mention anything to do with super or muscle cars. Ford mentioned their Shelby Mustang GT500 during their press conference. Seated in the passengers seat was Carroll Shelby himself, who was celebrating another birthday. Mercedes-Benz had their new McLaren SLR Stirling Moss edition. This was easily the most exciting and breath-taking vehicle of the show. Lots of power, sensational looks, an impractical windscreen, and a price tag to match - it was everything one might expect from a super car.
Lamborghini introduced a new matte-blue paint color that will be available as part of the company's Ad Personam personalization program. Just a short distance away was the Bentley booth featuring their new Continental GTC Speed. This high-performance model has 600 horsepower from its W12 engine. Other performance upgrades include a few minor suspension tweaks, larger wheels, and high-performance summer tires.
Perhaps the two largest factors determining the concepts at this year's show were the economy and fuel prices. Though the price of gas has declined in recent months, it is only a matter of time before it returns to its high cost. As a sign of the times, many of the concept cars were practical, safe designs, and very realistic. With the exception of just a few vehicles, many could have easily passed as current production vehicles. One of the only true concepts of the show - both inside and out - was the Lincoln Concept C. The interior was futuristic and bold while the exterior design was a departure from their typical designs of the Lincoln marque.
Kia introduced a concept called the Soul'ster. It was built atop the Kia Soul hatchback and available later this year. It is a four-seater, two-door, two-wheel drive vehicle that has an off-road persona aimed at the younger generation.
Chrysler introduced the 200C EV concept sedan which could become the future replacement for the Sebring. The name is suitable, as it would be positioned under the top-of-the-line 300C sedan. This new concept continues Chrysler's attempts at a green power-train and is powered with Chrysler's ENVI range-extending electric-vehicle technology, which it shares with three other Chrysler concepts: the Jeep Patriot EV, Dodge Circuit and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV. Electric power would carry the 200C for the first 40 miles (the distance Chrysler says most commuters travel in a single day). If further distance is required, a small gas powered engine and integrated electric generator would assume the duties, extending the range up to 400 miles.
The Volvo S60 Concept was another design that could easily make it to production with only minor changes. It has a fairly conservative coupe-like design that rides on 20-inch wheels and powered by a turbo-charged, gasoline direct-injection engine. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder unit is capable of producing 180 horsepower. The DRIVEe-Mode feature reduces fuel consumption by limiting the functions of select electrical and mechanical systems. The futuristic doors swing-out and slide, revealing an interior filled with technical and visual components.
Audi introduced their Sportback Concept which is expected to become the production A7. A few changes are likely, such as a hatchback instead of trunk, before this car enters showrooms. Power is from a new 3.0-liter V-6 TDI clean diesel engine that is mated to a seven-speed S-tronic transmission. The interior is similar to other Audi cars, rides on the A4/A5 platform architecture and measures 195-inches long. The concept is nearly 13-inches longer than the A5/S5 and about 5 inches shorter than Audi's Q7 SUV.
The General introduced their Chevy Spark and Cadillac Converj Concepts. The Spark was a continuation of a series of small-car concepts shown at the New York Auto Show two years ago. The Converj two-door, low-slung-coupe concept borrows the propulsion technology found in the Chevy Volt. The updated system uses a 16-kWh, T-shaped batter, an electric drive unit and a small four-cylinder engine. There are more than 220 lithium-ion cells that provided the power to move the front wheels. It has a range of about 40 miles and can be recharged in 8 hours from a 110-volt outlet or 3 from a 220. Top speed is in the neighborhood of 100 mph.
The Converj was one of the more attractive concepts of this year's show. Its aggressive, forward-leaning profile rode on large 21- and 22-inch wheels. The interior featured a floating center console with an LED instrument cluster with touch-screen controls.
At Detroit, it was announced that the Chevy Orlando, which was introduced at the 2008 Paris Auto Show, will be in U.S. Showrooms by 2011. This seven-seat concept shares its platform with the 2011 Chevy Cruze and is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine. The production version is expected to be powered by a similarly sized gasoline unit.
Volkswagen unveiled a mid-engine, diesel powered roadster dubbed the BlueSport. Power is from a Clean Diesel TDI engine that offers 180 horsepower. This drop-top concept weighs around 2640 pounds and is capable of 55 mpg on average.
The Subaru Legacy Concept four-door sedan is another vehicle that could pass as a production car, minus its paint job. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Legacy sedan, this concept is expected to go into production later this year as the 2010 Subaru Legacy. In comparison to its siblings, this Legacy has grown three inches in overall length, width and height. It rides on a 108.3-inch wheelbase and is fitted with Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system mated to a 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine.
Mercedes-Benz introduced their Concept BlueZero which follows the electric-car theme built on Benz's B-Class platform. Sitting in close proximity to it on the show floor was the SL63, a sharp contrast, with its 518 horsepower from the 6.3-liter V8 engine.
Production and Debuts
The list of production vehicles included the Audi R8 V10, the BMW Z4, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Buick LaCrosse, Jaguar XFR, Jaguar XF-R, Ford Taurus, Lexus HS 250h, Mazda 3 5-door, Bentley Continental GTC Speed, Fisker Karma, Toyota Prius, Ford Flex with Ecoboost, and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Many included technology aimed at decreasing trips to the pump. The list included gearboxes with higher number of gears, Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicles, diesel, and even superchargers. Supercharging smaller engines gives the potential for the same performance as larger engines but with better fuel economy. Weight and size reduction were another hallmark of this year's event, as many drivers have been trading in their oversized, fuel-thirsty vehicles, in favor of minimalist transportation.
It is clear that nearly every manufacturer has jumped on the band-wagon and is doing all they can to convince the public that they have great cars that are fun to drive, and environmentally friendly.
Just like the stock market and many portfolios, the list of vehicle debuts, concepts, and media attendance was down significantly when compared with prior years. The over-the-top introductions and the elaborate stages and displays were missing. With these absences, the vehicles were left to fend for themselves to garnish attention.
This year's show was 'efficient.' The booths and displays were minimalist; the concepts were basically 'production previews' and the debuts were practical. It is clear the future of the industry will be both high tech and electric.
|Prior Year Coverage|