The 2012 North American International Auto Show, opening today in Detroit, is like a smorgasbord: There are so many good choices it’s nearly overwhelming.
Fuel economy gains are prevalent throughout the show and offered by every manufacturer. The electrification of the car continues with more hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles. Gains in the traditional combustion engine continue to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy even while increasing horsepower. Plus, there’s stepped-up competition in the luxury market; and the resurgence of American brands continues.
The Detroit show represents a full-on demonstration of auto industry progress. According to Shortline Auto Group’s Don Hicks, who’s attended each of the last three shows, “Last year we felt that the industry was better. Now we’ve proved that it’s back.” At media previews earlier this week, “I couldn’t get into all of the events I wanted to see because there were so many people,” Hicks said.
Big buzz accompanies the all-new Dodge Dart, built on a Fiat platform with jazzy styling, three engine and three transmission choices, a base price tag around $16,000, and projected combined city/highway 40 mpg. One report said it’s “so voluptuous even an Italian might blush.”
Chevy’s two concepts target younger drivers: the Code 130R rear-wheel drive, four-seat coupe with mild-hybrid technology and the Tru 140S hatchback front-wheel drive with start/stop technology. If produced they’d cost about $20k. Chevrolet plans to keep asking young people for design input. A hatchback RS Sonic also debuted, adding a sportier version of the subcompact that started selling in August.
The new Ford Fusion Energi hybrid plug-in is all about maximum economy – up to 100 mpg. Ford will offer Fusion in gasoline and hybrid versions, as well. Included are lots of high-tech goodies. Fusion may compete with the Accord Coupe concept that Honda says has “a dynamic and aggressive profile.”
Toyota’s Prius c (for “city”) is a five-door hatchback, shorter than a Chevy Sonic, with a projected 53 mpg from a four-cylinder engine assisted by electric motor and battery-pack. It’s got full connectivity and infotainment and nine airbags. Toyota’s NS4 plug-in hybrid concept, coming in 2015, offers multiple advanced safety features.
Volkswagen fires at Toyota’s Prius and Honda’s Civic Hybrid with its Jetta hybrid, the fastest compact hybrid available, according to VW.
Hyundai’s announcement that it will offer a lifetime battery guarantee on its hybrid batteries could be a game-changer. Will other manufacturers accept the challenge? Hyundai introduced a racy-looking Veloster three-door coupe with more power and efficiency and took home North American Car of the Year honors with the Elantra – voted on by a panel of automotive journalists. “Sporty but sensible,” said one panelist. They named the Range Roger Evoque North American Truck of the Year.
The Evoque exemplifies manufacturers’ efforts to marry efficiency with luxury. Examples include two Acura concepts: the NSX sports car with a V6 and two electric motors sending power to the front wheels and the ILX, built on a Honda Civic platform, offering a couple of different motor options.
Mercedes-Benz is showcasing an all-aluminum SL roadster and two E-class hybrids. Lexus’ LF-LC concept shows hot design, but few clues about how it runs; hybrid is hinted at. BMW’s i3 and i8 concepts are a little more defined. The i3 is a battery-powered five-door hatchback with a rear-mounted 170 hp electric motor – coming next year. The i8 hybrid is a 2+2 with rear-mounted three-cylinder engine assisted by two electric motors. BMW also is showing its ActiveHybrid 3, touted as the first-ever full hybrid premium compact sports sedan.
BMW’s all-new 3-Series sedan and Mercedes’ C Class, will get some serious domestic competition from the Cadillac ATS with three engine options delivering from 200 to 270 hp, decent fuel economy and styling critics are raving about.
Are you full yet? There’s lots more for car aficionados to enjoy at this huge Detroit Auto Show smorgasbord.