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1999 Detroit Auto Show, Part II


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January 4

High-Mileage Hybrid
Will X5 SAV BMW?
SUU from Mitsu
Return of the 'Goat'

HIGH-MILEAGE HYBRID - With the introduction of its new Hybrid coupe, late this year, Honda will easily capture the high-mileage sweepstakes. The unusual design relies on a combination of powertrains under its highly aerodynamic hood, a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine, and a battery-powered electric motor. When operating simultaneously, they'll match the performance of a conventional 1.5 liter, internal combustion engine. But the Honda Hybrid will average 70 miles a gallon in everyday driving and deliver 80 mpg or better on the highway, according to the company's top American executive, Tom Elliott. And emissions will be the lowest of any vehicle on the market. Further enhancing both performance and fuel economy is the Hybrid's lightweight body, which weighs in at just under 2000 pounds. "We realize Honda does not exist outside society. We must respond to the needs of society," Elliott declared during a Monday news conference. But will society go along? He admitted that while consumers are asking for green autos, they aren't buying many of them. Sales of the Hybrid are likely to run no more than 5000 or 6000 a year. The vehicle's price will be unexpectedly low at "under $20,000." Elliott didn't deny Honda is writing off a lot of the design and production costs in order to put Hybrid onto the market. But he defended the strategy as the price of learning about new technology. Toyota is expected to take a similar approach when it introduces its Prius hybrid in the U.S., a little over a year from now. In Japan, where it's already on sale, Prius is being sold for roughly $20,000, about half its reported production cost.


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- TCC Team

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WILL X5 SAV BMW? - BMW unveiled its long-anticipated X5 Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) Monday in Detroit. Retail prices for the X5 will start at about $40,000, with production slated for BMW's American assembly plant, in Spartanburg, S.C. The plant, in which BMW has invested $1.2 billion since it opened in 1994, was originally built to provide various versions of the BMW Z3. A fall launch of the X5 SAV is expected. The four-wheel drive vehicle, will be manufactured alongside Z3 roadster. In addition to the SAV, BMW plans to build a new Z8 roadster with a 400-horsepower V8 engine, which will arrive by the beginning of 2000.

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TCC photo by TCC Team

- Henny Hemmes

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SUU FROM MITSU - Mitsubishi's SSU, or Super Sport Utility vehicle made its appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday afternoon sans most of the Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America executives who were expected to make the announcement. The fact that the SSU stalled part way down the ramp during its debut, seemed par for the course for this year's Detroit show which has been beleaguered by a terrible winter storm. The SSU is built on modified version of Mitsubishi's Galant platform. Mitsubishi claims the SSU provides the fun-to-drive attributes of an exotic sports car with the room of a sport utility vehicle. Styling for the SSU comes from the same California studio that brought us the SST sports car concept last year. By continuing on the "geo-mechanical" theme, the stylists mean to create a strong, intense shape that looks powerful and agile. The design also contains "suicide" style rear doors, an element that is becoming increasingly popular on concept cars, even though it would be impossible to build and certify for sale in the US. It is believed some of the styling themes will carry over into the next Eclipse, due out next year. The SSU has a wide stance, exaggerated wheel arches and the world's first use of laser taillamps. Capable of 150 mph, the hybrid concept has been designed with "adrenaline junkies" in mind and has a twin-turbo V6 engine that produces 310 hp matched to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive concept vehicle that was inspired by the 3000 GT VR-4 comes with Mitsubishi's Sportsmode which provides for a conventional automatic or a clutchless manual. Among its high-tech functions are satellite navigation, hands-free phone, pager messaging, and a computer system that accommodates email, access to the Internet, playing DVD discs and video games. There is a lockable safe within the rear hatch.

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