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1999 Chicago Auto Show


...what’s making news at the 1999 Chicago Auto Show

A PARTIAL ECLIPSE.
SOLARA POWERED.
THAT’S MISTER SPYDER TO YOU..
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.
SAFETY FIRST.
NOT SO CIVIL CIVIC.
I DO DAEWOO.
CATERROR.
WHO’S NUMBER 1?
THE HIGH COST OF WINNING.
COUPE DE GRACE.
LOSE THE BOW TIE.
A BONNE GOOD TIME.
HOLD THE APPLAUSE.
MAXIMA-IZING ITS APPEAL.
FANTOM FORD.
HOMEWARD BOUND.
KNOCK ON WOOD.


A PARTIAL ECLIPSE. If you’re looking to get a good look at the next-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse, we’re going to have to disappoint you. The redesign won’t be revealed until the New York Auto Show this Spring, but the accompanying spy shot will give at least a blurry hint of what’s to come. The new model will bear many of the styling cues that made the Eclipse Spyder concept car such a hit on the auto show circuit last year. The new car will be repositioned, according to Mitsubishi’s top North American executive, Pierre Gagnon. "The current Eclipse is almost a cult car with the younger generation," he explains. "We’re going to try to broaden its appeal." It’ll be a bit bigger than the current model, but alas, Mitsubishi may do away with the high-performance 4-wheel-drive edition.
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SOLARA POWERED. Toyota’s sporty Camry Solara coupe helped propel the nameplate to another year as America’s best-selling passenger car. Now the Japanese automaker hopes to perk up demand even more with the upcoming introduction of a Solara convertible. Call it "a vehicle with a bit more attitude," suggests Donald Esmond, general manager of the Toyota Division for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. The Solara convertible will be offered with a 133-horsepower inline-4, or an optional 200-horsepower V-6.
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THAT’S MISTER SPYDER TO YOU. Toyota pulled the wraps off the long-awaited replacement for its MR-2 roadster. Dubbed the MR Spyder, it’s a 2,230 pound 2-seater designed to challenge other import roadsters at the low-end of the market. "I think it will be very competitive with Miata," Donald Esmond, general manager of the Toyota Division for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. That goes for both its performance—thanks to a peppy new, 140-horsepower 1.8 liter engine—and its price, though Esmond wouldn’t disclose the precise numbers. Esmond suggests the new Spyder will "push the envelope near the edge." And nowhere is that more apparent than the unusual sequential 5-speed transmission. It’s actually an electrically shifted manual without a clutch pedal. The driver can run through the gears from the stick, or by pressing "Up" and "Down" buttons on the steering wheel. Alternately, there’s a conventional 5-speed, complete with clutch.
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10thMiata

10thMiata

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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. Mazda unveiled a 10th Anniversary Miata in Chicago. unique blue paint, blue and black leather trimmed interior, a blue top and polished aluminum wheels visually set it apart from regular Miatas. The car will also be the first US application of a six-speed manual transmission in the Miata. Mazda claims the six-speed reduces engine noise at highway speeds and improves acceleration by a few tenths to 60 mph. 3,000 of these unique cars will begin to reach US showrooms this spring. the price has not been set, but Mazda hints it will be in the $27,000 range.
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SAFETY FIRST. General Motors will introduce a new "smart" airbag on its Cadillac Seville sedan, North American Operations President Ron Zarrella declared during a Chicago Auto Show speech. The system uses a seat-mounted sensor that "can actually detect the shape of your rear-end," Zarrella said. If there’s a child weighing less than 66 pounds sitting in the front passenger seat, it will disable the airbag in the event of an accident. While airbags have been credited with saving nearly 3500 lives, they’ve also caused at least 125 deaths, according to federal safety records, mostly small women and young children.
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NOT SO CIVIL CIVIC. The Honda Civic has quickly become the '57 Chevy of a new generation of hot rodders. Until now, Honda has taken a low-key approach in supporting the raging aftermarket that has developed for the car. With the introduction of the high-performance Civic Si in Chicago, performance enthusiasts now have an even better car to start with before they modify it. The new Si employs a 160 horsepower DOHC VTEC engine, retuned suspension and a unique exterior appearance. Other performance enhancing parts include 15-inch wheels, a front strut-tower brace and four-wheel disc brakes. The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $17,445. The car is in dealers now. Honda had several examples of highly modified Civics, along with their owners, on hand at its press conference to demonstrate the possibilities for a seemingly mundane Civic. As an example, a highly tuned Civic can be capable of ten-second quarter mile times and may produce as much as 600 horsepower -- all laid to the ground through the front tires.
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HotDaewooLanos

HotDaewooLanos

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I DO DAEWOO. The nation’s newest automotive marque is betting it can draw buyers by breaking with tradition. Korea’s Daewoo Motors is setting up a retail network that depends heavily on student marketers, company-owned stores and its Internet Web site. "We wanted to create a very unique, Daewoo system of dealing with customers," said Bill Tucker, director of marketing and customer relations. Right now, Daewoo has 2000 trained student representatives stationed on 400 American campuses, each receiving a commission for each car they sell. There are also 15 company stores, with more on the horizon. But perhaps the biggest growth opportunity could come from the Internet. Daewoo thinks that eventually, 50% or more of its volume will come through its Web site. Online customers can close a purchase electronically, or by visiting the nearest Daewoo dealership. Sales of the company’s three passenger car models have gotten off to what Daewoo officials call a brisk start. And "long-term," meaning three to five years out, the Korean company hopes to be selling as many as 150,000 vehicles a year in the U.S.
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