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1999 Detroit Auto Show, Part III


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JEEP, BEETLE WIN AWARDS - Announced as winner of the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards on Monday at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit were the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Volkswagen Beetle. The Beetle edged out the Honda Odyssey minivan and Chrysler 300M for the car trophy, finishing with 292. The Jeep Grand Cherokee beat out the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra for Truck of the Year. "Unlike car of the year awards in Europe and Japan which honor locally produced vehicles, these awards include both domestic and imported vehicles on sale in the North American market, arguably the most competitive in the world," said Chris Jensen, a member of the North American awards' organizing committee. "As a result, the winners can say they have the best new car or truck anywhere." The North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards are presented by an independent panel of 48 journalists who cover the auto industry for a variety of national media.

1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

1999 Volkswagen Beetle

1999 Volkswagen Beetle

 

NEW FOCUS AT FORD - Richard Parry-Jones, Ford vice-president of worldwide product development, told the assembled media that the new Ford Focus is larger in every dimension than the previous Mazda-based Escort family, 100 percent stiffer than the stiffest car in the class, with more standard features than any other car in the compact class, including traction control, electronic chassis stability, ABS brakes and optional seat-mounted side air bags. Focus, he said, will have improved steering and suspension systems for more pure driving enjoyment than most compact cars. The Focus, which has been on sale in Europe since late 1998, has already won the European Car of the Year trophy, and will be sold in North America starting in October of this year. The Focus will replace the Escort in Ford's North American product line. The Focus, he said, will be offered with two versions of a 2-liter, 122 cubic inch inline four-cylinder engine, a single-overhead-cam version of 107 horsepower, and a double-overhead-cam version generating 130 horsepower. The Focus will be offered in high and low series, in coupe, sedan and wagon body styles, with a special performance model of the three-door coupe.
2000 Ford Focus

2000 Ford Focus

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- Jim McCraw

RETURN OF THE ‘SUPER BEETLE’ - By making a second annual appearance at the Detroit show, Dr. Piëch, Chairman of the Volkswagen Board of Management hopes the message that VW is back - and here to stay - is clearly understood. The New Beetle has exceeded all expectations of sales and lead the renewal of the brand in the American automotive scene. But not a man to rest on the good graces of the New Beetle only, VW introduced four new models in Detroit. The new Golf, Jetta and face lifted Cabrio joined the New Beetle 1.8 T to continue the momentum of the sales gains in the US market. These new products inspired Dr. Jens Neumann, board member VW AG, to establish a "stretch" goal of 300,000 units for the 1999 calendar year. Given that sales for 1998 totaled 218,000 vehicles - representing a 60 percent increase over 1997 - that goal doesn't seem unreachable. The 1999 Golf, Jetta and Cabrio have already been previewed by The Car Connection. But New Beetle with the 1.8 T powertrain has been eagerly anticipated, and should further boost the cars sales and expand the buyer base for the extremely popular New Beetle to include more male buyers and prevent the car from being labeled a "girls car." The New Beetle 1.8 T - affectionately called the "Super Beetle" by some - will be available in two trim levels the GLS entry level priced at about $19,000 with be the minimum investment required to get the extra power and performance. The GLX version will cost more, but it will come with standard 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a speed-activated retractable rear spoiler, (like the one from the discontinued VW Corrado) leather seating with heatable front seats and a power glass sunroof. The New Beetle most recently won the North American Car of the Year award, here at Detroit.

1999 concept Volkswagen Beetle

1999 concept Volkswagen Beetle

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TCC photo by TCC Team


- Todd Turner

ECHO-ING ANOTHER ERA - Toyota is targeting the youth market with the 2000 Echo coupe and sedan. The all-new cars are slated to go on sale this coming fall. Toyota expects to sell 50 to 60 thousand Echos per year in the United States. The Echo is one of several "tall cars" to debut at this year's North American International Auto Show. As a result of this efficient packaging, the Echo has the room of a mid-size vehicle inside with the exterior dimensions of a compact car on the outside. The Echo will be powered by an all-new 1.5-liter twin-cam four-cylinder that produces an estimated 108 horsepower. Toyota claims it placed special emphasis on features that are important to the youth market when it designed the Echo. Whether it was the result of the fuel crisis, slick add slogans or simply a line-up of good products, Toyota built its foundation on the Baby Boom. They "fueled Toyota's success," says the division's general manager, Don Esmond. Now, the Japanese automaker hopes to ride another demographic crest, the so-called Echo Boom. By 2010, there'll be 123 million Americans under 30, and Toyota is betting it can grab a fair share of the car buyers among them with products like the Echo, a new-generation "tall sedan." The design philosophy behind the 2000 product is "simple, dunctional and affordable," says Esmond, and deliver "one class up from what consumers expect of an entry-level sedan." The Echo will have a peppy, 1.5 liter, 108 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, and carry a price below the Corolla, currently Toyota's base model.


 
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