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SEMA Woos the First Tier Page 2


CHANGING COURSE. General Motors may have missed out on a big opportunity, admits John Smith, head of the automaker’s aftermarket parts operation. Back in the days of the muscle car, GM had plenty of parts for young drivers to tune vehicles like the Camaro and GTO. But "I don’t think we’ve made it easy for kids to consider us," says Smith, when they’re looking to create one of today’s hot compact sport cars. That’ll change, he promises, with an assortment of new GM performance parts under development. Of course, it would help if GM had a hot car to compete with the likes of the Honda Civic, one of the most popular "rice burners." That, too, could change, promises GM President Ron Zarrella. Look for at least seven new cars aimed at the entry and youth market by mid-decade, he promised during a SEMA appearance.

Chevy Bruin

Chevy Bruin

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BEWARE THE BEAR. Chevrolet’s new Bruin Fleetside is the biggest pickup ever built. This crew cab monster bears a 26,000-lb GVW and boasts an eight-foot-wide cargo bed. The vehicle was so large, GM officials laugh, they had to build their SEMA exhibit around it.

IS THERE GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS? Ford hopes to mine its past with this ’49-er, a concept vehicle that lifts an assortment of design cues from some of the automaker’s most popular mid-century models. Normally reluctant to utter the "H-word," Ford’s design chief, J Mays, admits this is pure retro, though its ultra-smooth exterior is designed to meet modern market demands. Is Ford serious about this prototype? It’s a running model, with the platform a variation of the one used for both the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln LS, and that, Mays hints, suggests it is more than just a styling exercise.

Mazda Muscle Protege

Mazda Muscle Protege

FAST LEARNER. This is one Protégé that can move. The MPS is Mazda’s first entry into the booming sport compact segment. "We’re looking at getting a little more ‘zoom, zoom,’" says Mazda Vice President Gordon Dickie, referring to the carmaker’s popular ad theme. The Protégé MPS adds another 20 horsepower to the base car’s 130 hp 2.0-liter in-line four. It’s got special seats, 18-inch, low wheels and low-profile tires, bigger front and rear stabilizer bars, a deep front air dam and, Dickie notes, there’s space set aside for a blower or turbo. Look for a price tag of under $20,000—if you can find one. Mazda plans to build barely 2000 of them next year.

Mazda Mp3

Mazda Mp3

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A SOUND IDEA. The Protégé MPS also introduces the popular MP3 audio format to a production automobile. The Kenwood MP3 sound system will be standard on the Protégé MPS, and "with a single disc, we can put in up to 10 hours of music," notes Kenwood Vice president Bob Hall. The system features a remote control, and delivers 285 watts of audio power, including a 100-watt, trunk-mounted subwoofer. MP3 players are quickly becoming hot aftermarket options, and several other automakers are expected to add it as a standard feature in the next year.


 
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