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2000 Chicago Auto Show, Part Two


2001 Dodge Stratus coupe

2001 Dodge Stratus coupe

FORD HOLDS THE ‘BIRD. The Ford Thunderbird project has been set back by anywhere from three to six months, well-placed sources revealed to TCC in Chicago. The retro-styled roadster got an early preview and a long incubation period, and though no formal timetable was announced, Ford had planned to put it into production late this fall. Now, it seems, it won’t start rolling off the assembly line until early 2001 — at the soonest. Several problems appear to be behind the delay. For one thing, there’s a problem with body rigidity and the closely related issues of vibration and drive harshness. Though the new T-Bird will share its chassis with the Lincoln LS, the roadster’s shorter length is the source of that problem. More serious, acknowledged a senior-level source, is a shortage of V-8 engines. There’s been far more demand than expected for Ford’s multi-valve, 3.9-liter powerplant in the hot-selling LS, so the carmaker needs to ramp up engine capacity before the ‘Bird is back.

2000 Buick Rendevous concept

2000 Buick Rendevous concept

2000 Buick Rendevous concept interior

2000 Buick Rendevous concept interior

BUICK’S PLANNING A RENDEZVOUS Amidst a flurry of concept car reveals, General Motors rolled out one for the road, a car-truck crossover dubbed the Buick Rendezvous. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the popular RX 300 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Rendezvous blends elements of an SUV, luxury sedan and minivan, explained the division’s general manager, Roger Adams. Due for a 2001 model-year sales start, the seven-seater features a fold-away third row bench and an innovative four-wheel-drive system. Power comes from a 185-hp, 3.4-liter V-6, and an optional supercharger could follow at a later date. Will Rendezvous mark the start of a "Buick revolution," as Adams asserted? The long-struggling division has also received kudos for the sleek LaCrosse concept car that was introduced in Detroit last month. LaCrosse, Adams added, has a very good shot at going into production.

CROSS-DRESSED TO KILL Trucks clearly dominated the Chicago Auto Show this year. But while relatively traditional designs, like the big Chevy Silverado 3500 were plentiful, truck wannabes were the hottest story. The Buick Rendezvous, Hyundai’s HCD-V CrossTour concept, Mazda’s NexTourer and the Chevrolet Traverse suggest what millions of American motorists may be driving in the not-too-distant future. "Everyone is trying to figure out where the next-generation family sedan is going," noted Hyundai VP Dave Weber. While trucks now account for half the American market, automakers are betting that motorists will be looking for ways to keep the best attributes of trucks — like their utility and command seating — and overcome their disadvantages, like low fuel economy and rougher ride. Hybrids have another advantage, added GM CEO Rick Wagoner. Since they get more car-like mileage, "They’re our hedge" in the event that fuel prices keep rising — or that Washington enacts stiffer mileage standards.

2000 Hyundai CrossTour concept

2000 Hyundai CrossTour concept

2000 Hyundai CrossTour concept interior

2000 Hyundai CrossTour concept interior

A FIFTH OF HYUNDAI Part of a string of Hyundai all-activity-type concept vehicles that have debuted at Detroit and Chicago, the CrossTour combines attributes of an SUV a sports car and a minivan to appeal to those who are sick of traditional sport-utes. Don't be surprised if Hyundai decides to build something similar in the near future — like other automakers, Hyundai wants a piece of the emerging hybrid market.

2001 Dodge Stratus coupe

2001 Dodge Stratus coupe

2001 Dodge Stratus sedan

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