THE QUEST FOR A BETTER
The Quest concept vehicle suggests Nissan’s next minivan will not only be bigger, but for more radically styled than the old Quest produced for years in a joint venture with Ford Motor Co. Nissan took the wraps off the prototype Tuesday, unveiling a chiseled design that “set out to challenge the notion that a minivan can’t be sexy and fun-to-drive,” argued designer Alfonso Albaisa. The concept features a frosted glass roof with a full-length roof-mounted console, 20-inch wheels and a power-operated, bi-fold tailgate. Inside, there’s an array of electronics, including a DVD system and even a “baby cam” for a parent to keep an eye on their children sitting in back. The images are displayed on a 16-by-4.5-inch dash-mounted video screen. Though the minivan market has declined in recent years, “it’s too big not to play in,” stressed Nissan EVP Jed Connelly. He hinted the production Quest, due shortly, will bear a strong resemblance to the prototype, “though not quite so edgy.”
2002 Isuzu XST conceptEnlarge Photo
2002 Isuzu XSREnlarge Photo
2002 Isuzu XSF conceptEnlarge Photo
The troubled Japanese automaker, Isuzu, offered up three variations on the Axiom theme to help wrap up Monday’s press preview at the North American International Auto Show. The XST is a crossover SUV/pickup, while the XSR is a sport-ute roadster clad in bright yellow paint. The two-seater gets 230 hp out of its 3.5-liter V-6, more than enough to spin its 20-inch custom-forged alloy wheels. The XST also boasts a pickup-like fold-down tailgate and an assortment of high-tech features, including a DVD system. The last version is the XSF, a high-performance package with a 3.5-liter V-6 generating 275 hp. In the past, Isuzu has shown a number of show cars that were thinly-disguised versions of upcoming products. But “We’re not ready to flip the switch this time and produce” any of the concept vehicles, cautioned vice president Rick Balsiger. They’re still not far along in the development process, he said, conceding that Isuzu’s financial problems also mean a shortage of the necessary resources.
2003 Subaru BajaEnlarge Photo
SUBE TO MAKE GEN-X EL CAMINO?
Is the Baja the modern incarnation of the old Chevy El Camino. True, it’s got significantly less power, but the two have a lot in common, visually. One big difference is the back seat found in Subaru’s crossover car/pickup/SUV crossover vehicle, the latest in a series of “segment-busters” the Japanese carmaker has rolled out in recent years. Baja has “a healthy dose of attitude,” according to chief U.S. executive Fred Adcock. The 2003 model features 16-inch wheels, a fold-away bed extender and it’s powered by a 3.5-liter boxer six-cylinder engine. With an introduction date of September, company official suggest they’d like to sell up to 2000 a month of the American-made Baja. They hint it may be priced around $26,000, though a final decision is months away.
GM INTERPRETS CHAOS
General Motors saw its new car prices decline by nearly 1.3 percent last year, CFO John Devine told TheCarConnection. And the trend is certain to continue. “Reality is, we’re all going to have to live with (the trend). It’s not going to go away. But Devine also said that a manufacturer that can create some excitement for its products is in a better position to command a premium. Devine said the economic realities of the auto industry have shifted to the point where it’s become almost impossible to predict how sales will trend in the coming years. And that makes planning extremely difficult. “Some days,” he said, “it feels like a revolution. Some days it feels like chaos.”