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2003 L.A. Auto Show, Part I Page 2


2003 Ford Faction concept

2003 Ford Faction concept

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FORD’S FACTION-AL DESIGN
Ford took an unusual turn in developing the Faction, a “concept SUV for urban lifestyles.” The first vehicle design to roll out of the automaker’s London-based Ingeni studio, it was heavily influenced not by automotive trends, but “by some of Europe’s leading furniture designs,” said Ford’s J Mays. The all-wheel-drive, three-door crossover is designed to take on crowded urban streets, rather than rugged off-road environs. It features doors that are easy to open in tight parking spaces, and City Eye, a camera system for spotting things hidden behind you.

2003 Ford Thunderbird SC concept

2003 Ford Thunderbird SC concept

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MORE THUNDER FROM THE T-BIRD
Could a high-performance version of the Thunderbird be in the offing? That seemed a strong hint as Ford lifted the covers off the Thunderbird Performance Concept, a 390-horsepower version of the retro roadster. The tricked out ragtop features a supercharged, 3.9-liter V-8 and a lot of added flash, starting with the chromed louvers cut into the production car’s hood. Virtually every panel of the current T-bird was “massaged,” according to Ford design chief J Mays. Will the automaker build it? Stay tuned, but it would be in keeping with earlier pronouncements from Ford that it intends to maintain demand for the 2-seater by regularly rolling out new variants.

FORD GOES GREEN WITH CALIF. FOCUS
Starting in March, all Ford Focus vehicles sold in California – except those wearing the high-performance SVT badge – will get a new, 148-horsepower, 2.3-liter engine. That’s not only 13 percent more powerful than the current, 2.0-liter Focus powerplant, it’s also a lot cleaner, qualifying for California’s incredibly stringent PZEV, or “Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle” standard. The automaker will then beginning rolling out the PZEV model across the U.S. With the Golden State’s emphasis on the environment, Ford officials believe they can boost Focus sales in the state by 10 percent in 2003.

2003 Scion xA

2003 Scion xA

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SCION UNVEILS FIRST TWO MODELS
It’s back to the future at Scion, the new, youth-oriented division from Toyota. The automaker’s growing success is closely linked to its popularity with the Baby Boomers. But the challenge will be winning over tomorrow’s young buyers. The division introduced two new products in L.A., which will go on sales when Scion launches this coming June. The xA is a sporty five-door with a “hunkered-down feel.” It’s based on the Ist, a subcompact currently sold in Japan, though it gets bigger tires and a lowered, more sporty suspension for the U.S.

2003 Scion xB

2003 Scion xB

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The xB will be a production version of the boxy bbX shown last year and also already in production in Japan. A micro-minivan, it will make good use of space, delivering more room for passengers than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class and more cargo space than the Land Rover Freelander. It will also offer stability control, a rarity in the subcompact segment – and even more unusual considering the well-equipped vehicles will carry a base price of just under $16,000.

Scion logo

Scion logo

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But Scion customers will be likely to run that figure up a good bit, company officials acknowledge. Company studies show the typical target buyer adds $1000 to $3000 worth of aftermarket accessories to their vehicles. A key piece of the Scion strategy is to supply those accessories through company dealers, rather than letting customers turn to outside vendors. “It’s about personalization,” declared Scion’s new general manager, Jim Farley. But it’s also about borrowing a page from the past, he acknowledged. When Toyota first started gaining ground in the U.S., it shipped stripped-down cars from Japan. If Boomer buyers wanted to add a better radio, nicer seats or air conditioning, for example, the vehicles were upgraded at port facilities or by local dealers. The strategy simplified production and boosted margins. Toyota hopes to sell 100,000 Scions annually.

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