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2003 L.A. Auto Show, Part I Page 3


TOYOTA TOPPLES ANOTHER RECORD
It was a good year for Toyota. The Japanese automaker is threatening to become the nation’s best-selling passenger car nameplate and, when final 2002 numbers are reported on Friday, the automaker’s top American executive, Jim Press, hinted it would report its seventh consecutive year of record U.S. sales. “We’re bullish about our sales prospects for this year, as well,” Press added. He may have good reason considering the flood of 19 new or upgraded products, including the first two Scion models, hitting the road between May and November 2003.

2003 BMW Z8 Alpina

2003 BMW Z8 Alpina

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SCALING THE ALPINAS
With enough money -- $137,600 to be exact -- about 400 U.S. buyers out of just 555 worldwide will be able to climb into the new BMW Z8 Alpina. Long offered in Europe, BMW bills the Alpina line as an alternative to the balls-to-the-wall performance of its M models. Those vehicles wearing the Alpina badge are a bit “more refined…. and exclusive,” according to the automaker’s U.S. sales chief, Tom Purves. And unlike M models, they come with automatic transmissions. The first Alpina to reach the U.S., the Z8 version will be offered for only one year, but Purves suggested “this is a start,” and sometime in 2005, another Alpina model could make the trans-Atlantic crossing.

HAS 7-SERIES REDEEMED ITSELF?
If sales are any measure, then BMW can comfortably thumb its nose at the many critics of the controversial 7-Series sedan. Derided for its unusual shape and challenging iDrive electronic control system, the 7-er nonetheless racked up sales of about 20,000 units last year, a record for BMW’s biggest passenger car. “It’s often those controversial designs that are seen (later) to have broken the mold,” said BMW’s top U.S. executive, Tom Purves.

2003 Maybach 57

2003 Maybach 57

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MAYBACH MAINTAINS COURSE
Though its officials launch is still six months away, DaimlerChrysler officials report they’ve already taken 100 official orders for their new, $300,000-plus Maybach sedans. And that number doesn’t reflect the informal orders reported by dealers who have not formally opened their doors yet, company officials told TheCarConnection.com. So far, about 80 percent of the marque’s U.S. customers have been opting for the shorter M57, rather than the 22-foot-long (6.2-meter) M62.

Aston Martin DBAR1

Aston Martin DBAR1

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ASTON MARTIN GOES TOPLESS
You better have faith in your local weatherman if you’re interested in the new Aston Martin DBAR1. A Zagato-bodied version of the DB7 Volante, the roadster dispenses with one item normally found on most cars: a top. There’s only a bare-bones tonneau that can be used to keep out the rain when the DBAR1 is parked. For the moment, the two-seater is caught somewhere between concept and production. The British Ford subsidiary says it needs to attract at least 66 customers to justify building the roadster, and will hold production to more than 99. Unlike the Zagato edition Aston showed in Europe last year, this is a full-length variation of the standard DB7 – which permits it to meet stringent U.S. crash requirements. The base, 425-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12 can be upgraded to 435 hp on manual transmission models.


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