2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)
Chrysler Prices 300C/Magnum From $22,495
Chrysler will strike back at the heart of the mid-size sedan market with its aggressively priced rear- and all-wheel-drive 300C/Dodge Magnum sedan and wagon this spring. Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche told Detroit audiences the Magnum would be priced from $22,495 for a rear-drive Magnum SE with a 190-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 engine, to $29,995 for a HEMI-powered model; the Chrysler 300 series will start at $23,595, with a 340-hp HEMI 300C checking in at $32,995 before options. The cars will be the first in the Chrysler lineup to sport cylinder-deactivation technology, which Zetsche said could improve the fuel economy of the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 by as much as 10 to 20 percent. HEMI-equipped 300s will be capable of 0-60 mph runs of 6.3 seconds, he added. Zetsche reminded the Detroit audience that Chrysler will replace a third of its product lineup in the next twelve months, representing 60 percent of its production volume, and will spit out 25 new models in the next 36 months. —Marty Padgett
Aston’s DB9 Convertible
Aston Martin has already taken a year’s worth of orders for its new DB9, the sports coupe set to go on sale in the U.S. in late spring, said CEO Ulrich Bez. Now it’s hoping to line up even more deposits as it unveils the DB9 Volante. The convertible top is raised or lowered with the push of a button and folds behind a hard tonneau cover. The whole operation requires just 17 seconds — less than the time it takes to say, “I am rich.” You probably need to be, though, because the new Volante will set you back a cool $168,000, with the hardtop DB9 coupe going for $150,000. The Volante is the core of the new Aston, which set a worldwide sales record of 1500 cars last year. The DB9 alone is expected to ring up 2000 sales in 2004.
Volvo V50 Wagon
Volvo rolled out its all-new V50 wagon during its allotted moment in the Detroit sunshine. Based on the same platform as the new S40 sedan, the V50 takes aim at young, hip buyers who don’t see a contradiction between safety and performance. The wagon will be offered with a choice of a 2.5-liter normally-aspirated engine, or in the T5, with a turbocharged, 218-horsepower 5-cylinder powertrain. All-wheel-drive is expected to become a popular option, especially on the T5 version.
Volvo Looks for Blind Spots
Volvo is getting ready to introduce two new safety technologies that should qualify as world-firsts, including BLIS, its blind spot sensing system. Virtually every driver knows what it’s like to begin changing lanes, only to discover another vehicle hidden just out of view. BLIS uses a door mounted camera to monitor a 10-by-31-foot space alongside the vehicle, sounding a warning when it spots danger. It will react to a car, truck or even a motorcycle moving from 12 miles-an-hour slower to up to 43 mph faster than your own car. Look for BLIS to be launched late this year. The second safety breakthrough could show up on the next new Volvo convertible. With no fixed roof, ragtops normally cannot be equipped with side curtain airbags, which are normally mounted on the inner roof edge. Volvo says it has solved the problem by turning the inflatable cushion upside down and mounting it in the top of the door. The system is designed to work even if the window is open or broken, and deflates more slowly to add a cushion of air during a vehicle rollover.
PAG Leans on Volvo Sales
The Swedish automaker helped put Ford’s struggling Premier Automotive Group back in the black last year by rolling up record worldwide sales. The story was particularly good in the U.S., where sales soared 22 percent, said Volvo’s U.S. CEO, Vic Doolan. Thanks to strong demand for its XC90 and XC70 light trucks, the carmaker sold 135,000 cars in the States, despite a downturn in its sedan volume. Doolan declared 2004 “will see an intensification of our performance.” In an interview with TheCarConnection.com, Doolan said he’s targeting sales of 200,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. by 2010, a forecast he stressed was conservative. Adding all-wheel-drive to its option list will play a significant role, he suggested, and should help underscore Volvo’s focus on safety — as well as its increasing emphasis on performance.