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2004 New York Auto Show, Part IV


2004 New York Auto Show Index (4/5/04)


INFINITI’S NEW “BLUEPRINT”

Infiniti’s M Concept car is “the blueprint” for what’s to come from Nissan’s up-market division, declared general manager Mark Igo. In

Infiniti M Concept

Infiniti M Concept

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this case, that means the next-generation M45 sports sedan, which debuts about a year from now as an ’06 model. The M Concept actually has its roots in another show car, the luxurious Fuga, shown by Nissan at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show. It’s part of an effort to give Infiniti a more powerful brand identity. The M Concept features a variety of intriguing technologies, including “pre-crash” front seatbelts that automatically tighten up in advance if the car senses the likelihood of a crash. There’s also a Lane Departure Warning system, the first of its kind, which uses side mirror-mounted cameras to detect inadvertent lane “violations.” Both features will show up in the production M45, according to Igo, who expects the lane change warning system to prove quiet popular. The M Concept features a 4.5-liter V-8 making 340 hp. That engine will appear in the production M45, while a smaller V-6 will be offered in the version to be called the M35. All-wheel-drive will be available, said Igo, but initially, at least, only paired with the smaller engine.

2005 Infiniti Q45

2005 Infiniti Q45

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This summer also will bring the introduction of an updated Q45 sedan, Infiniti’s flagship model. The 2005 Q45 will sport an updated nose and rear end, improved seating, the automaker’s RJ active damping system and the new pre-crash seatbelt technology. The Q has served as the flagship of the up-market Nissan brand since its introduction, 15 years ago. But that may change. “There will be a next-generation flagship,” hinted Igo, “that’s also above the M.” But it may not carry the alphabetic Q designation. Whatever the name, the next sedan will also be influenced by the Fuga concept vehicle.

 

IMPORT AUTOMAKERS FACE THE NEW MATH

While it didn’t come up in any formal press preview, the issue of exchange rates was never far from mind for import manufacturers introducing product at the New York International Auto Show this year. The dollar has lost roughly 20 percent of its value against the Euro over the last twelve months, and has taken a tumble against the yen, as well. Things could “get ugly when it falls below 100 yen to the dollar,” said Infiniti General Manager Mark Igo. That’s making it increasingly difficult to hold the line on prices without wiping out profit margins, import industry executives admitted. But raising prices could “set our plans out of kilter,” added Volkswagen of America’s CEO, Gerd Klauss. So, in the short-term, most brands will swallow hard and hope the dollar quickly regains some of its strength. Another year of this, however, and import prices could quickly start to climb.

 

LINCOLN OFFERS A “TEASER” OF ITS NEW DIRECTION

Lincoln Zephyr "teaser"

Lincoln Zephyr "teaser"

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Ford Motor Co.’s flagship American luxury brand has gone through so many abortive shifts in direction over the last decade it’s difficult to know precisely what it is anymore. To put things back on track, the automaker will roll out “more product faster,” said Jim Padilla, Ford’s President of the Americas. The latest example debuted in New Yorkin the form of the Lincoln Zephyr “teaser” — a term that may be a better way of describing the many new show cars that are thinly-disguised production vehicles. In this case, the Zephyr will, with minor changes, reappear as Lincoln’s new entry-level sedan. Sales in that segment have surged by more than a third since 1999, so Ford desperately needs to be there, said Padilla. The sedan will share platforms and underlying components with the new Lincoln Aviator crossover
Lincoln Zephyr interior

Lincoln Zephyr interior

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vehicle, as well as the Ford Futura sedan. Or at least the sedan Ford intended to call Futura. The automaker has quietly decided to abandon that name and is searching for an alternative. Like the Aviator, the upcoming Zephyr will be offered in front- or all-wheel-drive. The exterior is meant to give the brand a sportier look, while the interior revives some cues harkening back to the classic ’61 Lincoln sedan, said design chief J Mays. Mays believes that lavish passenger compartments will give Zephyr a much more elegant look at a relatively low price point.

 
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