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2005 Los Angeles Auto Show, Part II

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2005 Los Angeles Auto Show Index by TCC Team


Jetta Jumps Out in L.A.

An all-new Volkswagen Jetta took its bows during the opening press day at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and according to company officials, the operative adjective is “more.” As in more room, more power, more features, more safety equipment. The debut marks the 25th anniversary for VW’s compact Jetta, which has, over that quarter-century, sold 2.2 million copies in the U.S., making this the car’s number-one market. The automaker hopes to expand the appeal of the new Jetta, and its price tag certainly won’t hurt. The version with an all-new, 150-hp, in-line five-cylinder engine and standard transmission starts at $17,900, while the same car with a six-speed automatic will base at $18,900. The new Jetta features an electromechanical steering system and, for the first time, an independent multilink rear suspension. The car’s body boasts 13-percent better torsional rigidity than the old Jetta and 65-percent better bending rigidity. Hoping to allay fears about recent quality problems, VW officials also noted their investment in new production technology, including a state-of-the-art laser welding system. The new Jetta is the first model in a major product offensive planned by the German maker, said Len Hunt, executive vice president of Volkswagen of America. The company intends to roll out nine new models during the next 18 months.


SVT Still Kicking, Ford Says

Hau Thai-Tang

Hau Thai-Tang

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With no cars currently on the market, there’ve been plenty of rumors working their way through the industry grapevine about the future of Ford Motor Co.’s high-performance SVT unit. But “reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated,” the head of the brand-within-a-brand told, lifting a turn-of-phrase from Mark Twain. “We’d hate to give up on the brand equity we’ve established over the last ten years,” insisted Hau Thai-Tang, the new boss of SVT, who until recently led the development of the new, retro-styled Mustang. An SVT version of the Mustang will be unveiled at the upcoming New York Auto Show, said Thai-Tang, and though he wouldn’t confirm production plans, sources told TCC it’s a bit more than a year away. Several other possible SVT models are under consideration, with an emphasis on adding a more mainstream product, such as a high-performance Fusion sedan.

SVT’s current hiatus was not due to problems with the unit, Thai-Tang insisted, but simply the result of limited resources being shifted to the development of the Ford GT supercar. Going forward, SVT intends to return to its roots, the Vietnamese-born executive explained during an exclusive interview. It will focus on building high-performance, limited-volume products with “substance” and value. But rather than putting a premium on off-the-line acceleration, future SVT models will likely strive to have broader appeal, much like the vehicles sold by European high-performance brands, such as BMW’s M line. That means they’ll have to handle and stop as well as they launch at a light, said Thai-Tang. Do not expect an SVT version of every Ford division product, sources report, though it is possible SVT may eventually lend its name to products sold by other Ford Motor Co. divisions.

Meanwhile, Ford is likely to develop other high-performance options. It is expected to expand its ties to Shelby Motors, the tuner firm run by racing legend and longtime Ford consultant Carroll Shelby, as well as Saleen Motors, the California firm best known for its customized Mustang models.


Mustang Convertible Already Backlogged

Ford Mustang Convertible

Ford Mustang Convertible

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The ragtop version of Ford’s screamingly popular new Mustang official rolled onto the stage at the LA Convention Center Wednesday. But those looking for one of the cars could be in for a bit of a wait, considering the backlog of orders, said Greg Smith, Ford Motor Co.’s Chairman of the Americas. In a market where almost all buyers normally opt for something off the dealer lot, there are currently 6000 buyers currently waiting to take delivery of customized Mustangs. Overall sales last month ran about 60 percent above December 2003 figures. Prices for the V-6-powered base convertible start at $24,495, and jump to $29,995 for the 300-hp V-8 GT Deluxe.

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