2005 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/8/2005)
Lexus LF-A Rushes to 200 MPH
Lexus had a lot of news up its sleeves at Detroit. Over the next fifteen months the luxury brand will crank out 22 revised and new models. Denny Clements, vice president and general manager of the Lexus division said so during the unveiling of the latest concept car, the LF-A. The first car to hit the dealerships is the new GS, which will arrive in March and will get all-wheel drive later in its model cycle. In March the new IS sedan will bow in Geneva and the gas electric version of the GX, the 450h, will be in New York.
In Detroitall attention was reserved for the LF-A concept car, however, the third in line after the LF-X luxury crossover and the LF-S future luxury sedan that both were shown in 2003. The LF-A is Lexus’ concept for a luxury sport coupe. Spy pictures of that concept have been taken this fall at the famous Nuerburgring racetrack in Germanyand generated high expectations of the new concept. In reality and on stage, the LF-A indeed looks gorgeous. But is it a “pure concept, a vision of how would define a sports car of Lexus could be,” according to Clements. It might have an engine of less than 5.0 liters’ capacity with more than 500 hp. The LF-A has a nine-inches-longer wheelbase than the Porsche 911 Turbo and it is five inches shorter. And at 48 inches is nearly identical in height to the Ferrari F430. Toyota ’s global managing officer of design, Wahei Hirai, said that the past two years a new styling philosophy was applied, which they call L-Finesse. It combines simplicity and elegance and it avoids exaggeration. In the meantime Lexus is planning an aggressive marketing offensive in Europe, where the brand has a mixed image in the marketing segments, which has translated in second-tier sales in the overall luxury market. —Henny Hemmes
New Beetle Breeds Hot-Rod Volkswagen
Volkswagen is using the New Beetle platform for its latest concept car, the Ragster. VW says they developed the concept because there are so many people customizing their Beetle. This is not only the case in California
, but everywhere in North America
. The Ragster name is a combination of Ragtop and Speedster. The car is based on the reinforced convertible. The design team shortened the A-pillars about 90 millimeters and penned a U-shaped roof to fix the frame. The soft cloth roof can open up completely, and has a Speedster character. The windows open up all along the side and the rear window can be taken out.
The fenders, bumpers, headlights, taillights and 19-inch wheels are newly designed and give the car an aggressive stance that matches the hot-rod look. The interior has been equipped with racing-car bucket seats, sports steering wheel with integrated engine start button, and ragtop control. The center console has a unique design as well and the cargo area is uninterrupted and has a completely flat floor.
Volkswagen does not volunteer any confirmation of a very sporty production version of the New Beetle with the looks of the Ragster, but they did not do that either when the Concept 1 was unveiled. However, some VW insiders say there is no chance of the Ragster being built, but some of the sharper lines could figure into the update of the New Beetle due later this year. —Henny Hemmes
VW’s CEO Says “Oops!”
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Volkswagen’s CEO, Bernd Pischetsrieder, thinks the big Phaeton luxury sedan was a big mistake. “It was, to put it mildly, a misjudgment,” said Pischetsrieder. Developed by his predecessor, Ferdinand Piech, the “saloon car” will continue in production for at least another four or five years, and after that, there’s likely to be a successor vehicle. But don’t expect another sedan, stressed Pischetsrieder. Exactly what he has in mind he isn’t saying, but the one thing that might carry over is the Phaeton name. “At least then, people will know how to spell it.”