2005 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/8/2005)
Benz’ Cordes Takes Charge, Responsibility
This year’s Detroitshow produced many firsts — among them, the first press conference for auto show audiences by Dr. Eckhard Cordes, the new head of the Mercedes Group. Cordes, in a rambling press conference full of small stories and the big news of the new M-Class SUV, took a firm grasp of the chief concern surrounding Mercedes-Benz today: quality. Not only will Mercedes tackle the issue of perceived quality drop-offs, but Cordes took personal charge of the issue in Detroit, telling audiences “I will hold myself personally accountable for this.”Cordes’ second duty in the press conference was to paper over the absence of the anticipated smart formore concept, which is reportedly in a development delay while the division, under new head Ulrich Walker, debates whether to proceed with the proposed compact sport-ute. Cordes omitted any reference to the formore, but outlined smart’s presence at the show with overhead graphics referencing the forfour compact and smart roadster as potential products for the U.S.
Cordes finished by reminding crowds that Mercedes had hit an all-time high for sales in the U.S. in 2004 of 221,610 units — about three times as many vehicles as the company sold here just a decade ago. More products are coming as Benz continues to diversify its lineup: in addition to the new M-Class, the R-Class crossover vehicle will be built in the same factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the M-Class.M-Class Returns Sharper, Sleeker
The new vehicle brought by Benz to the Detroit
show was, as expected, the 2006 M-Class sport-ute. Born in Stuttgart
but raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, rhe M-Class went on sale here in 1998 and won a reputation for good roadholding and innovative four-wheel drive, if not for exceptional quality. Benz is out to fix the quality issues that plagued the first M-Class by making the new version substantially richer inside, a chief complaint of owners of the first generation vehicle. The new M-Class grows a bit in its second generation: it’s 5.9 inches longer and 2.8 inches wider, with a 114-inch wheelbase, some 3.7 inches longer this time around. The new unibody construction replaces the former body-on-frame build, and an all-independent suspension is found beneath the shapely new sheetmetal. Two engines will be offered: the new 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and Benz’ 302-hp, 5.0-liter V-8. A seven-speed automatic is standard, as are side curtain airbags and stability control. Mercedes-Benz has doubled the capacity of the Tuscaloosa plant to produce the new M- and R-Class vehicles and will also double its Alabamaworkforce to 4000 employees as the new vehicles come on line. The M-Class goes on sale this summer.Simply Irresistible: Shelby GR-1
How much more convincing will Ford need to produce the awesome GR-1 concept? Not much, sources say — the intention is clearly to build the GR-1 as the successor to the Ford GT when that model finishes its production run in the next few years. For Detroit, Ford has mostly indicated that the GR-1 is moving closer to production by polishing its aluminum body to mirrored perfection, which made for touchy journalists itching to leave fingerprints on the sizzling two-door concept. Ford also says that the chassis has been tested for production-readiness in California, although not with the snazzy new body. Probably the only meaningful argument against doing the GR-1 is that Chrysler’s Firepower concept, also likely for production, is awfully similar. But that’s a problem very few of us will have to worry about — and even fewer will care to ponder.Shelby GR-1 Inches Toward Production by Marty Padgett (1/8/2005)
Concept follows Chrysler Firepower down the “what-if?” line.