2009 Los Angeles Auto Show GM Car HeroEnlarge Photo
It's not quite the glamorous Staples Center--home to the Grammys and a certain celebrity endpoint this year--but just next door to the tabernacle of music sits the Los Angeles Convention Center. The convention center's the next roosting spot for the car world, as the industry sets down next month for the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The L.A. auto show is less than a month away, but some of the launches already confirmed for the show are underscoring the show's traditional split personality--it's the cutting edge for green cars but a haven for horsepower-addled supercars, too.
This year's L.A. show opens to the media on December 2-3, and it's open to the public from December 4-13. For more on visiting the show on your own, steer over to the LA Auto Show site.
But if you can't make it, we've got the solution for you. High Gear Media will be reporting live from Los Angeles, armed with cameras and voice recorders and really comfortable shoes to make sure you don't miss a beat. Our preview of what's to come follows here--bookmark this page and stay with us as we update you throughout the show itself:
Remember last year, before Chapter 11 and all that drama, when we brought you the first photos anywhere of the real Chevy Volt? GM's new plug-in, extended-range electric vehicle (what you might call a "hybrid") finally sees the light of day at the Los Angeles auto show, after more than a year of teases. The automaker promises electric-only operation for the first 40 miles of range, powered by a 16-kwh lithium-ion battery; the battery can be recharged by the Volt's gasoline engine, which also runs on ethanol.This eliminates "range anxiety," which GM says comes from the fear of a depleted battery. GM says the Volt can be recharged in a standard 120-volt household outlet in about eight hours; on a 240-volt line, the Volt can be recharged in three hours. GM also estimates a recharge will cost less than a cup of coffee--whether they mean Starbucks or Maxwell House remains to be seen. Some 220 lithium-ion battery cells produce the equivalent of 150 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Top speed is 100 mph, but don't expect dramatically quick acceleration figures.
Ford confirms that its European-styled Fiesta hatchback is set to make its U.S. debut at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show in December. Since Ford started promoting the car through its Fiesta Movement back in March, more than 50,000 people have expressed interest--97% of whom currently do not drive a Ford. We've driven the 2011 Fiesta, and found it pretty brilliant. U.S.-spec cars are expected to feature a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with twin independent variable valve timing. This should ensure enough pep for the American palate, while likely planting the Fiesta among the most efficient non-hybrids on offer. Ford’s Sync communications and entertainment interface will be offered as well. We'll have more on new versions of the Fiesta soon.
Even though compact hatchbacks haven't done very well in the U.S., Mazda's still keen on capturing its slice of future subcompact sales. So while the Ford Fiesta makes its way to market, the similar 2011 Mazda2 is getting a showcase at the L.A. auto show, too. The same Fiesta mechanicals get a zoomy Mazda body here, and with a lightweight body, Mazda's promising excellent handling for the class of vehicles that includes the Honda Fit and the forthcoming VW Polo. On sale in the fall of 2010, the Mazda2 is expected to carry a base sticker price of less than $15,000.
Electric vehicles will parade around the Los Angeles auto show, so long as the convention center's been pre-wired with lots of 240V outlets. The 2012 Nissan Leaf is one of the new EVs set for a Los Angeles debut. A five-seat hatchback about the size of a compact car, the Leaf is said to offer the interior space of a mid-size vehicle like, perhaps, the 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid. It is a dedicated design, meaning it doesn't share body panels with any gasoline vehicle. Nissan claims a range of 100 miles when its 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is fully charged. An 80-kilowatt (108-horsepower) electric motor powers the front wheels.
Is it a big tease, or a real taste of the future? We've told you about Ferrari's plans for future hybrids, and Car and Driver reports the Ferrari gas-electric powertrain will arrive at the 2009 Los Angeles auto show in concept form. It's an experimental design that leaves gas power for the rear wheels, and sends electric power to the fronts for four-wheel drive. The Maranello hybrid system could be used on front-engined and mid-engined vehicles. Biofuels like ethanol are already being studied, as is turbocharging.