1999 Detroit Auto Show, Part III

January 5, 1999

JEEP, BEETLE WIN AWARDS - Announced as winner of the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards on Monday at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit were the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Volkswagen Beetle. The Beetle edged out the Honda Odyssey minivan and Chrysler 300M for the car trophy, finishing with 292. The Jeep Grand Cherokee beat out the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra for Truck of the Year. "Unlike car of the year awards in Europe and Japan which honor locally produced vehicles, these awards include both domestic and imported vehicles on sale in the North American market, arguably the most competitive in the world," said Chris Jensen, a member of the North American awards' organizing committee. "As a result, the winners can say they have the best new car or truck anywhere." The North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards are presented by an independent panel of 48 journalists who cover the auto industry for a variety of national media.

1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

1999 Volkswagen Beetle

1999 Volkswagen Beetle

 

NEW FOCUS AT FORD - Richard Parry-Jones, Ford vice-president of worldwide product development, told the assembled media that the new Ford Focus is larger in every dimension than the previous Mazda-based Escort family, 100 percent stiffer than the stiffest car in the class, with more standard features than any other car in the compact class, including traction control, electronic chassis stability, ABS brakes and optional seat-mounted side air bags. Focus, he said, will have improved steering and suspension systems for more pure driving enjoyment than most compact cars. The Focus, which has been on sale in Europe since late 1998, has already won the European Car of the Year trophy, and will be sold in North America starting in October of this year. The Focus will replace the Escort in Ford's North American product line. The Focus, he said, will be offered with two versions of a 2-liter, 122 cubic inch inline four-cylinder engine, a single-overhead-cam version of 107 horsepower, and a double-overhead-cam version generating 130 horsepower. The Focus will be offered in high and low series, in coupe, sedan and wagon body styles, with a special performance model of the three-door coupe.
2000 Ford Focus

2000 Ford Focus

 

- Jim McCraw

RETURN OF THE ‘SUPER BEETLE’ - By making a second annual appearance at the Detroit show, Dr. Piëch, Chairman of the Volkswagen Board of Management hopes the message that VW is back - and here to stay - is clearly understood. The New Beetle has exceeded all expectations of sales and lead the renewal of the brand in the American automotive scene. But not a man to rest on the good graces of the New Beetle only, VW introduced four new models in Detroit. The new Golf, Jetta and face lifted Cabrio joined the New Beetle 1.8 T to continue the momentum of the sales gains in the US market. These new products inspired Dr. Jens Neumann, board member VW AG, to establish a "stretch" goal of 300,000 units for the 1999 calendar year. Given that sales for 1998 totaled 218,000 vehicles - representing a 60 percent increase over 1997 - that goal doesn't seem unreachable. The 1999 Golf, Jetta and Cabrio have already been previewed by The Car Connection. But New Beetle with the 1.8 T powertrain has been eagerly anticipated, and should further boost the cars sales and expand the buyer base for the extremely popular New Beetle to include more male buyers and prevent the car from being labeled a "girls car." The New Beetle 1.8 T - affectionately called the "Super Beetle" by some - will be available in two trim levels the GLS entry level priced at about $19,000 with be the minimum investment required to get the extra power and performance. The GLX version will cost more, but it will come with standard 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a speed-activated retractable rear spoiler, (like the one from the discontinued VW Corrado) leather seating with heatable front seats and a power glass sunroof. The New Beetle most recently won the North American Car of the Year award, here at Detroit.

1999 concept Volkswagen Beetle

1999 concept Volkswagen Beetle


TCC photo by TCC Team


- Todd Turner

ECHO-ING ANOTHER ERA - Toyota is targeting the youth market with the 2000 Echo coupe and sedan. The all-new cars are slated to go on sale this coming fall. Toyota expects to sell 50 to 60 thousand Echos per year in the United States. The Echo is one of several "tall cars" to debut at this year's North American International Auto Show. As a result of this efficient packaging, the Echo has the room of a mid-size vehicle inside with the exterior dimensions of a compact car on the outside. The Echo will be powered by an all-new 1.5-liter twin-cam four-cylinder that produces an estimated 108 horsepower. Toyota claims it placed special emphasis on features that are important to the youth market when it designed the Echo. Whether it was the result of the fuel crisis, slick add slogans or simply a line-up of good products, Toyota built its foundation on the Baby Boom. They "fueled Toyota's success," says the division's general manager, Don Esmond. Now, the Japanese automaker hopes to ride another demographic crest, the so-called Echo Boom. By 2010, there'll be 123 million Americans under 30, and Toyota is betting it can grab a fair share of the car buyers among them with products like the Echo, a new-generation "tall sedan." The design philosophy behind the 2000 product is "simple, dunctional and affordable," says Esmond, and deliver "one class up from what consumers expect of an entry-level sedan." The Echo will have a peppy, 1.5 liter, 108 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, and carry a price below the Corolla, currently Toyota's base model.

2000 Toyota Echo

2000 Toyota Echo


TCC photo by TCC Team

- Nick Twork

XYZ?…NO…XYR - At the same  time it introduced the Echo, Toyota unveiled a concept car dubbed the XYR. This exaggerated two-door coupe is also designed to appeal to younger car buyers. It promises to provide quick acceleration and nimble handling by reducing weight and maximizing engine efficiency, like the Echo. Toyota hints that XYR, or something similar, will be in showrooms soon.

- Nick Twork

1999 Toyota concept XYR

1999 Toyota concept XYR


TCC photo by TCC Team

CHRYSLER ECHOES ECHO - Toyota isn't the only automaker targeting younger Gen-X, Baby Bust and Echo Boom buyers. They're the intended market for the redesigned Dodge and Plymouth Neon, and could make Chrysler's hip new PT Cruizer a success. Then there's GM, which will soon announce details of Project Yellowstone, a program designed to shape the cost of building small cars by as much as $4000 apiece. That could allow GM to borrow a page from the old Japanese playbook and undercut its competitors for the attention of tomorrow's price-sensitive young buyers.
1999 Chrysler PT Cruiser concept

1999 Chrysler PT Cruiser concept

1999 Dodge Neon

1999 Dodge Neon

- TCC Team

MERCEDES' VISION OF THE FUTURE - That's the Vision SLR, a high-performance concept vehicle from Mercedes-Benz that packs a top speed of 200 miles an hour and a 0-to-60 time of just 4.2 seconds. For the moment, this 557 horsepower V-8 coupe is just a sleek, silver fantasy, but ranking Mercedes executives confide they are working on plans to put the Vision SLR into production. The most likely scenario would have the design and engineering work done by Mercedes and the car built by low-volume specialist, McLaren. That would be a natural fit, considering the Vision's technical roots run back to the F1 racing series. Mercedes had other high-performance news Monday, including the introduction of the ML55, an AMG-derived "ultimate" version of the M-Class sport-utility vehicle. The hot-selling M-Class is the primary reason behind Mercedes' 39 percent surge in the U.S. market last year, to a record 170,245 units. Worldwide, the automaker also set a sales record for 1998, moving 905,000 vehicles, an increase of 27 percent.

 

1999 Mercedes concept Vision SLR

1999 Mercedes concept Vision SLR


TCC photo by Nick Twork

- TCC Team

DOOR WARS HEAT UP - "When in doubt, add a door," Ford President Jac Nasser has said. Apparently, Ford isn't the only automaker to take that design philosophy to heart. Extra doors have become a hot weapon in today's competitive new car market. The new Explorer Sport Trac is one approach. It mates the front half of a 4-door sport-utility, largely based on the Explorer, to the bed of a pickup truck. Then there's the Blackwood concept vehicle, which takes a similar approach to the luxury market, starting with the front of a Navigator SUV and the back of a shortened F-150 pickup bed. Currently just a concept car, Ford insiders say it'll soon launch production. Another new Ford with more doors is the Super Duty, a cavernous 4-door version of the F-150 full-size pickup. The rear cabin is 12 inches longer than the older 2-row edition, and accessed by doors large by even conventional sedan standards. Dodge weighs in with a 4-door version of its popular Dakota pickup, the Dakota Quad Cab. The imports are learning to play at this game. Toyota's 4-door Tundra is an example. Consumers seem to buy the argument. Chrysler originally thought its 4-door minivan would account for a third to perhaps a half of the volume for minivan products such as the Plymouth Voyager. Today, it's running 100 percent.
1999 Ford concept Explorer SportTrac with Nasser

1999 Ford concept Explorer SportTrac with Nasser

- TCC Team

Back to index

 

STALKING THE WILD IMPALA - The legendary nameplate is back and Chevrolet is betting consumers will be drawn to the 2000 Impala's "reasonable" price tag and surprisingly roomy interior. The reborn brand will come with a choice of two engines, including an optional 3800 Series V-6 delivering 24% more horsepower than a comparable Ford Taurus. From the presentation Chevy Marketing General Manager Kurt Ritter made Monday, it's clear the company is targeting Ford's popular midsize entry. But Chevy hopes the Impala will take on import contenders, as well. Impala's big selling point will be its "Room First" design, says Ritter, which delivers the interior space of a full-size sedan on a midsize chassis. Could it cannibalize the smaller Chevrolet Lumina? It's possible, though Chevy hopes they'll appeal to different buyer groups. There'd been speculation the Lumina might go away with the launch of the Impala. No, says Ritter-at least not yet. But stay tuned. Chevrolet is hoping to sell at least 200,000 Impalas a year. By today's market standards that would make it a major player. But how times have changed. Nearly forty years ago, the Impala nameplate set an all-time sales record of over 1 million units in a single year.
2000 Chevrolet Impala

2000 Chevrolet Impala

- TCC Team

NEW FORD HEADS FORD , NASSER TOO - William Clay Ford, Jr., great grandson of company founder Henry Ford, started his new job as chairman of the board of Ford Motor Company by opening Ford's corporate news conference, the first item on the agenda of the press days at the 10th annual North American International Automobile Show (NAIAS). Bill Ford, 45, told the media at Ford's press conference that Ford Motor Company was not only his job but, as great-grandson of the founder, his heritage. He then excused himself after introducing new Ford president and CEO Jac Nasser, telling the media "I have to go or I'll be late for my first day on the job." Ford has worked at Ford for 20 years at Lincoln Mercury, at truck and commercial truck operations, at Ford of Switzerland as managing director, and at Ford's truck vehicle center. He is also vice-chairman of the National Football League Detroit Lions football team owned by his father, William Clay Ford, the last surviving brother of former Ford chairman Henry Ford II. New Ford president and CEO Jac Nasser, called "Jac The Knife" by ex-Ford employees for his relentless cost-cutting, was previously president of Ford's worldwide automotive operations, vice-president of product development, and before that, head of Ford of Europe. The Lebanese-Australian executive, known as a real car guy in a business populated by financial types, took over the reins of Ford from Sir Alexander Trotman, who retired January 1 from his three-way job as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ford. Trotman was granted a life peerage and a seat in the House of Lords by Britain's Queen Elisabeth II as part of her New Year's honors list. Nasser made it his first official act in his new job to formally introduce the Ford Focus family of compact cars.

- Jim McCraw

2019
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2019
The Car Connection
Commenting is closed for this article
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.