2000 Detroit Auto Show II

January 10, 2000

The most remarkable thing about the 2000 Detroit auto show thus far isn’t the staggering cost of the displays (clocked in at $350 million by the Detroit papers), or the stunning number of international journalists attending the show – some 7000, by count of the organizers. The most remarkable thing about this year’s Detroit show is how slickly choreographed the presentations have become, so smooth that journalists aren’t even permitted a conventional question-and-answer session.

Nonetheless, we’ve clambered over the scrum of journalists to bring you the latest from this morning’s events. Day Two of the North American International Auto Show led off with green vehicles from Ford, where a seeming Norwegian afterthought will become its own brand. Watch out, Smart. From the petite Benz roadster that followed through a second tour of the GM Experience, it became clear that this year’s show would be memorable – and not only for the extreme crowds.

We’ll be back tomorrow and Wednesday for our twice-daily coverage from the show. Stay tuned for the new minivans from DaimlerChrysler, a dashing new Lexus sedan, and just maybe, a few surprises.

2000 Ford Focus

2000 Ford Focus

2000 Nissan Xterra

2000 Nissan Xterra

N.A. CAR, TRUCK OF THE YEAR LAUDED This year’s North American Car and Truck of the Year awards have been nabbed by a pair of critical faves. Car of the Year went to the Ford Focus, while Truck of the Year was awarded to the Nissan Xterra. Some 47 journalists voted for the awards. The car pool of contestants included the Focus, the Lincoln LS, and the Audi TT, while truck competition pitted the Xterra against the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab and Toyota Tundra.

GM ANTES UP FOR ALL OF SAAB The other half is now in the fold: yesterday General Motors confirmed to CNNfn that it has purchased the 50 percent of Saab’s car business that it did not already own. GM exercised an option on the remaining shares that were owned by Sweden’s Investor AB. "We had the option and it seemed like the right time to exercise it," G.M. President and Chief Operating Officer Richard Wagoner told the financial news service. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ford and Nasser TH!NK bike

Ford and Nasser TH!NK bike

YOU BETTER TH!NK About Ford’s green future, company chiefs say. The lovable Norwegian TH!NK electric city vehicle is spawning a new Ford brand, along the lines of Volvo and Mazda – or of DaimlerChrysler’s Smart. Ford wants TH!NK to be its "environmental mobility" brand. As such, Ford will launch the brand on the Internet in a couple of years with a commuter vehicle, two bikes and a second smaller vehicle. Initially, all will be sold over the Web; Ford’s Jim Schroer says that in the U.S., TH!NK products will likely be distributed through dealers already involved with the electric Ranger. Along with the car, the TH!NK lineup will includes two bicycles, the Traveler (which folds for carrying ease) and the Fun, and another golf cart-type vehicle that will be aimed at private communities and college campuses. Ford backed the premise of green concern with a fuel-cell Focus FC5 that houses its hybrid methanol-electric powertrain wholly under its hood, thanks to a new compact fuel-cell design.

2000 Volkswagen AAC concept

2000 Volkswagen AAC concept

VOLKSWAGEN AAC A VW pickup truck? Yes, it’s happened before, but never on such a massive scale. The Volkswagen Advanced Activity Concept, at nearly the size of American full-size trucks, is a luxo peek into the heads of VW’s off-road fantasies. Replete with standard truck goodies, the AAC is powered by a 313-hp V-10 diesel with twin turbochargers. Four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic controls complete the driveline; safety offerings include an electronic stability system and airbags all around. The rear pair of doors on the four-door concept are hinged suicide-style at the rear. Inside, the "Piech-up" truck, so dubbed after VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, has leather and aluminum trim, a color-screened navigation system, and a cooler box in the cockpit. Separately, VW confirmed it will build a New Beetle convertible, likely to be built in Puebla, Mexico, starting in 2002.

2000 Mercedes SLA concept

2000 Mercedes SLA concept

SLA ROADSTER BUTCHES UP BENZ With the slightly feminine SLK roadster (which gets a 2.3-liter V-6 engine this year) firmly entrenched in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the company is going for a harder-edged roadster to flesh out its profile. The masculine SLA Roadster is derived from the current Benz A-Class, as is its 125-hp 1.9-liter four-cylinder. The arrow-shaped surround for the three-pointed star strikes us as a little close to the Alfa Coupe, but nothing else about this car seems contrived. The interior is stitched together from natural leather, and brushed aluminum in a pleasing retro pattern decorates the dash. An integrated luggage rack on the tail provides lugging capability, since the SLA’s top folds into what would normally be trunk space.

2000 Toyota Sequoia

2000 Toyota Sequoia

TOYOTA SEQUOIA Toyota’s long-awaited full-size SUV is here, and the Sequioa, named after the oldest living objects on the planet (except possibly Cher), has a look we’ve seen somewhere before. Priced competitively against the lookalike Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, Sequoia will likely start at around $35,000. Larger than a Land Cruiser, the 2001 model year SUV will be built in Princeton, Indiana, alongside the Toyota Tundra full-size truck. Not by coincidence, it uses the same iForce 4.7-liter V-8 as the Tundra, with 240 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. Inside, you’ll find a third-row bench seat that seems somewhat cramped for adults, but usable for children.

2000 Chevrolet Avalanche and Pontiac Aztek

2000 Chevrolet Avalanche and Pontiac Aztek

CHEVROLET AVALANCHE AND PONTIAC AZTEK While crowds of Gen Y kids generally obscured the view, GM launched its Aztek and Avalanche for those who missed the press previews and the Los Angeles introductions. The Avalanche, Chevrolet’s SUV body mated to a pickup bed, is based on the current Silverado truck platform and shares its 5.3-liter V-8. Its unique pass-through to cargo area opens the back of the cabin to longer loads, including the vaunted 4x8 sheet of plywood. It’s due in the 2001 calendar year as a 2002 model, but the front end could go on to other Chevy trucks as a fix for the current vehicle’s tepid styling. The Pontiac Aztek, the angular SUV bred from the Montana minivan, sports a 3.4 liter V-6 with 185 hp and an independent suspension. On sale this fall, the four-wheel drive version comes out six months later.

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