2000 Detroit Auto Show IV

January 11, 2000

GM HALTS EV1 PRODUCTION GM has ceased production of the battery-powered EV1 electric vehicle, and according to vice chairman Harry Pearce, won’t be starting up production again any time soon. "Right now we don’t see any particular need to keep producing the EV1, " Pearce told TheCarConnection.com. Pearce says GM has enough inventory to satisfy demand for the glacially slow-selling electric car. EV1s in circulation now will continue to be "recycled" and updated with the latest battery packs, which nearly double the EV1’s theoretical driving range to 140 miles. Pearce added that GM and Toyota together are moving quickly in technical development -- fuel cells in particular are moving "much more quickly" through development than the companies had expected when they agreed to partner on the advanced technology. Pearce indicated also that GM and Toyota may enter into a joint venture soon to produce hybrid vehicles in the near future, and that GM is focusing on solid-storage systems for fuel cells rather than the reformers that Ford and others are committed to. New solid storage systems, which have been thought to be too costly and too limited for storage, could be the key to changing the equation, Pearce said.

2000 Jaguar F-type concept

2000 Jaguar F-type concept

2000 Jaguar F-type concept interior

2000 Jaguar F-type concept interior

FELINE F-TYPE MAKES PRODUCTION PLAY What would be the only thing to prevent Jaguar from building the sensuous F-Type concept unveiled at Detroit? "Stupidity," quips Jac Nasser, CEO of Ford Motor Co. Although the stunning two-seat roadster prototype was brought to Detroit to "make sure we have the impetus to put it into production," says an insider, the concept isn’t yet assigned to a specific platform. If produced, however, sources say it would sport a choice of the 240-hp V-6 found in the S-Type, or a 300-hp supercharged variation on the same theme. We’re told the goal is production within two or three years. The F-Type is the last design worked on by the late Geoff Lawson, Jaguar’s head of styling, who passed away last year; in his honor, Jaguar will name a new design center in Coventry after him.

2000 Ford Escape concept

2000 Ford Escape concept

FORD ADDS ANOTHER E-MACHINE With more sport-utility vehicles than some car companies have models, Ford is clearly on a truck roll. And with the Escape, the new sport-ute slotted beneath Explorer, Ford may have its best effort yet. The handsome Escape is aimed at "newlyweds, small families, and the young at heart," says Jim O’Connor, Ford division president. It’s also aimed at more than three-quarters of the Earth, since it will be exported from its Kansas City, Mo., assembly plant to some 150 countries. Escape features a choice of either front- or driver-selectable four-wheel drive, a 2.0-liter in-line four or 3.0-liter, 200-hp V-6 engine, seating for five and towing capacity for 3500 lb of weekend fun. Ford’s smallest E-machine (next to Explorer, Expedition, and Excursion), Escape also offers an especially nifty "No Boundaries" roof rack that slides down over the tailgate for bike carrying. Look for the Escape to hit showrooms this summer.

2000 Acura MD-X concept

2000 Acura MD-X concept

MD-X SPELLS HOMEMADE ACURA SUV Well, they say it means "multi-dimensional cross-trainer," an athletic connotation for the company’s first self-designed sport-ute.

The midsize SUV, shown here in thinly disguised form, will go into production for the 2001 model year at Honda’s Alliston, Ontario, plant. Notoriously tight-lipped Honda/Acura folks aren’t saying much, except that the production version of the vehicle, due in showrooms this fall, will have the highest horsepower and torque and best fuel efficiency and emissions of any midsize SUV, along with "advanced" four-wheel drive. The interior has four bucket seats and a quasi-Lexus RX 300 console shape. The production version bows at the April New York Auto Show. In the past five years, Honda/Acura has seen its sales of light trucks go from zero to 220,000, which means naturally that they’re "looking" at other SUVs, according to American Honda president Dick Colliver. "When you look at defectors from the Acura division, we know most of them left to go into sport-utility vehicles," he said.

2000 Dodge Nascar

2000 Dodge Nascar

NASCAR WELCOMES BACK DODGE Dodge’s down-home racing efforts in NASCAR get the green light in February 2001. That’s when the Intrepid R/T, the smoky-burnout special pictured here, takes its place on the track at the Daytona 500. The Intrepid R/T is slightly narrower and longer than the production vehicle, but is "unmistakeably Intrepid," according to marketing vice president Jim Julow, thanks to its production fascia and tail. "When we go racing, we race to win," Julow said rather emphatically. Backing his conviction? The Intrepid R/T’s 5.7-liter engine that produces "well in excess" of 700 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. Dodge’s team will be overseen by Ray Evernham, who will run herd over a total of 28 cars.

NASSER GETS THE ONLINE RELIGION We’ll forgive you if you confuse Ford Motor Company with an online service provider these days, what with all the Internet and telematic technology they’ve introduced at the show. CEO Jac Nasser admitted to TCC today that he’s come a long way from just a year ago when he had seriously questioned the value of this new virtual world. What changed his mind? Nasser points to a "summit in Seattle" he attended in June 1999; those attending ranged from Warren Buffett to Bill Gates, as well as AOL chairman Steve Case and Time Warner’s Gerald Levin. (Yesterday, AOL made public its offer of $162 billion in stock for Time Warner.) With the other industry leaders discussing the changes going on in technology, Nasser accepted that on-board electronics and e-commerce would be critical to the auto industry’s future. Nasser acknowledged the concern that skeptics have – that Ford can’t put all its energies into a virtual world. "We’re in the car and truck business and if we’re not successful at that nothing else will [work]," Nasser said.

AUDI ALLROAD A NO-SHOW A rather big surprise from today’s press conferences was the absence of the production version of Audi’s Allroad activity vehicle. What had been anticipated for a Detroit debut has been shifted to April’s New York Auto Show, likely to avoid a similar sea of SUV intros as in Detroit. Separately, Audi’s Len Hunt says the brand is targeting 75,000 sales this year and could go higher. However, Hunt is fully realistic about Audi’s recent gains, recognizing that six years of double-digit growth are "not sustainable."

2000 Eaton cigar Pt Cruiser

2000 Eaton cigar Pt Cruiser

CHRYSLER PRICES PT CRUISER In a display of showmanship only hometown Chrysler could pull off, co-chairman Bob Eaton introduced the PT Cruiser collection in scale-model form this afternoon. Alongside the base model, set for sale in the spring for $16,000, were two customized version. The GT Cruiser sports a lower suspension and a wider stance, while the Panel Cruiser highlights the versatility of the new car’s shape. Both are powered by a 200-hp turbocharged engine

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