2000 Ford airbag curtain
FORD UTES TO GET AIRBAG CURTAINS Ford Motor Co. will start offering specially designed airbag "curtains" designed to reduce the chance of death or injury in all of its 2001 model-year sport-utility vehicles. "About half of light truck rollover accidents result in fatalities," noted Ford's safety director, Helen Petrauskas. More than 9,400 people died in rollover crashes in 1997, the latest year statistics were available. In all, rollovers account for 22 percent of all U.S. highway fatalities. Ford officials were a bit vague about specifics, but indicated the new device, which serves both front and rear seat passengers, will become a standard feature on some models and will be offered as an option on other Ford SUVs. In some sport-utes, the bags will also be equipped to inflate when the vehicle is struck from the side. The new Ford system is designed to detect the difference between the rollover and a vehicle simply driving onto a sharp embankment. The rollover curtains use a new method to remain inflated longer than conventional airbags -- up to six seconds -- so it could protect passengers, even if their vehicle rolls over three times.
2000 Hyundai XG
2000 hyundai Santa Fe concept
HYUNDAI DOES SOME SOCIAL CLIMBING With a drastically improved lineup of cars in place, Hyundai will try to build on that foundation with its first true luxury sedan to be sold in North America. The sedan hasn’t been given its Western name yet, but in its home market it’s called the XG Grandeur. The XG is a four-door, five-passenger sedan with a 192-hp 3.0-liter V-6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai expects it will be priced somewhere between $22,000 and $24,000. The big challenge, said Finbarr O'Neill, head of U.S. operations, is Hyundai's downmarket image. "We have to make strides to improve our brand opinion" enough to attract potential customers in a very picky market segment, he said. Separately, Hyundai announced that the Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle, shown as a concept last year, will go on sale in the summer with a choice of four or six-cylinder engines.
2000 Suzuki XL6
A STRETCH FOR SUZUKI The next sport-ute coming from Japan’s small-car specialists could be a big thing – literally. The Suzuki XL6 concept, shown yesterday afternoon at the Detroit show, adds more than a foot to the compact Vitara chassis in its transformation into a six-passenger, three-seating-row SUV. The XL6 concept, which Suzuki says presages a new vehicle coming this fall, is gussied up with a leather interior and four-wheel drive.
2000 Isuzu VX-4 concept
ISUZU GOES BIG, TOO GM’s other Japanese SUV partner reworked their VehiCROSS two-door extreme ute for Detroit, and came up with the VX-4. A four-door version of the spacey-looking VehiCROSS, the VX-4 adds a pair of doors to the basic goodness of a 215-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and four-wheel drive. Icing on the Twinkie for technogeeks includes a mobile DVD system, global-positioning hardware, and a cradle for syncing up a Palm Pilot or other PDA devices.
2000 Ford Equator concept
A GLOBAL CHALLENGE TO HUMMER Call it the stealth concept car. The Equator was placed on the Ford stand in perfect counterpoint to the new GM Hummer concept, but was totally unacknowledged by Ford during its press conferences. The four-seat Equator is a luxury vehicle for global adventure, we gather, but we can’t help but get mixed messages from its huge 32-inch shocks, rugged styling and short pickup bed when contrasted with its leather bucket seats, CD changer, and hydraulic side steps.
GM GOES FASTER, FASTER General Motors is aiming to cut its product development cycles to 18 months, said Chairman and CEO Jack Smith. A decade ago, it took the automaker at least five years to take the average vehicle from concept to production, "but we've shrunk the cycle times in half," Smith told TheCarConnection.com. "That's our finest effort," but "we still have to go lower than that." The Internet will play a role, he added, as it will in much of GM's vast operations. "The Net is creating the opportunity to move faster with less cost." GM recently announced a new venture with AOL which is aimed at putting it in closer contact with its customers. It's also launched an online business-to-business operation meant to reduce the cost and increase the speed of its part purchasing operations.
HUGHES, GM IN ORBIT A deal may be announced shortly for the sale of Hughes Electronic Corp.'s satellite-manufacturing business, Bloomberg News reported. Boeing Co. reportedly intends to pay $4 billion to acquire the operations. Hughes is the globe's largest maker of commercial satellites, and analysts expect a surge of demand in the coming year. There have been repeated rumors in recent months that General Motors would sell off all of its Hughes holdings -- a move that industry analysts and many major shareholders have been lobbying for. But while GM Chairman Jack Smith declined to discuss the latest news reports, he suggested that there were at least parts of Hughes he wasn't about to let go of. "We value their expertise and technology," he noted during an interview with TheCarConnection.com. Hughes, he explained, has been playing a major role in GM's growing plans for the Internet and in-car electronics.
HONDA'S GREEN MACHINES Honda Motor Co. is looking to become the first automaker to reach market with a commercial fuel-cell vehicle. Production should begin in 2003, said Hiroyuki Yoshino, Honda's chief executive and president. That's a year ahead of production plans announced by rivals General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and DaimlerChrysler AG. Yoshino cautioned that high-volume production could still take another decade. Honda, Japan's third-largest automaker, said that it will start rolling out a new generation of clean engines starting next year. They will significantly reduce emissions and boost fuel economy by up to 20 percent. The first powerplant in the lineup is a new, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that will be available worldwide by 2005, said Yoshino, speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The engine will meet California's "Super Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle," or SULEV, standard, Honda said. Automakers are trying to reduce pollutants to meet stricter clean-air regulations. The companies also are investing money to research fuel cells, direct-injection engines and hybrid gas-electric vehicles to reduce emissions.