2002 Los Angeles Show, Part I

January 7, 2002

2002 Los Angeles Auto Show by TCC Team (1/3/2002)


sponsored by Toyota

 

XLR ON HOLD, ART & SCIENCE UNDER ASSAULT

Evoq_Front

Evoq_Front

The world will get its first look at the production version of Cadillac's Evoq concept roadster at the North American International Auto Show next week. But potential buyers will have to wait an extra six months to get their hands on what has been renamed the Caddy XLR. General Motors' product czar, Bob Lutz, tells TheCarConnection the last-minute delay is meant "to make sure of the XLR's execution," with a focus on ensuring good fit-and-finish of the roadster's composite panels. Look for the vehicle to now reach showrooms in spring of 2003. In his effort to reshape GM's product program, Lutz has also delayed the next-generation Cadillac Seville, to be called the STS. That delay is meant to improve its styling, Lutz acknowledges. Meanwhile, insiders say Lutz would like to abandon Caddy's controversial Art & Science design theme. While the 69-year-old executive wouldn't confirm that, he did admit wanting to soften and round out the knife-edge styling that debuted on the division's new CTS sedan.
Preview: 2003 Cadillac CTS by TCC Team (8/20/2001)

 

GREATER THAN ZERO?

Bob Lutz 2002 Los Angeles Show

Bob Lutz 2002 Los Angeles Show

With GM abandoning its zero-interest loan program in favor of new cash rebates, many industry analysts now expect a sharp decline in U.S. auto sales in the coming months. The automaker's own forecast calls for a drop of more than one million units this year, to something over 15 million vehicles. But Bob Lutz, Chairman of GM's North American operations, is turning cautiously bullish. "My personal feeling is things have bottomed out," he told TheCarConnection at the L.A. Auto Show. "Personally, I would not be surprised to see (sales) somewhat better than that."
Trucks Set To Pass Cars by Joseph Szczesny (12/31/2001)

 

LUXURY MARKET RESISTS RECESSION

2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500

2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500

Recession? What recession? It's certainly hard to measure the current economic climate by reading the latest luxury car sales numbers. Manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar used the L.A. Auto Show as the stage for announcing record sales tallied during 2001. And with a flood of new, top-end products coming, most of the luxury marques are looking for sales to match or exceed last year's levels in 2002. Mercedes' marketing chief, David Schembri, forecast his company would do "slightly better than last year," partially on the strength of the newly revised SL roadster. Jaguar officials were optimistic for their own brand, citing record sales since the introduction of the X-Type sedan in August. BMW chief Tom Purvis was only a bit more cautious, predicting flat sales for 2002, perhaps because of uncertainty about the critical reception for the new 7-Series sedan. The flagship line has been faulted for its quirky, bustle-back styling and high-tech iDrive control system. But adding in sales of the new Mini line, which launches in eight weeks, Purvis predicted BMW's total corporate volume would also be up, despite the recession.

 

LINCOLN GETS LUCAS’ SOUND
Ford's Lincoln luxury division has inked an agreement with THX, the spin-off of director George Lucas's film empire. Developed to enhance the realism of movie theater sound systems, THX has become a hot feature on high-end home audio systems. And starting with the redesigned 2003 LS sedan, Lincoln will begin rolling out THX-certified sound systems in its cars, a first for mobile sound. Audio systems have become increasingly important to U.S. car buyers trying to differentiate between otherwise similar vehicles, and carmakers like Lincoln, Cadillac and Lexus have been rushing to partner with top-end audio brands. As part of the Lincoln deal, THX will certify other audio manufacturers, rather than supply the hardware itself. The company's top executive, Monica Dashwood, cautioned that while Lincoln is its first automotive client, THX did not grant the carmaker an exclusive contract.

 

 

LINCOLN LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

2002 Lincoln Continental concept

2002 Lincoln Continental concept

Hoping to define its  new “American Luxury” design theme, Lincoln unveiled its edgy new Continental Concept Vehicle at the L.A. Auto Show.  Borrowing heavily from the distinctive Lincolns of the 1960s, the slab-sided prototype featured a high-chrome-edged beltline and distinctive “suicide” rear doors.  With no B-pillars, that creates a nearly six-foot aperture when both doors are opened.  The show car boasts a 6.0-liter V-12 and an interior filled with an array of unusual luxury touches.  The instrument panel features analog gauges, as well as a large video array for displaying navigation and other information.  There are storage areas in the door for an umbrella, as well as cigars.  There’s a drink  dispenser and an airplane-style, fold-out rear table with a built-in DVD player.  While the automaker has yet to decide if the Continental Concept vehicle will be put into production, “You will see this kind of design thinking incorporated into Lincolns from mid-decade” onward, said design chief Gerry McGovern. 

 

2002 Lincoln Continental concept

2002 Lincoln Continental concept

Brian Kelly, the new president of Lincoln-Mercury, revealed that his top-line brand will eventually offer as many as eight separate models, double today’s offerings.  On Top of that, Lincoln is giving strong consideration to adding high-performance versions of some of its future models, along the lines of BMW’s M-series and Mercedes-Benz’ AMG models.  A final decision will be made in six months, though Kelly appears to clearly favors the idea.  Meanwhile, Kelly re-emphasized that “Mercury is here to stay,” despite continuing rumors Ford Motor Co. will kill off the brand.  Hard plans for Mercury will be put in place within the next six months, he added, but insiders reveal three new products have been approved for the struggling brand in recent months.

 

NAVIGATING THE MARKET

2003 Lincoln Navigator

2003 Lincoln Navigator

Lincoln brought its heavily reengineered Navigator SUV to the L.A. Auto Show Thursday.  The top-line, full-size ute carries over only a few body panels, including the front doors and roof, and the changes extend to its undercarriage, as well.  Sharing platforms with the newly-updated Ford Expedition, Navigator gets an independent rear suspension for 2003, which results in a roomy rear and a lower overall height.  One of the updated SUV’s more unusual features is a power retractable running board that extends a full four inches when a door is opened.  A new air suspension system lowers the vehicle an inch when parked.  Overall the new Navigator is 1.6 inches wider than the old model.  Towing capacity increase 400 pounds to 8500 lbs.  It features 18-inch wheels and a tire pressure warning system, as well as foldaway mirrors that, when retracted, let the Nav park in a space a foot narrower than the old model.

 

CHRYSLER TAKES CROSSFIRE

2004 Chrysler Crossfire

2004 Chrysler Crossfire

In one of the LA Auto Show’s worst-kept secrets, Chrysler unveiled the production version of the Crossfire sports coupe that first debuted in concept form a year ago.  The automaker bills the ’04 model—it will hit the road in mid-2003—as a cross between traditional American design and German precision.  Indeed, while Crossfire was designed at the Chrysler Technology Center, it will be built by the custom production house, Karmann, in Germany, and will borrow 39 percent of its components from Chrysler’s sibling division, Mercedes-Benz.  Many of those parts will be lifted from the SLK roadster.  Among the most significant Mercedes contributions: the Crossfire’s 215 hp 3.2-liter V-6.  While the automaker isn’t talking numbers, insiders suggest volumes upwards of 20,000 a year.  “This will not be a limited niche vehicle, like the Viper,” stressed Chrysler’s marketing guru, Jim Schroer, though Crossfire intends to serve as a divisional icon.  Look for pricing upwards of $35,000.

 

JAGUAR’S TYPE-CASTING

2002 Jaguar S-Type R

2002 Jaguar S-Type R

Hoping to “add a little more spice” to its S-Type sedan, Jaguar unveiled the eagerly-awaited S-Type R performance model during its LA news conference.  The new car, according to new general manager Sue Callaway, features a 400 bhp, 4.2-liter V-8, as well as a new six-speed automatic transmission and modified suspension.  The R, as well as other S-Type models, will get an all-new interior in the coming weeks, a move designed to mollify critics who have complained the Jaguar sedan is too close to its lower-cost Lincoln LS cousin.  Despite such criticism, the S-Type has become the best-selling model in Jaguar history, propelling worldwide sales over 100,000 last year, a record for the British brand.  But Callaway also said she expects the new X-Type to soon take that crown away.  Jaguar expects to launch four new models this year, including a replacement for the flagship XJ sedan, which is due next fall.

 

LAMBORGHINI GOES FOR THE NUMBERS
Look for Lamborghini to quadruple sales by mid-decade, according to the Italian automaker’s chief executive, Dr. Giuseppe Greco.  Currently, it’s selling about 400 Diablos a year, and the exotic carmaker hopes to increase demand a bit with the launch of the new Murcielago.  (For the many readers wondering how to speak that odd name, it is pronounced Mur-THEE-eh-lah-go, the accented syllable said with a lisping “TH”.  It was derived from the name of a legendary bull from the rings of Seville, Spain.)  The big boost will come with the addition of a second, lower-priced model next year that could push volume to a record 1600 annually, Dr. Greco projected.  “That will generate the financial resources to ensure the future” for the long-struggling marque.

 

MASERATI MAKES ITS MOVE
Another luxury brand looking for big growth—at least in relative terms—is Maserati.  Absent for a decade from American shores, it got a new lease on life when it was purchased by Ferrari four years ago.  Maserati’s new Spyder convertible launches in the U.S. in February, and it will be quickly followed by a coupe, which is debuting at both the Detroit and L.A. auto shows.  Volume could jump to 9,000 and perhaps even 10,000 over the next four to five years, according to Stuart Robinson, president of Ferrari/Maserati North America. 

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.