2002 Detroit Show, Part III

January 14, 2002

2002 Detroit Auto Show by TCC Team (1/7/2002)


sponsored by Toyota

 

DETROIT SHOW IN TOP GEAR
Turnout for this year's North American International Auto Show was down a bit, reflecting the decision by many foreign journalists not to come to the States right now. Despite that, most observers give the event high marks for the flood of new product on display. "You walk around the show and see the unrelenting focus of (carmakers) on bringing out new and better vehicles," said GM CEO Rick Wagoner. "It shows just how competitive the environment is."
2002 Detroit Auto Show by TCC Team (1/7/2002)

 

PAYING THE PRICE FOR NOTHING
GM's zero-interest loan programs created plenty of added business before the deals expired at the beginning of the year, but "more than 50 percent and less than 75 percent" came from pull-forward sales. In other words, consumers who purchased or leased vehicles ahead of their original plans in order to take advantage of the savings. "The rest are plus sales," Wagoner added. Pull-ahead sales need be subtracted from the volume the automaker might have originally expected in the first and second quarter of 2002, meaning sales will slip more than anticipated in the coming months. But there could be a counter-balancing trend, Wagoner and other industry observers suggest. The so-called zero-zero programs at GM and other carmakers may have stimulated the economy enough to draw more new buyers into the market. Wagoner told TheCarConnection that in recent years, industry forecasters have repeatedly underestimated U.S. demand, suggesting, "the traditional (forecasting) models don't work" anymore.

 

JEEP EXPLORES THE RAZOR'S EDGE
With a team of young acrobats in the background performing on bikes and scooters, Chrysler took the wraps off four new concept vehicles Tuesday at Detroit's Cobo Center. And according to product development chief Richard Schaum, "three have real production possibilities. Indeed, several sources tell TheCarConnection at least one is already in the Chrysler production schedule.

2002 Dodge M80 Concept

2002 Dodge M80 Concept

Think of the Dodge M80 as the "son of the Power Wagon," a massive, hard-edged truck the automaker rolled out more than a year ago, said Chrysler Group design director Trevor Creed. Based on a shortened version of the Dakota, it features a five-foot bed and a "back-to-basics" interior. It's powered by a 3.7-liter V-6.

 

2002 Jeep Compass concept

2002 Jeep Compass concept

The Jeep Compass is an edgy spin-off of the new Liberty SUV. It features many traditional Jeep cues, including the seven-bar grille, but the trapezoidal rear is unlike any SUV Chrysler has ever put into production before. It's designed to create the feeling of a European rally car, according to Creed

 

2002 Dodge Razor concept

2002 Dodge Razor concept

The Dodge Razor is another back-to-basics design, this time in the form of a classic European sports car of the '50s and '60s. The orange slice-colored coupe has a long, menacing nose and a short rear that doesn't even offer a trunk lid. Razor is powered by a turbocharged 2.4-liter in-line four engine putting out 250 hp. Since the car weighs in at only 2500 pounds, "You get a big dose of performance here," declared Creed.

Jeep Willys II concept 2001 Tokyo

Jeep Willys II concept 2001 Tokyo

The final vehicle, the Jeep Willys 2, actually first premiered in Tokyo last October. Smaller and less expensive than the Liberty, Willys breaks with tradition in that it is not designed to handle the most rugged possible trails. Since less than 10 percent of SUV owners ever actually go off-road, that's really not a problem — but would result in a significantly lower price, noted Creed.

 

2003 Volvo XC90

2003 Volvo XC90

VOLVO “REWRITES SUV RULES…”
Even if it doesn't "rewrite the rules of the sport-utility segment," as Volvo CEO Hans-Olov Olsson, suggested Monday, the new XC90 is certainly going to rewrite the rulebook for the Swedish automaker. The XC90 is Volvo's first SUV, though it is car-based, and designed primarily as a safe, on-road vehicle, rather than a serious off-roader. It will offer a variety of engines, including a 272-hp bi-turbo V-6, as well as all-wheel-drive. The XC90 will have room for seven in three rows of seats that can be moved into a variety of configurations. As one might expect, the automaker put an emphasis on safety in the new ute's design. There are a variety of crash protection systems, including rollover airbags. And a second, lower bumper is designed to reduce the XC90's "aggressiveness," should it ram a smaller, lower passenger car. With conventional SUVs, the odds are that the other vehicle's occupants would be more seriously injured. The goal for Volvo was to reduce risk to those in both vehicles. Sharing its chassis with the S80 and S60 sedans and the V80 wagon, sales of the 2003 XC90 will begin in the final months of the year.

 

…BUT TRIMS ESTIMATES
Separately, Volvo officials have pushed back to 2005 their goal of reaching sales of 200,000 units a year in the United States. Originally, they'd intended to reach that mark by 2004. But Olsson acknowledged current economic events would likely result in a delay in Volvo's growth plans. How will Volvo increase its production by 43 percent to meet its 600,000-unit worldwide goal by 2005? By going from three assembly plants to two, while at the same time increasing from two shifts to three, Volvo Sr. VP Carl Germundsson told TCC at the Detroit show. He also is counting on some productivity gains, weekend production if necessary, and also more output from some existing Volvo assembly plants outside Europe — but not in North America, as some have speculated.— Mike Davis

 

2002 Acura RD-X concept

2002 Acura RD-X concept

HONDA'S ACURA DIVISION REDEFINES THE HYBRID
Though it's a relatively new concept to the market, the hybrid-electric vehicle has been billed as a way to sharply reduce fuel consumption. Vehicles like the Honda Insight and upcoming Civic HEV mate an electric motor to a downsized gasoline engine. Energy is recaptured during braking and coasting, and then re-used, much like an electric supercharger, when a burst of speed is needed. The Acura RD-X prototype shows a different approach. The new concept SUV from Honda's luxury division also recaptures lost energy. But it uses that power to run two 25-hp motors attached to the rear wheels. As a result, the angular RD-X gets plenty of performance and the equivalent of all-wheel-drive. Envisioned as an "urban" vehicle, the SUV has a total of 250 hp when adding in the 2.4-liter, 16-valve in-line four engine, which is mated to a clutchless manual transmission. It's operated by a console-mounted paddle shifter. Inside, RD-X boasts an array of high-tech gear, including a heads-up display, which projects important information onto the windshield. Instead of rear-view mirrors, the SUV uses cameras, their pictures displayed on monitors attached to the steering wheel. There's little likelihood RD-X will be built in current form, but the performance-oriented hybrid may show up in Acura showrooms in the not-too-distant future, according to Honda chief Tom Elliott. The performance hybrid system would probably cost about $3000 more than Insight's fuel-saving version.

 

2002 Mitsubishi Space Liner concept

2002 Mitsubishi Space Liner concept

 
2002 Mitsubishi SUP concept

2002 Mitsubishi SUP concept

 
2002 Mitsubushi SUP Cabriolet

2002 Mitsubushi SUP Cabriolet

MITSU LIGHTS UP CONCEPT TRIO
Amid pulsing lights and dancers more suited to a bacchanal, Mitsubishi revealed a trio of concepts, one seen previously in Tokyo. The Space Liner is a four-seat, all-wheel-drive fuel-cell vehicle with a movable cockpit — the steering wheel can be used from either side, or hidden entirely in lieu of a dash-mounted PC — and a drive-by-wire system. The SUP, or Sports Utility Pack, shown at Tokyo last fall is an urban vehicle with all-wheel drive and some truly odd and refreshing equipment, like a built-in shower and seat-mounted backpacks. A direct-injection hybrid powertrain is teamed with an automated manual transmission. Thirdly, the SUP Cabriolet takes the SUP and adds a power-operated cabriolet top and even more wacky add-ons, like waterproof upholstery and reversible, see-through storage bins that ride on the outside of the doors.

 

SUBARU AND GM COULD TEAM UP ON SOLSTICE
General Motors is receiving rave reviews for its two Pontiac Solstice concept cars, and senior company officials admit they're seriously considering putting the coupe and roadster into production.  To do so, they may need some assistance from Japanese affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries, of which GM holds a 20 percent share.  Fuji's Subaru division supplied the all-wheel-drive and suspension for the subcompact Solstice concepts.  And if the cars get the go-ahead, GM would like to use those Subaru parts in production, according to Rudy Schlais, who oversees the General's Asian operations.  But he admits that will take some negotiation.  Fuji/Subaru remains skeptical about giving GM the components that have helped it carve out a strong niche identity, according to a Subaru official who asked not to be named.  But insiders say a deal could be in the works.

 

FORD GT40: CODENAME “PETUNIA?”
Car nuts, especially automotive writers, always have been fascinated by the code names for forthcoming new products. Sometimes those code names even become the name of the production vehicle, like Ford's cancelled Cardinal of 1962. That seems unlikely for Ford's newest show vehicle, the retro GT40 fashioned after the Le Mans racers of a generation ago. Its code name: Petunia.

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