2002 Detroit Show, Part V

January 14, 2002

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


sponsored by Toyota

 

2003 Dodge Ram SRT-10

2003 Dodge Ram SRT-10

DODGE GETS SRT-10 RAM
As if the Los Angeles show’s 205-hp Neon RT weren’t enough, Dodge took the Detroit opportunity to show off the Ram SRT-10, a fierce full-size truck with Viperesque performance credentials. It sports the 2003 Viper’s 8.3-liter V-10 with 500 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque; zero to 60 is promised in under five seconds, with a top speed of 150 mph and a quarter-mile run in 13 seconds. Dodge also claims a 0-100-0mph time of 18 seconds, astonishing numbers for a truck. Clearly built to outdo the Ford F-150 Lightning, the SRT-10 Ram also sports huge 24-inch wheels. It goes on sale in late fall; the next-gen, heavy-duty Ram, in case you’re curious, is to be introduced at the Chicago auto show in February.

 

CHRYSLER CREATES AMERICAN AMG
DaimlerChrysler will create an entire lineup of American performance products, starting with Dodge, but eventually including its Jeep and Chrysler divisions, as well. Dubbed Performance Vehicle Operations, it’s being modeled after the successful AMG operation of sibling Mercedes-Benz. PVO will also handle Chrysler Group racing ventures, noted marketing chief Jim Schroer, who boasted “Every (PVO) vehicle will out-muscle, out-run any production vehicle from our competitors.” The venture is intended to build a halo for other Chrysler Group products—and generate revenues that can help fund racing. Meanwhile, PVO will begin working with outside performance parts suppliers, said the new unit’s boss, John Hernandez. That will make it even easier for owners to stay in the lead, whether street racing or testing their cars on the track.

 

2003 Ford Expedition

2003 Ford Expedition

FORD REVAMPS EXPEDITION
While Ford made headlines yesterday at the North American International Auto Show with the wacky Mighty Tonka F-350 diesel-powered concept pickup truck, it will make millions on the truck it showed on the final press day: the all-new 2003 Ford Expedition full-size SUV. Ford went way, way out there with some of the features and conveniences on the all-new 2003 Ford Expedition full-size SUV, as big SUV competition gets hotter and hotter.The 2003 Expedition is the world’s first full-size SUV with a disappearing fold-flat rear seat mechanism, standard. The third seat not only splits 60/40 for convenient load handling, the disappearing act is done by wire. For 2003, the Expedition also comes with a raft of additional safety equipment, including safety canopy side air curtains, tire pressure monitors, bumper beams that align with car bumpers, a new Brake Assist feature that cuts stopping distances by up to 20 percent in emergency stops. Attached to the new frame are more new technologies: the first fully independent rear suspension ever in a full-size SUV, for limo-like ride quality; a wider track, 66.9 inches front and 67.2 inches at the rear, for more stable handling; the largest brakes in the segment, 13 inches in the front 13.5 inches in the rear, with ABS, electronic brake force distribution, new calipers; new heavier-duty rack-and-pinion steering; ControlTrac four-wheel-drive system with optional AdvanceTrac brake-based automatic stability control. Ford says that even when two wheels are airborne, the system provides traction torque to both axles. The new ControlTrac system completely disconnects all the moving parts when shifted into two-wheel drive, decreasing wear and noise and increasing fuel mileage. Under the hood is the 5.4-liter single-overhead-cam Triton V-8 engine, this time around with a new cast iron cylinder block, and a 4.6-liter V-8 with a new aluminum block with more power and torque than previous versions, and quieter operation.—Jim McCraw
Preview: '03 Ford Expedition by Jim McCraw (1/8/2002)

 

MINI COMPACT, MINI PRICING
When it goes on sale in March, the MINI Cooper and Cooper S will sport appropriately small pricetags. The base 115-hp MINI Cooper is set to retail for $16,850 including destination charges, while the supercharged 163-hp MINI Cooper S will sticker at $19,850. Atop those prices, MINI will offer three packages: the Premium and Sport each cost $1250, while the Cold Weather package goes for $500. A CD player is standard on all models, the company says.

 

2002 Infiniti FX45 Concept

2002 Infiniti FX45 Concept

INFINITI MINTS BIONIC CHEETAH, THE SEQUEL
A second, evolutionary version of the FX45 concept shown at last year’s auto shows, the new “bionic cheetah” has a 4.5-liter V-8 with more than 300 hp, a five-speed automatic and 23-inch wheels. The FX45’s strikingly smooth skin wraps around an all-wheel-drive platform that shares bits with the G35 sedan; it also offers an independent suspension. The interior sports aluminum trim, an LCD information center and a rear DVD system, and electronic door openers. It’s a clear precursor to the coming Infiniti SUV, say our sources, a vehicle which will be joined by a two-door coupe based on the G35, and a new midsize luxosedan.

 

NO CUTS IN FORD PRODUCT PROGRAMS
Ford product development chief Richard Parry-Jones promised to “battle back” any effort to cut into his future product budget. “That would jeopardize the turnaround plan,” he told TheCarConnection. If anything, the company needs to add even more products than previously scheduled, Parry-Jones suggested. His position has strong support at the top: Ford Chief Operating Officer Nick Scheele has promised to increase spending on product. He knows how effective that can be — in Europe, where another turnaround plan was crafted by Scheele, the automaker is in the midst of a product offensive, launching 45 new vehicles during a five-year blitz. The result has been a noticeable increase in share, and a sharp improvement in the bottom line. After losing $1 billion in 2000, Ford of Europe broke even last year and expects to report a profit in 2000.
Ford Revival Plan on Friday? by Joseph Szczesny (1/7/2002)
Scheele Hints at Turnaround Plan by TCC Team (1/7/2002)

 

PLANT CLOSURES CAN BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Further signals are being given that Ford will not go on an all-out plant closing binge when it launches its new turnaround plan on Friday. North American chief Jim Padilla told TheCarConnection that Ford clearly has more capacity than needed—some analysts put the number at nearly two million units in the current environment. But should the market recover over the next few years, Ford wants to “have the flexibility to come back” with enough production to meet demand. Besides, said Scheele, union contracts and other factors would mean that even if a plant closed, “Revenues would fall a lot faster (through lost sales), than fixed costs would.” More likely, he hinted, Ford will focus on cutting out shifts and overtime, wherever possible. There’s another factor: the automaker’s contract with the UAW, which effectively bars plant closures through September 2003.

 

SCHROER: DISCIPLINE AND PIZZAZZ EQUAL PROFITS
There’s a simple formula for making money in the car business, Chrysler Group marketing chief Jim Schroer told TheCarConnection, “discipline and pizzazz.” Commodity products require heavy discounting, he stressed. Growth and higher margins will come only if customers are willing to pay a premium for vehicles with emotional appeal. The big draws are exterior styling and interior innovation, according to Schroer, who told TCC the Chrysler division will focus on increasing its emotional appeal by reinforcing its design leadership. He also admitted that Chrysler’s reputation for poor quality has been a factor hurting the brand’s appeal.

 

2003 Mazda 6

2003 Mazda 6

MAZDA ROLLS SIX AND EIGHT
Mazda is playing it by the numbers, six and eight, to be precise. The new Mazda 6, first shown during the Tokyo Motor Show received its American debut in Detroit Tuesday, as did the production version of the long-awaited RX-8. The latter revives the automaker’s long-popular rotary-engined sports car, which will arrive in the U.S. in 2003. Mazda intends to promote the 6 as a more sporty and functional alternative to mainstay Japanese sedans, such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Preview: 2003 Mazda 6 by Marty Padgett (10/22/2001)

 

2003 Nissan 350Z

2003 Nissan 350Z

NISSAN TAGS AN AFFORDABLE Z
Hoping to catch consumers—and competitors—by surprise, Nissan announced plans to position its own reborn 350Z as an affordable sports car. The base model, which hits showrooms next summer, will start at $26,269. The high-performance Track edition will come in at $34,079. “On an ongoing basis,” declared executive vice president Jed Connelly, “we expect half our volume will be priced under $30,000. The two-seater, with its standard 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed manual transmission will “offer $50,000-performance for under $30,000 — just as promised,” Connelly declared during a preview at the North American International Motor Show.

 

2002 Nissan Quest Concept

2002 Nissan Quest Concept

THE QUEST FOR A BETTER MINIVAN
The Quest concept vehicle suggests Nissan’s next minivan will not only be bigger, but for more radically styled than the old Quest produced for years in a joint venture with Ford Motor Co. Nissan took the wraps off the prototype Tuesday, unveiling a chiseled design that “set out to challenge the notion that a minivan can’t be sexy and fun-to-drive,” argued designer Alfonso Albaisa. The concept features a frosted glass roof with a full-length roof-mounted console, 20-inch wheels and a power-operated, bi-fold tailgate. Inside, there’s an array of electronics, including a DVD system and even a “baby cam” for a parent to keep an eye on their children sitting in back. The images are displayed on a 16-by-4.5-inch dash-mounted video screen. Though the minivan market has declined in recent years, “it’s too big not to play in,” stressed Nissan EVP Jed Connelly. He hinted the production Quest, due shortly, will bear a strong resemblance to the prototype, “though not quite so edgy.”

 

2002 Isuzu XST concept

2002 Isuzu XST concept

 
2002 Isuzu XSR

2002 Isuzu XSR

 
2002 Isuzu XSF concept

2002 Isuzu XSF concept

THREE FROM ISUZU
The troubled Japanese automaker, Isuzu, offered up three variations on the Axiom theme to help wrap up Monday’s press preview at the North American International Auto Show. The XST is a crossover SUV/pickup, while the XSR is a sport-ute roadster clad in bright yellow paint. The two-seater gets 230 hp out of its 3.5-liter V-6, more than enough to spin its 20-inch custom-forged alloy wheels. The XST also boasts a pickup-like fold-down tailgate and an assortment of high-tech features, including a DVD system. The last version is the XSF, a high-performance package with a 3.5-liter V-6 generating 275 hp. In the past, Isuzu has shown a number of show cars that were thinly-disguised versions of upcoming products. But “We’re not ready to flip the switch this time and produce” any of the concept vehicles, cautioned vice president Rick Balsiger. They’re still not far along in the development process, he said, conceding that Isuzu’s financial problems also mean a shortage of the necessary resources.

 

2003 Subaru Baja

2003 Subaru Baja

SUBE TO MAKE GEN-X EL CAMINO?
Is the Baja the modern incarnation of the old Chevy El Camino. True, it’s got significantly less power, but the two have a lot in common, visually. One big difference is the back seat found in Subaru’s crossover car/pickup/SUV crossover vehicle, the latest in a series of “segment-busters” the Japanese carmaker has rolled out in recent years. Baja has “a healthy dose of attitude,” according to chief U.S. executive Fred Adcock. The 2003 model features 16-inch wheels, a fold-away bed extender and it’s powered by a 3.5-liter boxer six-cylinder engine. With an introduction date of September, company official suggest they’d like to sell up to 2000 a month of the American-made Baja. They hint it may be priced around $26,000, though a final decision is months away.

 

GM INTERPRETS CHAOS THEORY
General Motors saw its new car prices decline by nearly 1.3 percent last year, CFO John Devine told TheCarConnection. And the trend is certain to continue. “Reality is, we’re all going to have to live with (the trend). It’s not going to go away. But Devine also said that a manufacturer that can create some excitement for its products is in a better position to command a premium. Devine said the economic realities of the auto industry have shifted to the point where it’s become almost impossible to predict how sales will trend in the coming years. And that makes planning extremely difficult. “Some days,” he said, “it feels like a revolution. Some days it feels like chaos.”

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