2002 Chicago Show, Part II

February 11, 2002

2002 Chicago Show, Part I by TCC Team (2/5/2002)
2002 Chicago Show, Part III by TCC Team (2/7/2002)


sponsored by Toyota

TRUCK WARS: THE BATTLE FOR CHICAGO
U.S. motor vehicle sales may be on the decline, but you wouldn’t know it from the demand for pickup trucks, especially full-size models. And there are plenty of new products on display in Chicago.

2002 Toyota Tundra Stepside concept

2002 Toyota Tundra Stepside concept

From Toyota comes the Tundra Stepside Sport Truck Concept. Actually, concept is a loose term for what seems to be a production-ready concept. A Stepside Tundra will enter production this fall for the 2003 model year, but it’s unknown whether the truck’s dashing taillamps and heavily sculpted fenders are set in sheetmetal. The Stepside’s bed retains the dimensions of the regular version, even adding 1.8 inches in bed depth. A new fascia, three-piece 20-inch wheels and a sport suspension package grace the truck, as does the standard 4.7-liter, 240-hp V-8.

2002 GMC Terra4 concept

2002 GMC Terra4 concept

General Motors, meanwhile, pulled the wraps off a trio of pickups, including the edgy concept truck, the GMC Terra4. The latest in a series of knife-edged prototypes, Terra4 features a highly flexible cargo bed with a window shade-style cover that can be retracted automatically. The sides swing open to provide extra storage space and easier access to the main cargo bed. “It challenges conventional ideas about what a truck is,” asserted GM North American President Gary Cowger, who added that, “You’ll see some Terra4 features here and there in future GM pickups.”

2003 Chevrolet Silverado

2003 Chevrolet Silverado

Consumers won’t have to wait nearly as long for the latest updates of the popular Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups. Introduced just four years ago, the trucks already are undergoing significant updates, with new front fascias, and upgraded interiors. The 2003 Silverado’s look is more aerodynamic, with redesigned headlamps, and tow hooks and fog lamps now recessed into the bumper. There are new seats and redesigned instruments and controls. The Chevy pickup’s unique four-wheel Quadrasteer system will begin rolling out on various body configurations in the coming months, including the four-door Crew Cab model.

The press didn’t have to come to meet Dodge’s new heavy-duty trucks — instead, Dodge hooked the grandstand and dragged about 90 members of the automotive press 30 feet to — what else — lunch. Just prior, Dodge introduced the next-gen heavy-duty Rams and simultaneously brought back the HEMI engine descriptor. The big Dodge pickups will sport the 345-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 standard; a 305-hp Cummins turbodiesel with 555 lb-ft of torque (that’s the high-output version; a slighter 250-hp, 460 lb-ft version is also available) is optional. Regular- and long-wheelbase versions are offered. Dodge promises class-leading acceleration and towing capacity — some 23,000 pounds’ worth. Inside, the trucks are available with side curtain airbags and adjustable pedals.

The battle for the big pickup market is certain to get even more intense. With Tundra sales soaring to a record 110,000 last year, Toyota officials confirmed they will be adding more capacity, while Nissan is readying a new full-size pickup plant in Mississippi. So far, most of these Japanese models have been sold to buyers upgrading from other import products, but that may not be the trend in the future. “Are we concerned?” asked GMC General Manager Lynn Myers. “Absolutely. We’d be fools not to be. We can’t be complacent.” Added Gary White, Vehicle Line Executive for GM’s full-size trucks, “That’s one of the biggest reasons…we’re going to continue to put resources into making these trucks better.” It took GM 11 years before it replaced its last-generation full-sized models in 1999. The current line will likely be replaced by 2006 or ’07, sources indicate.

CAFE, ACCORDING TO LUTZ
Congress is considering proposals to increase the federally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE standard, which doesn’t bode well for full-line makers such as General Motors. While declaring GM’s commitment to improving its vehicles’ mileage, Bob GM Vice Chairman Lutz took aim at the controversial CAFE rules, suggesting that using them to boost fuel economy is “like getting the nation to lose weight by forcing manufacturers to make smaller clothing sizes.”

COWGER TAKES SHOTS AT WEAK YEN

Gary Cowger Chicago 2002

Gary Cowger Chicago 2002

The growing debate over the dollar-yen exchange rate reached McCormick Place on Wednesday, when GM North America President Gary Cowger declared his company’s Japanese competitors have been given an artificial 30-percent cost advantage. That amounts to $3400 a vehicle, he added, which “is tough to offset.” That drew an immediate and sharp response from executives at several of those Asian makers, including Don Esmond, head of the Toyota division. Esmond insisted that any exchange rate advantage is minimized by the fact that Toyota’s North American assembly plants now produce two-thirds of the vehicles it sells here. Further, noted Esmond, the Big Three also benefit from the strong dollar whenever they import cars from Asia or Europe, such as Ford’s Land Rover and Jaguar models. “People should stop complaining and start competing,” Esmond asserted. A variety of factors make it difficult to come up with a clear figure, but Morgan Stanley analyst Steve Girsky puts the advantage closer to $1200 to $1400 a vehicle for Japanese makers.

TOYOTA WARMS UP TO POD

2002 Toyota POD Concept

2002 Toyota POD Concept

If you tend to exhibit signs of road rage, you’d probably not want to get anywhere near Toyota’s prototype POD. Short for Personalization On Demand, and developed in partnership with Sony, the concept vehicle “expresses human emotions,” according to Toyota Division General Manager Don Esmond, and can react to the emotions of whoever is behind the wheel. If a motorist is angry, POD might switch to soothing music, blow cool air in the driver’s face, and even deliver a verbal note of caution. The exterior of the vehicle expresses emotions, glowing bright orange, for example, after it’s been washed or refueled. The four-seater with elevator-like doors, was first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last fall, and while there are no plans to put POD itself into production, Esmond hinted—some might say warned—that some of its concepts and components “may be offered in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the near future.”

COULD YOU BE A BIT CLEARER ON THAT?
If the message hasn’t already gotten across, Ford Motor Co. officials went to great lengths to say that reports of the death of the Mercury brand have been greatly exaggerated. It is, said COO Nick Scheele, “a brand that will continue to play a significant role in Ford Motor Co. and its future.” Scheele revealed that Mercury will be getting at least six new models over the next five years. And that list could grow longer as part of an extensive rethinking of Mercury’s long-term strategy. That project is due for review by Ford Chairman Bill Ford sometime early in the second quarter.

MERCURY DROPS MARAUDER TOP

2002 Mercury Marauder Convertible concept

2002 Mercury Marauder Convertible concept

The question isn’t whether the Marauder Convertible is the best-looking Grand Marquis ever — that’s a given. The question is whether Mercury will go for the five-passenger convertible as they have with the four-door Marauder sedan set for production next year. The surprisingly sleek two-door ragtop sports an elegant shape and a 335-hp supercharged 4.6-liter V-8; Mercury says it’s no lock for production, but strong reactions from show crowds could push it closer to an assembly line. Alongside the convertible, Mercury also showed the 2003 Grand Marquis, which features substantial improvements to its frame, suspension and steering.

FORESTER REDONE FOR 2003

2003 Subaru Forester

2003 Subaru Forester

A new Subaru Forester that looks, from some angles, quite like GMC’s Envoy will go on sale in the summer as a 2003 model. The new vehicle sports the 2.5-liter, 165-hp boxer four found in current Subes, powering a new chassis that’s substantially stiffer and beefier than before. All-wheel drive is standard; the base 2.5 X features either a five-speed manual transmission with the Hill Holder clutch or a four-speed automatic, along with anti-lock brakes and dual front and side airbags. The 2.5 XS adds an in-dash six-disc CD changer, Electronic Braking Distribution and automatic climate control.

SUBARU AND GM SEEK CLOSER TIES
The first all-new product to emerge from the ties between General Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries will be a seven-passenger multi-purpose vehicle due to market in 2005 or ’06, insiders confirmed Wednesday. But other projects could be moving into view. Among other things, Fuji’s Subaru brand may provide critical components, should GM decide to go ahead with a production version of its Solstice show car, as TheCarConnection previously reported. “I think Fuji wants to become a center of excellence for General Motors in all-wheel-drive,” Fred Adcock, Subaru of America EVP, told TCC during a Chicago Auto Show preview.

MERCEDES-BENZ TILTING DIRECTIONS

2002 Mercedes-Benz F400 concept

2002 Mercedes-Benz F400 concept

The F400 prototype gives new meaning to the expression “on rails.” The Mercedes-Benz research vehicle pioneers a new concept called Active Tire Tilt Control, which automatically adjusts wheel camber by up to 20 degrees. That, in turn, provides up to 30 percent more lateral stability in a corner. The vehicle’s handling is further enhanced by an active suspension system and a variety of other high-tech features that could show up on future production models, Mercedes officials hinted. In separate news, company officials confirmed that the all-new, ultra-luxury Maybach line will reach U.S. shores during the first half of 2003. Originally scheduled for a preview during last September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the Maybach line will likely now take its first bow at the Paris car show in September 2002.

9-X COULD SET STAGE FOR FUTURE SAABS

2002 Saab 9-X concept

2002 Saab 9-X concept

It’s been called everything from “groundbreaking” to “outlandish.” But the Saab 9-X concept vehicle may be a sign of what’s to come from the Swedish automaker, says Hans Krondahl, vice president of marketing. The concept car combines the attributes of four different types of vehicles: a pickup, a sports coupe, a wagon and an open-air roadster, thanks to a power liftgate, fold-flat rear seats and a removable rear roof panel. The goal, according to Krondahl is to illustrate “the flexibility in the mind of Saab. Not all products in the future will have these features, but it shows the direction of the company.” It also underscores the direction the new car market is taking, the marketing executive argued. In the future, he suggested, consumers will want a very personalized vehicle that can meet all of their different needs and desires.

MITSUBISHI UPDATES ECLIPSE

2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

Mitsubishi used the Chicago show to unveil two new versions of its Eclipse sports car. “As goes Eclipse, so goes Mitsubishi,” said EVP Greg O’Neil. Since its introduction in 1989, the Eclipse line has been a consistently strong nameplate, and the automaker hopes to continue that momentum with the 2003 updates of the Eclipse coupe and Spyder convertible. The changes are largely cosmetic, with a new front fascia and “tuner-style” taillights. There’s also an all-new GTS Performance Package for both Eclipse models. It features a 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6, 17-inch wheels and a 210-watt Infinity sound system with a 6-CD changer.

MORE CHANGES ON THE WAY AT GENERAL MOTORS
He’s just finished shaking up the GM product development system, but Vice Chairman Bob Lutz tells TheCarConnection that other significant changes are in the offing for the long-struggling automaker. “There are always going to be changes, because GM is in a constant state of evolution,” Lutz stressed. While he declined to say what his next target will be, company insiders suggest several possibilities, notably GM’s marketing and advertising operations. Lutz noted that about 70 percent of the vehicles now in the GM product plan would likely face some level of second-guessing as part of the recent product development changes. In some cases, that could result in a complete change in such things as exterior design. The new development system, Lutz said, will require a third fewer workers, take up to eight weeks off the typical vehicle’s lead time, but most importantly, “the purpose is to guarantee home runs.”

FORD PLANS MAJOR CHANGES FOR CHICAGO ASSEMBLY
Ford COO Nick Scheele confirmed a poorly kept secret Wednesday, acknowledging the automaker will build its new CrossTrainer crossover vehicle at its Chicago Assembly Plant. The facility, currently producing the Taurus and Sable models, will be retrofitted with flexible automation systems permitting it to roll out a wide range of models simultaneously. There will be at least one other vehicle produced in Chicago once the conversion is made, according to Scheele, though the automaker is actually considering the production of three or more, including what sources describe as a tall sedan or wagon-like crossover vehicle. Another key change coming for Chicago is the development of an adjacent supplier park, much like the system at Ford’s European Saarlouis assembly plant. Suppliers—as yet unnamed—will produce their parts in sequence and just as needed on the Ford assembly line, then use a special conveyor system to move them to the Chicago line just as they are needed for production.

GMC GETTING NEW MID-SIZE UTE
The word from inside General Motors is that GMC will be getting a new Avalanche-like vehicle next year. Lynn Myers, Pontiac/GMC general manager, confirmed this week that GM is developing a sport-utility vehicle/pickup truck derivative that will be built off the same basic architecture now being used for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. The new Avalanche-like derivative will be added to the GMC lineup after the rollout and ramp-up for the new extended-wheelbase version of the Envoy, the Envoy XL. GM hasn't said yet where the new GMC sport-utility truck will be built but a good bet is the GM assembly plant in Oklahoma City where GM is now preparing to build the extended-wheelbase versions of the TrailBlazer and Envoy. In addition, GMC isn't forgetting its roots as it pursues professional-grade customers. GM also announced it is bringing out a couple of additional medium-duty models for commercial customers under the GMC nameplate. The GMC TopKick will come in C4500 and C5500 models, which will be well suited for use as shuttle buses, wreckers and snowplows, according to David Hansen, general manager of GM's Fleet and commercial operations. For even heavier jobs, the new C6500, C7500 and C8500 versions of the 2003 TopKick will be available. The new versions of the TopKick should be available by the mid-summer, GM officials said.

MOTORWEEK NAMES DRIVERS’ CHOICE
PBS' automotive show MotorWeek named its 2002 Drivers' Choice Awards at the Chicago Auto Show on Wednesday. The TV show named the following 12 category winners:

1. Best Small Car - Nissan Sentra(1)

2. Best Family Sedan - Nissan Altima

3. Best Minivan - Dodge Caravan(1), Chrysler Voyager(1), Chrysler Town & Country(1)

4. Best Convertible - Ford Thunderbird

5. Best Luxury Sedan - Cadillac CTS

6. Best Sport Sedan - Subaru Impreza WRX

7. Best Performance Car - Chevrolet Corvette Z06

8. Best Small Sport-Utility Vehicle - Saturn VUE

9. Best Family Sport-Utility Vehicle - Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer

10. Best Pickup Truck - Dodge Ram

11. Best Crossover Vehicle - Chevrolet Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT

12. Best Dream Machine - Ferrari 360 Spider/Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG/Porsche 911 GT2

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.