2003 L.A. Auto Show, Part I

January 2, 2003

The Los Angeles auto show is underway, and TCC is on the ground to bring you the latest product introductions. Check back with us later today and tomorrow for updates and breaking news from the show floor, as well as the first glimpse at concepts from Ford, GM, and Toyota.

Related Articles:
2003 L.A. Auto Show, Part II by TCC Team (1/3/2003)
Complete 2003 L.A. Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/1/2003)
2003 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/2/2003)

2003 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 concept

2003 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 concept

MAGNUM IS DODGE’S SPORT WAGON
Call it a wagon, a CrossTourer, or simply “too cool to classify,” Dodge is betting big on the new Magnum, which took its turn in the L.A. spotlight on Thursday. With clear European sport wagon heritage—and a number of components borrowed from Mercedes-Benz, “the look is daring and clearly in your face,” declared Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group CEO. Due to hit the road about a year from now, the Magnum will be the first vehicle based on Chrysler’s all-new LX platform, its first new large-car chassis since the LH series debuted a decade ago. But the LX platform can be used in a variety of drivetrain configurations, and the Magnum will initially be available in rear-drive layout with an all-wheel-drive package to follow. The L.A. show car features a supercharged version of the new 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 pumping out 430 horsepower. In production, Dodge plans three engine options – at least initially – including a 200-hp 2.7-liter V-6, a 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and the iron block 5.7-liter Hemi now offered in Chrysler’s truck line. In that normally aspirated configuration, the Hemi is producing 345 hp. The Magnum follows the classic sport wagon layout, with two rows of seats and a moderate-sized cargo bed in back.

CHRYSLER PARTNERS INK GLOBAL ENGINE DEAL
Three members of the DaimlerChrysler family have inked a Memo of Understanding to produce a new line of high-tech, four-cylinder engines. The Chrysler Group, Mitsubishi Motors and Hyundai will hold equal shares in the as-yet-unnamed new company, though the American automaker will operate as the lead. Production of the new line will begin in 2004 in South Korea, with Japan and the U.S. to follow within a year. According to Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche, a production site has not yet been selected for the States, though “a greenfield (plant) is the…likely scenario.” All told, plans call for production of about 1.5 million engines a year. Two existing Chrysler engine families could eventually be replaced by the new family of four-cylinder powerplants, which would include a primary engine of around 2.0 liters of displacement. Normally aspirated and turbocharged models appear to be under study, Zetsche hinted. For Chrysler, the engines would find use in a variety of products, particularly future C-segment models. Zetsche confirmed the new engine plant would almost certainly be represented by the United Autoworkers Union.

BIG IS BETTER
Like its domestic rivals, DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group is shifting emphasis a bit, with more development dollars earmarked for future passenger cars. That apparently includes a push into the full-size car category that Chrysler had all but written off with the launch of its K-cars two decades ago. During a breakfast meeting in advance of the L.A. Auto Show, CEO Dieter Zetsche predicted there will be “a revival of American large cars.” The demise of the large car was product-driven, Zetsche contended. Or more precisely, the lack of fresh product. “We think we can grow it again, driven by supply.” The move is part of Chrysler’s “strong product offensive,” which begins in ’03 “and will even accelerate in ’04.” The German executive acknowledged there are plenty of uncertainties that might force Chrysler to rethink its long-term strategy, which includes larger, more powerful and more up-market vehicles. That includes the fate of Iraq, which could determine long-term fuel prices and supplies.

2003 Ford Faction concept

2003 Ford Faction concept

FORD’S FACTION-AL DESIGN
Ford took an unusual turn in developing the Faction, a “concept SUV for urban lifestyles.” The first vehicle design to roll out of the automaker’s London-based Ingeni studio, it was heavily influenced not by automotive trends, but “by some of Europe’s leading furniture designs,” said Ford’s J Mays. The all-wheel-drive, three-door crossover is designed to take on crowded urban streets, rather than rugged off-road environs. It features doors that are easy to open in tight parking spaces, and City Eye, a camera system for spotting things hidden behind you.

2003 Ford Thunderbird SC concept

2003 Ford Thunderbird SC concept

MORE THUNDER FROM THE T-BIRD
Could a high-performance version of the Thunderbird be in the offing? That seemed a strong hint as Ford lifted the covers off the Thunderbird Performance Concept, a 390-horsepower version of the retro roadster. The tricked out ragtop features a supercharged, 3.9-liter V-8 and a lot of added flash, starting with the chromed louvers cut into the production car’s hood. Virtually every panel of the current T-bird was “massaged,” according to Ford design chief J Mays. Will the automaker build it? Stay tuned, but it would be in keeping with earlier pronouncements from Ford that it intends to maintain demand for the 2-seater by regularly rolling out new variants.

FORD GOES GREEN WITH CALIF. FOCUS
Starting in March, all Ford Focus vehicles sold in California – except those wearing the high-performance SVT badge – will get a new, 148-horsepower, 2.3-liter engine. That’s not only 13 percent more powerful than the current, 2.0-liter Focus powerplant, it’s also a lot cleaner, qualifying for California’s incredibly stringent PZEV, or “Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle” standard. The automaker will then beginning rolling out the PZEV model across the U.S. With the Golden State’s emphasis on the environment, Ford officials believe they can boost Focus sales in the state by 10 percent in 2003.

2003 Scion xA

2003 Scion xA

SCION UNVEILS FIRST TWO MODELS
It’s back to the future at Scion, the new, youth-oriented division from Toyota. The automaker’s growing success is closely linked to its popularity with the Baby Boomers. But the challenge will be winning over tomorrow’s young buyers. The division introduced two new products in L.A., which will go on sales when Scion launches this coming June. The xA is a sporty five-door with a “hunkered-down feel.” It’s based on the Ist, a subcompact currently sold in Japan, though it gets bigger tires and a lowered, more sporty suspension for the U.S.

2003 Scion xB

2003 Scion xB

The xB will be a production version of the boxy bbX shown last year and also already in production in Japan. A micro-minivan, it will make good use of space, delivering more room for passengers than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class and more cargo space than the Land Rover Freelander. It will also offer stability control, a rarity in the subcompact segment – and even more unusual considering the well-equipped vehicles will carry a base price of just under $16,000.

Scion logo

Scion logo

But Scion customers will be likely to run that figure up a good bit, company officials acknowledge. Company studies show the typical target buyer adds $1000 to $3000 worth of aftermarket accessories to their vehicles. A key piece of the Scion strategy is to supply those accessories through company dealers, rather than letting customers turn to outside vendors. “It’s about personalization,” declared Scion’s new general manager, Jim Farley. But it’s also about borrowing a page from the past, he acknowledged. When Toyota first started gaining ground in the U.S., it shipped stripped-down cars from Japan. If Boomer buyers wanted to add a better radio, nicer seats or air conditioning, for example, the vehicles were upgraded at port facilities or by local dealers. The strategy simplified production and boosted margins. Toyota hopes to sell 100,000 Scions annually.

TOYOTA TOPPLES ANOTHER RECORD
It was a good year for Toyota. The Japanese automaker is threatening to become the nation’s best-selling passenger car nameplate and, when final 2002 numbers are reported on Friday, the automaker’s top American executive, Jim Press, hinted it would report its seventh consecutive year of record U.S. sales. “We’re bullish about our sales prospects for this year, as well,” Press added. He may have good reason considering the flood of 19 new or upgraded products, including the first two Scion models, hitting the road between May and November 2003.

2003 BMW Z8 Alpina

2003 BMW Z8 Alpina

SCALING THE ALPINAS
With enough money -- $137,600 to be exact -- about 400 U.S. buyers out of just 555 worldwide will be able to climb into the new BMW Z8 Alpina. Long offered in Europe, BMW bills the Alpina line as an alternative to the balls-to-the-wall performance of its M models. Those vehicles wearing the Alpina badge are a bit “more refined…. and exclusive,” according to the automaker’s U.S. sales chief, Tom Purves. And unlike M models, they come with automatic transmissions. The first Alpina to reach the U.S., the Z8 version will be offered for only one year, but Purves suggested “this is a start,” and sometime in 2005, another Alpina model could make the trans-Atlantic crossing.

HAS 7-SERIES REDEEMED ITSELF?
If sales are any measure, then BMW can comfortably thumb its nose at the many critics of the controversial 7-Series sedan. Derided for its unusual shape and challenging iDrive electronic control system, the 7-er nonetheless racked up sales of about 20,000 units last year, a record for BMW’s biggest passenger car. “It’s often those controversial designs that are seen (later) to have broken the mold,” said BMW’s top U.S. executive, Tom Purves.

2003 Maybach 57

2003 Maybach 57

MAYBACH MAINTAINS COURSE
Though its officials launch is still six months away, DaimlerChrysler officials report they’ve already taken 100 official orders for their new, $300,000-plus Maybach sedans. And that number doesn’t reflect the informal orders reported by dealers who have not formally opened their doors yet, company officials told TheCarConnection.com. So far, about 80 percent of the marque’s U.S. customers have been opting for the shorter M57, rather than the 22-foot-long (6.2-meter) M62.

Aston Martin DBAR1

Aston Martin DBAR1

ASTON MARTIN GOES TOPLESS
You better have faith in your local weatherman if you’re interested in the new Aston Martin DBAR1. A Zagato-bodied version of the DB7 Volante, the roadster dispenses with one item normally found on most cars: a top. There’s only a bare-bones tonneau that can be used to keep out the rain when the DBAR1 is parked. For the moment, the two-seater is caught somewhere between concept and production. The British Ford subsidiary says it needs to attract at least 66 customers to justify building the roadster, and will hold production to more than 99. Unlike the Zagato edition Aston showed in Europe last year, this is a full-length variation of the standard DB7 – which permits it to meet stringent U.S. crash requirements. The base, 425-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12 can be upgraded to 435 hp on manual transmission models.

2020
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
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.