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

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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.

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.

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.

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