2003 Detroit Auto Show, Part II

January 5, 2003

The Detroit auto show is underway, and TCC is on the ground to bring you the latest product introductions. Stay tuned tomorrow as we update you on the latest from Toyota, Hyundai, Rolls-Royce and Audi.

Related Articles:
2003 L.A. Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/1/2003)
2003 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/2/2003)

NISSAN PAIRS UP MINIVAN, MAXIMA

2004 Nissan Quest

2004 Nissan Quest

Nissan unveiled two models Sunday, the 2004 Quest minivan and the 2004 Maxima. The Quest is a low-slung minivan with styling and performance cues from some of Nissan’s sportier models. The engine is a 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 that puts out 230 horses. But to keep the family safe, the vehicle also comes with curtain airbags standard. To address one of the major complaints of minivan drivers,  Nissan designed the sliding doors to be 4 inches wider than any of the vans on the road today to make the third row more accessible. The Quest will go on sale in the summer of 2003.

2004 Nissan Maxima

2004 Nissan Maxima

The Maxima further refines the somewhat oxymoronic category of four-door sports car. The Maxima boasts a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 265 horses and 255 lb-ft of torque. It also has a six-speed close ratio transmission. The model will also be available in a four-seat elite package with two rear bucket seats.
Both models will be built in the United States.  —Bill Rapai

2003 Buick Centieme concept

2003 Buick Centieme concept

HOW DO YOU SAY BUICK IN FRENCH?
Start with Centieme, in France what they would call the Century. But this is no ordinary Buick. Combining features of a sedan, ute and wagon into an elegantly sleek design, the Centieme is very definitely designed to give a sense of where the GM division is aiming to go in the future. "We want to signal Buick will be more premium," explained General Manager Roger Adams. As sibling division Cadillac moves upmarket, he explains, Buick hopes to follow right behind, and the Centieme, or something close in concept, could have a very real place in the lineup. It's significant to note that "the starting point" for developing the show car was "that it had to be buildable," relying on the carmaker's next-generation mid-size platform. The Centieme is powered by a 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 making 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. —TCC Team

2003 Pontiac G6 concept

2003 Pontiac G6 concept

PONTIAC G6 A THIN DISGUISE
More and more, concept vehicles suggest what really is in the production line-up for automakers like General Motors. And the Pontiac G6 is no exception. The swoopy sedan features a four-door coupe-style body wrapped around a 285-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. Its Displacement-on-Demand technology automatically shuts off half of the engine's cylinders to reduce fuel consumption. "This one is very close to production," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says of the G6, though the DoD technology won't hit the street initially. Look for the G6 to wear a Pontiac Grand Am badge when it rolls out in about 18 months. —TCC Team

2003 Chevrolet SS concept

2003 Chevrolet SS concept

SS=SWEET AND SEXY
It's not often a concept car elicits a flurry of gasps from the jaded community of auto writers, but there was no mistaking the reaction when Chevrolet's SS prototype rolled onto the stage during GM's Sunday concept car preview. Reviving the legendary badge used for some of the automaker's highest-performance products, the SS is a curvaceous, four-door sedan clearly influenced by muscle cars past, with a hint of Ferrari in the rear. Under the hood: a 430-hp all-aluminum longitudinal V-8 powering the back wheels. "It's clearly one of our most exciting concepts," said GM "Car Czar" Bob Lutz, adding the tantalizing note that "Something like this feasible." But is it likely to grace the Chevy lineup any time soon? Lutz isn't saying, though he acknowledged that is a question the automaker is very definitely asking itself right now. —TCC Team

2003 Chevrolet Cheyenne concept

2003 Chevrolet Cheyenne concept

CHEVY HEAD FOR INDIAN COUNTRY
Standing in sharp contrast to the sleek lines of GM's three passenger car concepts is the Chevrolet Cheyenne. The edgy pickup may be the least likely of the 2003 showings to make it into production, but it suggests some of the design cues that future GM trucks will follow, according to company officials. That includes a wheels-to-the-corner layout, and an innovative two-position tailgate meant for easy loading. The bed can also be accessed through two side access panels. The Cheyenne is powered by a 6.0-liter version of the Vortec V-8 pumping out 500 horsepower and 580 lb-ft of torque. —TCC Team

GM MAKES PASSENGER CAR PUSH
The decision to show three concept cars and only one truck prototype reflects a shift in General Motors' strategy, conceded Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. With GM increasingly dominant in the truck market -- which today accounts for more than half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. -- the automaker is looking to rebuild its share of the sedan, coupe and sports car segments, once-prime territory now dominated by the imports. "You're seeing the beginning of a new emphasis on passenger cars," said Lutz. And General Motors isn't alone. Both Ford and Chrysler report shifting more resources from trucks to cars as they develop products for mid-decade. —TCC Team

GM TO KEEP THE CASH FLOWING
"We're going to remain aggressive," said GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, signaling the automaker's intent to keep priming the incentives pump that helped it boost market share in 2002 for the second year in a row. That's not good news for other automakers, such as Volkswagen, where Jens Neumann, board member overseeing U.S. operations, grumbled that his company won't slash its profits just to maintain market share. VW suffered a five-percent decline in sales last year, halting a steady revival that began a decade ago. The Chrysler side of DaimlerChrysler has also tried to hold out, generally weighing in with lower incentives than its cross-town rival, GM. Though that has cost it market share, marketing chief Jim Schroer told TheCarConnection he is intent on avoiding what he dubbed the "incentive doom loop." The ever-increasing incentives GM has rolled out are "like doing the limbo," he said. "You keep lowering the bar until, at the end of the day, you break your back." —TCC Team

GM TO MAKE DoD A MILEAGE-BOOSTING MAINSTAY
General Motors will introduce its new Displacement-on-Demand technology next year, a system in which half an engine's cylinders are disabled when power requirements are low. That can boost mileage by 20 percent or more. DoD will roll out first on its big, V-8-powered trucks for 2004. But it will show up on a wide range of additional products, as well," said Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. "We're going to move Displcement-on-Demand across (most all) model lines in the next two to three years," he revealed to TheCarConnection. The automaker's pushrod V-6 engines should be next in line to add the technology, most likely in 2005. —TCC Team

GM SHRUGS OFF FIAT TALK
John Devine, General Motors chief financial officer, said Sunday GM has no opinion yet on the latest effort to pump some new life into the Italian automaker Fiat. An Italian industrialist, with the apparent blessing of the Italian government,  is putting together a deal to take over the struggling Italian carmaker through a deal valued at $8 billion. The deal could release GM, which now owns 20 percent of Fiat, from the obligation to buy the rest of Fiat's stock next year. Devine, however, says he doesn't know any of the details of the latest. Devine also confirmed GM is preparing a new plan for unloading its interest in Hughes Electronics. GM’s effort to sell Hughes to EchoStar, another large provider of satellite-television services, failed last year after the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Justice Department
objected to the deal. "It was always a risky deal but we thought we could get it done," added Devine. But had not anticipated the FCC and the justice department nixing the deal. —Joe Szczesny

2003 Audi Pikes Peak quattro concept

2003 Audi Pikes Peak quattro concept

AUDI CLIMBING CLOSER TO SUV TERRITORY
Inspired by the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the Pikes Peak Quattro crossover concept has the tall-roofline-wagon/hatchback exterior shape that’s all too common, but it brings a flexible, progressive interior design, including what Audi terms “4+2” seating. In market-speak, it represents Audi’s first SUV entry and the brand’s intent to greatly expand its market share. With three pairs of individual seats, there’s space for up to six, but the second row of seats folds down from the driver’s seat via remote control. The second row of seats has its own retractable center console. The interior is lavished in soft tones, matte-brushed aluminum, and Japanese ashwood trim. Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) is mounted in the center console. 500-hp, direct-injection bi-turbo V-8 powers all four wheels through Audi’s quattro system (to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds), with help from an Electronic Differential Lock and Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP). Safety features include an out-of-position airbag system, adaptive cruise control, and a lane departure system that scans the roadway with an optical sensor and also a sensor that detects changes in steering-wheel vibration. LED-based fog lamps and clear-lens xenon headlamps provide optimized lighting. The adaptive air suspension automatically lowers at higher speed, and ground clearance can be varied by 11 inches. —Bengt Halvorson

AUDI TO USE TOUAREG PLATFORM?
The Pikes Peak quattro concept vehicle revealed at the North American International Auto Show Sunday is based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne. "The Audi brand still has enormous potential and I believe we are at the start of a new wave of success," Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the Audi's Board of Management, said. "We want to be selling between 180,000 and 200,000 cars per year. And we will achieve this by investing in both our customers and our products," added Winterkorn before the official reveal of the eye-catching Pikes Peak quattro, which was described as an Audi version of SUV. The Pikes Peak quattro, however, is more than just any concept vehicle, Audi officials said privately after the official press conference. It was very deliberately built on the Touareg/Cayenne platform to build the business case for an Audi-style SUV. The final decision on whether to go ahead and utilize the Touareg platform hasn't been made yet — but Audi's top management is acutely aware of the fact the company needs an entry in the SUV segment if it wants to hit Winterkorn's ambitious growth targets. —Joe Szczesny

JCI, STEELCASE TEAMING UP
Johnson Controls, one of the auto industry's top suppliers of seats, is teaming up with Steelcase, the nation's top supplier of office furniture. Jeff Edwards, JCI Group vice president, said Sunday that Johnson Controls plans to use the technology borrowed from Steelcase to make automotive seats more comfortable and convenient.  The new seat will use Steelcase's "Leap" technology in a unique system to support the driver and passenger's lower back and an "anthropometric" pivot to improve comfort and posture. In addition, the seat bottom, borrowed from Steelcase, automatically adjusts as the seat back reclines.  "We have taken the best technologies in office seating and designed and engineered those features into a true automotive-grade seat system that we consider appropriate for the finest automobiles in the world," Edwards said.  Frank Merlotti, Steelcase's president, said the new seat is the result of almost two years of work by Steelcase designers who were asked to see if they could come up with a better seat for mid-size sport utility vehicle. —Joe Szczesny

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