2003 Detroit Auto Show, Part VII

January 7, 2003

2003 North American International Auto Show banner

2003 North American International Auto Show banner

2003 Los Angeles Auto Show Ford banner with type

2003 Los Angeles Auto Show Ford banner with type

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 TITAN UNVEILED

2004 Nissan Titan

2004 Nissan Titan

Nissan is putting Ford, GM and Dodge on notice with the Titan, the company's first full-size pickup. Nissan says its full-sizer won't be a 7/8ths rendition like Toyota's Tundra, but a true full-sizer with the best power, towing and handling in the segment. The Titan comes only in King Cab and Crew Cab configurations; a 5.6-liter, 300+-hp V-8 is standard, as is a five-speed automatic transmission. Two bed lengths can be ordered, and a four-wheel-drive system activated by a pushbutton is available as well. Nissan is paying special attention to the aftermarket, and has made the Titan's bed similar in size to the competition to facilitate the development of aftermarket parts. The Titan will go on sale Dec. 1, a couple of months after Nissan introduces its first full-size SUV built off the same platform. But though they share the same platform, the Titan has a live rear axle, while the unnamed SUV features an all-independent suspension. --Marty Padgett

2003 Dodge Tomahawk concept

2003 Dodge Tomahawk concept

DODGE RUMBLES IN ON V-10 TOMAHAWK CHOPPER
The star of the NAIAS so far is the Dodge Tomahawk concept, a drool inspiring four-wheel motorcycle that is built around the Viper V-10 engine. Driven onto the Chrysler stage with a throaty roar by group COO Wolfgang Bernhardt, the Tomahawk left viewers gasping. The 505-cubic-inch engine produces 500 horsepower and theoretically can produce a top speed of 400 mph. The engine has been mated to a two-speed gearbox and a double-double chain drive system. Performance? At 590 lb, the Tomahawk could go 0-60 mph in an inertia-defying 2.5 seconds. Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche volunteered that Dodge might just build the bike in limited numbers, but no decision had yet been made. —Bill Rapai

2003 Dodge Kahuna concept

2003 Dodge Kahuna concept

OH YEAH — KAHUNA AND AVENGER, TOO
The Tomahawk debut overshadowed two other concepts shown by Dodge, the Kahuna minivan that harkens back to the classic woodies, and the Avenger rallye inspired coupe. Chrysler Group design chief Trevor Creed said that even though the Kahuna is shorter than Chrysler’s short-wheelbase minivan, it has more interior room than the long-wheelbase vans. The vehicle has 22-inch wheels that give it a huge presence and a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The exterior features Point Break Blue paint and composite bird’s-eye maple laminate side panels accented with aluminum. All exterior windows are frameless and are retractable into the doors. Overhead, a fabric roof opens from the B-pillar back to the lift gate.

2003 Dodge Avenger concept

2003 Dodge Avenger concept

The Avenger is the latest vehicle inspired by European rallye cars and popular teen video games, but carries the flexibility and utility of an American SUV. The four-door vehicle is eight inches taller than a Dodge Stratus but has a shorter wheelbase. Of course, the rear seats in the 2+2 seating configuration fold flat, and the rear doors open to 90 degrees for easy access. Creed says the vehicle demonstrates Dodge’s “enthusiast manifesto” for performance and utility. —Bill Rapai

2003 Maserati Kubang concept

2003 Maserati Kubang concept

MASERATI GOES 4X4 WITH KUBANG
In the wake of the Porsche Cayenne’s debut, Maserati brought out its own SUV concept—a wagon married with a serious grand touring car. Called Kubang, it’s named (along with the marque’s tradition) after a Javan wind.
The Kubang boasts a 48/52 percent front/rear weight distribution and has a center of mass that’s 100 mm lower than the average SUV, according to Maserati. Correspondingly, the driving position is much lower than that of other SUVs. Seating options can vary from just four individual seats to a bench seat for three in back and a third row with two rear-facing seats. For cargo-area convenience, the lower portion of the tailgate folds down to allow a flat loading area, which can also be used to transport long items.
A 390-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 provides power, delivered through an all-wheel-drive system. Its six-speed transmission is an unusual unit: a manual gearbox with mechanical electro-hydraulic control, allowing either fully automatic use or manual shifting without a clutch pedal. Top speed is more than 160 mph, and the Kubang can get to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds. Maserati emphasizes that the Kubang is not intended as an off-road vehicle. Nor is it confirmed for production — though many showgoers considered its shape finer than the Cayenne. —Bengt Halvorson

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

MITSU UNDERTAKES BIGGER ENDEAVOR
Mitsubishi finally has an entry in the mid-size, crossover SUV segment, and it promises to be very competitive. Developed over four years, the Endeavor was optimized for the U.S. market and intended for both on- and off-road use. It will be available in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions.
An emphasis was placed on making all five seating positions roomy and comfortable for long trips. Mitsubishi officials were especially eager to show the Endeavor’s interior, claiming it to be among the best in its class. In the center of the dash is a control stack with audio and climate controls. An available LCD screen combines many of the functions and is user-customizable. Cubbyholes abound throughout.
A 3.8-liter, SOHC V-6 engine makes 215 hp and is coupled with a four-speed ‘Sportronic’ automatic transmission. Underneath is a four-wheel-independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. An available towing package adds a larger capacity cooling system and full-size spare. The Endeavor will be manufactured at Mitsubishi’s Normal, Ill., assembly plant and will go on sale later this winter. —Bengt Halvorson


2003 Mitsubishi Tarmac Spyder concept

2003 Mitsubishi Tarmac Spyder concept

TARMAC SPYDER AN UNEXPECTED DELIGHT
A show surprise even to most insiders, the Mitsubishi Tarmac Spyder is, as a
Mitsubishi spokesmen put it, a one-off design study and concept that won’t see  production but instead shows the direction of future Mitsubishi sports cars or roadsters. Inspired by Mitsubishi’s CZ-3 Tarmac sports hatch concept that was
shown at the 2001 Tokyo show, and having a shape that looks like it might have come from a legendary Italian design house, the Tarmac Spyder forges new design territory for the automaker.
Intended as a youth-oriented open-air sport machine, the Tarmac Spyder also has a single-piece hardtop that can be attached. A retractable roll bar provides added safety. The Spyder boasts 2+2 seating, with the back seats looking barely large enough for a child in back.
The concept was built on a Lancer Evolution chassis and has the same 271-hp four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. The wheelbase is 3.3 inches shorter than the Lancer, and the track is slightly wider.
Metallic surfaces are emphasized inside for a racecar feel, and several other exterior touches—such as the machined aluminum gas cap—add to the racing emphasis. The Tarmac Spyder also features a video-game-inspired side-mirror-mounted camera that can replay track laps on the dash-mounted flat screen, and a high-power audio system with subwoofer. —Bengt Halvorson

2004 Subaru WRX STi

2004 Subaru WRX STi

SUBARU PEGS WRX NEEDLE
Subaru chose Detroit for the world debut of its all-new extreme-performance STi model. While the last-generation STi wasn’t allowed into the U.S. market due to emissions, Subaru’s engineers found a way to meet U.S. emissions while at the
same time bringing power above the last-generation’s 280-hp (in Japan) rating.
A street-legal rally race car, the STi is powered by a 2.5-liter version of the WRX’s 2.0-liter turbo flat four. Through a larger intercooler, variable valve timing, and various other engine modifications, the STi makes an astounding 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, put to the road through a six-speed manual transmission and Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system. The system uses a new performance-oriented Driver Control Center Differential (DCCD), which allows the driver to enter manual mode and control the amount of torque going to the front and rear wheels for handling. In automatic mode, the system apportions the torque depending on driving conditions. Special limited-slip differentials are utilized in front and back.  
A specially designed Brembo Performance Brake System uses big vented discs on all four wheels, and incorporates a g-force sensor and a brake-force distribution system to aid stopping performance. Seventeen-inch BBS wheels are standard, and the STi rides 0.4 inches lower than the WRX.
For its third model year since a complete redesign, all Imprezas—including the WRX—will get a mild redesign, including new headlights, grille, and fascia, a more aggressive exterior treatment, and a more refined interior. —Bengt Halvorson


LANSING PLANT DELAYED AGAIN

G. Richard Wagoner, General Motors’ chief executive officer, confirmed GM has pushed back the date for completing a new plant in Delta Township outside Lansing until at least 2006. GM has now delayed construction of the new $600 million plant three times since the project was first announced back in 2000, Wagoner said.  Changes in GM's product plan are the main reason for the delays in the construction of the Lansing plant, Wagoner said. In the interim, however, GM continues to continue to operate the company's old assembly plant in Lansing and expand production at the new Grand River plant and the Lansing Craft Center where the new Chevrolet SSR is being built. 

Wagoner also confirmed GM will continue to rely on incentives whenever necessary to bolster sales. GM's spending on incentive was offset by higher transaction prices, small price increases and stronger cash flow, which is key in the automotive business, Wagoner added. GM, however, will have to make a substantial contribution to its pension fund again in 2003 but is planning to cover it from cash generated through the company's day to day operations. —Joe Szczesny

VW SETS TOUAREG PRICING
Volkswagen AG set pricing for its 2004 Touareg SUV and admitted it may have to adjust pricing on an Audi to make way for the long-awaited utility vehicle. The base price of the six-cylinder Touareg will be

2004 VW Touareg on hill

2004 VW Touareg on hill

$34,900, while the eight-cylinder will start at $40,700. That pricing, said Dr. Jens Neumann, VW AG board member responsible for North America, represents real value, but is causing the company to rethink pricing on the six-cylinder Audi allroad Quattro, which invoices for $38,000-$40,000. "It is illogical pricing on the Audi and we are evaluating it," said Neumann.
Neumann said 2003 will see the launch of Touareg, Golf R32, a Passat TDI and Passat W8 (six-speed), as well as New Beetle Cabrio and Phaeton. "We needed to bring the Touareg before the Phaeton to take people up our new price structure gradually," said Neumann.
Volkswagen has suffered from quality problems, according to J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey. But Neumann said VW's slide was do mostly to small glitches like cupholder design and audio system glitches. "But we have to keep hammering away at quality, and we are working hard on our warranty costs," said Neumann.
The VW Passat, Jetta and New Beetle placed first or second in their categories this weke in Strategic Vision's new Total Delight Survey, which measures how happy customers are with their vehicle. —Jim Burt
BILL FORD SAID JOB IS GETTING EASIER
"A year ago you probably saw panic in my face," said Ford CEO Bill Ford Monday night referring to last year's North American International Auto Show, which was two months after he took over as CEO and a
Bill Ford Geneva 2002

Bill Ford Geneva 2002

week before he unveiled a revitalization plan to reverse the $5.45 billion loss of 2001. "It started to get better in the third quarter when our team really started to jell," said Ford. "Before that there were a still a lot of people jockeying and trying to sell themselves to me." Ford cited a mid-year comment from CFO Allan Gilmour who said Ford was six months behind in cutting costs as turning point where a lot of staffers "kicked it into high gear." Gilmour, a retired Ford executive, came back to offer his assistance to the automaker last year, indicating plans to stay several years. In recent days, there'd been reports he might leave ahead of schedule, though Gilmour is denying such plans. For his part, Ford said he isn't about to let Gilmour go, adding "he has a free pass to stay as long as wants." Even with his team in place, Ford admitted "We still have another tough year ahead...maybe in another year I can really start to enjoy this."
He also said he was looking forward to playing a larger role in the auto industry, leading industry causes like environmental issues. "But I have to get our own house in order first." —Jim Burt with TCC Team
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