2003 Chicago Auto Show Index by TCC Team (2/10/2003)
Look for a comeback of Cosworth, the British performance operation once closely associated with Ford of Europe. “Officially,” said Ford Motor Co.’s top muscle maven, John Coletti, “I can’t say anything.” But unofficially? First, Ford and Cosworth have inked a deal to produce new engines for Indy Series racing. And it’s pretty apparent the Cosworth name will eventually adorn some Ford products. But don’t expect it to become a high-volume badge Ford slaps on just anything. “The Cosworth brand is intended for very serious machines,” Coletti stressed, which must “put a lot of horsepower down.” When might the Cosworth badge reappear? It could be several years, other Ford sources caution.
HOT CARS R US
2004 Ford SVT Focus
LIGHTING STRIKING AGAIN
2004 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning
DODGE WANTS TO RAM THE COMPETITION
2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10
FORD UTTERS THE F-WORD WITH FREESTAR
2004 Ford Freestar
THE NAME GAME
Why abandon a well-known nameplate like Windstar? That’s always an issue as automakers roll out new models, and in some cases, it can prove disastrous. It took Acura years to regain lost ground after giving up such names as Legend for alphanumeric designations. Some marketing experts have suggested it can cost as much as $50 million to re-establish a replacement nameplate, and Ford division boss Lyons is in the ballpark. But he notes dealers will invest even more than the automaker in promoting the launch of the new minivan, and that should get them even more involved in its success. Ford decided to switch names to underscore that its minivan was completely new, and not the old, middle-of-the-road model requiring hefty incentives for dealers to push it out the door. One possible problem is that Freestar is uncomfortably close to Freestyle, the name Ford has given to a new crossover vehicle also set for launch next year. Ever upbeat, Lyons argued that “I don’t feel confusion will be a factor,” adding that if anything, the two new models may be advertised together to let buyers know they have a range of options to choose from.
MORE CROSSOVERS COMING AT FORD
“I see a couple” more crossovers coming for the Ford division after the launch of the Freestyle, Lyons told TheCarConnection.com, “and we’ll take it from there,” after seeing how they’re accepted by the market. The fragmentation of the U.S. market is forcing Ford to consider a wide range of new models that it can sell in lower volumes, anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 units a year. One big question is how big the market will be for relatively conventional passenger cars, Lyons noted. One thing Ford doesn’t see the need for, he said, is an ultra-small, entry-level car such as the Korean-made Aveo Chevrolet introduced earlier in the week. But never say never, Lyons added, admitting that “we’re going to watch” to see if the market accepts the cars, which will be produced by General Motors’ new Daewoo subsidiary.
MUSICAL CHAIRS AT THE BRIT GROUP
Mike Beasley will be the one left without a seat as he retires as managing director of Ford Motor Co.’s Jaguar brand following the upcoming launch of the new XJ sedan. Beasley’s departure sets in motion a string of changes at Ford’s so-called “Brit Group,” which also includes Aston Martin and Land Rover. Bob Dover, who’d been chief operating officer of all three marques, now become CEO and chairman of Jaguar and Land Rover, turning control of Land Rover to Matthew Taylor. These and lower-level changes serve as the first strategic realignment at the Brit Group since Mark Fields became head of Ford’s global luxury arm, the Premier Automotive Group, in mid-2002. With the PAG undergoing a sizable shift in direction, observers believe further shakeups could follow.
FOUR-C COMES TO VOLVO’S S80
2004 Volvo S80
HOTTEST VOLVOS EVER?
2004 Volvo S60R
ONE MORE TIME FOR THE CURRENT RL
The 2004 Acura 3.5 RL luxosedan hasn’t changed much for the 2004 model year, unless you’re a huge fan of XM Satellite Radio. The ’04 model of the long-running big Acura gets XM as standard equipment (except in Alaska and Hawaii, where it’s not yet available). A sound system with more speakers comes with the XM service, which Acura provides for free for three months. Too for 2004, Acura throws in its navigation system for free. A new console design with metallic inserts and burled camphor wood round out the trim upgrades. —Marty Padgett
MONSTER MINI Monster Mini
It might seem small enough to get buried in a snowdrift, but with the touch of a button, the Monster Mini can transform itself into a 300-horsepower snowmobile and claw its way through the toughest stuff Winter can throw at it. Don’t rush to your local dealer, though. This is a special one-off produced for the Dicovery Channel’s Monster Garage TV program. It took customizer Jess James less than five days and only about $3000 to transform a stock Mini into the ultimate snowmobile. When activated, the system literally raises the car’s wheels off the ground; skis up front take over the job of steering, while a pair of grooved traction belts under the rear wheels give the Mini-mobile traction.
MOTORWEEK PUTS Z AT THE TOP
The Nissan 350Z is MotorWeek’s “Best of the Year” for 2003. This is Nissan’s second win in a row — last year it ranked first with the car TV show with the four-door Altima. MotorWeek host and producer John Davis says the Z won because “it’s a terrific value at its price point.” MotorWeek’s staff also named the Z the Best Performance car; other category winners include the Mini Cooper, Saab 9-3, Mazda6 sedan, Kia Sorento, Honda Element, and Ford Expedition. —Marty Padgett