2003 New York Show, Part I

April 16, 2003

Related Articles:
2003 New York Show Coverage by TCC Team (4/16/2003)
All the news from the Javits Center, circa 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Scheele 2003 New York show

Nick Scheele 2003 New York show

READY, SHOOT, AIM

As part of the turnaround plan announced in January 2002, Ford announced it would roll out about 65 new North American products during a five-year offensive. Scheele reiterated that goal during the keynote speech at the New York Auto Show. But now he’s confident he can actually achieve it. The automaker is completely reorganizing its product development process, he announced, replacing six “loosely-tied” groups with one North American operation. Combined with other efficiency measures, it should result in “twice the number of products compared to the traditional rate of introduction,” and without having to increase Ford’s design and engineering headcount. Since the goal of launching 65 products hasn’t changed, it left some observers confused. But a Ford source later explained that 15 months ago, Ford’s top management laid out a plan they could then “only hope to achieve.” With the new product development process, they now feel confident they’ll live up to their word.

 

2004 Ford Escape HEV

2004 Ford Escape HEV

FORD’S FIRST HYBRID HITS THE ROAD

Hybrids can’t get by simply promising better fuel economy, cautioned Ford Division General Manager Steve Lyons, as the automaker’s first gasoline/electric vehicle, the Escape HEV, took center stage at the New York Auto Show. Hybrids also need to deliver great design, performance and an affordable price, he insisted. The Escape version, he promised, will do all that. It features an 65 kilowatt I-4 gasoline engine, or roughly 100 horsepower, mated with a 28 kw, or 45 hp, electric motor. The vehicle will be able to operate in purely electric mode, run solely on gasoline, or combine both to deliver peak acceleration similar to the Escape V-6. The government rates the new vehicle at 35 mpg in the City cycle, and the Escape HEV will quality as a SULEV under current emissions rules.

 

2003 Honda FCX

2003 Honda FCX

TCC DRIVES THE FCX

TheCarConnection got a good, firsthand look at what could be the car of the future, or at least Honda’s interpretation of it, when it went for a drive in the FCX fuel cell vehicle. Equipped with a 75 kilowatt fuel cell and an energy-storing ultra-capacitor, the Honda hatchback “accelerates up to 30 faster than a Civic and about as well as a Civic above 30,” noted Stephen Ellis. The manager of alternative fuel vehicles at Honda, he accompanied TCC on a drive up the West Side Highway. The biggest news: the FCX was virtually indistinguishable, while driving, from a Civic — except for its near silent operation. Honda has notably subdued the whining noise other fuel cell vehicles suffer from due to the compressors that pump fuel into the fuel cell stack. Storing about nine pounds of compressed hydrogen onboard gets about 175 miles range, and larger, higher pressure tanks are under development. Despite the progress Honda has made with the FCX, Ellis cautioned that it could be a decade before significant numbers of this or a future fuel cell vehicle hit the road.

 

2003 Chrysler 300C Concept

2003 Chrysler 300C Concept

CHRYSLER REVEALS “A NEW DEFINITION” OF DESIGN

The U.S. arm of DaimlerChrysler took the wraps off the 300 Hemi C concept vehicle, a thinly-disguised version of its next-generation flagship sedan. The 300C will replace such current vehicles as the 300M. The new five-seater is taller, more muscular and anything but cab-forward. It’s also a good deal more expensive looking, a goal laid out by Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who wants to not only boost Chrysler sales but move the marque up-market. The production 300C will feature many of the touches shown on the prototype, company officials suggested, such as traction and stability control. It will launch in rear-drive configuration, though an all-wheel-drive package will follow soon afterwards. Making use of Mercedes-Benz engineering assistance, and componentry, the underlying LX platform will eventually be fleshed out with a wide range of new models. But Zetsche emphasized his commitment to avoid badge-engineering, or look-alike products shared by various Chrysler Corp. divisions. The prototype 300 Hemi C features a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 rated at “well over 350 hp.” A Hemi option will appear on the production list.

 

2003 Volvo VCC concept

2003 Volvo VCC concept

CONCEPT HINTS AT FUTURE LUXURY VOLVO

For the moment, it’s just a show car, but Volvo’s Versatility Concept Car provides a good look at what is likely to become the Volvo V90. It is “our vision of what a future Volvo luxury wagon would look like,” suggested the Swedish automaker’s new design chief, Henrick Otto. Surprisingly curvaceous for a Volvo, designers aimed to instill what Otto called “drama” in the VCC. One of the more unusual features is the headlight design. A series of vertical slits contain so-called Fixed Bending Lights, which actually track left or right while the car is cornering. The VCC has large doors and no B-pillar between them, the rear doors opening in reverse. Up front, there’s Nubock leather shag carpeting in the Scandinavian post-modern interior. The VCC consolidates gauges and controls for a clean look. Each of the five passengers gets a touch-screen display for access to all sorts of digital technology. In the leather covered cargo compartment, a touch extends the cargo floor and uncovers two hidden compartments, one heated, one cooled. Volvo has a solid track record, in recent years, of transforming concepts into production cars, such as the S60R sports sedan, and the hot-selling XC90 sport-ute.

 

ARE YOU SIRIUS?

Mercedes-Benz is the latest automaker to sign on with Sirius Satellite Radio, the largely-commercial free, subscription-based infotainment service. Virtually all Mercedes models will offer satellite-equipped radios, starting in the 2004 model year, allowing customers to opt or not for the $10 monthly service. Sirius got off to a slow start that put it about a year behind, officials concede, due to technical glitches with their receiver software. Some analysts question the company’s viability but Senior Vice President Doug Wilsterman contended that a recent restructuring will help. It resulted in the start-up firm’s debt being cut from around $700 million to $75 million. Sirius, he said, now has somewhere in the range of 75,000 subscribers, and the “projection for the year is 300,000. We’re tracking pretty close with what our competitor (XM Radio) did, and we’re about a year behind.” The debt restructuring, he emphasized, will allow Sirius to break even when it hits 2 million subscribers, half its original forecast.

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