2003 New York Show, Part I Page 2

April 16, 2003

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

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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.



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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