2005 Chicago Auto Show, Part II

February 10, 2005

2005 Chicago Auto Show Index by TCC

Civic Si Concept Cranks Out 200 HP

It’s just a concept – but the Civic Si shown at Chicagoby Honda is a clear warning shot across the bow of the latecomers in the sport-compact segment. Honda showed the Si two-door in advance of its fall launch as a 2006 model as “just a taste” of what’s coming, new senior vice president of American Honda John Mendel said. The concept, he added, is about 90 percent accurate when compared against the production model coming later in the year. The Si will return to the two-door Civic lineup with a four-cylinder engine worth 200 hp – the most powerful Civic ever built by the factory. The 8000-rpm redline engine is teamed to a six-speed manual gearbox; the concept wears 18-inch wheels, four-piston Brembo brakes, and high-performance tires. An aero kit and a black-accented hood round out the concept. The lineup of Civics will also include a standard two-door Coupe, a four-door Sedan, a new Civic Hybrid with better fuel economy, and a natural-gas-powered Civic GX.

Honda is SEMA’s Vehicle of the Year

The first official public outing for the production Civic Si will be this fall’s SEMA show, where Honda will also be the Vehicle Manufacturer, a special honor for influential brands at the show. The Specialty Equipment Market Association show, held in Las Vegas each fall, is welcoming Honda to the party as the first Japanese brand to get the Vehicle Manufacturer designation. "It has been quite some time since SEMA has had the pleasure to announce a new Vehicle Manufacturer of the SEMA Show," said Christopher J. Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. "We are predicting the synergy between Honda and our 2005 exhibitors will be extremely powerful." The 2005 SEMA Show happens Nov. 1-4, 2005, at the Las Vegas Convention Center .

Kia’s Big Baby is New Sedona

2006 Kia Sedona

2006 Kia Sedona

Enlarge Photo
Dubbing it their “big baby,” Kia execs unveiled the new Sedona minivan to Chicagoaudiences. The 2006 model aims squarely at the class leaders, the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, not only in its features but also in its profile. The cleanly styled Sedona is built from a new platform which it will share with Hyundai, as that brand offers its first minivan in the fall. The Sedona brings a new 3.8-liter V-6 with approximately 240 horsepower and a five-speed automatic to the party, besting many entries and slightly shy of Honda’s Odyssey engine. Kia promises 15 percent more passenger room as well as an easily accessible third-row seat that’s split 60/40 and folds flat into the floor. Standard curtain airbags protect all three rows of passengers, and anti-lock brakes are also on the standard equipment list. Even with a lighter structure, Kia expects five-star safety ratings from U.S.safety agencies. Pricing won’t be announced until later in the year.

Kia Aiming To “Americanize”

As the smaller stepchild to Hyundai, South Korea’s best-selling automaker, Kia is struggling to carve out its own identity and keep its momentum going. There’s no question the company is on a roll, sales soaring from a modest 12,000 in 1994 to a solid 270,000 a decade later. With an array of new models, Kia is attracting new buyers and getting them to open up their wallets a bit wider – the company’s typical transaction price increasing from $12,000 to $20,000 over the last four years. But CEO Peter Butterfield and other Kia executives admit there are plenty of challenges standing in the way of their aggressive growth plans. Quality has been a nagging problem, with the Korean maker long lagging at the back of the pack, according to various J.D. Power surveys. The numbers have improved significantly, but even so, Butterfield conceded that “a lack of awareness” may be an even bigger issue, long-term. Company studies suggest only 54 percent of American buyers even realize that Kia sells cars. To build awareness without breaking its budget, the carmaker is turning away from TV and using more non-traditional marketing methods to directly connect with consumers. And what it plans to show U.S. buyers is a growing lineup of vehicles that are distinctly Kia, but also geared specifically to the U.S. market. The automaker has invested about $200 million in new design, engineering and test track facilities in the States. Kia also hired away fast-rising GM stylist Tom Kearns. “You can count on” the U.S. studios playing a lead role in new products, particularly those primarily aimed at the American market, Kearns asserted during an interview with TheCarConnection. Equally important, he stressed, Kia will work to ensure that future vehicles will not simply look like badge-engineered versions of Hyundai vehicles. And that will likely mean a number of separate platforms not shared with the larger brand.

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