2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part V

January 8, 2006

2006 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/7/2006)

 

 

Honda’s Fit for the City

 

2007 Honda Fit

2007 Honda Fit

Under a comic-book motif and an indie-rock soundtrack, with no question as to who was being appealed to, Honda introduced its new Fit, a model specifically adapted for North America from the Jazz, a popular urban model sold in other markets including Japan and Europe.

 

With a 109-hp, 1.5-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine running through a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission (claimed first in segment), the Fit offers a highly flexible passenger and cargo space, with up to 90 cubic feet of passenger volume. Honda has something called the Magic Seat, an arrangement that allows the seatbacks to fold down or the seat bottoms to flip up—providing a deeper cargo floor for tall objects or a larger cargo area for shorter, broader objects. With all seats up in place, Honda boasts that the usable cargo area is close to that of the Element behind its second row.

 

Honda puts an emphasis on safety in the Fit’s packaging, as all Fits include dual front side airbags and side-curtain airbags, along with ABD and electronic brake distribution. Otherwise, the Fit definitely tends toward the basic, with a rear torsion-beam suspension, drum brakes in back, and standard 14-inch wheels, but it does come with an electric power steering system.

 

2007 Honda Fit

2007 Honda Fit

It’s the first car in its class to offer paddle shifters with the automatic transmission, on the Sport model. A six-speaker, 160-watt sound system is available, along with an iPod Music Link accessory. The Sport model also adds larger wheels, cruise control, and various appearance goodies. A line of customized performance equipment is also available.

 

As the Civic has gradually moved up in size and price over time, the Fit takes over the entry-level spot in the Honda lineup that the Civic once occupied. American Honda executive VP Dick Colliver said that Honda has the best CAFE average of any full-line automaker, by a rather significant measure, and the company can only stand to strengthen its standing with the introduction of its new Fit. —Bengt Halvorson

 

 

Fukui: Acura Important for Global Success

 

In an address to the press at the Detroit auto show, Honda president and CEO Takeo Fukui emphasized the global establishment of the Acura brand as something very important for Honda. Fukui said that 2005 was a record year for Acura, with 209,610 sales in the U.S., and the brand should continue to grow with new products in the pipeline. The brand is set to be established in China this year, and Honda has announced plans to bring Acura to its home market Japan in 2008. In the U.S. alone, Honda expects 1.25 million sales this year, up for the tenth straight year, and predicts 1.3 million for next year—a figure that some analysts were calling conservative for the automaker who just racked up both the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. —Bengt Halvorson

 

 

Ford Edges Into Crossover Market

 

2007 Ford Edge

2007 Ford Edge

As part of a “Driving American Innovation” product and concept unveil event at the Detroit auto show, Ford’s Americaspresident Tom Fields rolled out Ford’s long-awaited mainstream crossover vehicle, the Edge, built on the same platform as the to-be-introduced Lincoln MKX.

 

In the same class as vehicles like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, or Toyota Highlander, the tall-roof Edge has a smooth, very non-trucklike shape—including a front end that bears some similarities to the recently introduced Ford Fusion sedan—that puts it in a different market segment altogether than traditional offerings like the Explorer. With a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and either front or all-wheel drive, the Edge is set to offer very carlike performance. And it will offer standout features like a huge panoramic roof. Fields said that the Edge should get good fuel economy—in the mid-20s on the highway. The Edge will be built in Oakville, Ont.—Bengt Halvorson

 

 

Toyota Plays Politics

 

About the same time Toyota’s Lexus luxury division rolled out its new flagship, the LS460L, a group of UAW workers gathered outside Detroit’s Cobo Hall to air their grievances. The protest was primarily aimed at Delphi, which is threatening to slash wages and cut jobs, but it was also an expression of frustration with import makers who are cutting sharply into the market share of the American companies. The message wasn’t entirely lost on officials from Japanese makers like Nissan, Honda and Toyota. Insiders say Toyota has already set up a task force to study what impact a GM bankruptcy might have on the company. “We’re always politically conscious,” said Jim Press, Toyota’s top American executive. “We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.” But Press insisted that Toyota doesn’t deserve to take heat for the troubles in Detroit. If anything, the executive argued, his company is picking up the slack, adding plants and U.S. jobs, as GM and Ford cut back.—TCC Team

 

 

Bill Ford Plants Stake in the Ground—Sort Of

 

Bill Ford 2006

Bill Ford 2006

“This is the year we need to stop our market share slide,” declared Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford, during a meeting with reporters at the North American International Auto Show. But while the family heir said he was confident it will happen, based on the various new models Ford is bringing to market in 2006, he warned that the company might have to back down from that goal. “I believe it can happen this year, but one thing I’m not going to do is go out there and do something stupid to stabilize share. We can all buy share,” said Ford, but he does not intend to get into a market-share-at-any-price incentive battle.

 

In a wide-ranging interview, Bill Ford said he expects the company will be “solidly profitable” when the final figures are tallied up for 2005, “but we do have a North American auto problem we’re committed to fixing.” The automaker plans to unveil a turnaround plan on January 23rd, which is expected to include the closing of as many as 10 parts and assembly plants and the elimination of perhaps as many as 35,000 jobs, according to industry sources. “Is everyone going to be happy?” he asked, rhetorically. “No, and they shouldn’t be.”

 

There has been a significant exodus at the number-two automaker over the last year, including a number of senior executives, such as former North American product development director Phil Martens. Some analysts fear that has left Ford with a shortage of what one dubbed “bench strength.” Bill Ford admitted there’ve been a lot of departures, though he insisted that “in a rapidly changing world,” that should be no surprise. “Some of the people who left couldn’t handle change,” he said, with a touch of annoyance, “and didn’t want to be a part of wrenching change.” But Ford defended the team he had, especially Mark Fields, Ford’s new President of the Americas. Fields is crafting the new turnaround plan, with the assistance of Executive Vice President Anne Stevens, and Vice President Bob Shanks. What the three share, said Ford, “is impatience, and they better be.”

 

Bill Ford has made “innovation” a guiding principle at the number two automaker. He has admitted that the company probably wasn’t aggressive enough in the past, particularly when it came to styling. All too many U.S. motorists have dropped Ford from their shopping list, the CEO admitted. To get them back, Ford has to take more risks. “You can’t be all things to all people,” said Ford. “One thing I don’t want to be is just (merely) competitive. We need to stand for something.”—TCC Team

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part I by TCC Team (1/8/2006)
Car and Truck of the year, Lexus LS has eight speeds, Enclave concept..

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part II by TCC Team (1/8/2006)
Shelby GT500, Ford Reflex, predictions for 2006 and Lutz on GM financials.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part III by TCC Team (1/8/2006)
Hyundai HCD-9 Talus, Santa Fe, and the death of the five-day car.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part IV (1/8/2006)
Nissan's next steps, Benz GL-Class, GM hybrids.

2006 Detroit Show, Part VI by TCC Team (1/9/2006)
The new face of Lincoln, Mazda Kabura, Infiniti G35 and MINI Clubman.

2006 Detroit Show, Part VII by TCC Team (1/9/2006)
GM planning big price cuts, Aston Rapide, Volvo C30, XK pricing.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part VIII by Bengt Halvorson (1/9/2006)
Jeep Compass, Toyota Camry, Nissan Sentra and Urge.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part IX by TCC Team (1/10/2006)
Camaro by the numbers, Acura RDX, Jaguar gets Ford help.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part I by TCC Team (1/8/2006)
Car and Truck of the year, Lexus LS has eight speeds, Enclave concept..

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part II by TCC Team (1/8/2006)
Shelby GT500, Ford Reflex, predictions for 2006 and Lutz on GM financials.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part III by TCC Team (1/8/2006)
Hyundai HCD-9 Talus, Santa Fe, and the death of the five-day car.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part IV (1/8/2006)
Nissan's next steps, Benz GL-Class, GM hybrids.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part V by Bengt Halvorson (1/8/2006)
Honda Fit, Ford Edge, and more from Bill Ford.

2006 Detroit Show, Part VI by TCC Team (1/9/2006)
The new face of Lincoln, Mazda Kabura, Infiniti G35 and MINI Clubman.

2006 Detroit Show, Part VII by TCC Team (1/9/2006)
GM planning big price cuts, Aston Rapide, Volvo C30, XK pricing.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part VIII by Bengt Halvorson (1/9/2006)
Jeep Compass, Toyota Camry, Nissan Sentra and Urge.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part IX by TCC Team (1/10/2006)
Camaro by the numbers, Acura RDX, Jaguar gets Ford help.

2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part X (1/10/2006)
Audi Roadjet becomes Q5, Subaru concept and Maserati.

2006 Detroit Show, Part XI (1/10/2006)
GM Value Pricing, Mitsu Eclipse and Concept-CT, CX-7 pricing, Scion xB 3.0.

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