2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part VI

January 9, 2006

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

 

Lincoln Sports New Face, New Outlook

 

2006 Lincoln MKS Concept

2006 Lincoln MKS Concept

The perennial question – what is Lincoln? – may finally be answered by two concepts unveiled at this year’s North American International Auto Show. The MKS show car intends to show where the troubled luxury brand will go with a new flagship sedan expected to market for 2008. Somewhat up-market from today’s LS, the MKS aims for the middle of today’s luxury segment, where products like the BMW 5-Series now dominate. The sporty sweep of the roof line sharply contrasts the current LS. The interior is filled with electronic goodies, including a 14-speaker audio system and Bluetooth hands-free phone technology. The suede dash is accented by a “ribbon of maple,” noted Ford Motor Co.’s North American design director, Peter Horbury. Under the hood, the MKS features a 315-hp V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic and an all-wheel-drive powertrain.

 

The MKS is one of “two examples of how we’re sharpening and redefining the Lincolnbrand,” explained Horbury. The other new model, unveiled at CoboCenteron Monday, is the MKX, a nearly production-ready crossover vehicle due to market late this year. Spacious and sleek, with an optional panoramic sunroof, the MKX is arguably the first American entry into this expanding luxury crossover segment. Features include heated and cooled front seats and optional heated rear seats, adaptive headlights, and roll stability control, a technology borrowed from Ford’s Volvo brand. The all-wheel-drive powertrain is driven by a 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6.

 

2007 Lincoln MKX

2007 Lincoln MKX

The MKX crossover is designed to refocus a brand whose image has become quite blurred in recent years, as its sales slump in the face of a withering import assault. Exactly who Lincoln intends to target – and how – was the question repeatedly posed to Ford Executive Vice President Anne Stevens, following the reveal of the MKX. The brand intends to be “luxurious, not ostentatious, comfortable but not gauche,” she suggested. And it will target “American buyers…who are living the American dream…and want an American car,” she added, repeating the patriotic theme hammered home during the Lincoln news conference. The irony? The new MKX will be assembled at Ford’s newly-upgraded assembly plant in OakvilleCanada.

Preview: 2007 Lincoln MKX (1/9/2006)
Ford Motor's luxury brand joins the hot crossover segment

Lincoln MKS: Becoming LS? by Bengt Halvorson (1/9/2006)
All-wheel-drive concept prefaces new division flagship.

 

 

 

How Much Upside at Chrysler?

 

The only American automaker to post a sales gain in 2005, DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group is looking for ways to grow. While there are some weak spots in the lineup, the company is nonetheless on a roll, analysts generally agree, as it enters 2006. Most of its factories are operating at or near normal capacity, so CEO Tom LaSorda is looking for ways to squeeze even more out of those plants, rather than adding facilities in a market with severe over-capacity issues. His goal? Add third shifts wherever possible and move increasingly to flexible facilities that can allow Chrysler to shift production to respond to swings in market demand. Adding that capacity “is free,” he said, at least if you don’t count the added workforce. Going to third shift operations could boost output to as much as 3.5 to 4.0 million, LaSorda said. The automaker isn’t likely to need that much any time soon, however. Sales last year just nudged the 3.0 million mark.

 

But added capacity will certainly be needed at a few key plants, such as the one in Brampton , Ont., building Chrysler’s rear-drive LX models. The 300 series is sold out and the biggest challenge for Challenger would be finding space on the line. The retro muscle car debuts in Detroit this week, and LaSorda said his team will be watching closely to see how strong the media and public react. But there’s no question that the automaker is strongly interested in finding a place in the line-up for Challenger. It’s far less likely to add the big Imperial, which was revealed on Sunday. The stretched version of the 300 was “nothing but a concept,” LaSorda stressed.

 

LaSorda was asked about the new joint venture with Volkswagen, which will take a version of the next-generation Chrysler minivan. VW’s global brand czar, Wolfgang Bernhard, hinted there could be future projects in store for the partners, and LaSorda cautiously agreed. “Obviously, we want to open the doors to more cooperation and work,” not only with Volkswagen, but other potential partners. LaSorda said that Chrysler likely couldn’t have developed its next-generation of small and compact cars without sharing development costs with the Japanese maker, Mitsubishi. And with the automotive market continuing to fragment, such ventures will be critical to building a business case for lower-volume products in the future.

 

 

Jeep Breaks Out with New Wrangler

 

2007 Jeep Wrangler

2007 Jeep Wrangler

Jeep press conferences have started to follow a pattern of destruction. Last time it was breaking into Cobo; this time it was breaking out. For the introduction of the new 2007 Jeep Wrangler, cameras followed as new Chrysler Group president and CEO Tom LaSorda was driven quickly off-stage, through the show floor, and out of Cobo Hall—through a plate-glass window. The Wrangler then charged out to the street and climbed a set of stairs and up to the top of a nearby Jeep display, where LaSorda was picked up and brought back to the stage. Chrysler’s new COO Eric Ridenour said that the new Wrangler has “a whole lot more options for letting the outdoors in.” Based on the draftiness at the show hall after the conference, point proven. —Bengt Halvorson

Preview: 2007 Jeep Wrangler (1/9/2006)
Squared off, powered up, and ready to rocks.

 

 

MINI Confirms Traveller

 

2006 MINI Traveller Detroit concept

2006 MINI Traveller Detroit concept

MINI brought its Traveller concept car, which is reminiscent of the former Mini Clubman, to Detroit with some special cues conceived for the U.S. market. The concept was first unveiled in Frankfurt in September and a month later the similar, second Traveller made its debut in Tokyo . The version that we see at the MINI stand in Detroit will be followed by another one in Geneva , in March.

 

MINI conformed that a production version based on this estate concept will hit the market by the end of 2008. The longer version should have enough space for four passengers and their luggage. The U.S. concept was outfitted with outdoorsy accoutrements but was essentially similar to previous versions.

MINI has been very successful in the past year with sales of more than 200,000 units. Its largest market was the United Kingdom with 44,000 cars, followed by the U.S. with 40,000 cars. Recently. MINI opened a MINI Lounge and Bar in Madrid to amplify its brand experience: no car is to be found in this lifestyle lounge.—Henny Hemmes

 

 

Infiniti G35 Coupe Concept

 

2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe Concept

2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe Concept

Infiniti showed in Detroit the successor to the G35 sport coupe, the Coupe Concept. The car is the predecessor of the new version of the G35 and its Nissan sibling, the 350Z, both of which are at the midpoint of their life cycles. The coupes were brought on the market in 2003 and are up for replacement in 2008.

The Coupe Concept is in fact an evolution of the G35, but the handsome car does not need many changes to carry it into the next era. It has large LED headlights and rear lights with a specially treated surface. The exterior includes a full-length glass panel roof and a more pronounced shoulder line, emphasized by bare-metal-look paint. The taillights received a special sunglass-style multi-layered surface treatment.

The door handles are hidden and compact cameras replace the traditional rearview mirrors; their images are projected on flip-up screens on each side of the instrument cluster. The concept car is equipped with 25/35 R20 rubber up front and 275/35 R20 in the rear.

In the interior Infiniti combines a performance-oriented cockpit with a luxury atmosphere. A long full-length center console houses the leather/aluminium shifter knob and other controls, including Infiniti’s Human Machine Interface controller, similar to that on the Infiniti M and FX. The steering wheel has paddle shifters and control buttons. The interior incorporates special textures like aluminum accents in the style of traditional Japanese washi paper. The concept car was designed at the NissanTechnicalCenter in Atsugi, Japan.—Henny Hemmes

 

Kabura Anything But Straight and Narrow

 

2006 Mazda Kabura concept

2006 Mazda Kabura concept

Mazda introduced a new sports coupe concept called the Kabura, that targets Gen-Y buyers and offers more cargo flexibility than a typical sports car. The name is Japanese, meaning “first arrow,” and historically a special arrow that makes a howling sound when fired. The distinctive, raked-back “fuselage” design places a very strong emphasis on smoothly flared from wheel wells, and almost motorcycle-like qualities. Power is provided by a 2.0-liter four and six-speed manual transmission, with basic chassis components borrowed from the MX-5.

 

The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car—with dimensions that land between those of the MX-5 and RX-8—has an innovative, if odd, 3+1 seating arrangement rather than the usual 2+2, which, Mazda claims, allows more comfort for all passengers without adding overall space. The seating arrangement has the front-seat passenger sitting ahead and to the right of the driver, and the other seats are staggered for equal space. All the passenger seats can fold flat when needed, with space for snow boards or other cargo. Rear-hinged “lifestyle doors” and a two-piece glass hatch provide better access to the back.

 

The Kabura was designed at Mazda’s Irvine, Calif., design house and is the first project done for Mazda by new director of design Franz von Holzhausen. Throughout the concept’s design, the team paid attention to sustainability and recyclability. The Kabura uses 100-percent post-industrial recycled leather substrate in its seating—most of it recovered from Nike. —Bengt Halvorson

 

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 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.

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