2006 New York Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (4/10/2006)
Best New Concept: Scion’s FUSE was probably the most intriguing inNew York’s unusually short list of concept cars. Toyota’s youthful brand-within-a-brand has shown a willingness to break out of the proverbial box with production models like the xB, so perhaps this chop-top coupe will also find a place in Scion’s lineup.Best New Production Vehicle: By a toss of the coin, I’m going to give the nod here to the Nissan Altima. The original version of this sedan delivered the first unambiguous indication that the then-troubled automaker was going to turn things around. The new version is even more striking, with the sort of elegant interior Nissan has desperately needed. Kudos also to Mazda for the CX-9, a stylish alternative to its boring MPV. And whatever you may think of hybrids, Lexus is certainly shaking things up with its “ultimate flagship,” the LS600h.
Most Significant Production Vehicle: I’m going to give the nod here to not one, but three new vehicles, Saturn’s Aura, Outlook, and Sky. This is a trio of vehicles the General Motors division has desperately needed for more than a decade. Starved of product, Saturn has never achieved its once-massive potential. Is it too late? I don’t think so, because these are three world-class models, at least based on the prototypes we saw in New York.
Who’s on Top: There’s little doubt Toyota ’s got plenty of momentum going for it, but as Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn reminded us during his opening speech, the number-two Japanese maker is a financial force to be reckoned with.
Who’s in the Barrel: Ford’s hasty announcement of two more plant closings reminded us that Detroit ’s automakers are still struggling to halt their slide.
Personal Best: Kudos to New York International Auto Show organizers. This was the fifth major show of a busy season and as we prepared for the Big Apple, we were wondering what would be left. The big salvos were fired in Detroit and Geneva, but there were some surprisingly big unveilings left over for New York ’s grand finale.
Prediction for 2006: Since the New York show straddled tax day this year, it’s appropriate to say that there’s nothing certain but death and taxes — and increasing gas prices. This is likely to be the year when Americans come to think of $3-a-gallon gasoline as “affordable.” The only question is: “how high is up?”
Best New Concept: Acura MDX. Never mind the Element SC prototype sitting on the stage at Honda — it’s a pretender and an unhappy signal as to what’s coming in generation two. The MDX, however, sharpens the blade that the first MDX drew on the luxury segment. And with the RDX, it’s a one-two punch that will have Lexus mulling their own mini-ute, if they don’t already have one in the works.
2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Most Significant Production Vehicle: Hyundai Elantra. Yeah, sure it’s an offbeat choice, but not if you’re a parlor-game player in the auto industry. The Elantra’s a major milestone in the progress of Korea Inc. against Japan ’s finest. Hyundai says the Elantra is roomier inside than the new Honda Civic, and it has six airbags and anti-lock brakes standard, all for less than $14,000. Hyundai’s 500,000-unit sales goal once seemed ambitious. Now it seems a little low.
Who’s on Top: For once in the past 15 years, it’s Saturn. You’ve never seen a GM stand flush with so much good-looking new product — products that really matter like a family-sized crossover, a well-proportioned right-sized four-door, and a two-seat roadster sharper even than the sassy Solstice. Let’s just hope the Pontiac ’s trucky clutch feel and agrarian engine note get fixed along the way to the Saturn showroom.
Who’s in the Barrel: Paul’s right for calling it Ford. But these things are temporary, and your turn in the barrel usually doesn’t last more than, oh, four or five years.
Personal Best: The walk from UN Plaza to Grand Central on a picture-perfect 68-degree day. I must look like a professional photographer, or at least not someone with deadly intent, because three passersby asked me to take their holiday snaps outside the ratty UN building. Smile! Say “Kofi!”
Prediction for 2006: I’m going to predict that TCC’s auto-show coverage from the Paris show in September will be just as radiant and joyous, because I will be attending. Who doesn’t like Paris in September?