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Well, here it is, the 2010 NAIAS. Welcome to Detroit! Just to keep you interested, we now have a sane Detroit City Council, a mayor who’s not in jail, AND neither the Red Wings or Pistons is in first place this year! To lighten the mood from all the bad news, the management of NAIAS decided to entertain the crowds with a special performance by GM Chairman and CEO “Big Ed” Whitacre and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at the Charity Preview Friday night. Many of the rest of the industry CEOs also appear in the show. See if you can find them. This is an unauthorized video of the dress rehearsal.

2010 NAIAS Must-See Cars and Trucks

General Motors

  • Chevy Aveo RS Concept – hints at the next-gen small car from the bowtie crowd.  The concept has the same 1.4L turbo I-4 engine making 138hp that will power the upcoming Chevy Cruze later this year.  It has 19″ wheels and boy-racer styling that shows off the customizing potential of the new Aveo, which debuts in 2011.
  • Chevy Cruze – first showing of the production version in Detroit.  This might be GM’s most significant launch in years, as GM has neglected the small car segment for a long time.  GM figures the Cruze will change its fortunes.  It looks good, but time (and the customers) will tell. It’s already a hit overseas.
  • Buick Regal and Regal GS “Concept” – oddly, the first GM division to have a product that I really want is Buick.  This is a sporty, midsize sedan with a great motor and a manual tranny and all-wheel drive. The standard engine at launch is the 2.4L I-4 (automatic only) already used in other GM products.  Later this year, the turbo 2.0L will be available with auto or manual tranny.  What’s not to like…errr, besides the name Buick?  I’m not one to care too much about badges (Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!), so this will be high on my list for my next car.  Buick wanted this car ASAP, so initially, it will be imported from Germany.  Production shifts to Oshawa, Ontario first quarter, 2011.
  • GMC Granite – this little guy is a 2 feet shorter than the new Terrain – GMC’s smallest entry – at 161″ (4.1m).  It’s a boxy SUV-like thing.  Seems to be aimed at Scion xB/Kia Soul customers.  GM says, “We think of the Granite as the automotive equivalent of an urban loft apartment.  The exterior has an unmistakable industrial look, but the interior is warm and personalized.”  I think this might be stretching the GMC “Truck” brand a bit too far.
  • Cadillac CTS Coupe – first showing in Detroit of the production version of the CTS, which GM showed as a concept last year.  Just as striking in production form, the coupe, along with the sedan and wagon, completes the CTS portfolio.  The only remaining piece would be a convertible.  Are you listening Bryan Nesbitt?
  • Cadillac CTS-V Coupe – the body of the CTS Coupe (above) and the soul of the CTS-V sedan already on the roads.  Same powertrain at the CTS-V sedan, but it’s worth repeating: 556 horsepower/551 lb.-ft. of torque from a supercharged 6.2L V8, it is the most powerful engine offered in Cadillac’s history and propels the CTS-V Coupe from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
  • Cadillac XTS Platinum “Concept” – Cadillac calls this a concept, but it really isn’t. This is the replacement for both the STS and DTS sedans in Caddy’s lineup.  It has beautiful lines and proportions, which will give Caddy a credible competitor in the large premium segment for the first time in many years.  It’s big (203″/5170mm) but doesn’t seem so big.  It is powered by a plug-in hybrid system mated to a 3.6L V6 motor.

Ford

  • Focus – goes into production late this year and goes on sale early 2011 in NA and Europe.  Available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatch models, the new Focus looks great! The styling is excellent, and the front-end has a certain familiarity.  Hmmmmm, what could it be?  It will have a revised 2.0L I4 engine that is 20% more powerful and 10% more efficient than its predecessor.
  • Fiesta – shown before, but this was my first opportunity to sit in one.  This ain’t your father’s econobox.  Push-button start, USB and aux inputs, heated seats, accent-lighted cupholders, 1.6L I-4 engine that will get 40 mpg on the highway.  Cons?  Just two noticed – the back seat is very cramped for an adult.  Kids only for anything longer than a short trip. Also, the trunk has the old-style gooseneck hinges – watch out for your stuff when you close it!
  • 2011 Ford Mustang – not much new visually, but the 2011 Stang sports a pair of new engines. The 5.0 is back! The Mustang GT will have 412 HP and still get 25 MPG on the highway, while the new V6 is over 300 horsepower and 30 MPG on the highway.
  • 2011 Super Duty – introduced last September at the Texas State Fair, the Super Duty features new but familiar styling.  The big news is the new 6.7L Power Stroke Diesel engine.  Ford claims class-leading fuel economy, though because it is in the Super Duty, which isn’t required to post fuel economy figures on the label, we won’t really know, will we?  The truck also has the Ford Work Solutions package and the all-new heavy-duty TorqShift® six-speed automatic transmission.
  • F-150 Platinum – the new F-150 has been shown before, but this Platinum version, which was supposed to be the Mark LT before that vehicle was cancelled, is over $50-large!  Holy crap!
  • 2011 Lincoln MKX – world debut for the freshened luxury crossover.  Gone is the silly “egg crate” grille, replaced by the Lincoln “split-wing” grille.  It’s a welcome change.  Also welcome is the engine upgrade.  A 3.7L V6 replaces the 3.5L, giving you 305 hp/280 lb.-ft. of torque, up from 265/250.  Lincoln claims both figures are best-in-class, along with class-leading 25 MPG highway. The MKX will be the first product with the MyTouch system, which allows you to control and personalize many of the car’s functions from touch screens. The Slandy Report will have a separate report/review on that soon.
  • Volvo C30 electric – like some others, this isn’t anything interesting to look at, but Volvo probably figures they better have some environmentally-friendly entry on the floor or they’ll be left out when Ford sells them to Geely.
  • Active Park Assist Demo – tucked in the corner of Cobo behind the Lincoln display, Ford has a demo of its Active Park Assist system.  They use hybrid Escapes and Mariners so there are no emissions, and the system works awesome.  Do yourself a favor and at least go watch it, even if the line is too long to participate.

Chrysler

  • The most interesting thing about the Chrysler display is that there is almost nothing interesting. That might be a bit harsh. They are showing the Ram brand separate from the Dodge brand for the first time (but there are no new models to look at for either brand). And if “Ram” is the new brand for the trucks, why do they still say “Dodge” on them?
  • Fiat, Maserati and Ferrari are all with Chrysler this year, reflecting the equity stake Fiat took last year. Maybe they should have a sign that says, “Under New Management”. I have to say, the Italian models (both the 4 wheeled and 2 legged varieties) were the best things to look at here. I think this is the first showing of the Fiat 500 in Detroit.  Go check it out.  It’s cute.
  • Jeep says they are introducing 3 new “models” at the show, but it’s really just a few new trim packages.  There is a Liberty Renegade and Wrangler Islander and Mountain editions.  Nice to look at, but when Mike Manley (what a perfect name for the president of Jeep) calls them new models, that’s overstating a bit.
  • Even the 1 Chrysler concept, a small crossover from Chrysler, is unnamed and the nice young lady posing with it had no knowledge of it at all.  When I asked her about the name or some details about it, all she said was, “It’s a concept.”  Wow.  Thanks for that help.  But do go see it; it’s nice looking (and so is she).  Funny side note: a man with a camera tried to get her attention for a picture.  She naturally thought that he wanted her to pose with the vehicle.  After all, that’s why she’s there.  Nope.  He wanted her to move out of the way so he could get a better picture of the vehicle.  Oops.  Only in Detroit.  Wait…breaking news! One of my moles read The Slandy Report and tells me that the Chrysler “concept” isn’t really a concept at all. It’s a rebadged Lancia Delta from Fiat. Chrysler is apparently considering bringing the Delta to North America. They still could have given it a name for the show, and told somebody about it.

Toyota

  • Toyota Sienna – all-new 3rd generation adds a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine and a new SE sporty model. The 2.7L delivers 187hp/186 lb-ft of torque and 10% better fuel economy than the V6. Toyota calls it all-new, but unless a minivan is really all-new, it’s usually hard to tell one from the others. It’s a nice update, but it will be hard for most to tell the difference.  Except the SE, which really does give the Sienna a sporty look, to go along with the lowered and sporty suspension and larger wheels.
  • Toyota 4Runner – Toyota calls the 4Runner all-new as well, but it looks like it’s just a nice update. It’s interesting how Toyota outlasts other competitors.  Ford and GM are abandoning the “real” midsize SUV market, but Toyota stays in.  Same with minivans, above. Base prices range from $27,500 to $39,800.
  • Toyota FT-CH Concept – Toyota is showing this hybrid concept which is a cute little 5-door. The interesting thing is that its profile looks just like a Mazda3 5-door. Take a look and let me know if you agree.
  • Lexus LF-A – Let’s see.  $350,000 – lease only to prevent gouging. 4.8L V10 making 552hp/354 lb-ft of torque. Top speed = 202mph. 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Lexus calls this a supercar, and it’s hard to argue. It’s hot and will be scorching roads near you soon. Maybe. Only 500 will be made, and only 20 per month, max. Each V10 engine will be hand-built by a single engineer and bear his signature.
  • Lexus GX460 – if there’s a new 4Runner, there must also be a new GX. See above.
  • Lexus LF-CH – see Toyota FT-CH, above. Including the Mazda comment.

Volkswagen

  • VW CC R-Line – this is a visual-only differentiation from the “regular” CC, which is a great-looking car. Others use the “R” designation to indicate speed enhancement. Not VW, apparently. Will John Fogerty sing the jingle?
  • VW New Compact Coupe (NCC) – this concept is really nice design, as most VWs are. It’s powered by a TSI engine, and electric motor and a 7-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). All this yields a 0-60 time of 8.1, top speed of 141 MPH and 45 MPG combined.
  • Audi A8 – all-new version of Audi’s flagship sedan. The exterior is beautiful, and the interior is maybe even more so, as you might expect from Audi. It will launch with a choice of 4.2L V8 engines – 1 gas (372hp/328 lb-ft of torque) and one Diesel (350/590!). Both will have direct injection. A 3.0L V6 Diesel will follow later, yielding 250/406, will get 36 combined MPG. Even later, a detuned V6 Diesel with 204HP will get 39 combined MPG, but drive only the front wheels. All other versions will have Quattro AWD standard. And the only transmission will be an 8-speed auto.
  • Audi e-tron concept electric sports car – I wish all these automakers would stop teasing us and just come out with these electric cars that are going to save the planet already! This one’s great-looking, and bears more than just a passing resemblance to the Audi TT.

Honda

  • 2011 Honda CR-Z – going on sale this summer, the CR-Z is the spiritual successor to the cult favorite CR-X from the 1980s. It’s also the first hybrid with a manual, which is expected to get 31/37 MPG. An optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) will get 36/38. Think of it as a sport coupe version of the Honda Insight.
  • Honda Crosstour – this is a Honda Accord with a big butt. It’s part of an annoying new “trend” in the me-too auto industry, where even the stupidest trend gets copied. Automakers are always looking for “white space”, which means an area in which there are no competitors. Sometimes, white space is “identified” where there really is none. Unfortunately, Honda has chosen to follow this trend twice, see below.
  • Acura ZDX – see Honda Crosstour

BMW

  • BMW 5 Series GT – also seems to be part of the Crosstour/ZDX trend. Has a clever hatch/trunk that opens all the way from a top hinge and part of the way from a lower hinge that only opens a cubbie-like opening.
  • BMW Active E Concept – this is a 1-Series with an electric motor.  Not much interesting to look at, but shows that BMW intends to play to the green crowd.
  • BMW Z4 sDrive35is – world debut of the newest and fastest version of the Z4 roadster. Not much new to look at, but goes 0-60 in 4.8 seconds and still gets 26 combined MPG. Impressive.
  • BMW is also showing a hybrid 7 Series and a hybrid X6.
  • Interesting side note – for the 2nd year in a row, there are no BMWs on the floor with a proper manual tranny.  None!  Once again, I call for a vote on whether they will be allowed to call themselves “the Ultimate Driving Machine” ever again.
  • Mini Beachcomber Concept – a fun-looking package that portends a modern-day dune buggy. The production version will actually have doors and will be called the Mini Countryman.
Hyundai
  • Hyundai Sonata – all-new and any auto manufacturer that isn’t worried isn’t paying attention. The Sonata is really good looking and packed with new features. It has standard direct injection engine and bluetooth. HD Radio and heated rear seats are available. Hyundai also dropped the V6 engine, figuring that the 2.4L I-4 direct injection engine, making 198hp and getting 23/35 MPG would satisfy everybody. They’re probably right.
  • Hyundai Equus – this is Hyundai’s new flagship. What’s that, you thought they just introduced a new flagship called the Genesis? You’re right, but now there’s a new one. This is a limo in Korea. It has a 4.6L V8 engine, a ridiculously roomy rear seat and a ridiculous hood ornament. But it’s really nice.
  • Hyundai Blue Will Concept – plug-in hybrid concept car that will supply the powertrain for the Sonata hybrid due late this year. Uses an advanced lithium polymer battery. The concept says Lithium Ion, but I was told that it’s really the polymer battery that they’re using. The charging port is cool, in that it pops out of the front grill where the Hyundai logo is located.
Mercedes-Benz
  • E-Class Cabriolet – together with the new sedan and coupe makes a beautiful family. It will come in E350 and E550 guises. Standard equipment includes the AIRCAP, which reduces air turbulence, and the AIRSCARF system, which directs warm air to your neck area, to keep your neck warm like a scarf, get it? Coming next, M-B will supply customers with a masseuse to rub your back when you get to your destination.
  • SLS AMG – recession, what recession? 563 ponies, 479 lb-ft, 2 gull-wing doors, 7-speed transmission and 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. No word yet on pricing, but you might need your own personal bailout to buy it. Of course, if you need to go to Washington to ask for the money, you could drive this. It will get you there faster than the corporate jet anyway.
Jaguar Land Rover
  • Jaguar XJ – new to Detroit, this is the new flagship from Jaguar. The front-end styling is like the XF, and the rear resembles the rear of the Lincoln MKS. It will come in 2 lengths, each with 3 versions (XJ, XJ Supercharged and XJ Supersport). All have 5.0L V8 engines. The XJ makes 385hp, the Supercharged makes 470hp and the Supersport (special order only) makes 510hp. Base prices range from $72,500 for the XJ to $115,000 for the XJL Supersport. They are beautiful, inside and out, as a Jaguar should be.
  • Land Rover LR4 – this is a new version of the LR3, which in turn was a revised Discovery. Revised styling makes it look more like the Range Rover. Shares the 5.0L engine with Jaguar. Base prices range from $48,100 to $59,200. Can’t say much, as I didn’t even notice it as I walked by.
Others
  • Mazda2 – the 2 is built on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta, but will be imported from Japan, while the Fiesta is made in Mexico for North American customers. Why? No idea, but it seems a little inefficient. Also, while the 2 comes in a 3-door and 5-door in other markets (and the Fiesta comes in many bodystyles around the world, including a 5-door hatch and 4-door sedan in the US), we will have to be satisfied with only the 5-door here.
  • Lotus Evora – a 2+2 from Lotus! Now I can take my kids go-karting! Using the words civilized and Lotus in the same sentence seems weird, but the Evora comes close to making it real. Like other Lotuses (Loti?), it has unique styling that will not appeal to everybody, but I like it.
  • Tesla Model S – the long-awaited family car from the electric car maker is almost here! I asked a Tesla employee if it is a 4 or 5-seater, and the answer was 7. Huh? Yes, it has a rear-facing seat for 2 like an old-style station wagon. When it comes out, it will have a 300 mile range, 0-60 in 5.6, a top speed of 130 and a projected price of $49,900.
  • Subaru Hybrid Tourer – pretty nice looking for a Subaru, but the car just shows off the technology that Subaru intends to use on a production hybrid to be launched in 2012.
  • BYD e6 – BYD is back again this year, again telling us that they will be coming to the US market with electric and hybrid vehicles – by the end of this year. The e6 is an electric “family-oriented crossover” that has a top speed of 87 and goes 0-60 in “<14 seconds”. Perhaps part of the problem is that it weighs over 5000 lbs! Still, BYD sold 450,000 cars in China last year, up 160% from 2008, and they plan to sell 800,000 this year. Watch out!

  • Electric Avenue – this is a new feature for NAIAS. About 20 vehicles are on display from an eclectic assortment of manufacturers. I kept waiting for Eddy Grant’s performance, but alas, he didn’t show up. Kids, ask your parents what that means. And then we’ll take it higher…
  • MEDC ECOXperience has a ¼-mile track to test drive some of the latest environmentally-friendly vehicles. Careful, though. They make you blow into a breathalyzer before they let you behind the wheel. See comment below in the awards. Scheduled vehicles include: Audi A3 TDI, Audi Q7 TDI, BYD e6, Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid, Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell, Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, Commuter Cars Tango, CT&T eZone, EV Innovations 2010 LiV WISE, Ford Escape Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, GEM E4, GMC Yukon Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Fuel Cell, Mercedes-Benz ML 450 Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Mitsubishi iMiEV, Smart Car2go, Think City

The Slandy Awards® 2010

Slandy Best in Show Ford Focus
Honorable Mention: Lincoln MKX, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, Cadillac XTS, Lexus LFA, VW NCC Concept, Tesla Model S, Jaguar XJ, Hyundai Sonata, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
WATT?/Most Annoying New Trend (A combined award this year, as this crop of crap fits both categories): Honda Accord Crosstour, Acura ZDX, Toyota Venza, BMW X6, BMW 550i GT
Lamest Corporate Display: Chrysler. They could have at least rolled out some concepts that we’ve seen before. Me thinks the cupboard is bare.
Best Overheard Quote: Dr. David Cole, of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), said that the automotive industry multiplier is now 10, up from 7. For you non-economists out there, the multiplier is the number of jobs an automotive job spawns in the economy. I think that the nearly 50% increase is mostly due to the reduction in automotive jobs, not an increase in the number of created jobs elsewhere. Nevertheless, this shows how important the automotive industry is to the overall North American economy and our way of life.
Best Conversation I Would Have Paid to Hear (or Best Candidate for a Caption Contest): GM Vice Chairman Bob “Global Warming is a crock of (poop)” Lutz and Tesla CEO Elon Musk walked the show together (it was staged for an upcoming movie by the same guy who produced “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The new one is called, “Revenge of the Electric Car”)


Best Models: Chrysler, especially its Italian cousins. BTW, the car on the right is the unnamed Chrysler concept crossover.


Best Food: a repeat winner. VW knows how to entertain the press! I had a turkey caesar salad, Asian Salmon, an apple fritter for dessert and enough white wine to almost make me ineligible to drive in the ECOXperience hours later!

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Ford sweeps car & truck honors

11th January 2010

Ford swept the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards announced today at the opening of preview week of the North American International Auto Show. The Ford Fusion Hybrid beat out the Buick Lacrosse and Volkswagen GTI for the car award, while the Ford Transit Connect beat the Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Outback on the truck side.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid ups the ante on fuel economy in the midsize segment, achieving 41 MPG in the city, according to the EPA.  The entire Fusion line also benefitted from an extensive mid-cycle makeover this year, which also is helping sales.

The Transit Connect is a small delivery van that Ford is importing from Europe, at least for now.  This type of van sells very well overseas, and Ford is betting that North American customers will also see the benefit of a small, fuel-efficient van for businesses like floral delivery and plumbers.

This is only the third time in 17 years that these awards have been swept by a single manufacturer, and is further evidence that Ford’s product makeover is gaining traction.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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This week, a jury of 49 veteran automotive journalists has selected the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Volkswagen Golf/GTI as finalists for North American Car of the Year and the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Transit Connect and Subaru Outback as finalists for North American Truck of the Year.

The awards are unique in the United States because — instead of being given by a single media outlet — they are given by automotive journalists from the United States and Canada who represent magazines, television, radio, newspapers and web sites.  The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding vehicles of the year based on factors that include innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

To be eligible, vehicles must be “all-new” or “substantially changed” from the previous model. This year the jury considered more than 50 vehicles and finally focused on 16 cars and 10 trucks.

The winners will be announced January 11th at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Although the winners are disclosed at a news conference at the auto show, the show does not give the awards.

Last year the North American Car of the Year was the Hyundai Genesis and the North American Truck of the Year was the Ford F-150.

This is the 17th year of the awards, which are funded exclusively by the jurors. During that time:

• Hybrids have been honored three times. The Toyota Prius was the 2004 North American Car of the Year and the Ford Escape Hybrid was the 2005 North American Truck of the Year. The Honda Civic Hybrid was included when the Civic was named the 2006 North American Car of the Year.

• Chevrolet’s vehicles have been named the North American Truck of the Year three times. Most recently the Silverado was the 2007 North American Truck of the Year.

• While Ford has been a finalist in the car category many times, it won only once. The Ford Focus was the 2000 North American Car of the Year.

• Ford has dominated the truck category with five wins, followed by Chevrolet with three. Most recently, the F-150 was the 2009 North American Truck of the Year.

• General Motors won North American Car of the Year three times. Most recently, the Chevrolet Malibu was the 2008 North American Car of the Year and the Saturn Aura was the 2007 North American Car of the Year

• Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI was a finalist last year. Volkswagen’s New Beetle was the 1999 North American Car of the Year.

• Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year eight times. Japanese automakers have won three times. European automakers have won four times. A Korean automaker has won once.

• Domestic automakers have won North American Truck of the Year 10 times. Japanese automakers have won four times. European automakers have won twice.

Here are the vehicles on which the jurors voted:
2010 North American Car of the Year nominees:
BMW 335d
Buick LaCrosse
Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Chevrolet Camaro
Ford Fusion
Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ford Taurus/Taurus SHO
Honda Insight

Kia Soul
Mazda3/MazdaSpeed3
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Porsche Panamera
Subaru Legacy
Suzuki Kizashi
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Golf/GTI/TDI


2010 North American Truck of the Year nominees:

Acura ZDX
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Transit Connect

Honda Accord Crosstour
Land Rover LR4
Lincoln MKT
Subaru Outback
Volvo XC60

The awards are given by 50 of the most experienced and respected automotive journalists in Canada and the United States. They represent newspapers, magazines, web sites, television and radio shows. The winners are announced at a news conference at the North American International Auto Show.

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