BUSINESS AUTOS LA AUTO SHOW

The Los Angeles Auto Show opens to the public Friday and ends Nov. 27. Take a look through our coverage from the four days of press previews and keynotes, known as AutoMobility L.A., to see photos and analysis of the latest high-tech offerings.

Gadgets and tech

Jessicann is very sure she -- and other women -- belong at the L.A. Auto Show

When Jessica Chou drove her 2003 Volkswagen Jetta into the Los Angeles Auto Show, the people checking her in seemed confused.

“All the guys were like, ‘Are you sure you belong in here?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, she’s a real beauty,’ ” Chou said with a laugh.

She may not customize Ferraris with candy-red rims or rear-hinged doors, but the 26-year-old YouTuber from Culver City, known online as “Jessicann,” pitched something perhaps even more novel: Girls’ Garage, which she said is the first female-centric booth in the auto show’s 109-year history.

She raised almost $6,500 on GoFundMe to set up shop.

During the 10-day show, Chou will be explaining everything from how to check your tire pressure to how to make sure your coolant tank is full.

Stop by the Girls’ Garage at the Los Angeles Convention Center and you may snag a photo with her in her Rosie the Riveter photo booth.

 (Alene Tchekmedyian / Los Angeles Times)
(Alene Tchekmedyian / Los Angeles Times)

How’d you get started?

Jessicann: There was one really big day for me. I was fixing my spark plugs because my car just broke down and AAA said, “Why don’t you do a tuneup?” I was out on the street fixing my spark plugs and a man walked by and he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Oh, I’m changing out my spark plugs.” And he said, “By yourself?” I think it was in that instant that I’ve never felt more empowered than to answer, “Yes, by myself!” I was beaming with pride and excitement that I was able to change my spark plugs, and my car was functioning back to normal. I had to find a way to capture this to give other women that feeling of empowerment.

What’s the craziest fix you’ve ever done on your car?

J: My craziest fix was the fuel pump. My car was dead for a whole week, and I had no idea what the problem was. I was searching and searching online, and all signs were pointing to the fuel pump. I needed to buy this crazy tool to be able to take it off. I bought the new fuel pump, changed it out, I held my breath and started the car, and it worked. I could’ve cried tears of joy. I bought the part for, I think, 200 bucks so I saved a lot of money, granted it took me all day.

What was your first fix?

J: My first fix was probably a brake light or something, something simple. But even that is fun, to know that you could do that and not have to go to a shop just to get a little bulb switched out.

What happened when you drove in here today?

J: I pulled in and was like, “I have a booth here.” And they just kind of looked at me funny. I was like, “I know it’s not a Maserati, maybe one year it will be.” But it was really funny. And then we drove past a group of guys and they’re like, “Oh, they’re just letting people in to take pictures?” And I was like, “No, I have a booth here!” But I’m just excited to kind of stir up some commotion because this is the first-ever female-dedicated space here. Which is exciting, it’s about time.

Tell me about your name.

J: I actually hated this nickname in high school. My middle name is Ann, my first name is Jessica, obviously. One of my best friends called me “Jessicann,” and I just hated it so much. When I was thinking of a name for YouTube, I was brainstorming, and “Jessicann” is so positive. It shows that I can do things, and you can too. The word “can” is just so empowering.

What has the response been to your YouTube channel?

J: One of my favorite comments was a dad said that I was his daughter’s new hero, which just, like, made me cry.

What’s one must-have tool for girls who want to learn to fix their cars?

J: I recently bought a service manual for my car. It looks intimidating, almost like an encyclopedia for your car, but it has everything you need to know, step by step. A lot of times, your dealer will tell you, “It’s time to change this.” You can say, “Actually, you don’t have to change it until a year from now.” It’s kind of like my bible now.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Concept cars

A look at a few of the show's speediest vehicles

Not all the cars are traditional racers.

Not to be outdone, LEGO entered the race with this 375,000-brick Porsche.

Concept cars

Lexus has the 'hottest' car of the show: the Sriracha IS

 (Nina Agrawal / Los Angeles Times)
(Nina Agrawal / Los Angeles Times)

The "hottest" car at this year's L.A. Auto Show might just be Lexus' Sriracha IS, a one-off custom creation designed to attract a young market.

Lexus and Huy Fong Foods, both based in Southern California, teamed up to launch the 2017 model of its IS sports sedan, the Lexus' "entry-level" car, which retails for $37,325.

"It just seemed like a really good fit,"said Laura Conrad, a Lexus spokesperson. "Sriracha has this cult-like following that we were really excited to tap into."

 (Nina Agrawal / Los Angeles Times)
(Nina Agrawal / Los Angeles Times)

The car features a number of Sriracha details, including gold flecks in the paint that are supposed to resemble chili flakes. There is actual Sriracha in the steering wheel, 43 bottles in the trunk and — just in case that weren't enough — an emergency supply of the stuff in the key fob. The temperature and drive settings even have Sriracha options.

The car sports a number of green accents that recall the hot sauce's signature bottle caps, including the brake calipers, details on the side-view mirrors and ambient light in the car.

Sriracha aficionados can ogle the car as much as they like at the auto show, but no one will be driving it home.

The car isn't for sale.

To get a taste for how the car was made, check out this video produced by Lexus:

See more photos from the floor

 (Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Gadgets and tech

Car company heads say they're doing all they can to help prevent texting-and-driving accidents

Despite considerable advances in safety equipment and driver assistance systems, traffic deaths in the U.S. are rising. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported recently that road fatalities rose 10% in the first half of 2016 – after an increase in 2015 that was the sharpest in 50 years, when 38,300 people died on U.S. roads, according to the National Safety Council.

Why? NHTSA reported that a 3.3% increase in U.S. miles traveled in the first half of this year – the result of lower gas prices, healthy new car sales and a stronger economy – could not account for the higher number of deaths.

Auto executives at AutoMobility L.A., the industry-only portion of the L.A. Auto Show, believe the rise in deaths is a direct result of distracted driving – namely, texting.

“It comes down to people being distracted, and texting is a big piece of that,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields. “Part of it is more miles being driven, since the recession ended. But part of it is people being distracted.”

“It’s texting,” said Chevrolet head Alan Batey. “We are on the road to autonomous, and our vehicles are supply a lot of safety features. But texting and driving is a very, very bad habit.”

Both executives, speaking to The Times during AutoMobility L.A. interviews, said their companies are doing all they can to design and install safety systems in their automobiles – like lane-keeping assistance, front collision warnings, and emergency braking assistance – to help prevent collisions.

But both emphasized that the human element is the problem.

“We all have a responsibility for this, but computers and machines are just more accurate than humans,” Batey said.

And it’s not just texting.

“I do a little survey, when I’m driving, where I look at the other drivers,” Fields said. “It is amazing to see what people do in their cars.”

Concept carsSelf-driving vehicles

Honda and Lego team up with East L.A. children to win Automobility L.A. Design and Developer Challenge

The year is 2050: Two-thirds of the world’s population live in cities, and urban sprawl is rampant. What will our transportation system and cars look like?

This question helped form the basis of the Automobility L.A. Design and Developer Challenge, which invited creative and unexpected collaborations to conceptualize autonomous cars of the future.

Over the last year, teams including Crayola and Qoros; Fandango and Jaunt VR; and Honda, Lego and Trigger designed concept vehicles to showcase at Wednesday’s event.

Some teams, like Kiska and KTM, envisioned a future of deserted cities that were only used for racing vehicles. Another, CH Auto and Creative Mobile, imagined interconnected West Coast cities, forming “Octoangeles.” Their design included three-dimensional travel and seamless interaction between vehicle and human.

 (Makeda Easter / Los Angeles Times)
(Makeda Easter / Los Angeles Times)

Honda, Lego and Trigger, the competition winner, used the power of kids’ imagination to develop their concept.

The team held a brainstorming session with children from the Girls and Boys Club of East L.A., in which designers worked with the kids to create a pod that people can use to live in, work and travel. The design embraced both artificial intelligence and alternative energy.

“We reached out to families to learn what inspires them and used that to craft futures powered by their dreams,” said Martin Sanders, Lego representative.

The team's collaboration with local kids was one of the reasons for their win, according to competition judges.

While Honda, Lego and Trigger won the “Judges’ Pick" award, voting is now open to industry and media professionals.

Concept carsHybrid and electric cars

Going electric ...

Unveilings

Subaru's VIZIV-7 is big, and its sales are too

 (Subaru)
(Subaru)

It’s a concept car. The concept? Big. “Subaru is demonstrating its thinking about how big a future Subaru SUV can be,” the company said. At 204.7 x 79.9 x 72 inches, it’s larger than a Ford Flex, and almost as big as Ford’s Expedition monster-mobile. It’s got three rows of seats.

Gadgets and tech

Volvo experiments with app to deliver fuel, car washes, rides to the dealer

Volvo V90 (Bob Riha Jr. / European Pressphoto Agency)
Volvo V90 (Bob Riha Jr. / European Pressphoto Agency)

It seems like every other car company at the L.A. Auto Show has a new on-demand app to publicize. Most involve small-scale pilot programs.

The latest is Volvo, which Thursday announced Volvo Concierge Services. In San Francisco, 300 Volvo drivers will be invited to join the program, where a tap of the app orders up a car wash, a valet to take the car to the dealer for repair and maintenance, and, to avoid a trip to the gas station, fuel delivery.

Volvo claims the service as “the first expandable digital ecosystem that connects car owners with convenience services via a smartphone app.”

Unveilings

Chevy introduces the new Colorado ZR2, an off-road-ready pickup

 (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America and head of Chevrolet, is big on trucks, and Los Angeles is his biggest market.

The executive, speaking before the launch of Chevy’s new ZR2 off-road-ready pickup truck, said Los Angeles now eclipses Dallas and Houston and every other city in the U.S. for truck sales.

He’s bullish on the ZR2’s chances in the market, and his company’s four-wheeled future.

“We’re doing about 900,000 units in total truck sales for GM,” Batey said. “That made us No. 1 for the year last year, and I think we’ll be No. 1 again this year.”

Chevy trucks are “the lion’s share” of that figure, Batey said, making up about two-thirds of all GM trucks, excluding GMC and Ram units sold.

That compares favorably with sales at Ford, which manufacturers the country’s single most popular vehicle, the F-150 pickup.

“If you look at Ford, from 2013 to now, their truck sales are flat,” Batey said. “Ours are up 35% over the same period.”

Batey said that up to 50% of people who buy a new Colorado, which the company reintroduced as a midsize truck to become the only manufacturer to offer midsize, full-size and heavy-duty trucks, are new to the brand. Conquest sales are taking away customers from Ford’s F-150 and Toyota’s Tacoma.

 (Chris Carlson / AP)
(Chris Carlson / AP)

What will the new ZR2 compete with?

Anita Burke, chief engineer for the Colorado line, said she thinks the new rough rider may steal consumers from Nissan’s Pro 4X and Toyota’s TRD Pro.

The new 4x4 truck is built on the same wheel base as its fellow Colorados, but the body is 3.5 inches wider. It comes standard with a skid plate, hood scoop, 31-inch off-road tires, and special suspension built around Multimatic shocks. 

It will be powered by either the company’s standard V6 or the Duramax diesel, and be offered as either a crew cab, with a five-foot bed, or with an extended six-foot bed. It will begin appearing in dealers in the spring of 2017.

Hybrid and electric cars

The Chevy Bolt EV wins Green Car of the Year

 (Chevrolet)
(Chevrolet)

The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV was named Green Car of the Year at the L.A. Auto Show this morning. The award is given annually by the Green Car Journal and is considered one of the most prestigious awards at the show.

The journal said its editors selected the 2017 Bolt EV for its 238-mile zero-emission driving range, stylish design, driving dynamics and suite of advanced and connected technologies. The car has the distinction of being the first production battery electric vehicle to achieve a 200-plus-mile driving range.

Last year, the award went to the second-generation Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 53-mile electric range and 106 MPGe.

The Bolt EV sits high and is shaped like an SUV, with a 288-cell lithium battery that runs under the car and then up under the backseat. It takes about 12 hours to charge on a regular household outlet, said Michelle Malcho, a Chevrolet spokeswoman.

Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America and head of Chevrolet, said he expected the plug-in battery-electric Bolt EV to become a fixture on the Southern California landscape. Los Angeles is the biggest market in the U.S. for the company's Volt, Batey said. "I think it will be our biggest market for the Bolt EV too."

The Bolt EV is set to hit showrooms later this year and be available in all 50 states in 2017. With a sticker price of $37,495 for the base model (not including the $7,500 tax credit for which many owners will be eligible), it will be the first mid-priced long-range electric vehicle on the market.

Staff writer Charles Fleming contributed to this report

Unveilings

Alfa Romeo and Maserati add SUVs to their sports and luxury car line-ups

 (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

Reid Bigland wears many hats at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as head of U.S. sales and as boss of both Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.

He was wearing his Italian headwear at AutoMobility LA, the run-up to the Los Angeles Auto Show, where he was performing U.S. introductions for new SUV models from both subsidiaries.

The SUVs are firsts for the two brands, Maserati’s Levante making its first appearance at the auto show and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio getting its world debut on the AutoMobility stage.

The two Italian nameplates are trying to raise brand awareness by adding an SUV to their sports car and luxury car line-ups, and to bring new buyers to the brand by giving them a vehicle they find more useful than, say, an Alfa Romeo 4C racer or a Giulia.

Bigland dismisses questions that the two brands are coming late to an expanding SUV market that may have expanded to capacity. “We don’t think it’s too late by any means,” he said. “The exodus away from passenger cars is not abating. The segment is hot.”

Levante sales, so far, support his optimism. Maserati’s year to date numbers for 2016 are up 16% over 2017, Bigland said, while global September, October and November sales are showing rises of 50% to 60% over last year.

“Levante is playing a big role in that,” Bigland said, even though the SUV has only been in some markets a matter of months, and hasn’t yet debuted in Japan, Korea and other principalities.

It has begun selling in Los Angeles, but Bigland did not supply local sales numbers. “Southern California is the most important market for our brand in the United States,” he said. “We have very high hopes.”

There are also hopes for the Northeast and Northwest parts of the country, where snow and ice conditions may have led buyers away from Maserati and Alfa Romeo, and toward more winter-worthy vehicles made by Mercedes-Benz, Audi or BMW.

“We’re opening up whole parts of the world to Maserati,” Bigland said. “Places where it isn’t always 72 degrees and sunny.”

Alfa Romeo Stelvio (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Alfa Romeo Stelvio (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Bigland estimated that Maserati will sell 20,000 to 30,000 of the SUVs in 2017, and that Levante will account for 50% of all Maserati sales next year.

Some of the buyers are turning in their Porsche Cayennes, Bigland said. A surprising number are female – including a high percentage of single females, who are not generally the target customer for a high-end, full-size luxury SUV. (The Levantes start at $72,000, and the price goes up quickly with options.)

All is not rosy for the executive. As head of FCA’s U.S. and Canada sales, according to published reports, he is at the center of a  U.S. criminal investigation into whether the company had inflated sales figures in the past.

Bigland said he did not think there was any danger that the introduction of an Alfa Romeo SUV would eat into sales of its Maserati counterpart. Both vehicles are powered by engines derived from the companies’ partnerships with Ferrari, and both are long on Italian styling and heritage.

But the Stelvio is a mid-sized performance SUV, boasting massive horsepower and sports car handling, that should appeal to a younger, less affluent buyer – the MSRP has not yet been announced – and the Levante is a full-sized luxury SUV that appears to appeal to a slightly older, more affluent buyer.

Although admitting the competition could create some agita for the U.S. sales divisions for the two brother brands, as head of all U.S. sales for both marquees, he isn’t worried personally.
“If someone comes in on a Levante, and goes out on a Stelvio, that’s not bad,” Bigland said.

Unveilings

The million-dollar Jaguar XKSS

 (Jaguar)
(Jaguar)

This is the newly built version of Jaguar’s rare and classic XKSS sports car from the mid-1950s. The British automaker is producing only nine of the new versions and they’ve already been sold to collectors worldwide for about $1.3 million each.

We wouldn't mind getting pulled over in one of these

Concept cars

A drive down memory lane?

A walk among the auto show's vast display of custom cars can be a walk down memory lane.

Many vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show are throwbacks to bygone models.

Another standout: This sleek custom car inspired by the Pink Panther film and television series. It was created by George Barris, who was famous for designing many of Hollywood's custom cars.

Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine also made an appearance to conjure up some childhood memories.

This tricked-out Fiat 500, called Track Queen 1738, pays tribute to hip-hop artist Fetty Wap's 2015 hit song "Trap Queen."

With one headlight removed to feed air into the engine, the car looks like it has one eye, which reminded its designers of Fetty Wap. The Fiat was customized by Madness Autoworks.

And one more heroic custom job: This 2015 BMW i8 with a Spiderman paint job and custom doors that open up like wings. This model also has custom 22-inch wheels.

 (Alene Tchekmedyian / Los Angeles Times)
(Alene Tchekmedyian / Los Angeles Times)
Concept cars

Auto Show regular Baron Margo shows off his latest creation, 'Metamorphosis'

Silver Lake artist Baron Margo was back at the L.A. Auto Show this year, debuting the "Metamorphosis," his latest whimsical creation. The car, which needs additional wiring before it can be driven, is something of a cross between an airplane and a boat, as Margo describes it, featuring portholes that open to the outside, a main cabin with a bed and a sink with a pump.

Margo, a master of Jules Verne-like automobiles, repurposes old parts from junk yards and scrap metal yards and, together with sheets of aluminum and copper, uses them to hand-make each vehicle. He works with a partner, Jaime Martinez.

The vehicles run on car or motorcycle engines that use regular gas.

While the cars are meant for driving, Margo said, first and foremost they're art.

"My goal is simple," Margo said. "To make something no one else has made."

Margo and Martinez fund their work by selling earlier projects. But the cars are not for your average buyer: The Metamorphosis comes with a $400,000 price tag.

"I know you can buy nicer cars for $400,000," Margo said, "but this isn't just a car. You're buying an art piece that you can drive in the street or put in a gallery, or even stick in your living room."

Hybrid and electric cars

This Porsche is electric ... literally

Hybrid and electric cars

Hyundai Ioniq: Buy, lease … or subscribe?

 (Russ Mitchell / Los Angeles Times)
(Russ Mitchell / Los Angeles Times)

You can buy a car or lease a car. Soon you’ll be able to “subscribe” to one.

Hyundai’s new Prius-fighter, the Ioniq, goes on sale soon, eventually with three powertrains: hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all electric.

Starting next year in California, they’ll be offered for an as-yet unnamed subscription price, with no money down.

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