Hyundai is positioning its Genesis luxury sedan against such prestigious cars as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class, touting a long list of premium features including adaptive headlights, radar-based cruise control, XM's traffic navigation service, electronic active head restraints and HD radio for prices in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. The 5-Series starts at $45,000 and the E-Class at $51,000.
Buyers, though, are more likely to come out of cars such as the Toyota Avalon, said John Krafcik, Hyundai's vice president of product development.
"They're what we call confident nonconformists who want the very best but don't want to pay extra for it," Krafcik said, adding that those buyers become "evangelists for our brand."
The rear-wheel-drive Genesis goes on sale in summer with a choice of two V-6s and a V-8 engine, and Krafcik expects the V-6s to be more popular.
Hyundai's U.S. sales rose 21.5 percent last year to 467,000 vehicles, but Krafcik said revenue grew nearly 10 percent because of higher transaction prices (Hyundai doesn't disclose the amount) from a richer mix of models.
Hyundai will introduce the 2009 Sonata at the Chicago Auto Show that Krafcik said will have substantially upgraded interior materials and new front and rear styling. In March, Hyundai will unwrap a Genesis coupe at the New York auto Show.
Do mobsters take cabs?January 24, 2008
Chinese manufacturer Geely International Corp. showed a knockoff of the London Taxi it builds under license, and a brochure for the vehicle contained this eyebrow-raising nugget: "Omnidirectional visibility means that you can easily see the potential passengers or mobsters."
Geely sought to position itself as a technology leader by announcing a safety system developed in-house that applies the brakes after a tire blowout to prevent accidents. Chairman Li Shufu cq said Geely showed the safety technology in Detroit because "most people don't believe the Chinese are innovators."
Ford: We can do sexyJanuary 24, 2008
Plug-ins and hybrids were the talk of the show, but Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said Ford expects to accomplish greater fuel savings and reductions in greenhouse gases sooner through lower-cost technologies, including its EcoBoost gasoline direct injection engine, and by reducing the size and weight of its fleet.
"We can do the sexy, small-volume things like everyone else, but if we really want to change things, we have to do them in high volume," Ford said.
E85 in Hummer's worldJanuary 24, 2008
GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner sounded a similar theme in saying that automakers can build millions of vehicles now that burn ethanol, while it will take years for hybrids and other new technologies to be available in volume.
"The hard truth is it will be a decade or more before those technologies will have a measurable impact," Wagoner said, adding that ethanol is "by far the best option we have to reduce the growth of oil consumption in the near- and midterm."
In a sign of the times, GM unveiled the Hummer HX concept, a preview of the H4, which will be smaller than the H3. The HX has a V-6 (a first for Hummer) that burns E85, the blend of 80 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. All Hummers will be able to use E85 by 2010.
"You've come full circle when a Hummer is part of a press conference on E85. The world is truly changing," said Mark LaNeve, GM's sales and marketing chief. "It makes sense that the future of the Hummer brand will be smaller and more fuel efficient."
Meet the PressJanuary 24, 2008
Chrysler under ownership of private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management is still sorting through its model lineup to eliminate duplication and give the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands different personalities.
President and Vice Chairman Jim Press hinted at what's coming by using the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans as examples.
"They're right on top of each other [in market position], when one could be sportier and [designed to be] more fun to drive," Press said. "We could cover more waterfront that way without greatly increasing costs."
Press jumped to Chrysler in September from Toyota, where he held the top job in North America and sat on Toyota Motor Corp.'s board, the first American to do so. At the time, some in the industry wondered whether Press was crazy to leave Toyota for a struggling U.S.-based automaker.
"I'd be crazy not to do this," he answers. "I was at the sunset of my career there, and I don't play golf. Work is my hobby, and my nature is that this is a challenge. And I always thought that someday I'd like to on the home team."
Chinese ad goes far afieldJanuary 24, 2008
Chinese manufacturer Geely Automobile Co. may change the U.S.automotive landscape in ways other than selling low-cost cars.
Nevermind that it annouced plans Monday at the Detroit Auto Show tobuild four plants outside of China, including one in Mexico.
Geely made a bigger splash with a marketing video of its FG sedan.A hip-looking young man races around the countryside in the car, asmall statue of Elvis Presley on the dashboard and a guitar in theback seat.
A short time later, the man is shown standing in a field, back tothe camera, where he appears to be urinating. So the question maynot be whether the U.S. is ready for Chinese cars, but ratherwhether it's ready for Chinese car commercials.
The V is for vroomJanuary 14, 2008
Cadillac unveiled the 2009 CTS-V sedan Monday at the Detroit AutoShow.
It packs a supercharged550-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 (borrowed from the Chevrolet CorvetteZR-1) that can be teamed with a 6-speed transmission, manual orautomatic (the current model is manual only). Among standardfeatures are magnetic ride control that adjusts to road conditionsup to 1,000 times per second, Recaro-designed seats and LED lightson the tachometer that flash when the engine approaches theredline. CTS-V also has a different front fascia than the regularCTS with brake cooling slots, side sills and a rear spoiler.
General Manager Jim Taylor said the CTS-V puts Cadillac in the sameperformance league as the BMW M3 and M5 and Mercedes-Benz AMGmodels. Taylor expects the automatic transmission to be the choiceof about 80 percent of buyers and CTS-V sales to grow by 1,000units per year to 4,000. The CTS-V buyer averages the late 40s toearly 50s, 10 years younger than buyers of the regular CTS.
Cadillac also rolled out a coupe concept of CTS that has been inthe works for a while. The automaker has no firm production plansfor the coupe, but asked when it could be built, GM CEO RickWagoner said: "Based on the reaction, not soon enough."
MKT next in Lincoln's alphabetJanuary 14, 2008
Lincoln demonstrated at the Detroit Auto Show that it wants to beas Flex-ible as Ford by unveiling the MKT concept, a luxury versionof the Ford Flex crossover due to go on sale in June.
Lincoln didn't say the MKT would be built, but it appeared to be apreview of a production model, including the name. Lincoln's nextcar, due this summer, is the MKS sedan, putting an MKT next inline.
The MKT has four conventional doors, and Lincoln called it a"premium utility vehicle," though it resembles a sedan more thanthe SUV-like Flex, plus it has bustle-back rear styling, atraditional luxury car touch. The engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 withFord's new EcoBoost system (direct injection and a turbocharger)hitched to a 6-speed automatic transmission andall-wheel-drive.
Malibu, CX-9 take media honorsJanuary 13, 2008
The Chevrolet Malibu was named North American Car of the Year andthe Mazda CX-9 was chosen Truck of the Year Sunday by a panel of 45journalists at the Detroit Auto Show.
Malibu, a midsize sedan that went on sale in November, givesGeneral Motors Corp. its second straight Car of the Year. TheSaturn Aura, a midsize sedan built on the same platform as theMalibu, won last year. Other finalists this year were the CadillacCTS and Honda Accord.
The CX-9 is a seven-passenger crossove on sale since February. Ford Motor Co. owns a controlling interest in Mazda, and the CX-9 sharessome suspension and structrural parts with the Ford Edge crossover,but it is exclusive to Mazda. Other truck finalists were theChevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and Buick Enclave.
Only new or redesigned models are eligible for the awards.
Ram turbodiesel cattle callJanuary 13, 2008
Dodge will offer a turbocharged diesel engine in its Ram 1500,light-duty pickup and a hybrid powertrain in 2010, Chrysler LLCPresident and Vice Chairman Jim Press said Sunday.
The diesel will be a V-8, made by Cummins Inc., which makes thediesel engine Dodge uses in its heavy-duty pickups.
The hybrid will be the system Chrysler developed with GM and BMW.Chrysler will offer it this year on the Dodge Durango and ChryslerAspen sport-utilities. Press said diesels and hybrids would enableautomakers to continue to offer large pickups and SUVs and meet afederal requirement that all vehicles average 35 miles per gallonby 2022.
"You can have more horsepower and better gas mileage," Press said."You don't have to give up on the deliverables of the vehicle. Youhave to be smarter about how you deliver them."
Chrysler stole the show Sunday by introducing the 2009 Ram 1500with a stampede of Texas longhorn cattle through downtownDetroit.
Wagoner says ...January 13, 2008
Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner says General Motors willcontinue to work on electric vehicles, hybrids and fuel cells butsaid those technologies won't have a significant impact on oilconsumption for years.
Ethanol is "by far the best option we have to reduce the growth ofoil consumption and oil imports in the near and medium term," hesaid in announcing the automaker's venture with biofuel start ofCoskata of Warrenville to produce ethanol from a variety ofsources, including trash.
More GM buyouts expectedJanuary 13, 2008
General Motors expects to announce a new round of buyouts andearly-retirement incentives for union workers in a couple of weeks,Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said Sunday at the Detroit AutoShow.
Wagoner said details of the offers are still being negotiated withthe United Auto Workers, which agreed to a voluntary attritionprogram as part of a four-year contract ratified in October.
In December GM offered incentives to workers in its service andparts operations and in three "jobs banks," where laid off workerscontinue to collect base wages and benefits. The next round will beextended to all or most of GM's 73,000 UAW workers, whose base wageis $28 an hour or more.
The new contract with the UAW allows GM to hire workers fornon-production jobs at around $14 an hour.
Wagoner said GM will see some cost benefit from the contract in2008 but added: "We won't see significant impact until 2010," whenGM will transfer its $50 billion retiree health care liability to aunion-run trust fund.
When asked whether GM can be profitable in North America under suchconditions, Wagoner said he wouldn't comment until GM reportsfourth-quarter results in a few weeks. Results are due Jan. 23.
In an interview at the show, Wagoner said GM expects 2008 U.S.vehicle sales to be "reasonably close" to last year, when theindustry sold 16.15 million vehicles, but he cautioned thatconditions could worsen if there is greater turmoil in the housingand credit markets.
BMW X6 acrossover with a coupe's soulJanuary11, 2008
BMW is rolling out the sleekX6, a 1-Series convertible and two new diesel models at the DetroitAuto Show Jan. 13. The 2009 X6, a four-door crossover with racy,coupe-like styling (BMW calls it a "sports activity coupe") thatgoes on sale in April, will come as the xDrive 35i with a300-horsepower, turbocharged 6-cylinder and the xDrive 50i with a4.4-liter, 450-h.p., twin-turbo V-8. Both will have standardall-wheel-drive.
The 128i convertible, which has a power soft top, will arrive inMay after the 1-Series coupe.
The diesel models, which BMW says will be available in all statesstarting in fall, are the 335d sedan and X5 xDrive35d SUV, bothwith a 3-liter twin-turbo 6-cylinder that produces 265 h.p. BMWestimates the 335d's EPA ratings will be 23 m.p.g. city and 33highway and the xDrive35 will get 19/25.
Mercedes in SUV rumbleJanuary 11, 2008
Mercedes-Benz will go head-to-head against the BMW X3 with the GLK,a compact crossover due early in 2009. Mercedes unveils a conceptof it, the Vision GLK, Sunday Jan. 13 at the Detroit Auto Show withstyling like that of the larger Mercedes GL SUV.
The GLK is based on the platform for the C-Class, offered as asedan in the U.S. Mercedes plans gas and diesel versions in theU.S.
Impala's badge of honorJanuary 11, 2008
Chevrolet will mark the 50th anniversary of the Impala in thespring with a commemorative edition that will include anniversarybadges, two-tone leather seats with logos embroidered on theheadrests, ebony carpeting and floor mats, a rear spoiler and18-inch alloy wheels.
The anniversary model will be based on the Impala LT, and come inblack or red. The price will be announced in the spring.
Impala debuted in 1958 as a premium package for the Bel Air andbecame a stand-alone model the following year.
Thought-provoking CaddyJanuary 11, 2008
General Motors' latest fuel-cell concept is the Cadillac Provoq, acrossover unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in LasVegas.
Provoq takes major design cues from the CTS sedan but packs ahydrogen-powered fuel cell and GM's E-flex technology, whichrecharges batteries by plugging into a standard electrical outlet.It can travel 20 miles on battery power and another 280 onhydrogen.
Cadillac hasn't said where it might fit in the lineup, but Provoqcould be a preview of a replacement for the SRX.
The concept has GM's fifth-generation fuel-cell technology(one-third smaller than the fuel cell in current Chevrolet Equinoxdemonstration vehicles). Batteries mount longitudinally in thecenter of the vehicle and power an electric motor for the frontwheels and small ones integrated into the rear wheels, giving itfour-wheel drive.
Fuel cells don't need as much air for cooling asinternal-combustion engines, so Cadillac is testing an "activegrille" with slats that open only when needed. When closed, thecar's aerodynamics are improved. The concept also has flush doorhandles and a full-length belly pan to reduce drag. Solar roofpanels provide power to ventilate the interior in hot weather.
Mercedes in SUV rumbleJanuary 11, 2008
Porsche AG will produce a gas/electric Cayenne sport-utilityvehicle by 2010 and a hybrid Panamera sedan after that.
Panamera, Porsche's first four-door, is due in 2009 with a gasengine, but Porsche did not specify when the hybrid wouldarrive.
Cayenne and Panamera will use the same system, which Porsche sayswill reduce fuel consumption 30 percent. Depending on drivingconditions, it will operate in an electric mode, gas or acombination of the two.