Auto Makers Unveil the Road Ahead for New Vehicles

From Associated Press

General Motors rolled out four new sedans aimed at the fat middle segment of the U.S. car market. Ford showed off the replacement for its best-selling small car. Chrysler announced it will build a high-tech hot rod, and Mercedes-Benz offered a look at the sport-utility vehicle it will build in America.

That was just a taste of the action Wednesday at a media preview for the North American International Auto Show, which draws the world’s auto makers to the Motor City.

GM, the largest car maker, probably packed the most announcements into a single event, showing for the first time four cars that will compete in the mid-size sedan segment for its Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile divisions. Mid-size cars make up more than a quarter of the U.S. market, and GM controls about a third of that.


Its new Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Century and Oldsmobile Intrigue will reach showrooms over the next couple of years, replacing cars that have been criticized for competing with each other.

“We’ll have fewer entries in the mid-size market, and they’ll be farther apart,” GM Chairman John F. (Jack) Smith Jr. said later Wednesday. “It’s the end of the look-alikes.”

Smith also said the company will use the “value pricing” approach for all four cars, setting manufacturer suggested prices at levels that will discourage haggling.

Among other highlights:

* The No. 2 auto maker, Ford, introduced its 1997 Escort, a replacement for the economy car that is larger and has new looks inside and out.

* GM’s Cadillac division showed off the Catera, a German-built car it will sell to compete with European and Japanese luxury brands in this country.

* Mercedes-Benz of North America showed a concept version of the luxury sport-utility vehicle it will build in Alabama starting next year.


* Acura, Honda’s luxury division, introduced the CL, the first U.S.-built Acura, will be priced between $22,000 and $27,000.

* Germany’s BMW showed off the Z3 roadster that is a co-star in the latest James Bond movie and previewed its 1997 540i model.

* Chrysler took the wraps off its retro Plymouth Prowler, which will go into production next year at a plant in Detroit.

The show opens to the public Saturday.