Car Culture, V.2.0: The LA Auto Show Features New Cars, New Tech And Longstanding Traditions


When the LA Auto Show first debuted over 100 years ago in 1907, a local newspaper was already proclaiming Los Angeles as the “banner automobile city of the world” because it averaged one motorcar for every 80 residents. The show was staged at the old Morley Skating Rink on Grand Avenue, entertainment was provided by the Venetians’ Ladies Mandolin Orchestra, and among the 46 automakers that brought cars to the event were long-forgotten makes like Durocar, Peerless, Pope-Toledo and the French Darracq (the show’s only non-American vehicle).

How times have indeed changed. Los Angeles County alone boasts more than eight million cars -- nearly one for every single resident. The auto show now takes place at the massive LA Convention Center. Virtual reality provides the popular entertainment, and technology-laden hybrid and electric vehicles are all the rage.

Slated for Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, the 111th edition of the LA Auto Show will feature more than a thousand cars, trucks and SUVs, with scores of hybrids, all-electrics, customized rides and exotic vehicles from around the world.

More than 60 of this year’s vehicles are debuts. And around half of the debuts are world premieres, providing first

looks of brand new models from BMW, Kia, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, Porsche, Nissan and startup Rivian Automotive.

Among the most anticipated debuts are a pickup truck from Jeep, an all-new model from Hyundai, and new all-electric vehicles from start-ups Rivian and Byton.

“This year, one-third of AutoMobility LA’s 60-plus debut vehicles are electric, hybrid, or alternative fuel - which makes sense given that Los Angeles is the nation’s top EV market,” said Terri Toennies, executive vice president and general manager of AutoMobility LA and the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Rivian’s revolutionary “adventure vehicles” -- the company calls them a reimagining of the truck and the SUV -- will be produced at a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL, with the first units expected to hit American roads by 2020.

The LA Auto Show will provide the public and motoring press with their first look of vehicles that Rivian has managed to keep super-secret. Industry insiders say they’ll be called the A1T and SUV A1C.

The electric A1T truck will be able to sprint from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, wade through 3.6 feet of water and climb a 45% incline. The base trim will feature a range of 200 miles and top trim upwards of 400 miles on a single charge.

Hoping to challenge Tesla in the U.S. marketplace, Chinese electric vehicle startup Byton is bringing its M-Byte SUV and K-Byte sedan concepts to the auto show.

Byton says that both models will feature Level 4 autonomous driving technology -- vehicles capable of completing an entire journey without driver intervention or even operating without a human present (when confined to a limited geographical area or within a preset speed limit).

Steering wheel and pedals are maintained for those who want to assume control of their Byton. Range will vary from around 250 miles per charge to around the 325-mile range, the latter on par with Tesla’s Model S.

BMW is debuting no fewer than six vehicles at this year’s show including the X7 Sports Activity. The newest and largest model in the Bavarian automaker’s X range is scheduled to start production of the SUV at the company’s South Carolina plant later this year with a targeted March 2019 market launch.

A mashup of comfort, technology and rugged performance, the X7 features extraordinary traction on rough terrain thanks to new chassis, two-axle air suspension and electronically controlled dampers that expedite handling while improving ride comfort.

BMW is also bringing the Series Coupe, a paired-back version of the X5, Z4 M40i Roadster First Edition, e M340i sedan and super-slick 8 Series convertible.

With ultra-sporty driving properties, distinctive design and four-person cockpit, the 8 Series ragtop ups the bar on open-air motoring. The fully electric roof is extremely quiet and opens or closes at the touch of a button in a mere 15 seconds -- even while cruising down the road at 30 mph. The soft-top comes in Black as standard or Anthracite Silver effect as an option. The wide, sporty rear-end design underscores the Beamer’s low-slung profile.

Another German luxury automaker, Audi, showed off their e-tron GT concept 4-door electric performance coupe at the show’s AutoMobility LA, an industry-insider and press preshow event, on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Volvo made “significant announcements” about the company’s forward-thinking approach to transportation at the AutoMobility LA event, while also debuting their new S60 luxury sedan alongside the V60 Cross Country wagon.

As some cars are introduced on the market, some bid farewell, but not going out without a bang.

The Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition will be on show. Available in coupe and convertible body styles, the last of the beloved Bugs is powered a 2.0 liter TSI engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, rendering an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating is 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.

Volkswagen is promising a new vehicle debut at the show, but has kept the details tightly under wraps. But the German automaker has released details of the new Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo Concept, engineered and designed to show how its commercial vehicles are embracing electric mobility.

Mazda kicks off the all-new, fourth generation Mazda 3 featuring Skyactiv engines for responsive speed control in any driving situation. The Skyactiv-X motor, a revolutionary concept that combines the efficiency of a diesel motor with the emissions of a small gasoline engine, could be the single biggest leap forward in engine design since concepts like variable valve timing or even computer control.

Lincoln is launching its 2019 Aviator crossover with three-row seating, rear-wheel-drive. Available with a gasoline or plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Aviator comes with the new Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies.

Among the other debuts at this year’s auto show are the Kia Soul Crossover, the Hyundai Palisade flagship SUV, the revamped 2019 Nissan Maxima sedan, and the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

“Every year, we have over 1,000 new vehicles across our show campus and over 100 of those vehicles are available for test drives around the Los Angeles Convention Center,” said Toennies. “Beyond vehicles, there will be plenty of activations, gaming and other interactive experiences for guests of all ages.”

Auto Show opening and closing times vary, so check the website,, for all the details.

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-Joe Yogerst, Custom Publishing Writer