As automakers display new plug-in hybrids and electric cars at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, they are also drawing battle lines in a regulatory fight over California's ambitious zero-emissions vehicle targets.
Among the automotive dignitaries roaming the halls of the Los Angeles Auto Show on Thursday was veteran designer Tom Matano, the man known as “Mr. Miata” and credited with the design vision behind the original 1989 two-door convertible.
What does he think of the new, fourth-generation Miata, unveiled by Mazda earlier this year?
Almost all cars are decent these days. So in judging the new models on offer at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, we look for the potential to lift the automaker’s fortunes, push the industry forward — and, of course, for the ultimate value to the consumer.
Here are the four cars from this year’s show that we think best meet that criteria.
Honda is refreshing its bestselling sedan by bringing new powertrains and new styling to the 10th generation of this 44-year-old nameplate. This coupe follows the recent unveiling of the sedan, and will be followed by a hatchback and two sportier versions.
Honda is officially entering the hydrogen fuel-cell segment with the Clarity. Long in the planning and testing, the Clarity will use hydrogen gas to power an electric motor, on a car that has the range and quick-fueling capacity of a gas-powered vehicle combined with the zero emissions of an electric-battery car. Like the Hyundai Tucson, it's a five-seater -- one more than Toyota's four-seat Mirai.
A full-size, full-luxury, seven-seat people hauler. Mercedes calls it the “S-Class among SUVs.” The automaker hasn’t released pricing, the S-Class reference – the same one applied to its flagship sedan – likely signals the starting price will rise over the GL model it will replace, which starts in the mid-$60,000 range. With options, figure easily six figures. An ultra-luxury Maybach model is also planned.
Promoted as the “fastest and most luxurious SUV” ever, this crossover attempts to marry off-road ruggedness with traditional Bentley performance and plush. And that name? It’s a reference to a rugged peak in the Canary Islands.
In the not-so-far-off future, teens won't bother getting driver's licenses, consumers will shun owning their own cars, and taxis will be replaced by "taxibots."
That's the world described by speakers on the first day of the Los Angeles Auto Show, which was devoted to the connected car. The two-week convention in recent years has shifted its focus away from the latest car models to the newest tech innovations transforming vehicles from the inside.
'It looks better today than it did when I was in high school'
Every automotive journalist has a personal favorite car — and for about half of them it’s the Porsche 911.
That may overstate the matter, but not by much. It’s certainly true for me, and to my eye there’s no better era for the 911 than the late 1980s.
Porsche’s signature car has become more of a grand touring machine since those days — bigger, faster, more luxurious and more geared toward road trips than tight mountain switchbacks. Today, the smaller and cheaper Boxster/Cayman may be closer in spirit to the 1980s 911.
To my delight, Porsche seems to always bring one or two of its classics to the L.A. Auto Show. One recent year, it was a white 930 (a pointy-nosed, even faster 911) with the famous whale tail. This year, the storied German automaker brought a far more modest, medium gray 1988 Targa top 911.
And just look at it: the bug-eye headlights, the clean sloping profile, the flat-topped roof. It looks better today than it did when I was in high school.
Bringing back a beloved if eccentric crowd-pleaser from the '60s and '70s, Fiat is reintroducing this classic, stripped-down, two-door, convertible roadster. Luckily, for those concerned about Fiat reliability, the engine and power train are mostly made by Mazda: This is a Miata, in other words, in Italian clothes.
As California looks to ramp up its requirements for zero-emission and low-polluting vehicles, what are Mazda's plans? Masamichi Kogai, the Japanese car company's chief executive, talked to The Times about that.
Mazda has an electric vehicle for the Japanese market and is researching hybrid systems, and "we also are looking at our rotary-engine technology," he said through an interpreter.
That technology "can combust hydrogen and use it as a fuel," Kogai said. "The engine can run as a dual-fuel system, switching between hydrogen and gasoline. We can also use rotary engines to charge the battery as a range extender in an electric vehicle."
Built by General Motors, the Buick LaCrosse is an elegant, full-size sedan designed to compete at the lower end of the luxury automobile segment. Buick hasn’t released pricing, but the car it replaces starts at $31,990. It goes on sale next summer.
It's a Kia Optima A1A -- a concept car with suicide doors and a convertible top.
The baby-blue custom car, named after the famous coastal highway in Florida, won't be for sale. It's just an auto show attention grabber, and it's working. Curious fans gathered around the soft-top, which has a butter-cream leather interior and, under the hood, a 245-horsepower, four-cylinder engine.
This will be Mazda’s second iteration of the CX-9, a large 7-seat crossover. Mazda has not yet announcing pricing for the new model, which goes on sale in the spring. The starting price of the current model is $30,875 including delivery fee.
This is a midsize luxury sedan offering three drivetrains, including a new twin-turbocharged 400 horsepower engine that Ford plans to keep exclusive to its Lincoln brand. Pricing won’t be out until early next year, but the current version starts at $35,190.
Within walking distance of Tesla Motors' Palo Alto headquarters and across the street from Hewlett-Packard, Ford Motor Co. has set up a new Silicon Valley outpost.
With a team of 100 reporting to a former Apple engineer, the Detroit giant is researching how humans experience machines, running autonomous-vehicle driving simulations and testing software that examines how bicycles and cars interact.