Workers at Detroit’s Cobo Center were busily putting the final touches on the flashy, light-emitting-diode-bedecked pavilions of the world’s largest automakers this weekend as the Motor City prepares for the 2013 North American International Auto Show, one of the major global showcases of the latest in cars and trucks.
More than 500 concept vehicles, luxury sedans, along with cars and trucks for the rest of us, will be on display Jan. 14-27 with 50-plus vehicles making their public debuts at the highly anticipated annual circus.
The show will kick off Monday morning with the announcement of the 2013 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca M. Blank is scheduled to make token visits to the home-team exhibits by the Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM), and Chrysler Group LLC -- the latter two of which directly benefited from the U.S. taxpayers’ bailout of the auto industry during the 2008-10 financial crisis linked to the subprime-mortgage mess that tanked the economy.
This year’s expo will continue the trend toward more fuel-efficient electric and hybrid vehicles. The curtain will be pulled back on the latest green machines, notably in the luxury and high-performance markets, suggesting that these new driving technologies are no longer the exclusive purview of smug environmentalist consumers.
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (TYO:7267) will be showcasing the 2016 Acura NSX concept sports car that is intended to become the first high-output hybrid car, which features a V-6 gas drinker and three ancillary electric motors to push out 500 horsepower.
Bob Lutz, a former GM vice chairman who is considered the father of the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, will unmask on Monday two electric vehicles from 2-year-old Via Motors of Orem, Utah: the X-Truck, an 800-horsepower 4X4, and a Cadillac Escalade. Both, Via says, gets 100 miles to the gallon. Via’s business buys GM cars and converts them into more economical electric vehicles. Its cars are currently in use as fleet utility vehicles for the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in California.
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And GM itself is unveiling on Tuesday its first high-class range-extended plug-in hybrid with the two-door 2014 Cadillac ELR, a fancier $60,000 companion to the Chevy Volt. Also, for the first time in North America, GM will be showing its Cadillac cluster apart from its other brands -- GMC, Chevrolet and Buick -- as it attempts to build the Cadillac brand as a real competitor in the luxury-vehicle market.
Volkswagen AG (PINK:VLKAY) -- coming off a phenomenal sales year in 2012 -- will show the theoretical next generation of its well-received TDI clean-diesel technology with its Cross Coupe TDI, combining clean diesel with electric motors. The vehicle has previously been shown in Tokyo in 2011 and Geneva last year, but clearly the German auto giant sees this as the next step in its hybrid offering. Already the mileage of the company’s TDI vehicles can compete with the hybrids on the market. VW claims the TDI hybrid can get 130 mpg.
As for less fuel-efficient models, aka eye candy, there will be plenty of attention paid at the GM pavilion on Sunday night when the company unveils its newly designed 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. This will be only the seventh time in 60 years that GM has tinkered with the Corvette’s design.
From Europe, three six-figure-priced performance models will make their appearance in Detroit: the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte from Fiat S.p.A. (PINK:FIATY) of Torino, Italy; the 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (FRA:BMW) of Muenchen, Germany; and the Volkswagen’s 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible with its massive 616 horsepower firing from 12 cylinders.
For the 2 percenters, BMW will be displaying its concept 4 Series Coupe, which is basically a tinkered-with 3 Series two-door. Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM) will be showing its new Lexus IS series, a direct competitor of the BMW 3 Series, while Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (PINK:NSANY) will be showing its replacement for the outgoing Infiniti G series, the Infiniti Q50.
For regular car buyers unable to afford luxury or muscle who just need a practical car, Nissan will show its 2014 Murano crossover and new Versa compact, GM will present its 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and Toyota will provide a peek at the 2014 Corolla.
The Detroit auto show is one of six major annual events that help gauge the overall trends in the global auto market. The other shows take place at different times of the year in Beijing/Shanghai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, and Tokyo.