A year ago, the mood at the Detroit’s annual North American International Auto Show was one of uncertainty and despair as economic uncertainty threatened to destroy two of Detroit’s “big three” automakers.
This year’s event was decidedly upbeat as automakers from around the globe gathered to tout their latest designs.
Hybrids and electric vehicles were in the spotlight and “sustainable mobility” was the buzz phrase heard throughout Detroit’s Cobo Center.
Toyota unveiled its new FT-CH hybrid concept vehicle which it hopes will ultimately appeal to younger, environmentally-conscious buyers who have apparently already come to regard the Prius as somewhat outdated and pass
. The FT-CH sports sleek, futuristic lines and an interior that features plenty of high-tech “bling”.
Engineered for urban drivers, the FT-HC is lighter than the Prius and employs Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. The automaker says the FT-HC is more fuel efficient and will cost less than the Prius if and when it makes it from concept to full production status.
Another new offering on display at the auto show was Volkswagen’s Compact Coup
concept vehicle. Something of a mix between the Scirocco and CC models, the Compact Coup
features a hybrid powertrain which includes a 1.4 TSI engine and a 20kW electric motor harnessed to a seven-speed DSG transmission to deliver an estimated fuel efficiency of around 56 mpg with a top speed of around 140 mph. The Coup
concept appears likely to make it into Volkswagen’s model lineup in the not too distant future.
Honda also displayed its new CR-Z gas-electric hybrid sports model. In appearance, the CR-Z has been compared to the wedge-shaped design of Honda’s 1980’s-vintage CRX model. The CR-Z employs a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and generates electric power kinetically, using Honda’s Motor Assist technology.
There were also several non-electric vehicles on display at the show. Mercedes-Benz chose the venue to display its new E-Class Cabriolet. The model features a convertible fabric top along with some impressive new technologies and is available with a choice of eight engine models.
Rival German automaker BMW also displayed its new 2011 Z4 sDrive35is convertible featuring the automaker’s new 250kW turbo-charged engine.
Not to be outdone by foreign competition, Ford Motor Company walked away from the show with both the Car of the Year and Truck of the Year awards. The company also chose the venue to unveil the redesigned Focus.
The show was something of a no-show for fellow Detroit automakers, GM and Chrysler.
GM displayed its redesigned GMC Acadia Denali sports utility vehicle to lukewarm reviews among the automotive press.
Although Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne attended the show, the automaker did not hold a press conference. In what appeared to some to be a diversionary tactic designed to draw attention away from its complete lack of new vehicles, Chrysler’s stand instead featured an over-abundance of what one automotive journalist described as “leggy, scantily-clad models.”
Despite the unimpressive showing by GM and Chrysler, however, the show was a promising start to the new year for Ford and many other attendees and bodes well for the Geneva Motor Show which opens this coming March.