Detroit Show: Strong Future Probable for Some Carmakers

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year gave visitors a peek into the future of the automobile and a glimpse at the growing strength of Ford Motor Company, which reports a 33% rise in sales for December 2009 compared to the previous year.

Ford vice president of U.S. marketing sales and service Ken Czubay says, “Ford’s plan is working.”

Even though the total sales for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury in 2009 were down 15%, its total U.S. market share rose one point over 2008 to 15%. This marks the first full-year market share increase for Ford since 1995.

To top it off, at the Detroit show, Ford’s Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect won the North American Car and Truck Awards respectively.

Hyundai and Kia also showed well, with a strong product lineup and creative marketing campaigns. Audi/Volkswagen created a stir with aggressive product plans, stellar performance vehicles and state-of-the-art designs. Nissan generated a buzz with risky, exciting and unique new design work.

Toyota, on the other hand, is struggling to recover from a drop in sales and widely publicized, massive safety recalls. Some interest was shown in the Venza crossover vehicle and the Lexus LF-A, but overall, the excitement was generated by other brands’ offerings.

One new trend is the powerhouse four-cylinder engines that many automakers are engineering into their latest models. The engines deliver increased horsepower through advances turbo charging and direct fuel injection technologies.

An example is Volkswagen’s CC Coupe Concept car, which is powered by a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, turbocharging and an intercooler. The CC Coupe has a top speed of 141 mph and gets about 45 mpg.

Also notable at the show was the absence of new truck and SUV models. There were no new trucks shown, and the only crossover of interest was the Lincoln MKX. New government fuel standards will likely promote this trend to continue.

Smaller cars are the showstoppers this year, and not all compacts are the typical no-frills models of the past. The new Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze are comparable to entry-level luxury cars, complete with leather, and many of the latest features and equipment.

Luxury manufacturers report they’re still doing well, despite global economic woes. The market for cars such as the Audi A8, Mercedes Benz E Class Cabriolet, Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept and Lincoln MKX is still strong.

Even though it didn’t show in Detroit, the new Honda 2011 Sonata had the attention it deserves. Comparable to an entry-level Mercedes C Class, the car is well ahead of other family car models in value, style and features.

Of course, electrics and hybrids were present and garnered a great deal of attention. The Electric Avenue exhibit featured an array of hybrids and all electric vehicles. Adding to the buzz was a prediction from Toyota that hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles will be marketed within five years.

Posted in In the News

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