Healthy auto industry’s plan for Detroit show

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Healthy auto industry planning some flash and dash for Detroit show

Speed and style will overshadow anything green at this year’s Detroit auto show as the industry noisily celebrates its return to robust health.

More than 500 cars, trucks, crossovers and other vehicles will be on display at the North American International Auto Show, which opens Monday with two days of press conferences.

Among the introductions will be Acura’s long-awaited mid-engine NSX sports car, the 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V, a high-performance Lexus GS-F sedan and possibly an exotic mid-engine coupe similar to the late, great Ford GT.

In addition, Toyota will unveil a 2016 Tacoma pickup — which will compete with the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon in the midsize segment — and Nissan will introduce an all-new Titan full-size truck available with a Cummins diesel V-8.

Though Ford declined to comment on any of its introductions, the company is expected to unveil a new aluminum-bodied F-150 Raptor pickup in Detroit.

“The domestics are the healthiest they have been since I started covering the industry 20 years ago,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “I think they are feeling very confident and good about themselves, and you can see it in what they’re bringing to the show.”

Five years ago, the battered auto industry moved tentatively, still recovering from a deep recession, terrible sales and the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler Corp.

Now, lean and profitable automakers want to strut and stretch with cars capable of 180 mph or more — not to mention several significant new trucks.

“The fact that there are so many performance vehicles at the show is a manifestation of automakers being profitable again,” said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst at IHS Automotive. “It’s reflective of a more healthy industry.”

At least one major green vehicle will be unveiled at the Detroit show, a restyled Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric sedan that Chevy says will offer improved performance and range.

But cars like the Volt will be vying for attention with slinky concepts such as the Infiniti Q60, which will hint at the next generation of vehicles to replace the old G37 coupe.

“I think we’ll see a ton of interesting, significant cars,” said Edward Loh, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend. “When things are good and manufacturers crank up, they try to cater to everyone’s needs.”

Buick, for example, introduced a new front-wheel-drive midsize convertible Sunday night based on the Opel Cascada.

The stylish Buick Cascada, which will arrive at dealerships in about a year, is powered by a 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and will roll on standard 20-inch wheels.

“There are lots of luxury convertibles on the market, but not much in the way of mainstream cars,” noted Buick spokesman Nick Richards, who said the Cascada will add to Buick’s strong sales momentum.

The chiseled new Toyota Tacoma, which will be introduced early Monday afternoon, has already drawn the attention of Loh and others in the industry.

With sales of about 155,000 last year, the aging Tacoma led the stale midsize pickup segment.

But midsize trucks got a big shot of new life in late 2014 when Chevy and GMC decided to re-enter the segment with the bigger, more refined Colorado and Canyon pickups.

Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division, acknowledged that Toyota has been slow to update the Tacoma, which was last restyled in 2004.

“It’s a little longer in the cycle than some,” Fay said. “But the feedback from our consumers was they were pretty pleased with how it was.”

The 2016 Tacoma will arrive at dealerships this fall, maintaining most of the current truck’s dimensions and looking similar on the sides.

But it also sports a crisp new front with a hex grille and taller hood, as well as an upgraded interior.

The truck will be powered by a standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or an optional all-new 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to new six-speed automatic and manual transmissions.

Toyota did not disclose any power or fuel-economy specifications for the engine.

“We are upgrading the truck in every way,” Fay said.

Source: written by Terry Box

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