2009 New York International Auto Show - Thoughts and Observations


PHOTO

By John Heilig
Senior Editor
East Coast Bureau
The Auto Channel

New York, NY April 9, 2009; There may be a recession, car sales may dip below the 10 million mark in 2009, and money is tight, but you wouldn't know it by the way people spoke at the New York Auto show, which runs at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York from April 11-19.

Speaker after speaker at the press introduction days were optimistic that the industry will not only survive the present difficulties, but will emerge at the other end stronger and with better product. These feelings were evident from the keynote address by Volkswagen of America president and CEO Stefan Jacoby to the final speaker, John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motors America.

Jacoby stressed the need for better fuel economy and cleaner air. Volkswagen's answer to the twin questions is the clean diesel. "Diesel fuel provides better economy, but there are higher up-front costs," Jacoby admitted. "We can do a lot now to improve economy and reduce emissions. the way forward is? clear and we will definitely get through this. Our industry is woven into the fabric of American life."

More than 30 new or revised models were introduced in New York, marking either world or North American debuts.

The first was a new model announced by Mercedes-Benz, the E63 AMG, with 518 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque and a 7-speed AMG Speedshift transmission. Mercedes-Benz also showed the all-new E Class, the redesigned E Coupe. Like VW, Mercedes-Benz is promoting its Blutec diesel engine and expects to have Blutec in most of its models shortly.

Chrysler's Jim Press, always noted for his press conferences, arrived at the Chrysler introduction in a Fiat 500. "This is a possibility for the future," Press said. "This car is the same size as a HEMI engine."

Chrysler's new product was the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which started with Mercedes-Benz M-Class architecture when the two companies were married. Indeed, the new Grand Cherokee bears a close resemblance to the M Class, with a Jeep grille of course. The Grand Cherokee features three 4-wheel drive systems, a 3.6-liter V6 or a 5.7-liter HEMI V8.

Land Rover introduced three new/revised models; a Land Rover LR4, a Range rover and a Range Rover Sport. Highlights of these three vehicles are tougher chassis for off-road driving and a virtual instrument panel. There are no instruments per se, but a tough screen that allows the driver to customize what he or she sees.

Acura showed the ZDX concept car, described as a "melding of luxury sedan and SUV with a breakthrough design that shows a lot of tension." It was described as the pinnacle of what Acura can do. The production version is expected to arrive this fall and "will bring a new level of prestige and luxury to Acura."

On the GM stand, Susan Docherty, general manager of the Buick-GMC-Pontiac divisions, showed the GMC 5-passenger Terrain, which is designed to compete with the Highlander class of small SUVs. It has either a 3.0-lite rV6 or 2.4-liter four.

Scion showed the best concept of the show, the iQ, which it lowered from the ceiling. This was a combination f a smart on steroids and a Hot Wheels car with its bright yellow/green paint to its flared wheels. It has 18-inch wheels, is less than 10 feet long, has a high belt line and roof spoiler.

Jacoby returned to the VW stand to introduce the sixth generation Golf and GTI. Both showed a smoother, more aerodynamic front end with the traditional strong C-Pillar and nearly vertical back end.

BMW's confusing stand exhibited the X6M and the new Z4. The X6M sports a turbocharged 4.4-lite rV8 developing 555 horsepower and 500 lb.-ft. of torque. It is the first turbocharged M Sport Activity Vehicle.

On the Bentley stand was the most powerful production Bentley ever, the 621 brake horsepower Continental Super Sport. This two-seater will go from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds and will reach 100 mph in 8.9 seconds, with a top speed of 204 mph.

Porsche showed the latest production version of the GT3, with a 3.8-liter, 435 hp six and a stiffer chassis.

Mitsubishi opened Thursday's press conferences with a new Outlander SUV and a close-to-production version of its small electric car that will appear later this year.

Subaru brought out the redesigned Legacy that is more aerodynamic than its predecessor. This will be available in three levels; the 2.5i with a 170 hp engine, the 2.5GT with a 265 hp turbocharged engine, and the 3.6 with a 256 hp six.

Subaru also introduced the redesigned Outback, which was originally launched in 1994. It was a natural introduction, since the Outback is built on the Legacy platform. The Outback has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches and is offered with either a 2.5-liter four or a 3.6-liter 6.

Kia had a design discussion between the designers of the Soul and Forte. After this they introduced the Forte Koup, with either a 2.4-liter 170 hp four or a 2.0-liter four. The Forte will arrive in early summer, the Koup in late summer and the Soul is on sale now.

Mazda's new president Takashi Yamanouchi introduced the refreshed CX7 and CX9 and hinted at the Mazdaspeed3 with a new turbocharged engine.

Honda showed a "dog friendly" Element, with specific upholstery patterns and labeling as well as a rear full width pet bed, dog restraint systems, a spill-resistant water bowl and a rear fan. It will be available in the fall of 2009.

Finally, Hyundai showed the HCD11 Nuvis concept SUV with gullwing doors, a hybrid "Blue drive" touch screen technology for the instruments, expressive headlamps and taillamps and a flowing floor. Executive Design Manager John Krsizeski said "there's not a single line standing still" on the Nuvis.

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