2014 Washington DC Auto Show


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By John Heilig
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel


Weather wreaked havoc on the Washington DC Auto Show media day on January 22 at the Walter Washington Convention Center. Fortunately, although temperatures are still expected to reach single digits and possibly below, the public portion of the show should proceed without incident.

The Washington Auto Show, which bills itself as "The Industry's Public Policy Show," continues from January 23 through February 2.

While several of the manufacturers represented took the opportunity to stress the need for government cooperation in developing the infrastructure for future electric or hydrogen powered car expansion, several had vehicles on display and a couple even claimed to have hydrogen-powered cars ready for production and sale this year.

Ford COO Mark Fields was the keynote speaker at the combined International Motor Press Association and Washington Auto Press Association breakfast. However, thanks to the snowstorm that hindered travel throughout the Northeast corridor, Fields spoke from Dearborn, Michigan by live feed.

Fields said that technology was the key driver in 2013, a year that saw 15.6 million vehicles sold in the United States. He added that Ford's Blueprint for Sustainability, which was the inspiration behind the new F-150 that is 750 pounds lighter than the previous version, will save 45 million gallons of fuel annually.

He noted also that Ford has developed the CMax solar energy concept and has a Fusion with automated driving technology but Federal government cooperation is needed to make these a reality.

Nivan Patel, Vice President of business strategies for Toyota, introduced the single passenger iRoad concept that is a three-wheel rear wheel steer motorcycle-like vehicle (with a roof) that leans into turns.

Of more immediate interest is Toyota's fuel cell concept FCV that Toyota plans to bring to market in 2015. The FCV mixes hydrogen and oxygen with the only emission product being water. The FCV is an electric drive vehicle with a range of 300 miles that is "Lexus hybrid quiet," according to Patel. Again, Federal government cooperation is needed for infrastructure development.

Breaking the string of fuel cell and electric vehicles, Ram introduced the ProMaster full-size front wheel drive V6–powered commercial van based on the Fiat Ducato and resembling the Sprinter and redesigned Ford Transit Connect.

In addition, Ram showed the heavy duty versions of the pickup. According to Ram spokesman Carl Lally, the properly equipped Heavy Duty can tow up to 30,000 pounds, more than 3 tons more than its nearest competitor.

Chrysler introduced the 2015 200, which the reps said would be a really important car to Chrysler. Completely redesigned from 2013, the 200 enters the mid-size segment with a ton of features and good price points. Starting at $21,700 for the LX, and moving to $25,595 for the well-equipped 200C, the 200 comes with a standard 9-speed automatic transmission, remote keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop and electronic shifting using a rotary dial. Two engines are available, a 2.4-liter -84 horsepower four and a 3.6-liter 295 hp V6 in the 200L and 200C.

Hyundai Vice President of corporate and product planning Mike O'Brien introduced the Tucson fuel cell, which will be in customer's hands in the spring 2014. "Fuel cells are the next generation of electric cars," O'Brien said. "Refueling takes place in minutes rather than hours, and it is cleaner than today's battery electronic vehicles."

The Tucson fuel cell will be available for lease initially in California with a $2,999 initial payment and $499 a month.

Oh yes, he added that we need renewed Federal government commitment to make fuel cell vehicles viable.

Nissan's Brendan Jones spoke about growing the electric vehicle infrastructure. Presently, there are 570 Chatham Fast chargers installed nationally that will provide an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. 130 Nissan dealerships have chargers and the other 20 will have chargers later this year.

Eric Gottfried discussed how Leaf sales have grown to 100,000. He introduced the ENV200, an electric delivery truck concept that will go into production this spring in Spain.

Finally, Cadillac introduced the new Escalade, which is much more a Cadillac than a rebodied Suburban. The Escalade has the industry's first use of LED headlights, taillight and running lights, while retaining such qualities as the 6.4–liter V8 powerplant and magnetic ride. The Escalade enters production later this year.

In all, I found the Washington Auto Show to be an interesting display of vehicles. Media day showed a sensible procession of introductions, with short walks from the first to the last on the top floor, lunch to end that, and a similarly logical progression on the "B" level. The best part for experienced media day veterans was the lack of people rudely pushing others out of the way to grab seats at introductions, and a comfortable atmosphere all around.

(C) 2014 The Auto Page

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