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2013 Philadelphia Auto Show Preview

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By John Heilig
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

With more than 630,000 square feet of exhibit space, the 111th edition of the Philadelphia Auto Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center features more than 700 cars from "nearly every manufacture," according to Chairman Michael Chapman. The show features four outdoor and two indoor ride and drive experiences besides the plethora of different models, from the Scion iQ to the McLaren MP4-12C.

While the Press Preview day may have been under-attended, which was a disappointment to the three manufacturers who made presentations, rest assured that the Convention Center will be packed during the running of the show, Jan. 19-27.

Ford Regional Manager Dave Principato said the fuel economy is the reason to buy in 2013. To emphasize that point he focused on the 2014 Fiesta ST "pocket rocket," which delivers performance plus fuel economy. He added that a 3-cylinder 1-liter EcoBoost powered Fiesta will be available later in the year.

Principato also noted that the Fusion Energy Plug In hybrid will go 85 mpg in electric mode, and will go 21 miles on battery power alone. The range for the Fusion Plug In is 620 miles.

Ford promised a full size Transit van in the future that will have two times the capacity of the present E Series vans and better economy. It will have two wheelbases, three roof heights and either a 3.5-liter or 3.7-liter V6 engine.

By the end of the year, the Transit Connect Wagon will appear in showrooms. Built on a Ford global platform, the Transit Connect Wagon will prove that "the minivan is back at Ford."

Jeep's Lisa Barrow induced the few members of the media to Camp Jeep, one of the two indoor ride and drive experiences. The special track set up inside the Convention Center is designed to demonstrate the capabilities of Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s and Grand Cherokees. The highlight of the tour is a 14-foot tall "mountain" that shows the Jeep's ability to climb and descend steep declines. Other sections of the course show the independent suspension's articulation, the road clearance and the vehicles' ability to handle side slopes.

Toyota also has an indoor ride facility that was not ready in time for the media. In addition, Buick and Cadillac had short rides available in the neighborhood around the Convention Center. Hyundai, Kia and Subaru will also offer outdoor test drives.

The final manufacturer to make a presentation was GM, which presented the Buick Encore crossover and the GMC pickup. Roger McCormack, Global Marketing Director for Buick-GMC, noted first that Buick sales have increased 30 percent over the last three years, with conquest sales accounting for nearly 43 percent of that number. "Buick has a lot of momentum and is appealing to a lot more people," McCormack said.

The 2013 Korea-built Encore is a smaller version of the Enclave. "It has Buick DNA in a package you don' expect from Buick," he said. Encore is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that delivers 33 mpg highway. It has a maximum of 48.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity and is, according to McCormack, "The perfect next entry for Buick."

McCormack then turned to the 2014 GMC Sierra pickup. He noted that pickup sales were at 2.5 million in 2004-2005, fell to 1.1 million in 2008-2009, and rose to 1.7 million in 2012. He said he expects pickup sales to be more dynamic in 2013.

The Sierra has "bold, brawny styling that is very distinct," McCormack said. Among the features are a soft touch instrument panel, real aluminum metal inside, standard bed rail liners and standard corner steps to aid entry into the bed. The easy down tailgate has struts that modulate how it lowers. In the bed are four tie downs with nine different positions.

The Philadelphia Auto Show isn't Detroit or New York, in that there are no major product introductions. What it is, though, is a solid opportunity to examine various manufacturers' offerings side by side in a convivial atmosphere. The runs from Saturday, January 19 – Sunday, January 27, 2013, tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children and free for children under 6.