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Published: Monday, 1/9/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Automakers to show practical side in Detroit

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The 2013 Dodge Dart is to make its debut Monday at the 2012 Detroit auto show. The reinvented compact is derived from architecture developed by Fiat SpA, Chrysler Group LLC’s majority owner. Chrysler, hoping to continue its recent revival, is counting on the Dart, and its zippy name, to sell more small cars. The 2013 Dodge Dart is to make its debut Monday at the 2012 Detroit auto show. The reinvented compact is derived from architecture developed by Fiat SpA, Chrysler Group LLC’s majority owner. Chrysler, hoping to continue its recent revival, is counting on the Dart, and its zippy name, to sell more small cars.
DODGE BRAND MEDIA Enlarge
DETROIT — The Detroit auto show was once the place where automakers unleashed wild concepts that had about as much a chance of making it to production as gasoline does putting out a grease fire.

These days, they’re mostly showing off cars that you might put in your own garage.

“A lot of manufacturers are looking at auto shows more to promote things they are going to have in showrooms soon,” said Ed Hellwig, an editor with automotive research Web site Edmunds.com. “I think that’s a little bit of a shift. Detroit was typically used for flashy things. I think they’re getting a little more practical and I think that’s probably all for the better.”

Yes, pie-in-the-sky prototypes such as the V-10 powered, 300-mph Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle that what was then-DaimlerChrysler AG showed in 2003 seem to be going by the wayside. But that’s not to say the auto industry has gone into hibernation in the Motor City.

Some 500 vehicles will be on display. More than 40 new vehicles are expected to be unveiled during the 2012 North American International Auto Show, which opens to the public Saturday. Teasers about half of them have been released, but the automakers have held close information about the remaining debuts. Among those that have been announced are the all-new Dodge Dart compact sedan and the next-generation Ford Fusion

“We’re seeing a lot of new passenger cars from the Big Three, but they’re global cars. They’re not local, American-style sedans anymore,” said Aaron Bragman, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive.

The next-generation Ford Fusion features European-influenced styling. Its introduction at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, which will feature some 500 vehicles, is among those that have been announced for the event in Detroit that opens to the public Saturday. The next-generation Ford Fusion features European-influenced styling. Its introduction at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, which will feature some 500 vehicles, is among those that have been announced for the event in Detroit that opens to the public Saturday.
FORD MOTOR CO Enlarge

The Dart is derived from architecture developed by Fiat SpA, Chrysler Group LLC’s majority owner, and Mr. Bragman said the Fusion is expected to have strong European-influenced styling.

Another car for the commoners that is to be unveiled at the show is a prototype of the Ohio-built 2013 Honda Accord coupe. Experts say the coupe will reveal the styling cues for the upcoming ninth generation of the Accord line and is likely to be very close to the production version.

The Japan-based company is also bringing a spate of vehicles from its Acura luxury division, which has stumbled of late. Acura sales dropped 8 percent in 2011, and some analysts have criticized the styling direction the company took with several of its models. Expected in Detroit are the new ILX sedan and the RDX crossover. Also expected is a version of a new NSX sports car.

“That was such a groundbreaking car when it was originally introduced. A lot of people are looking to that car to see if Acura and Honda still have the ability to create a jaw-dropping sports car,” Mr. Hellwig said.

Auto show officials say they’ve added about 25,000 square feet more floor space and are preparing for a strong show as the auto industry continues its turnaround.

“You’ll feel and see the confidence that the manufacturers have in the show and the industry,” show spokesman Joe Rohatynski said.

Organizers also announced last week that the show will stay at Cobo Center through at least 2017, with the signing of five-year extension on Wednesday.

Unless Chrysler has something hidden up its sleeve, no new details are expected to come out about the replacement for the Toledo-built Jeep Liberty. A Jeep brand spokesman said there would be no announcement regarding that model, which is expected to be built on a Fiat platform starting sometime in 2013.

Analysts said they also didn’t expect any news on the Liberty or Jeep Wrangler at the show. Jeep has revamped most its line in the past year or so.

General Motors Co. will debut its Cadillac ATS, a smaller sedan expected to compete with the BMW 3-series, which has been a leader in the sport luxury segment for years.

“It’s important around the world. It’s a high-volume segment and it seems from the early reports they’ve got something that is competitive with the 3-series,” Mr. Bragman said.

Analysts do expect some concept vehicles, including cars from Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit and from General Motors Co. Small, fuel-efficient cars, hybrids, and electric plug-ins will also make a strong showing. One notable example will be a small electric pickup truck from Daimler AG’s Smart division.

The show will again host a track where visitors can ride in electric cars.

“A lot of people still haven’t been in an electric vehicle yet and are really surprised to feel the torque of an electric vehicle,” Mr. Rohatynski said.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at:
tlinkhorn@theblade.com
or 419-724-6134



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