Key to the Highway

Observations about cars and the auto industry

2008 L.A. Auto Show Rundown

They’ve got the world on a string

Yesterday’s overview of the upcoming L.A. Auto Show might have sounded a tad too enthusiastic. Apologies. The reality is that the show is a reflection of the dire situation automakers find themselves in, only it’s representative of a few months ago with the exception of GM’s recent cancellation of its press conference and display of anything significant.

The Mini E, all-electric vehicle

The Mini E, all-electric vehicle

Despite the number of so-called world debuts at this year’s L.A. show, the reality is that several of the vehicles on the slate are either mid-product cycle refreshes or current models with something other than just a gasoline engine.

That means if you know what the Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Borrego, Mini Copper or Volkswagen Touareg look like, don’t expect to be awestruck. At least not on looks alone.

Apart from those cars, which will get a more detailed look after the press conferences, there are some new models:

  • 2010 Ford Mustang; 57 varieties of “special” editions to follow.
  • 2009 Nissan 370 Z; the two-seater version of the Infiniti G37 S. Given the Infiniti’s performance, if the 370 has a shorter wheel-base like its predecessors, the car should be pretty good. Photos of it are already out, so the look won’t surprise too many people.
  • Infiniti G37 Convertible; speaking of Nissan’s luxo marque and its most satisfying ride, the drop-top version will be officially unveiled.
  • Nissan will unveil the production version of its Cube, which was shown in concept form earlier. It’s very much like the Scion xB or xD in overall shape and size. Official photos haven’t been released, but leaked images pervade the ‘net.
2009 Mazda 3 sedan

2009 Mazda 3 sedan

  • Lexus will show the restyled RX 350 and the hybrid-only RX 450h
  • Mazda’s latest version of the Mazda 3, its popular alternative to the Corolla or Civic, breaks cover.
  • Mini will show a limited-production EV version of the Cooper. Only available in select markets. Shocking.
  • Porsche will show off the restyled Boxster and Cayman. From the photos floating around online, the changes keep with the Porsche tradition of not changing much. Fine by us because the Cayman is the best looking car from Stuttgart since the 550 Spyder.
Kia will show a fuel cell electric vehicle concept version of the Borrego.

Kia will show a fuel cell electric vehicle concept version of the Borrego.

It’s not that we’re not interested in the Kia Borrego FCEV Concept—based on the Korean company’s bargain SUV—or the Toyota CNG Camry Hybrid Concept—which T. Boone Pickens will trade a few acres of Texas windmills to own—or that existing models adapting existing technologies, or concepts that might never get produced, or even limited-production cars like the Mini E aren’t worthy efforts on the part of automakers. What curbs our enthusiasm about many of these vehicles is that availability will be limited, as will the kind of desperate cash-on-the-hood deals automakers and dealers offer for every gas guzzler or unwanted vehicle on the lot. What’s coming two years from now or goes for MSRP today isn’t going to generate immediate cash.

To be continued …

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