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2007 Media Preview

Paul Brian
Director of Communications
Chicago Auto Show

Toyota Highlander/Highlander Hybrid
Toyota is "Moving Forward" once again with the unveiling of the all-new 2008 Toyota Highlander during the media preview of the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. The development
of the new Highlander was driven by four words: "Smart in, strong out." A vehicle smart on the inside and strong on the outside makes the Highlander a revolutionary SUV. 

The 2008 Highlander takes the car-based SUV concept to a new level," said Toyota Motor Sales North America Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations, Don Esmond. "I can say that with conviction, because it's a category we invented."

This stylish SUV will surely attract families looking for the hard-to-find combination of comfort, style and safety. The Highlander moves away from traditional SUV styling cues of tough and rugged, to a look and feel that is intelligent and advanced.  The second-row features captain's chairs that, if needed, convert to a bench-seat for three passengers. 

With the Highlander many features previously offered as options now come standard. It provides a total of seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and roll-sensing side curtain airbags for all three rows. Other clever features include a third-row bench seat with foldable headrests for a flat rear cargo area, a rear glass hatch for quick access to the back on Sport and Limited models, and Smart Start and Entry for Limited and all hybrid models.  

The Highlander is wrapped in a package styled for buyers to whom design is a motivation.

Astra Joins the Saturn Family
Troy Clarke, president of GM North America, introduced the updated Saturn Astra at GM's press conference on February 7, 2007. The all-new 2008 Astra delivers great fuel economy, outstanding safety features and a sporty performance.  

The 2008 Saturn Astra is one of many new cars in GM's showrooms. Clarke and Jill Lajdziak, general manager, discussed Saturn's revitalization of current product lines like the Vue and Aura.

"America fell in love with this brand for its new product innovation," Lajdziak said. "We're going to raise the bar in the industry."

Saturn also announced new features on its Web site, Customers may participate in a live chat with Saturn representatives 24 hours a day and sign up for the "Test Drive at Home" program. This creative program allows customers to schedule a time for Saturn retailers to bring a new vehicle to their homes for a test drive.

Ron Fellows ALMS GT1 Corvette and Indy 500 Special Edition

Corvette enthusiasts in search of a unique ride have much to consider this year with the world introduction of two special-edition models: the Ron Fellows ALMS GT1 Champion Corvette Z06 and the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica Corvette Convertible.

The special-edition Corvettes are distinguished by unique interior and exterior appointments and will be offered in limited, pre-determined quantities. In other words, when they're gone, they're gone.

"Chevrolet and Corvette have a long, storied history at Indianapolis, and the new pace car special-edition commemorates that heritage with what will surely be an instant collectible," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "Ron Fellows is also a part of Chevrolet's racing heritage, and he has been instrumental in the remarkable success of the Corvette Racing team in the American Le Mans Series. The special signature-series Z06 model that bears his name will forever link him to one of the greatest eras in factory racing, which has produced six consecutive ALMS GT1 manufacturers championships, and counting."

Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica Corvette Convertible
A 2007 Chevrolet Corvette convertible will pace the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, 2007 and was revealed to an adoring throng in Chicago. As it was selected as the Official Pace Car, Chevrolet will supply several identically prepared and uniquely trimmed Corvette convertibles-in new Atomic Orange paint with distinctive gold ribbon graphics-that will serve in the official pace duties of the race, as well as supporting activities.  

Five hundred production replicas of those official cars will be offered to the public-all of them convertibles. They'll be available beginning this spring.

This year marks the ninth time Corvette has served as the Official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500. The previous years were 1978, 1986, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006. It also is a record fourth consecutive turn for the Corvette, as well as a record 18 th time for a Chevrolet, to be selected as the pace car.

Who Stole the Show?

General Motors conducted its largest auto show sweepstakes in history by giving away 10 vehicles in 10 days during the 2007 Chicago Auto Show.

GM promoted the contest to the public through a massive online, print, radio and television advertising campaign where consumers were directed to the Web site, which allowed people to enter the sweepstakes online from their homes, as well as on the auto show floor.

In addition to the vehicles, over 4,000 prizes with a value of over $750,000 were awarded.

The vehicles to be given away were the Chevy Corvette (Coupe, Hard-top, Auto); Pontiac Solstice; GMC Acadia (SLT2,FWD); Buick Lucerne (CX V6); Hummer H3x 4WD; Chevy Silverado (Extended Cab LT, 4WD)  Saab 9-3 Aero Convertible; Saturn Aura (XR Sedan); Chevy Impala (LT1); and Cadillac Escalade.

In addition to the vehicles and prizes, a safe containing $10,000 traveled around the GM displays at the show and consumers had an opportunity to try to "crack the code" to win the cash.

Kudos to GM for an awesome consumer event!

What's in a name? Ford banks on Taurus Touted Turnaround

"Taurus has been an icon for Ford's family sedan for more than two decades, and it's time to return this powerful name to where it belongs," said Mark Fields, Ford's President of The Americas, during the media preview of the Chicago Auto Show. "Consumer awareness of the Taurus name is double the Five Hundred that it's replacing, and awareness of Sable is triple that of Montego.

"By giving these vehicles the names that consumers recognize at the same time we're making significant upgrades, we're confident that even more people are going to be attracted to these great products in the future," Fields added.

The 2008-model Taurus sedan will go on sale this summer, replacing the Ford Five Hundred. The new Taurus features a Ford Fusion-inspired exterior design, a new powertrain with 60 more horsepower, a new all-wheel-drive system, available standard electronic stability control and other refinements to make it more distinctive, quieter, faster and safer.

The 2008-model Taurus X crossover will go on sale late this summer - replacing the Ford Freestyle - with the same design, powertrain and safety upgrades, as well as three row of seats, one-touch flip-and-fold second-row seating and an available power rear liftgate.

The 2008-model Mercury Sable also goes on sale this summer - replacing the Mercury Montego - with extensive design, powertrain and safety upgrades, as well as unique touches that make it a Mercury. They include Mercury's signature satin aluminum waterfall grille, jeweled projector beam headlamps, distinctive LED tail lamps and a two-tone interior trim with unique accents. 

The Taurus name remains powerful today. In fact, it is one of top three most recognized Ford nameplates, behind only the F-Series and Mustang. Consumer awareness of the Taurus nameplate remains at an impressive 80 percent.

"The Ford Five Hundred has been a solid product, and it has one of the highest satisfaction rates in our lineup," said Cisco Codina, Ford's group vice president of North America Marketing, Sales and Service. "Once people discover the vehicle, nearly 60 percent end up buying a one.

"The Taurus will be even better thanks to significant upgrades - and, now, a name that people know. Going forward, we're going to cherish this iconic name with the same clarity, confidence and intensity as we do with F-Series and Mustang," Codina added.

The 2008 Ford Taurus X is a full-size crossover that offers three rows of seating, a powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine with six-speed automatic transmission and a long list of standard safety equipment - including side curtain air bags and AdvanceTrac(r) electronic stability control. Innovative convenience features on the Taurus X include one-touch, flip-and-fold second-row seating and an available power rear liftgate.

The 2008 Taurus X will reach dealer showrooms in late summer 2007.

Restyled Dodge Dakota Offers More Power Combined with Bold Styling, Versatility and Capability
Chrysler Group today unveiled the new 2008 Dodge Dakota mid-size truck with a new engine that not only offers 25 percent more horsepower and 10 percent more torque, but also better fuel economy and increased refinement. The 2008 Dodge Dakota also features new exterior and interior styling, and many best-in-class capabilities.

The new truck arrives in dealerships in August.

New for 2008 are striking exterior and interior enhancements that bear signature Dodge styling cues while creating a new persona for Dakota.

"The new 2008 Dodge Dakota was redesigned to broaden its appeal to younger customers with active lifestyles," said Tom Loveless, Director - Dodge Marketing and Global Communications. "Dodge Dakota will attract 25- to 35-year-old individuals who need a vehicle to meet a variety of needs. Depending on an owners' lifestyle, the 2008 Dodge Dakota may be equipped for work or play, but every Dakota is equipped with capability and versatility."

"The Dodge truck DNA is well-understood in the marketplace. We are creators of trucks with a distinct flair for style and no compromise in function," said Ralph Gilles, Vice President - Jeep(r)/Truck and Color and Trim Studios, and Specialty Vehicles, Chrysler Group Design. "We restyled the 2008 Dodge Dakota to reflect that DNA in a package that presents the Dakota as both a sporty lifestyle vehicle and a work truck."

For 2008, the Dodge Dakota will again be offered in two body styles - Extended Cab and Crew Cab - and six trim levels: ST, SXT, SLT, TRX4, Sport and Laramie.

  • New 4.7-liter V-8 engine with 290 horsepower (25 percent increase) and 320 lb.-ft. of torque (10 percent increase), with better fuel economy and increased refinement - the only V-8 option available in the segment
  • All-new exterior in Extended Cab and Crew Cab body styles
  • New interior features greatest space of any mid-size truck, with 30 cubic feet of interior space in Extended Cab models; 3.1 cubic feet for Crew Cab
  • The largest and longest standard cargo bed in its class: 6-foot-6-inches in the Extended Cab
  • Best-in-class towing capability of up to 7,050 pounds
  • New features include built-in cargo-box utility rails, heated bench seats, under-seat storage system

Bigger is Better!

Extending bold, tough, in-your-face Dodge Ram heritage to the Class 4 and 5 commercial market, Dodge expands its commercial presence and sets another commercial standard with the launch of the all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs. Both chassis cabs were revealed at the Chicago Auto Show. 

"We built the all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs for heavy-duty chassis cab buyers who want a powerful, capable and versatile commercial-quality vehicle," said George Murphy, Senior Vice President - Global Brand Marketing, Chrysler Group. "With commercial performance, durability and capability, the 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs offer dominant powertrain packages, a commercial-grade upfit-friendly chassis, and bold, 'big-rig' Ram styling." 

Hot New R32 Warms up the Windy City with its North American Debut
Volkswagen of America, Inc. today announced the return of its motorsports-inspired R32 at the Chicago Auto Show. First introduced in 2004 to an enthusiastic reception, the R32 delivers the ultimate in Volkswagen sports performance with dynamic handling and refined road manners.

The R32's power comes from a 3.2 liter naturally aspirated 15-degree narrow angle V6 engine. With 250 horsepower and 236 ft. lbs. of torque, the R32 is all muscle. The standard 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system transfers at least 75 percent of available torque to the rear wheels. Volkswagen's acclaimed DSG(r) transmission allows for seamless gear changes and accelerates from 0-60 in approximately 6.4 seconds. 

With a fully independent multi-link rear suspension that sits wider and lower than its GTI sibling, the R32 flaunts its authority both inside and out. Twin chrome exhausts, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights, a uniquely shaped front grille and R32 badging distinguish this car from anything else on the road. A rear roof spoiler and deep front spoiler, coupled with body-colored bumpers, side bump strips, door handles and door mirrors, add to the streamlined, sporty look.

VW also announced that it will operate a production-based GTI Cup spec racing series beginning in 2008, offering aspiring young racers an affordable entry into professional motorsports. The new series will be sanctioned by Sports Car Club of America.

"Volkswagen as an automotive manufacturer is represented around the globe, and we have a strong history in motorsports, including successful spec racing Cup programs in more than 10 countries," said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "The GTI Cup in America will underscore Volkswagen's competitive spirit and the inspiration we take from racing into the building of our vehicles."

BMW Alpina B7 
Berkay Demircioglu, 6 Series and 7 Series Product Manager for BMW, announced in Chicago that the Alpina B7 is continuing its long tradition with BMW that began in the 1970s. BMW is emphasizing its reputation for high class performance and efficiency.  

This luxury car has the collaborative efforts from Alpina and BMW, and utilizes both companies for a fully integrated approach to design. Demircioglu challenged the audience to compare Alpina and BMW's collaboration to any other in the industry. "This is the BMW way," said Demircioglu. 

The engine of the new 2006 BMW Alpina B7 is the vehicle's heart and soul. The 4.4 liter, V8 engine is supercharged, allowing the consumer to reach 10,000 RPM. The Alpina B7 enables consumers to get the initial boost they want, but also delivering a smooth power delivery.  

The 6-speed transmission allows the driver (or pilot!) to go 0-60 M.P.H. in a mere 4.8 seconds. With 500 horsepower and an aerodynamic kit, the Alpina B7 promises to deliver.  Another attractive benefit of the BMW Alpina B7 is its effective fuel efficiency, as the B7 gets 23 miles per gallon on the highway. 

"This is what makes a BMW-a BMW," said Demircioglu.

2008 Pontiac G8
Confirming its commitment to style and performance, Pontiac introduced a show car version of an all-new, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2008 Pontiac G8 will be available in dealerships early next year.

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said, "We can talk all we want about producing cars and trucksmore efficiently...better leveraging our global resources...and making the
company design-driven again, but until we get the vehicles on the road it's all just that: talk.

"Well now the vehicles are arriving and I couldn't be more excited about it. The ultimate goal of our new approach to product development is to put beautifully designed, powerful, relevant cars and trucks in the hands of consumers and that's exactly what we intend to do."

"You've seen further evidence (in Chicago) with the Saturn Astra and it continues with this all-new Pontiac G8," Lutz continued. "These cars-particularly the Astra and the G8-wouldn't be possible without the changes we've made in global product development."

The G8 is the first North American application of GM's new global rear-wheel-drive architecture developed by Holden, GM's Australian subsidiary.

The G8 has a progressive styling package highlighted by strong Pontiac design cues, such as a dual-port grille, fog lamps, bold wheels and a confident, wheels-at-the-corners stance. The design accents the car's performance lineage, with fenders that flare over the wheels, seemingly hugging the wide tires and enhancing the sporting stance. The base G8 model receives a 3.6L DOHC V-6 with variable valve timing, rated at 261 horsepower (194 kW). It is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode.

The G8 GT will be powered by a uniquely configured 6.0L small-block V-8, rated at 362 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque . A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is standard and features the fuel-saving Active Fuel Management system, which enhances fuel economy by alternating between eight- and four-cylinder power. An optional six-speed manual transmission will be available soon after launch.

Bridgestone Americas
Bridgestone introduced three new lines of tires at the Chicago Auto Show News Conference on February 7, 2007. The first innovation, the Blizzak WS60, incorporates the latest Bridgestone tire innovations, including NanoPro-Tech and RC polymer technologies. This tire provides long mileage and high durability. It is meant for snow and ice and "takes tires to a new level."

The next tire introduced was the Duravis R500HD. With improved traction and stone rejection, it is said that snow and ice have met their match with the Duravis R500HD.  

Lastly, the Turanza was introduced as the tire from the next generation. Because of the new serenity technology, the Turanza is quite and comfortable and has outstanding wet and long wear performance. John Gamauf, President, Consumer Replacement Tire of Bridgestone Firestone  North American Tire, LLC, said, "This tire is like no other. You can really feel the difference."  

Bridgestone is currently expanding its advertising efforts in hoping to enlarge its recognition in the United States. John Gamauf said, "Bridgestone was the best kept secret in the U.S., but not anymore!"

Scion xB and xD
In Toyota Motor Sales' second divisional volley fired at the Chicago show, Scion debuted its redesigned xB and all-new xD to the world in McCormick Place's Grand Ballroom. 

"Despite Scion's recent introduction less than four years ago, the brand has quickly connected with car buyers," said Mark Templin, Scion vice president. Templin explained their strategy as a "keep it simple" business model that focuses on specifically targeting the trend leaders-10 percent of 142 million people under 35 years of age. These trend leaders are people who desire personalization, customization, and who "live on the web, both literally and figuratively," said Templin. 

April marks the arrival of Scion's second wave of all-new products that are designed and dedicated to owners. This includes the arrival of a "party in a box"-a second generation of Scion's xB. 

The new xB's size was enlarged to create a more exciting driving experience by increasing the overall length by one foot, the width by three inches, and decreasing the height more than one inch. 

Scion xD is a five-door urban subcompact designed with a short, wide frame for better handling. Both the exterior and interior's futuristic style focus on comfort and style, while constantly addressing customer wants and needs by including additional storage/cargo space, and an upgraded audio system. Scion also increased its driving performance by powering a 1.8 liter, four-cylinder engine that puts out 128 horsepower.

Nissan Titan Pickup, Pathfinder and Armada
Nissan North America showed the new 2008 Nisan Titan full-size pickup, Pathfinder mid-size SUV and Armada full-size SUVs in Chicago.

The three new vehicles offer significant upgrades and enhancements, including the addition of new Titan Long Wheelbase King Cab and Crew Cab models, a new 5.6-liter V8 engine for Pathfinder, and new exterior and interior designs for Armada. The three new 2008 Nissan vehicles are scheduled to be available at Nissan dealers nationwide beginning in spring 2007.

"The addition of the Titan Long Wheelbase models and the first-ever V8 engine ever offered in the 22-year history of Pathfinder expand the available choices for buyers of these two popular vehicles," said Larry Dominique, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America, Inc.  "The extensive makeover of Armada, which has topped J.D. Power and Associates' APEAL study for the Large SUV class in 2005 and 2006, adds up to an even more attractive, more premium and more complete Armada package for 2008 - one that we think will continue to make Armada stand out in the full-size SUV class." 

"The 2008 model year is already shaping up to be a tremendous year for Nissan with the previously announced Altima Coupe and all-new Rogue crossover SUV - and now new Titan, Pathfinder and Armada," said Dominique. "Attendees at the Chicago Auto Show will have five great new reasons to visit the Nissan display."

Kia Rondo SX
Chicago was the site for the world introduction of the new Kia Rondo SX. 

Ian Beavis, vice president of marketing for the company, made the announcement. 

"The Rondo encompasses a new design for an SUV," said Beavis. "Its bold style has the comfort and spaciousness that every SUV owner looks for in a vehicle, but has the steering and fuel efficiency of a sedan."  

Kia also presented a new concept car, the Rondo SX, a name given to only the sportiest models in the brand. Although the SX is not yet a production model, consumers will find the model to be based on Kia's brand essence, according to Beavis. Based on the 2007 Rondo, the SX features performance modifications and an upgrade in safety features. 

"The Kia Rondo SX explores new ideas for expansion in the future," he said.   
 Beavis also announced that the brand's January 2007 sales were the "best January ever" as they reached a a total of 22,524 units. This was good news to Kia, as December 2006 was recorded as their best month of sales in history with more than 30,000 units out the door.  

Beavis kept the good news coming as he announced Kia was ranked 13th in total sales and even tossed in some well-deserved bragging rights for their advertising, touting the number one-rated commercials in December for the car industry.  

"It is a huge accomplishment to have a Kia TV spot break through the clutter," said Beavis.

"Safely There" from Continental
Continental Automotive Systems is making a splash at this year's Chicago Auto Show to showcase its global leadership position in automotive electronics.

Continental's auto show exhibit vividly demonstrated its successful efforts to integrate active and passive safety systems, wireless and other "smart" technologies that make driving safer, more comfortable and fun. 

Continental's "Safely There" mobile interactive exhibit featured a Disney-like ride experience, allowing visitors to experience realistic driving scenarios that highlight new crash prevention technologies found on modern vehicles.

The Safely There exhibit also featured hands-on kiosks, where consumers could test their knowledge and learn more about active safety equipment available on vehicles today-and in the near future-that will help prevent crashes, reduce injuries and save lives.

"Our exhibit offers people the chance to experience intelligent vehicle technology firsthand and see how it will benefit drivers today and in the future," said Bill Kozyra, Continental Automotive Systems, North America president and CEO. "Continental is contributing to the increasing intelligence of today's vehicle with equipment that is increasing a car's brainpower, making the driving experience safer and more enjoyable. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications is a key technology for us and one that is growing in importance."


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