2009 Chicago Auto Show Highlights
Friday, March 6, 2009
Ford F150 Harley Davidson; SHO Taurus; Transit Connect
Ford Motor Company featured three new vehicles in Chicago, including the newly remodeled F150 Harley Davidson™ pickup, the production Transit Connect that had made its North American concept debut in Chicago a year earlier, and the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO.
The F150 Harley Davidson™ was introduced by Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development.
“The Harley F-150 delivers a new standard of ‘custom cool,’” said Kuzak. “It combines the smooth handling and legendary durability of America’s best-selling truck with the authentic styling of Harley-Davidson, the industry leader in motorcycles.”
This marks the 14th Harley-Davidson™ edition of an F-Series truck in a line of special models dating to 2000. It is aimed to appeal to customers who appreciate quality and unique details only this kind of collaboration can bring.
“Our successful co-branding—unmatched in the industry—offers customers true specialized truck luxury,” said Kuzak. ”Just like with our other associations, we’ve linked with an industry leader to offer the best of the best.”
He then introduced the production version Transit Connect, created to address the need for a smaller and more efficient work truck that would encompass the same cargo capacity as a large truck, while still nimble enough to move around a city. According to Kuzak, the Transit Connect is beneficial for small business owners due to the vehicle’s large cargo capacity.
Five lucky small-business owners were presented with a customized Transit Connect van as grand-prize winners in the company’s “Connect with Connect” contest. The five winners in attendance were chosen from among nearly 1,000 small-business owners around the country who entered the contest. They answered questions on how they would use the new vehicle to improve their day-to-day operations and explained the short-comings, if any, of their current vehicles.
Built in Chicago, one of America’s favorite “sleeper” performance cars will return to the Ford lineup and was introduced in its home town. Powered by a 365 hp Super High Output (SHO) EcoBoost twin turbocharged V-6 engine, the Taurus SHO joins Ford’s growing lineup of performance vehicles for the 2010 model year, building on the legacy of the original, which earned a spot on the Car and Driver “10 Best” list four years running.
“The new Taurus SHO delivers on the authentic sleeper sedan formula but adds all-new luxury-appointments, convenience features and technologies to an unsurpassed balance of power and fuel economy,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “This new sport derivative answers enthusiasts’ calls for a premium Ford flagship sedan with even more attitude.”
Chevy Surprises with a StingRay Concept
In a time when pulling a surprise rabbit out of a hat to a group of automotive journalists is getting tougher and tougher, but GM executed the mission flawlessly when they unexpectedly unveiled the Corvette StingRay concept in Chicago.
As the spotlight was turned on the Bow Tie, Chevrolet Division General Manager Ed Peper talked about an exciting overview of new products on the way from his division, and then gave a brief background of the successful relationship between Chevy and Paramount Studios.
“A few years ago we were presented with a unique marketing opportunity,” said Peper. “As you know, ‘Transformers’ was a major hit worldwide, breaking box office records in several countries and becoming one of the top 20 grossing films of all time. What you might not know is that after the movie, awareness for Camaro, one of the vehicle stars of the show, jumped 97 percent.
“The movie and subsequent DVD sales helped us identify over a half-million people who are interested in buying a Camaro. And when the Bumblebee Camaro made its appearance here at the Chicago Show last year, it was voted the “Most Favorite Vehicle. So today I’m happy to announce that we’re building on the success of the first movie with special Chevrolet vehicle appearances in the second ‘Transformers’ movie.”
After a clip from the upcoming film that included a number of other Chevy vehicles, GM Vice President of Design Ed Welburn took to the stage to continue the saga.
“This last car is the actual styling mock-up that the producers saw when they came looking for vehicles to use in the new movie,” said Welburn. “Of course, there was a working movie version built, but since no one outside of GM and the movie studio has ever seen the car before, I wanted to bring a version without all the wear and tear and scars of an action movie.”
And with that, a new superstar—the Chevrolet StingRay Concept—was revealed.
“This vision concept is part of the free exploration of future products that I encourage our creative and talented design teams to develop,” the design boss said. “The Corvette has an amazing design lineage and this StingRay concept pays homage to the 1959 StingRay Racer and 1963 Corvette StingRay Split-Window Coupe.”
Prior to the conference, the Bumblebee Camaro was transformed into the “autobot” (shown on the front page of this Show Wrapup) that will be used for the movie. Towering almost 17 feet above the Chicago Auto Show floor, it was a major attraction for show-goers. Auto show attendees even had the chance to get their pictures taken in front of the transformed Bumblebee Camaro and can obtain their photo after leaving the show by visiting a Web site.
Hyundai R-Spec Genesis Coupe
Hyundai upped the performance ante in Chicago by introducing an R-Spec version of the all-new 2010 Genesis Coupe, designed to appeal to true enthusiasts who want a low starting price and the ability to tune their car to their own specifications.
“When the colors of your new turbocharged rear-wheel-drive sport coupe are named after international racing circuits, you’d better have the performance and confidence to back it up,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America.
With enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the upcoming launch of the 2010 Genesis Coupe, Hyundai is further adding to the excitement by teaming with Rhys Millen Racing and Red Bull Energy Drink to campaign in the high-energy sport of drift racing this year. In Chicago, Hyundai unveiled its motorsports program in the U.S. with the help of drift champion Rhys Millen, who will fabricate and race a 550-horsepower Genesis Coupe in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the Formula Drift Professional Drifting Championship and at select Redline Time Attack series events.
“Today’s announcement puts the Genesis Coupe into three great motorsports series,” said Krafcik. “We like to refer to the Genesis Coupe as the sinister sibling to the North American Car of the Year, the Genesis sedan and we look forward to Rhys harnessing every ounce of energy in the Coupe as he campaigns it.”
The Genesis Coupe R-Spec will be priced at $23,750, $3,000 less than the 2.0T Track model, leaving tuners with extra cash for their own choice of aftermarket performance upgrades.
Dodge Ram 2500 and Chassis Cabs
During the Chicago media preview, Dodge further enhanced its commercial vehicle presence with the introduction of a “new crew” of commercial-grade work trucks: the new 2010 Dodge Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs.
“This is the continuation of the reinvention of our Dodge Ram lineup,” said Frank Klegon, Chrysler vice president of product development. “Over the past five years, Dodge has gained market share in the heavy-duty pickup segment, and to stay on that track, Dodge keeps innovating. Our new 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups will continue to build on our momentum.”
“Our new 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups continue to build on Dodge Ram’s leadership in the Heavy-Duty pickup segment,” added Scott Kunselman, vice president of Chrysler’s Jeep/Truck Product Team. “Our Ram Heavy-Duty pickups reinforce Dodge Ram’s bold and powerful reputation and provide improved capability in critical areas of the segment.”
Offering more room, comfort and storage capability, the new 2010 Dodge Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs feature an all-new crew cab. Crew cabs currently account for approximately 20 percent of the Class 3-5 market. The new Crew Cab adds six inches of legroom compared to the Quad cab it replaces. Easy entry and exit is assured with full-access rear doors that open 85 degrees.
Bridgestone Ecopia EP100
Bridgestone Americas, Inc. revealed its latest environmentally-friendly tires in conjunction with a new safety initiative. The new environmentally-friendly tire is the Ecopia EP100, that enjoys longer tread life than a conventional tire because of its low-rolling resistance. This feature enables the consumer to save money on fuel while lowering CO2 emissions.
The EP100 is the first Ecopia aftermarket product for North America and is primarily targeted for fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, as well as electric and hybrid vehicles.
Bridgestone is also attempting to improve safe driving practices of all drivers, primarily targeting youth. The company has developed successful new and creative safety programs in the past. This year the company is launching its new safety initiative “Think Before You Drive.” This new program is an online safety initiative that gives site visitors the opportunity to take a road safety quiz for chances to win prizes, view tire and driving safety lessons, play safety-related games, read fun facts and watch the winning videos of a past initiative, the Safety Scholars program.
GMC Wins Pet Safety Award
GMC Executive Director of Advertising and Promotion Cheryl Catton (left) was joined by Bark Buckle UP Pet Safety Expert Christina Selter (right) and Boomer in the back of a GMC Acadia in Chicago. The GMC Acadia was the recipient of the 2009 Pet Safe Vehicle of Choice award as voted on by first responders, safety experts and pet industry leaders.
Kia Motors America used the Chicago show to introduce the all-new 2010 Kia Forte compact sedan. Forte blends Kia’s exciting new design direction under the tutelage of Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors’ chief design officer, with a multitude of standard features. The 2010 Kia Forte will go on sale in North America in late spring or early summer of 2009.
“Kia Motors’ product line is rapidly evolving and the Forte compact sedan is another head turner,” said B.M. Ahn, group president and CEO, Kia Motors America and Kia Motor Manufacturing Georgia. “The Forte is an aggressively stylish blend of comfort and practicality—and with a host of standard features it provides the great quality and value that consumers have come to expect from Kia vehicles.”
Tom Loveless, Kia Motors North America vice president of sales, emphasized Kia’s goal for its customers to “Save more. Worry less,” referencing current rough economic times. He discussed Kia’s economic responsibility owing to a target of manufacturing more than half of the vehicles it makes in the U.S. by 2013. Additionally, during this time of transition, Kia will continue to expand the company in an effort to stimulate more than 9,000 jobs by 2010.
Suzuki emphasized its commitment to product by reinforcing the release of the Equator line of pick-up trucks that first made their debut at last year’s Chicago show.
“With the arrival of the all-new Equator, we were presented with a tremendous opportunity to extend the awareness of our adventurous brand spirit to a new group of vehicle enthusiasts,” said Gene Brown, vice president of marketing, PR and product planning, American Suzuki Automotive Operations. “The three custom trucks Suzuki we’re unveiling in Chicago allow us a similar opportunity to creatively extend our relationship with the editorial teams that help us communicate that very message.”
“Despite their reputation, trucks and SUVs still account for 51 percent of the U.S. auto market,” said Brown.
The three unveiled truck models were constructed by automotive magazines including “Off-Road and Truckin’” and “4-Wheel & Off-Road.” The “Street Shark,” “Project Two-Face” and “Ultimate Off-Road Equator” all built from the basic “4x4 of the Year” formula to engage the truck customizing market.
Acura Reveals V6 TSX
Acura used the Chicago show’s media preview to reveal its new V-6 model for the TSX sports sedan line-up. The Acura TSX sedan provides buyers and enthusiasts more power than previous sedans by adding to the great model. In the new model, one can find leading edge technology in the optional “tech pack” as well as improved acceleration and handling. The new 280 hp V-6 also adds an even sportier look and feel to the already sporty nature of the popular TSX sedan.
“I tip my hat, too, to the Chicago Auto Show for coming up with a solution to help keep expenses reasonable for manufacturers to hold press conferences during this difficult economic time,” said Jeff Conrad, Acura vice president of sales.
During this economic downtime, Acura plans to review every product in their line-up in order to learn, adjust and improve every aspect of their vehicles in order to position itself for when the market recovers. Conrad said this is the first shot in a barrage of Acura product news that will see major improvements and enhancements this year to almost every sedan and SUV in the Acura lineup.
“The current economy has certainly thrown us and every other automotive manufacturer a curve,” he concluded. “But at Acura we will use this opportunity to learn, to adjust, to evolve, to improve, and when the market regains its footing—and it will—we will be a stronger, more vital company than ever before.”
“For more than a decade, the Chicago show has provided the stage for presentation of the MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards,” said John Davis, veteran host and executive producer of “MotorWeek.” The categories span 14 different categories, including “Best of the Year;” “Best Small Car;” “Best Minivan;” and “Best Dream Machine,” and others.
Davis addressed attending media with an overview of the legendary TV show. 2009 year marks the 29th season of the show with new technology and benefits including podcasts, HD broadcasts and syndication on the Spanish television network “V-me” in the immediate future.
Featured in Chicago was the coveted MotorWeek “Driver’s Choice Award,” presented to the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel.
Volkswagen America Chief Operating Officer Mark Barnes received the “Best of the Year” award. He described the vehicle as eco-friendly, fun and roomy.
Anniversary MX5 Miata
This year marks the Mazda MX5 Miata’s 20th Anniversary and the newest iteration was introduced where it all started—in Chicago. According to Jim O’Sullivan, Mazda North America operations president and chief operating officer, the Mazda Miata was not expected to last when it was first introduced to the market. Today, Mazda has sold more than 900,000 MX5 Miatas, earning the vehicle a place in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the most popular sports car ever built.
O’Sullivan said, “Everything we do has the soul of a sports car.” If the two-seat roadster Miata isn’t desired by some, the rest of out model line-up has multiple options for those who still want that “race car feeling.”
The new Miata has a refreshed exterior look with new front and rear facias. The interior has also been updated along with the engine, resulting in better fuel efficiency. The Mazda Miata exhibit on the show floor featured not only the newest MX5, but a retrospective array of 14 different iterations of the storied and popular sports car.
Subaru Shares the Love
Subaru opened Day Two of the Chicago media preview by highlighting details from their “Share the Love” event, an idea inspired by “caring” bumper stickers. The program is based on the love that owners have for their Subaru vehicles. Tim Mahoney, Subaru senior vice president and chief marketing officer, explained that the company introduced the concept when the economy hit an all-time low.
“We used the strategy that you can love a new car and used that to show how great our brand truly is,” said Mahoney. “Even though automotive industry sales declined, Subaru sales continued to rise. Due to Subaru’s efforts, the company was the only full-line manufacturer to post a sales increase in 2008.
“While the industry zagged, we kind of zigged,” said Mahoney.
Extending the automaker’s, “Love. It’s What Makes a Subaru, a Subaru” campaign, the program raised an astonishing $4.6 million for charities during its duration. In Chicago, five groups were presented checks from the program: Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Habitat for Humanity International, Meals on Wheels Association of America, the National Wildlife Federation and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
IntelliChoice.com BOVY Awards
IntelliChoice.com announced the winners of its annual “Best Overall Value of the Year” awards for 2009 cars, trucks, crossovers and SUVs at the nation’s most influential consumer auto show.
“The BOVY Awards are an essential guide at a time when most consumers are carefully watching their wallets,” said James Bell, editor of IntelliChoice.com. “A vehicle’s Cost of Ownership has gone from ‘nice to know’ to ‘need to know’ when comparing possible purchases.”
Bell also noted the strong presence of hybrids on the 2009 BOVY list, with hybrids winning eight out of 30 segments.
“Even more hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles are coming online in 2009, including trucks and SUVs,” said Bell. “Hybrids have consistently offered excellent value along with their inherent fuel savings, so we are not surprised to find more on our list. It is also significant to note that the first ‘Clean Tech’ diesel, the Jetta TDI SportWagen, has joined this illustrious roster.”
This year, IntelliChoice.com identified thirty-five winning models by segment and class, with eight overall category winners, including one tie. The overall category winners were:
- Best Car Value Under $24,000 - Toyota Prius
- Best Car Value Over $24,000 - MINI Cooper Convertible
- Best Crossover/SUV Value Under $28,000 - Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid (tie)
- Best Crossover/SUV Value Over $28,000 - Lexus RX
- Best Truck Value Under $26,000 - Toyota Tacoma 2WD
- Best Truck Value Over $26,000 - GMC Sierra Crew Cab Hybrid
- Best Van Value Under $26,000 - Honda Odyssey
- Best Van Value Over $26,000 - Chevrolet Express 1500