Gentlemen, unveil your prototypes.
The North American International Auto Show in Detroit always makes waves with futuristic concept cars and advancements in automotive tech, as carmakers vie for eyeballs on the showroom floor. This year is no different. Here were seven big announcements from the Motor City Monday.
1. Alfa Romeo is planning to build its first SUV as the brand tries to pivot from sports-car specialist to the wider luxury market, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters Monday. The compact sport-utility vehicle is central to Marchionne’s $6 billion (U.S.) strategy to broaden Alfa Romeo’s appeal and prepare it to compete with Audi and BMW. The expansion will also include a mid-sized sedan to be released this year.
2. Plunging gas prices didn’t stop General Motors from unveiling a new model of its flagship hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt, despite anemic sales in 2014. (Volt sales fell 19 per cent last year, down to 18,805 vehicles.) The car’s new iteration can travel 50 miles on a battery charge, up from 38 for the current model.
3. While GM makes a cautious bet on the future of electric cars, Ford made its biggest splash at the show with an unapologetic blast from the past, releasing a GT supercar meant to rival Ferrari. The sleek, muscular vehicle is a conscious homage to the GT40 that conquered the 24 Hours of Le Mans race 50 years ago. Ford also unveiled a powerful new truck — the F-150 Raptor — and an updated model of that quintessential muscle car, the Mustang — the Shelby GT350R.
4. Acura is leaping back into the supercar game, too, unveiling a redesign of its popular NSX model. The hybrid will produce 550 horsepower and feature all-wheel-drive, two major departures from the car’s last iteration.
5. Volvo announced that it will start importing its S60 mid-sized sedan to the U.S. from its factory in Chengdu, China. Known Stateside as the S60 Inscription, the car’s ample back-seat legroom has made it popular in East Asia since it was released in early 2014. When it hits American dealerships in the second half of this year, the S60 will become the first Chinese-manufactured mainstream car available in the U.S. on a large scale.
6. Toyota and Nissan both released revamped models of their Tacoma and Titan pickups, angling for a piece of the lucrative market buoyed by bargain-basement oil prices. The Toyota Tacoma is a dominant player in the small truck field, but Nissan’s Titan has struggled to grab market share in the Detroit-dominated full-size sector.
7. There was good news for Volkswagen Sunday, as the company announced it sold more than 10 million vehicles worldwide for the first time in 2014, spurred by strong demand in Western Europe and China. Despite flagging sales in the U.S., VW also claimed the prestigious car of the year award at the auto show for its Golf model.
- With files from Toronto Star wire services