Detroit auto show: Tata’s Nano is talk of show

Jan 15, 2008 22:05 UTC

nano1.jpgTata’s $2,500 Nano car (pictured left) may not have been unveiled at the Detroit auto show, but that didn’t stop it from being the talk of the show.

Auto executives said the car could have far-reaching impact. Ford’s head of Asia Pacific, John Parker, certainly thinks so.

“It is a groundbreaking product,” Parker told reporters. The car will “cause people to think differently about the car. I have a lot of respect for Tata.”

Calyon Securities analyst Mark Warnsman in a research note released during the show pointed out that the Nano took its bow this month in India almost 100 years after Ford revolutionized the global auto industry with the Model T car. 

“Will the Nano revolutionize the global auto industry in the way that the Model T originally did? In brief, our answer is no, but there are a number of aspects of the Nano that we do find interesting,” he said.

Detroit auto show: AutoNation CEO calls Chinese cars worst of show

Jan 15, 2008 20:43 UTC

jackson.jpgSome day cars built by Chinese automakers may be compared with the likes of Toyota and Honda, but not today, according to the CEO of the largest publicly traded U.S. car dealer.

AutoNation’s Michael Jackson (pictured right) said at the Detroit auto show that the worst cars at the event were the Chinese-built cars.

“Go down to the basement,” he said of the lower level of the convention center in response to a question about his opinion of the worst car. “There are a few products from China.” 

Detroit auto show: Dodge wants to show its softer side

Jan 15, 2008 20:08 UTC

dodgelogo.jpgSay goodbye, or good riddance, to scantily clad models tossing footballs and other old Dodge promotions aimed solely at young men.

Chrysler’s new head of marketing, Deborah Meyer, said at the Detroit auto show that the automaker wants a so-called “New Day” for the historically macho brand’s growing cadre of female customers.

“We aren’t going to do that anymore,” Meyer said of past promotions and ads that skewed toward young men.

Detroit auto show: It’s hemp, not marijuana in your car

Jan 15, 2008 19:33 UTC

hemp.jpgWhat do MacGyver, the A-Team and the professor on Gilligan’s Island have in common? Easy; those guys could recycle spare parts to make something useful.

Well, automakers are taking a cue from those TV heroes as they increasingly use natural fibers from such materials as hemp, coconut, bamboo and kenaf in car interiors. The idea is to make the cars feel less plastic.  

“What is going to be key for cars is the way the interior feels, smells, sounds and looks like,” Philippe Aumont, a vice president at French car parts group Faurecia, told Reuters at the Detroit auto show.

Detroit auto show: Chinese company suggests electric car for Bush ranch

Jan 15, 2008 18:40 UTC

chinacar.jpgMost U.S. auto industry officials when asked about the expected Chinese invasion of the American market in the next several years react with scorn or fear (or a mixture of both).

One Chinese company, however, showed at the Detroit auto show that it can evoke laughs.

Bei Jing Li Shi Guang Ming Automobile Design Co displayed three electric cars, sporting names like “The Book of Songs” and “A Piece of Cloud,” but it was the company’s suggestion for its “Detroit Fish” amphibious vehicle that raised eyebrows.

Detroit auto show: GM has eyes for Mini market

Jan 15, 2008 17:00 UTC

mini.jpgWho says cute little British cars can have all the fun and the market to themselves?

General Motors’ North American sales chief said at the Detroit auto show that the U.S. automaker is weighing a rival for BMW’s Mini luxury small car (pictured right).

“We are not ready to announce anything, but we are looking at it very seriously,” Mark LaNeve told Reuters. “There is a lot of space in the luxury market that we are not currently occupying. If you look at sophisticated urban transportation, the Mini Cooper, the Audi A1 … that is certainly a segment that has some opportunity for us.”

Detroit auto show: McCain in the driver’s seat (of a car)

Jan 15, 2008 16:24 UTC

mccain.jpgPresidential candidate John McCain joined his rivals, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, at the Detroit auto show, gawking at the latest hybrid powered cars ahead of the hotly-contested Republican primary on Tuesday.

The Arizona senator and former fighter pilot seemed at ease sitting in Chrysler’s Dodge Zeo concept car (pictured right with Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli) with its batwing door and glass roof.

In what may or may not be foreshadowing of Tuesday’s vote, McCain sat in the driver’s seat. Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who has stumped for votes for McCain in several states, sat next to him and joked about wanting to own a version of the orange concept car.

Detroit auto show: Renault has entered the building

Jan 14, 2008 22:30 UTC

renaultlogo.pngRenault doesn’t sell cars in the world’s biggest auto market, and for that reason historically has not participated in the Detroit auto show. 

That didn’t stop the group’s strategy director, Patrick Pelata — considered the group’s second-ranking executive – from walking around the exhibition with some other company executives during the media preview days. He was spotted checking out the interior of the Infiniti SUV of alliance partner Nissan.

Renault will roll out its own SUV in Europe in 2008, called the Koleos and made by its South Korean subsidiary Renault Samsung.

Detroit auto show: Writers’ strike complicates Nissan marketing plan

Jan 14, 2008 22:06 UTC

mcnabb.jpgFans of “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and other top TV shows aren’t the only ones suffering from the Hollywood screenwriters strike as Nissan’s marketing efforts have been complicated by the battle.

Nissan North America senior vice president Mark McNabb (pictured right) said the two-month-old strike, which has halted production on virtually all scripted shows, was making it harder for Nissan to revamp its U.S. marketing.

“It’s making it very difficult for marketers,” he told Reuters of the walkout, which began in early November. ”Where do we want to go? Where do we want to spend money? The outcome of (the walkout) is going to be very important on what we do.”

Detroit auto show: Volt in 2010 now a “stretch” for GM

Jan 14, 2008 21:27 UTC

volt1.jpgGeneral Motors Corp’s touted all-electric plug-in Chevy Volt (pictured right) may not be built by the end of 2010 as it had hoped after all.
The automaker’s target is a “big stretch,” but it will not be changed, GM vice chairman and product chief Bob Lutz said at the Detroit auto show.

In fact, GM also said at the show that a plug-in Saturn Vue SUV could precede the Volt. And Japanese rival Toyota said it plans to market a test fleet of plug-in vehicles to companies or government agencies by the end of 2010.

While producing a lithium ion battery has not been a problem (and could be demonstrated by June), the project requires a complete re-engineering of a standard passenger vehicle, Lutz said.
GM garnered the spotlight at last year’s Detroit show when it said it would revive its once-failed idea of an electric car for the masses. 
It has been stung in the past by criticism, including a documentary movie, that it conspired to kill EV1. GM also has acknowledged it erred in allowing Toyota to paint itself with the “green” mantle due to the popularity of its Prius hybrid car.
lutz.jpgLutz (pictured left) has repeatedly said in the past that the Volt is not a public relations ploy. It has said the new program would build on what GM learned from the EV1, which was discontinued in 2003.