So many options in post-SUV era

first_imgDETROIT – Lexus and Chrysler are debuting luxurious sedans at this year’s North American International Auto Show. Ford is offering a chiseled new crossover. Honda is hyping a subcompact. As the age of the SUV comes to an end in the United States, the world’s automakers are engaged in a race to figure out the next hot trends. “The theme of this year’s show is customer choice,” Bob Cosmai, head of Hyundai Motor Co.’s North American division, said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. Crossover vehicles – which ride lower to the ground than sport utility vehicles but offer similar interior comfort – are expected to outsell SUVs in the United States this year. Ford Motor Co. wants to lead that segment with the Ford Edge crossover. The 2007 Ford Edge, which boasts sharp lines and the distinctive three-bar grille of the Ford Fusion sedan, is expected to hit showrooms this fall. Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, said the vehicle will stand out in a crossover market that is getting more crowded. “It’s the Yugo of 2006,” said Erich Merkle, an auto analyst with the consulting firm IRN Inc. LaSorda wouldn’t give his opinion on the car, but said Chinese automakers will be serious competition in a few years. “It’s an absolute force to be reckoned with at the end of this decade or early next decade,” LaSorda said. Other automakers hope luxurious sedans will catch buyers’ eye. With its boxy stance, reverse-hinged rear doors and high sides, the Chrysler Imperial concept looks a lot like a Rolls-Royce Phantom. DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group says it will decide whether to produce the vehicle after gauging reaction at the show. Merkle said the design of the Imperial will be polarizing, and some drivers won’t like its heavy look. But he gives Chrysler credit for designing a vehicle that stands out. “Win, lose or draw, they really take design risks,” he said. The 2007 Lexus LS 460, the latest incarnation of the full-size sedan, is another luxury entry that will have auto show attendees cooing. The LS 460 features rear seats that recline and have a massaging option, a sound system that can store 4,000 songs and a hands-free parking system that pulls the car into a space. It’s scheduled to go on sale this fall. Lexus didn’t give a price, but the current LS starts at around $57,000. At the other end of the spectrum is the Honda Fit, a subcompact hatchback designed to attract young buyers. The Fit, one of several subcompacts introduced at this year’s show, gets 33 miles per gallon in the city and 38 on the highway, which should appeal to consumers jittery about high fuel prices. It will go on sale in April for around $14,000. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita “If you look at the CUV right now, it’s populated by a lot of vehicles, that, quite honest, are somewhat nondescript,” Fields said. But the truly drool-worthy vehicles at this year’s show are the muscle cars. After seeing the success of the Ford Mustang – and hearing the clamoring of baby boomers – U.S. automakers went back 40 years for some inspiration. DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group is showing the Dodge Challenger concept, which is based on a model from 1970, while General Motors Corp. unveiled the Chevrolet Camaro concept, an update of that beloved muscle car. “I don’t think anyone will walk away from the Camaro,” said Jim Sanfilippo, an analyst with Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc. Lots of people are also prowling around the Geely 7151 CK sedan, the first vehicle from China to be shown at the Detroit show. It was one of the first vehicles Chrysler President and CEO Tom LaSorda sat in when he arrived. Most analysts say the interior of the Geely sedan is too pared down for American consumers. Geely says it plans to make upgrades before it sells the vehicle in the United States in 2008. last_img read more