Saturday, January 19, 2013

American auto industry exuberant going into 2013


TOM KRISHER/AP AUTO WRITER

photo

AP PHOTO

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is revealed at media previews for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Maybe it was the brand new, bright red Chevrolet Corvette gleaming in one corner, or the elegant BMW coupe in the other, but car companies were positively giddy this week as the North American International Auto Show opened in Detroit.

Maybe it was the brand new, bright red Chevrolet Corvette gleaming in one corner, or the elegant BMW coupe in the other. Maybe it was just the free-fl owing espresso at nearly every stand. But car companies were positively giddy this week as the North American International Auto Show opened in Detroit.

They have reason to be. U.S. new car and truck sales reached a five-year high of 14.5 million in 2012, and many executives and analysts think they’ll climb to 15.5 million this year. Credit is easier to obtain, interest rates are low and many people who held on to old cars during the recession are ready to buy.

To catch those customers’ eyes at the Detroit show, car companies are unveiling 59 new cars and concepts. That’s up from just 41 in 2012, a sign that auto makers have more profits at their disposal and expect higher sales.

Toyota, Nissan and Mercedes have larger, more elaborate displays. Ford is luring visitors with the oldest surviving Ford in the world, a 1903 Model A, and the newest, a chiseled pickup truck concept called Atlas that could become the next F-150. General Motors can just sit back and watch the crowds gather around the Corvette.

The Detroit show, one of the country’s biggest, opens to the public Saturday. Here are some trends visitors will see:

GETTING MORE EFFICIENT:

One lesson from this year’s show: There are plenty of ways to squeeze more efficiency from cars and trucks.

Volkswagen is showing a plug-in hybrid SUV prototype called the CrossBlue that mates a diesel engine with two electric motors. It can travel 14 miles in all electric mode and gets an estimated 35 miles per gallon while running on both gas and electricity. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is also making a jump to diesel power with a new, optional 3-liter V-6 diesel that gets 30 miles per gallon on the highway, five better than the gas-powered V-6.

Automakers are trying other tricks to save fuel as they face higher fuel economy requirements, even in muscle cars. Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of the Edmunds.com auto website, said many people have been surprised by the resurgence of internal combustion engines as new technology makes them more efficient.

PICKUPS TAKE OFF:

With new home construction back on the rise, pickup truck sales are poised to grow in the coming year.

General Motors is showing its new trucks for the first time at the Detroit show. The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, which will go on sale this spring, have mean-looking grilles, restyled interiors and new engines and transmissions that GM promises will be very efficient. The trucks even have steps inset into the rear bumper so people can jump into the bed to get tools or tie down cargo.

LUXURY BOOM:

Supple leather seats, finely stitched dashboards and sparkling chrome grilles are everywhere at this year’s auto show, a sign that car companies are clawing at each other for a piece of the growing U.S. luxury market.

From a well-crafted new E-Class lineup from Mercedes to the plush, decked out luxury Cadenza sedan from once-lowly Kia, automakers are vying for customers who are ready to be pampered.

Luxury sales grew almost 12 percent last year to more than 1 million sales, and automakers are expecting further increases as people feel better about the economy and the Great Recession recedes into the rear-view mirror.

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