Auto Focus

Six Trends from the LA Auto Show

This year’s press conferences showcased a diesel invasion, more affordable all-electric models, new types of car connectivity, the latest option must-haves and some serious power.

The 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon may find a unique home in between a family hauler and small business van.
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon may find a unique home in between a family hauler and small business van.

This being Hollywood, it’s ironic that the 2012 LA Auto Show lacked star power at the press conferences — no Heidi Klum, Kardashian sisters or “McDreamy” this year. Nonetheless, the show is always a good place to take the pulse of the manufacturers and parse the trend lines. Here is an assessment of the first press day.

(LA Auto Show photo galleries: Part 1: Sedans and Part 2: Trucks, Vans & Crossovers/SUVs)

The industry is outpacing the economy.

It’s clear that as a whole the auto industry is back and on solid footing, as just about every manufacturer crowed about substantial sales increases year over year — in spite of a sluggish economy.

Volkswagen reported it had doubled sales in three years and 2012 will mark its best sales year in the U.S. since 1973. Subaru will break its all-time sales mark in America this year, while Kia will smash the manufacturer’s record for sales of a single model with the Optima. Hyundai said it has “a shot” to break 700,000 in total sales this year — remarkable considering it said it’s running an average 21 days’ supply.

Though the pace of sales will cool off moving forward, the fact that higher sales are being done with lower incentives and higher transaction prices speaks to the health of the industry.

Diesel is gaining momentum.

Diesel sales are showing double-digit increases in America and the model offerings are following. OEMs see this as one path to reaching the new fuel economy standards; better diesel engine technology is pushing the envelope and the premium payback is quicker than most hybrids.

Audi announced it is expanding its diesel models from two to six, adding TDI versions of the A6, A7 and A8 luxury sedans and Q5 SUV alongside the A3 and Q7. Volkswagen recently added the Passat and Beetle TDI to complement the Golf, Jetta and Touareg diesel offerings, and Porsche now has a diesel variant of the Cayenne. Earlier this year, BMW also announced a 2.0L four-cylinder diesel engine for the U.S.

Not to be outdone by the Germans, Mazda announced that it will be the first Asian automaker to offer a diesel engine in America with its redesigned 2014 Mazda6, coming next year.

In a sign of the times, Audi of America President Scott Keough called for diesel to be equated to an alternative fuel for the purposes of HOV lane access and a tax on diesel closer to that of gasoline.

Balls-out* power is not dead, it’s just moving upscale.

As automakers abandon V8 and even V6 engines for mainstream cars, serious power is finding a permanent home in the luxury and sports car segments. Sure, you could always find horses in those segments, but the OEMs seem to be upping the ante with new products in Los Angeles, the biggest luxury car market in the world.

Mercedes announced that AMG, its performance division, is on a “product offensive” in the U.S., with 18 total offerings. Mercedes introduced the GL63 AMG SUV, which churns out 550 horsepower, 550 ft.-lbs. of torque and goes from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds, as well as the SLS AMG GT Black Series supercar, which gives you 583 horses and goes 0 to 60 in an astonishing 3.5 seconds.

Jaguar introduced the XFR-S, labeled “the most powerful production sedan in Jaguar’s history,” which offers a V8 and 498 horsepower and does 0 to 60 in “only” 4.2 seconds.

Chrysler had on display its new Viper, which debuted at the New York Auto Show. The V10 engine reaches new heights with an absurd 640 horsepower and 600 ft.-lbs. of torque.

The trend with compact cars is engine choices that offer fuel economy or power, and the 2014 Ford Fiesta is a leading example. Ford’s newly introduced 1.0L Ecoboost 3-cylinder engine will debut in America on the Fiesta, while the Fiesta ST will give 197 horses and 215 ft.-lbs. of torque.

CONTINUED:  Six Trends from the LA Auto Show
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Author Bio

Chris Brown

Executive Editor

Chris is the executive editor of Business Fleet Magazine and Auto Rental News. He covers all aspects of the fleet world.

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