Industry upbeat as Detroit show opens

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IOL mot pic jan14 Detroit Corvette AFP Motoring journalists swarm round the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette at a media preview ahead of the opening of the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Luxury and sports cars will be in the spotlight when the Detroit auto show opens today (Monday) amid booming sales and renewed optimism as the US economy rebounds from a deep downturn.

Dave Sergeant, an analyst with JD Power, said: “The mood is going to be pretty good. The industry is coming off a reasonably good year and this year should be even better.”

US sales are expected to rise to between 15 and 16 million vehicles in 2013 after jumping 13 percent to 14.5 million vehicles in 2012, the biggest yearly gain since 1984.

The Detroit Three carmakers are raking in huge profits again after years of painful restructuring and a renewed focus on the product side of their business.


Their Asian and European counterparts are also investing heavily in the United States as they jostle for position in the highly competitive market and look for a place to grow sales amid a slowdown in China and Brazil and the collapse of European demand.

IOL mot pic jan14 Detroit Merc CLA Mercedes CLA was also premiered at a press event on the eve of the 2013 Detroit auto show. AFP

Industry analyst Jesse Toprak said: “The product is the best consumers have seen in a long time.”

GM's new Corvette was the most hotly anticipated and select journalists were given a sneak preview at a lavish preview on Sunday night.

The muscular and sculpted Corvette Stingray shares a name with the iconic 1963 model but is an entirely new vehicle, sharing only two parts with the previous-generation Corvette.

GM North America president Mark Reuss said: “The soul of our company is sitting right here in the Corvette - this car is the reason I work at GM.”

Daimler also offered a sneak peak at an entirely new car.

The compact, stylish - and lower priced - Mercedes CLA, aimed squarely at the youth market.\

IOL mot pic jan14 Detroit Silverado Auto show worker Fred Quinn polishes a GM Silverado pickup truck at Cobo Centre in preparation for the media preview days of the Detroit motor show. REUTERS

Mercedes design chief Gordon Wagener said: “The CLA is a style rebel. The dynamic design idiom is manifested in breath-taking proportions, muscular, flowing contours and sculptural surfaces.”

Both vehicles will compete with luxury sports cars from Audi, BMW and a new muscle car from specialty carmaker Shelby once the show officially starts today.

Bakkie fans will also have plenty of new models to feast their eyes upon, with the new Chevy Silverado and a pre-production truck from Ford ahead of the 2015 launch of the next version of its top-selling F-series.

Honda will be testing out a concept for a smaller sport utility vehicle, as will Ford's luxury Lincoln brand.

There will be plenty of new hulks on the floor as well, especially from Chrysler's Jeep and Dodge brands.


And even the more down-market vehicles are going to be decked out with features that were once reserved for luxury brands, such as collision avoidance technology and heated side mirrors.

Jeremy Anwyl, vice-chairman of automotive site, said: “Those features tend to be fairly profitable because once they get into the mass market they're not that expensive to install and consumers will pay fairly well for them.”

Drivers looking for lower fuel consumption will have a wide range of options as automakers push hybrids, diesel and electric vehicles, and boost the efficiency of standard petrol engines ahead of upcoming tough new government standards.


But with hybrids and other alternative powertrains still only making up about three percent of the US market, carmakers are going to have to work harder on their green car pitches.

There is hope that younger buyers could help push demand for green cars to the point where it would have a significant impact on fuel consumption.

joe Vitale, an auto analyst with Deloitte, said: “While they're not necessarily going to gravitate to and make a buying decision because of 'green,' they have a preference towards new technologies.

“We think this generation may be the generation that creates a tipping point to an electrified world.”

More than 50 new models will be revealed on Monday and Tuesday as automakers vie for the attention of some 6000 journalists from around the world. - AFP

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