Consumer Choice, Fuel Efficiency Big Trends at Detroit Auto Show

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), happening in Detroit through January, has a wide array of impressive hybrid vehicles, and marks a leap forward in fuel efficiency and consumer choice.

Notable at the high-end: the Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTEC hybrid, which runs on clean diesel, and its E400 hybrid with combined estimated 27 mpg. Mercedes-Benz also shows a new version of its 1953 300 SL classic, made almost entirely from lightweight aluminium.

Volvo‘s XC60 plug-in hybrid has green appeal without sacrificing power. The beauty of this model is its “fuel options” which can work in combination with one another. The car can run on pure electric power for up to 35 miles. Hybrid mode allows it to run like a typical hybrid vehicle, and the power mode allows the gas engine to kick in along with the electric motors for extra boost.

According to Volvo, the XC60 plug-in hybrid should have a range of 600 miles in hybrid mode and is expected to achieve 50 mpg. It can hit zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds. This plug-in hybrid takes 7.5 hours to fully charge using a 110-volt source or 3.5 hours with a 220-volt source.

Toyota‘s Prius c (the “c” stands for city) is another hit at the auto show and will be released later this year. Designed for city travel, the car is extremely lightweight and has a low stance. At 53mpg, Toyota says, the Prius c will offer the highest city fuel efficiency of any car on the American market “without a plug.” Another positive – this car starts at under $19,000 making it one of the most affordable hybrids on the market.

Toyota Prius c

Even more interesting is Toyota’s NS4, available in 2015. This hybrid plugin has a much flashier design than we are used to seeing with Toyota, and includes some of the sleek software of higher-end cars.

According to Toyota, connected vehicles are the third fastest growing technological device behind smartphones and tablets. The NS4’s Human-Machine Interface (HMI) has a smartphone-like multi-touch screen which displays the cars multimedia, air conditioning, battery-charge and navigation functions. Toyota say that the HMI system can also learn driver preferences and habits and anticipate driver responses to certain situations.

Chevrolet is taking consumer choice one step further on the showroom floor, allowing attendees to design their own interiors.

“We’re opening up the design process right here at our Chevrolet display,” says Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. “We call this ‘crowdsourcing’ and we think it’s going to resonate with that sub-30 buyer who wants to have a significant say in what they ultimately drive.”

The new Chevrolet Spark, out this summer and available in all-electric in 2013, is clearly aimed at a younger consumer, and is a departure from its traditional sell.

Last, but not least, Ford unveils its 2013 Fusion, the first of its sedans to offer gasoline, hybrid and plug-in-hybrid powertrains. Winner of the Eyes on Design Award for design excellence at the show, the 2013 Fusion offers a huge array of fuel-efficient options – both hybrid and plug-in hybrid alternatives, a pair of EcoBoost four-cylinder engines, a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, and an automatic start-stop system to shut off the engine at stationary idle.

The 2013 Ford Fusion marks the next generation of cars built on the “One Ford” principle—where multiple cars are built on fewer platforms. The 2013 Fusion is built on the same platform as the European Mondeo and 80 percent of the components will be common on all global versions of the car.

Ford announced last week at the Automotive News World Congress that, in a bid to reduce complexity, it will be cutting its global platforms to nine by the end of 2013. A much more aggressive strategy than anticipated, this will mean that 85 percent of Ford’s global sales volume by 2013 will be built on just those nine platforms.

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4 thoughts on “Consumer Choice, Fuel Efficiency Big Trends at Detroit Auto Show”

  1. I really like the Toyota NS4. If more hybrids were designed with this much style they might lose the stigma that the Prius and its target market have given it over the last few years.

  2. I think it’s a good idea for Toyota to make the Prius C so affordable; it’s a car that will appeal to many Gen X’ers and young folks who may be struggling economically but want an efficient car.

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