Five new vehicles to watch at Detroit auto show – USA TODAY

Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014

The 25th annual North American International Auto Show starting Monday in Detroit will feature introductions from virtually every major automaker. Some unveilings, such as the new editions of the Ford F-Series pickup and Chrysler 200 midsize sedan, are sure to command huge attention. Others will be less dramatic: refreshes or new versions of existing vehicles or niche products.

All together, they’ll also show more of the sea change underway in the auto industry. Virtually every new vehicle will be lighter and get better fuel economy than the one they replace.

Here are five key vehicles to look fo:

• Ford F-Series pickup. It would be hard to overstate the importance the new F-150 pickup. It has been nation’s best selling vehicle of any kind for the past 32 years, with 763,402 sold in 2013 alone. It also generates the lion’s share of Ford Motor profits.

In the past, new pickups have tended to be evolutionary — a bed that’s easier to step into, added car-like luxuries in the cabin, a new powertrain among the choices.

But this year, Ford, with the production version of the huge Atlas concept that it lowered from the ceiling of Joe Louis Arena last year, is expected to announce innovations that could shake the field.

Ford already showed it’s willing to take risks, such as adding turbocharged V-6 for the the current generation to a pickup world dominated by V-8s. It paid off — the gas savers are now top sellers.

The new truck is expected to have much lighter construction, more new gas-saving engine choices and high-tech updates.

• Chrysler 200. The intensely competitive midsize sedan market is the USA’s largest, accounting for about one in four new-vehicle sales. The revived Chrysler has been rebuilding its truck and crossover SUV lineup, but if it is to succeed as a full-line maker, it needs to field a worthy contender in a field dominated by the likes of Toyota Camry and Honda Accord — something it has not had for many years.

The redesigned 200 is Fiat-based and all-new from the road up. The new Chrysler, about to be fully merged with Fiat, needs to show a 200 with enough style and innovation to stand out in that tough field

• Hyundai Genesis. When Hyundai introduced the first Genesis sedan at the same Detroit auto show in 2008, the idea seemed laughable. Hyundai offering a luxury car priced above $40,000? But the quiet, powerful, smooth car was well received, and Hyundai needs to build on that as it strives to be seen as more than a value brand.

The company has already shown some teaser drawings, and it appears to be putting its emphasis on style, a key selling point in premium vehicles beyond just more luxury features.

• Honda Fit. The existing Fit, Honda’s smallest car, has won wide acclaim as dependable, thoughtfully laid out and fun to drive. But the new generation will face a growing list of new competitors in the subcompact segment, ranging from Chevrolet Spark to the redesigned Kia Rio.

Fit needs to show more of the nifty new features — such as its rear seats that flip around multiple ways to create more hauling configurations — that made it a winner.

• Lexus RC-F. Lexus sees room for a sporty, youth-oriented coupe that could burnish its image among younger buyers moving into a premium car, and has come up with the RC. The RC-F — the performance version of the coupe — will have its global debut in Detroit.

It will be V-8 powered, but Lexus is withholding performance details until the show. It has revealed images, however, and the car will stand out, with styling details such as the unique arrangement of the four exhaust pipes in the rear, and its aggressive treatment of the signature Lexus “spindle” grille.


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