LA Auto Show offers wide range of eye candy – USA TODAY
The long list of luxury and performance cars, as well as the next-generation Ford Explorer SUV, making global premieres this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show reflect an industry catering to consumers with money.
Amid the eye candy of the Mercedes-Maybach, Porsche Panamera Exclusive and Audi R8 Competition is the Ford Explorer, the family vehicle that made the brand synonymous with SUVs when it debuted in 1990.
At its peak, Ford sold 445,000 Explorers in 2000 and its popularity was so consuming that Ford ignored cars such as its Taurus, which was relegated to rental car status. Higher gasoline prices torpedoed the SUV segment and pushed the truck-like Explorer off people’s shopping lists in favor of car-based crossovers from Japanese competitors.
By 2009, Explorer sales had fallen to 52,000. So Ford reinvented the Explorer in 2010 as a crossover and sales rose again. They were up almost 9% through October of this year.
The expectation is the 2016 Explorer will continue to focus on fuel economy while loading up on the technology that today’s consumers demand.
As a profit driver for the company, Ford needs to keep the Explorer fresh, especially with an all-new midsize Edge crossover coming out and a facelift for the full-size Expedition, said Stephanie Brinley, analyst with IHS Automotive. “They do need to keep giving the Explorer attention to stay relevant in the segment. It carries a high price point so it is relevant to the bottom line.”
The Explorer is one of a record 33 vehicles making their global premier in L.A. this week, about a third more than last year, said show spokesman Brendan Flynn. When you add in North American debuts, the number of unveils exceeds 60 vehicles. About 4,000 media members will travel to L.A. from around the world for media days that begin Wednesday. The show opens to the public on Friday.
The L.A. show has put an emphasis on green vehicles, and the Green Car of the Year will be announced on Thursday, but fuel-efficient vehicles have become ubiquitous at most auto shows and electric vehicles can be found on almost every stand.
This year, the theme is luxury, performance and exclusive high-end products. The show stealers are fast, flashy and expensive.
There is the return — after a two-year hiatus — of Daimler’s Maybach. Instead of being its own brand, the super-premium stretched sedan returns as the Mercedes-Maybach S 600. The outgoing model cost about $380,000. The new one, which is simultaneously being unveiled in China at the Guangzhou show, is expected to sell well in China, which justifies its reincarnation.
Other luxury carmakers are trotting out some of their best stuff. BMW, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar all have global debuts.
General Motors introduces the Cadillac ATS-V, the first performance versions of the small luxury car, available as both a coupe and sedan. The automaker hopes adding a performance version will cast a halo over the ATS that translates into more sales.
In addition to the Explorer, Ford has released teaser pictures of a performance Mustang. The details will be released today. Look for coverage at freep.com.
Chrysler updates its flagship 300; Fiat shows North Americans the 500X subcompact crossover; Alfa Romeo has the 4C, and Maserati will have a strong presence at the show.
And the show provides further proof that small crossovers are the fastest-growing segment with a bevy of new entries on display, including some all-new nameplates: the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. Lincoln has added a Black Series option for the MKC that takes the crossover further upscale.
“The North American auto industry is the most stable of all the markets. Sales are doing well and automakers count on this market for profits,” Flynn said. “The economy is back and people are buying expensive brands again.”
Also this week, Toyota will have hydrogen news, some automakers will have updates on plans for diesels, and everyone continues to improve the performance of their gasoline engines, even though prices dipped below $3 a gallon for the first time since 2010. No one expects them to stay low indefinitely, and fuel economy remains a purchase consideration for many buyers.
There will also be an emphasis on today’s sophisticated cars with technology for autonomous driving on display, and partnership announcements with telecommunications companies to ensure seamless smartphone connectivity are expected as part of a Connected Car Expo on Tuesday.