Motoring stars shine at Detroit motor show
THERE is no rest for the motoring industry and brands have hit the ground running in 2013.
This week's North American Motor Show delivered some exciting new offerings, as the world's biggest car makers revealed their plans for the long and short term.
With 67 brands currently vying for Australian buyer affection, there were some exciting announcements this week.
Audi is set to take the fight to the recently unveiled BMW M6 GranCoupe and an upgraded Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG with a new 412kW twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 powered RS7 Sportback.
Pictured here for the first time in production guise following an unveiling at this week's 2013 Detroit motor show, the introduction of the rapid luxury liftback extends Audi's performance based RS line-up to six models.
Australian launch details are yet to be announced, but officials suggest the new five-door will reach local dealerships sometime during the third quarter of 2013 at a price on the high side of $200,000.
The next-generation NSX supercar may be viable for an Australian launch.
A second concept car precursor to the new-generation model has been revealed and we have learned a right-hand-drive version is a distinct possibility for the production version, due around 2015.
Chief designer for Acura, Jon Ikeda, says he's convinced there will be a right-hand-drive model at some point.
"I'm sure it will be sold in right-hand-drive markets - it's a global car, that's what we're trying to do," Ikeda says. "So yes, I'm sure there will be a right-hand-drive version of that vehicle."
Cadillac could soon be coming to Australia to rival Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi as an American-bred luxury brand.
The luxury arm for General Motors that had its local launch terminated months before dealers were due to fling open the doors is again being considered for Australia.
Speaking at the 2013 Detroit motor show Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux admitted the company had been crunching the numbers on the brand for months.
"Our team is talking to the global Cadillac group about if and when it would make sense to properly, 100%, both feet in, launch that brand," said Devereux. "But we would not do that until the conditions were absolutely rock-solidly perfect."
Before the financial devastation of the global financial crisis Holden committed to importing Cadillac, which had undergone a product renaissance and had aspirations of establishing itself as a global player.
America's best known sports car - the Chevrolet Corvette - is not coming to Australia after all.
Despite reports suggesting a right-hand-drive version would be developed for the first time in decades, a senior GM executive ended any chance of the Corvette officially heading to Australia, emphatically denying the V8-powered two-door would be sold here.
"I'm telling you there is no plan," said General Motors' president of international operations and the vice president of global manufacturing, Tim Lee.
"We have no plan to put a right-hand-drive under that bonnet. It would be a significant engineering task."
Ford plans to drag its best-selling F-150 ute into the 21st century with a raft of technology shown off at the Detroit motor show this week.
The Atlas Concept was Ford's big news at its home motor show in Detroit, where commercial cars were the blue oval's focus.
Ford showed off a successor to the F-series ute family and Transit van, but did not reveal any new passenger cars.
The F-series utes have not officially been sold in Australia for several years, and they are unlikely to be available any time soon.
Ford group vice president of global product development Raj Nair told Drive at the Detroit motor show that the F-150 is currently not being considered for Australia, claiming that the Ranger "is doing very well" and that "it's the pick-up for that market".
Some of the Atlas' advanced features could possibly make it into the next-generation Ford Ranger.
The blue oval's US headquarters have pitched the Atlas as "the future of pick-ups", and it has been loaded with tech to make tradies tremble.
Ford says it worked closely with customers to deliver features like "trailer backup assist" and "dynamic hitch assist" which could transform the art of reversing with a trailer into something the apprentice can manage.
Holden has left the door ajar to continue producing Commodore-based vehicles after the locally-engineered model ends its stint in dealerships in 2016.
While no decisions have been made, Holden says it can respond to US demand for the car: a version of the Commodore is currently sold as a police car (police patrol vehicle, or PPV) and, soon, as a Chevrolet SS performance model.
After a slow start, sales of the police car are picking up and General Motors North American president Mark Reuss says one option it to continue production of the PPV in Australia beyond the 2016 local life of the Commodore.
"That's a champagne problem that we'll deal with as this goes," says Reuss. "We have a lot of time to see how it goes."
Reuss emphasised it was only one option but that it would be a relatively affordable one that would be easy to implement.
"It's all paid for, it's all there. The plant has space. We'll deal with it at a later time. We want to be flexible."
Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS, BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe, Hyundai Genesis...?
The latter model may sound a misfit among its European luxury car compadres, but Hyundai's sleek precursor to its next-generation Genesis sedan is up there with them in terms of stylish design.
However, at the unveiling of the new V8-powered HCD-14 Genesis Concept at the Detroit motor show today, Hyundai North America president and CEO John Krafcik warned punters not to draw too many conclusions about the next-generation Genesis from the concept car's eye-catching form.
"I want to make one thing really clear to you guys - what you're about to see ... is not the next-generation Genesis sedan. We'll be showing you the production version of that car next year, right here," Krafcik says.
"This isn't [the next-generation Genesis] - it's the guiding light for a whole portfolio of premium products that we have coming," he says. "It explores new thinking about product design, and new possibilities for effortless interaction between man and machine."
Lexus plans to lose its "sex-less" image with a pair of all-new sports cars.
The Toyota-owned luxury brand is considering adding two coupes to its model line-up.
The first, a model based off the all-new IS presaged by the LF-CC concept and considered a likely replacement for the current IS CC hardtop convertible, is expected to make it to production within two or three years.
Kazuo Ohara, executive vice president of Lexus International, says sports cars - including a rival to the upcoming BMW 4-Series and the current Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe - is a space he would like to see the brand have more presence.
Mini's model lineup will expand even further in the coming years, according to the company's senior vice president Kay Segler.
Segler said the brand's family will have more members in the coming years, with the first expected to arrive in 2014 when the world gets its first glimpse of the new-generation Mini Cooper.
That model is expected to be offered with updated engines borrowed from the BMW line-up, including a new turbocharged three-cylinder that will also be fitted with 1-Series models in the coming years.
Toyota has given a glimpse at how the next-generation Corolla sedan could look with the Corolla Furia concept at the Detroit motor show.
The new sedan concept is a style-focused small model, with Toyota claiming the "ferocious" looking model will help the brand further its appeal with younger buyers.
Bill Fay, group Vice President and general manager of Toyota US, told Drive that the new model will follow in the footsteps of the recently released Corolla hatchback - but admits that getting younger buyers interested in the Corolla sedan could be difficult.
"I think [attracting the youth] could be one of the challenges when we bring the Corolla to market," Fay said.
"I think if we can maybe use some of the concept car here into the next-generation Corolla and broaden the appeal of it," he said.
Volkswagen's big new seven-seat SUV is just the first in a long line of updates and new high-riding models for the German brand.
VW took the wraps off a US-focused concept SUV model, the CrossBlue, at the Detroit motor show overnight. It's a vehicle that has been designed with the American market in mind, with the brand predicting an increase in sales of Toyota Prado-sized SUVs of around 20 per cent over the next eight years.
Volkswagen board member for product development, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, said although the car has been engineered and designed for left-hand-drive markets, it could be possible to offer a right-hand-drive version in the future if there was enough demand for such a vehicle.
"I didn't say that we are not able to make it as right-hand-drive," Hackenberg says. "It is possible. If the market is big enough, than we can make it for right-hand-drive. But the biggest market we are looking to make a decision over is left-hand-drive."
Free fuel for your car for the life of the vehicle. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Tesla thinks otherwise.
The US-based electric car maker says it plans to give buyers the peace of mind that they will never have to pay a cent for recharging at its dedicated "super-charger" fuel stations.
The recharge points take 30 minutes to give the car about 240km range. There are currently a number of the super-charger stations on the east and west coasts of the US, and the brand says it is planning to roll out many more in the coming years, including some in Australia.
Meanwhile, Tesla's lineup looks set to see the inclusion of a new smaller model within four years.
Tesla head of design Franz von Holzhausen told Drive to expect something smaller for the the new model, which is aimed to be priced at US $30,000 when it launches in 2017.
"It'll be smaller than the Model S," says von Holzhausen. "Given the price point and the segment sizes, it's pretty easy to see that it could be a [rival to the] BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, VW Jetta type vehicle.
"It will have range performance and affordability," he says, stating that the $30K mark is what he sees as "the break-in point".
"We see that's where we can really move the needle and bring all this excitement to the average customer," he says.
When asked about what sort of battery range that car could potentially have, von Holzhausen says he expects the small model to have big battery life.