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Published on Tue, Dec 1, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The North American production versions of the Fiesta revealed (Nakano)

LA'S STILL THE PLACE SMALL CARS FOR THE BIG LA AUTO SHOW Words and pictures by Reed Berry, Chuck Dapoz, John Grafman, Brian Kennedy, Roy Nakano, Zoran Segina & Doug Stokes 2009 has been a humdinger for the auto industry. With the recession fully on, consumer spending took a nose dive. In turn, sales of motor vehicles came to a grinding halt. GM and Chrysler filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After the dust settled, Chrysler was under the control of Fiat. GM was minus Pontiac and Saturn. Hummer was sold to Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, and a buyer is still sought for GM's Saab and Delphi interests. Several top auto executives lost their jobs, not to mention scores of workers at car dealerships and automotive supplier companies throughout the country.

Cadillac's production CTS Coupe was unveiled Dec 1st (Grafman) On the bright side, both GM and Chrysler came out of bankruptcy in record time, thanks in no small part to loans from the federal government. The Feds also launched its wildly popular Cars Allowance Rebate System program, otherwise known as "cash for clunkers." Existing United Auto Worker benefits and auto company agreements were up-ended, but the domestic-based auto companies managed to bring the costs per car more in line with the non-UAW car company competition. By year's end, Ford is turning in record profits, GM announces it will be able to return its loan to the government sooner than expected, and Fiat seems to offer the best possible hope for an otherwise new product-strapped Chrysler. With that backdrop, what better way to usher in the new model year than a major, international auto show in sunny Southern California? Recessionary clouds notwithstanding, L.A. is still car culture ground zero. For the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, held December 4-13, 2009, eight world debuts and 34 North American auto show debuts have already unfolded. Small is the new black at the show. Chevrolet, Ford and Mazda are using the show venue to introduce production models of their new-generation small cars, the Cruze, Fiesta, and Mazda2. - Roy Nakano

Audi's Johan de Nysschenhe and the Green Car of the Year (Nakano) KEYNOTE Fritz Henderson, the President of General Motors, unexpectedly resigned on the eve of his keynote address at the LA Auto Show. Instead of getting the inside story, the capacity media crowd heard from venerable Bob Lutz who promptly explained that he would display enormous skill in non-answering any questions with respect to Fritz. Mr. Lutz assured the crowd that the GM is in good shape, and fully focused on developing alternative fuel vehicles, more specifically the Chevrolet Volt. The GM is partnering with the manufacturers worldwide in a global all-out effort to develop better batteries, charging stations, and more efficient fuels. While the objective is to provide a more exciting and desirable vehicle lineup, the Volt is a full year away from entering the market and the initial production will be limited less than ten thousand units. The hybrids, however, account to three percent of the US market share, and the GMAC - the company's financial arm - is a "work in progress" according to Mr. Lutz. With the sudden vacancy at the helm, heavy debt load, and the sales of the Saturn and SAAB in limbo, GM may have to weather some rough seas before reaching any sort of a safe harbor. - Zoran Segina Here's what else the show had in store: AUDI

Audi e-Tron concept (Nakano)

Audi R8 5.3 FSI Spyder (Nakano) Always among the best exhibits at the show, Audi is here to dazzle with two North American auto show debuts: The R8 Spyder 5.3 FSI roadster and the electric e-Tron sports concept car. BMW

BMW's Vision concept (Nakano)

BMW's ActiveHybrid X6 and ActiveHybrid 7 (Nakano) Another company that seems to spare no expense when it comes to the Los Angeles Auto Show. North Ameican debuts include the ActiveHybrid 7, ActiveHybrid X6, and Vision EfficiencyDynamics concept vehicle. BUICK

Buick Regal (Grafman) Buick's Regal has been a familiar nameplate for decades. For 2011, however, GM is taking a more aggressive tack with its mid-size sedan. "A Buick Bred for the Autobahn" is how the company is pitching the car, and for good reason. Based on the Opel Insignia and available later in 2010, the car comes with a six-speed transmission and available driver-selectable suspension tuning. But it's the styling that will attract a new generation of drivers to consider the Regal. Its coupe-like proportions are packaged with a series of cut lines that the company says suggest motion from all angles. A better description might be that the car suggests upscale quality and attention to design. Gone are the lazy curves and puffy fenders of Buicks of old. - Brian Kennedy CADILLAC

The production version of Cadillac's CTS Coupe (Grafman) The 2+2 Cadillac CTS Coupe shares the instrument panel, console, headlamps, front fenders and grille with its stablemate, that's it. The 3.6-liter engine provides 304 horsepower and 27 mpg on the highway. It also runs on regular unleaded gasoline. Bringing the power to the pavement is a performance-oriented suspension system coupled to rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Design features include touch-pad operation for the doors, a windshield laid at a faster angle (62.3 degrees), a long, nearly horizontal backglass, and a sculpted lower front fascia with unique brake-cooling vents. Technology includes a rear-view camera system, plus a 40-gig hard drive able to store music and pause-and-replay live radio. - Roy Nakano CHEVROLET

Chevrolet's 2011 Cruze will be debuted at the show (Grafman) Chevy has a new global car that's both refined and made in America. With a welcomed, attractive design this showcases GM's progress in small car quality and quietness, plus there's more interior and cargo room than Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The new small displacement engines, including Ecotec 1.4L I-4 turbo will see competitive fuel economy of up to 40 mpg. Safety engineering includes ten standard air bags. Also a Five-year/100,000-mile powertain warranty is included. Cruze goes on sale in third quarter of 2010. - John Grafman

The production Chevy Volt is on display (Grafman) FORD

Ford showed a 2011 Mustang with a 305 hp, 30 mpg V6 (Nakano)

The production version of the North American Ford Fiesta (Dapoz) The Ford Fiesta - the best-selling small car in Europe - is finally coming to America, where it will compete with the likes of the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. First introduced in Europe last year, Fiesta has quickly racked up more than 500,000 sales throughout the world. The U.S. version is powered by a 119-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine and rides on a choice of 15-, 16- or 17-inch wheels. It will be available as a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback. Options include Ford's SYNC system, which offers voice operation of an MP3 player and other devices. Introduction is slated for spring, as a 2011 model. - Chuck Dapoz

GCJ's Ron Coogan and Audi of America's Johan de Nysschen (Nakano) GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR Hats off to the Green Car of the Year judges for having the cojones to pick a TDI diesel for the second year in a row. Conventional wisdom had the third-generation Prius or the Fusion Hybrid sister, the Milan Hybrid, pegged for the award. Instead, the judges were swayed by the 42 mpg (highway) and high fun factor of the Audi A3 TDI. The 2010 Green Car of the Year candidates included the Audi A3 TDI, Honda Insight (generation two), Lexus RX 450h, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Toyota Prius (generation three), and Volkswagen Golf TDI. Having driven all of the candidates, the A3 TDI is indeed the one I'd most want to take home. - Roy Nakano HONDA

The Personal-Neo Urgan Transport from Honda (Dapoz) From Honda comes the world debut of the Personal-Neo Urban Transport. HYUNDAI

Hyundai also introduced a new Sonata for North America (Nakano) For 2010, the Hyundai Tucson has a fresh new look both inside and out. Built on the same platform as the Kia Sportage, the new Tucson has greater interior space resulting from an extended wheelbase. The cabin seats five adults comfortably, and the interior is stylish and functional. Audio speakers mounted higher than usual in the doors produce incredible sound reproduction. Curvy lines give the exterior a sporty, aerodynamic look. This is Tucson's first major facelift in its five-year history. A long list of standard features includes stability control, a back-up camera, and a panoramic sunroof. - Reed Berry KIA

It seems like many vehicles are getting 'extreme makeovers' for the new model year, and the Kia Sorento is no exception. The exterior has a bold, sporty look and the interior is stylish and comfortable. Power comes from either a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or an available 3.5-liter V6 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, newly designed for fuel efficiency and enhanced performance. High-tech gadgets on Sorento include voice-activated navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a push button ignition. The 2011 Sorento is the first Kia vehicle to be produced at their new U.S. manufacturing plant in Georgia, and the first one off the assembly line (on display here at the show) was autographed by each person that assisted in its production. - Reed Berry MAZDA

The Mazda2 was last year's World Car of the Year (beating out the Mercedes C-Class) and has been named car of the year in more than 20 countries. It's a subcompact, five-door hatch, built on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta. Like the Fiesta, it's powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with variable camshaft timing and promises to deliver 40 miles per gallon on the highway. In spite of its modest power, we expect spirited performance since the base model weighs in at a svelte 2,100 pounds. Launch is scheduled for the end of next year. - Chuck Dapoz MERCEDES-BENZ

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG (Nakano) First shown in Frankfurt two months earlier, the LA Auto Show is the place for the North American debut of the sensational new gull-wing SLS. MINI

It's the North American debut of two new MINIs, the MINI Coupe and the MINI Roadster. MITSUBISHI

Good news for the environment; bad news for OPEC. Mitsubishi's PX MiEV Plug-In Hybrid is a crossover vehicle that runs primarily on electric power. Quite futuristic in design, the MiEV operates in three modes: EV (electric power-saving mode), Series Hybrid (gas engine will switch on to recharge the batteries), and Parallel Hybrid (gas engine powers the front axel). This vehicle even has a home power supply mode that allows you to use the vehicle as a source of electricity during power failures. Mitsubishi claims fuel economy for this vehicle to be around 118 mpg. - Reed Berry PORSCHE

The Porsche Boxster Spyder is return to the basics - a light, race-ready sports car. The Spyder is powered by direct-injected, 3.4-liter flat-six engine with 320 hp. The extra 10 horses (from the S model) are handled by a standard limited-slip differential, and a 0.8 inch lower suspension. With the PDK transmission and Sports Chrono package the car should reach 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, and a top-down top speed of 166 mph, Porsche claims. The 2811 lbs total weight was achieved by using lightweight alloy wheels, aluminum door skins and pullstrap-outfitted interior door panels from the 911 GT3 RS, the soft top, shortened side windows, lightweight racing seats and a hoodless instrument cluster. - Zoran Segina ROLLS ROYCE

Rolls Royce Ghost (Nakano The Ghost is a modern interpretation of timeless Rolls-Royce elegance, breaking new ground while staying true to the marque. Pricing is expected to be easier on the bank account than a Phantom, but pricy nonetheless. A new 6.6-litre V12, unique to the marque, delivering a monster 563 bhp with equally outstanding performance figures. Ride and dynamics are controlled via the intelligent air suspension system. Very few changes were made in the transition from the 200EX concept to production. The new Rolls-Royce Ghost was launched to the world on September 2009 at the Frankfurt Auto Show. - John Grafman SMS

You may be aware of the - ahem! - argument that has gone on of late between Steve Saleen and the company that bears his name, but with which he is no longer affiliated. The upshot - the tuner extraordinaire has struck out to form SMS Supercars, and the shocker is not that they're offering apparel (they are) but that they are tuning more than Mustangs. In fact, call them the one-stop supertuner for today's muscle cars, namely Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger, any of which can (or will - the Camaro is still under wraps) be had in supercharged, mega-horsepower form. Thursday, they showed off some of their goodies, with the man himself, Steve Mark Saleen, in attendance. No doubt about it, there's a legacy being established here. Is Saleen the new Shelby? Drive one of his cars, and you might be convinced that he's even more. - Brian Kennedy SUBARU

Subaru Hybrid Tourer and WRX STI Special Edition (Nakano) It's the North American debuts of the new Subaru Impreza WRX STI Special Edition and the Subaru Hybrid Tourer. TOYOTA

The third-generation Toyota Sienna (Nakano) The next-generation Toyota Sienna minivan has its world debut at the LA show. VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen's 70 mpg Up! Lite concept (Nakano)

A 30-mpg Mustang, and Buick with a 2.4-liter engine? (Yes, both are at the LA Auto Show.) Any wonder that Volkswagen has chosen LA to show the world a 70-mpg, 4-seater hybrid, that'll just break 100 mph, powered by an 800cc, 2-cylinder, TDI (turbocharged diesel) engine? Volkswagen's wonderfully road-ready little UP! Lite concept is really as pure a flight of fancy of any of the hyper-sexy concept cars of auto shows gone by, only this one is all about fuel mileage instead of glitz, hoss-pawer, and tailfins.  Just prior to pulling the silk off the UP! Lite concept, the assembled Wolfsburg brass showed the media twin New Beetles (hard and soft tops) and signed them off as the Final Edition model(s). And so the car that had its design beginnings in Los Angeles (I still remember gasping ...what 10 years ago now? that first bright yellow machine that fired off so many memory synapses from my teen-ownership of a '54 Volksie). Last chance ranch on the car that Abraham Lincoln could drive WITH his hat on. And, hey, that blacked-out roof on the hardtop was just perfect! Rock on! - Doug Stokes

VW showed a new TDI Cup Edition Jetta (Nakano)

For more scenes from the LA Auto Show, click here.

THE AUTO SHOW 411 When: December 4-13, 2009

No one does interiors like Spyker (Nakano) Where: Los Angeles Convention Center 1201 S. Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90015

Chrysler corporation alive and kicking at the LAAS (Nakano)

Suzuki beside itself over the new Kizashi (Nakano) Why: It's the Southland's biggest automotive party of the year.

The basement, a.k.a. Kentia Hall (Nakano) To see more scenes from the LA Auto Show, click here.

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