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Published on Sun, Jan 16, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

NAIAS poster cropped

By Christopher Merlo Photos by Mark Dapoz The Car Business Is Back on Track You could almost hear a collective sigh from automotive executives and members of the press as they ushered in the New Year with the opening of Press Preview days at the 2011 North American International Auto Show. 2010 ended on an up note as most manufacturers closed the year with sales gains thanks to a car market that is back on track and on the road to recovery. Adding to the optimism are positive forecasts calling for even greater sales volume in 2011. And what better way to get car buyers out to the auto show—and into dealer showrooms—to “kick the tires” than the lure of new models, concepts and “gee whiz” technologies.

VW crowd
The press was all present and accounted for at the NAIAS

media crowd

Here are the highlights of the 2011 North American International Auto Show.


Audi A6 – World Debut From both a design and performance standpoint Audi never disappoints. Let’s start with design: Athletic and elegant. The all-new A6 earned this year’s EyesOn Design Award as the "Best Production Vehicle" design displayed at the Detroit show. Now to performance. Lighter in weight than the previous A6, thanks to the extensive use of aluminum, the car is available with a choice of gasoline- or diesel-powered 4- and 6-cylinder engines. The most powerful gasoline engine is the 3.0L with an output of 300 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque. Available in showrooms this fall as a 2012 model.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe

BMW 1-Series M Coupe – World Debut Under the hood is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, one of the most powerful BMW has ever built, capable of delivering 340 hp. Massive brakes and a very wide footprint guarantee maximum agility and stability. The 1 Series M Coupe will be available in limited quantity as a 2011 model with a MSRP of $47,010.

BMW 650i Convertible

BMW 6 Series Convertible – World Debut One word: stunning. The all-new 2012 BMW 650i Convertible features BMW’s 4.4-liter, “reverse flow” V-8 engine with 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. Two transmissions are available including a standard 6-speed manual and optional 8-speed automatic. The soft top retracts in 19 seconds at vehicle speeds up to 25 miles per hour. Inside, there’s a fresh, ergonomic design with more passenger space, improved ergonomics, and premium materials choices, including optional full-leather trim with contrasting stitching. Available this spring starting at $91,375.

Buick Verano

Buick Verano Sedan – World Debut With its sculpted design and sporty profile, the Verano is Buick’s first compact luxury sedan. Equipped with a 2.4-liter, 6-speed transmission the powertrain puts out 180 hp taking the car from zero to sixty in 8 seconds while delivering 31 mpg. A 2.0-liter turbo is in the works.

Chevy Sonic coupe

Chevrolet Sonic It’s smaller than the Cruze. It’s completely gasoline-powered, unlike the Volt. What it has in common with its siblings other than the Chevrolet badge is the fact that it bears the signature of a reborn company that is now fully focused on designing and building cars that customers want. A car that is right for the times as gasoline prices creep up and fuel-economy becomes a prime purchase reason. Enter the Sonic, in hatchback and sedan versions. Add a touch of fun-to-drive with a 1.4-liter turbo and 6-speed transmission powertrain that spits out 136 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The fun factor includes 40 mpg. Coming to showrooms this fall.

Chrysler 300

Chrysler 300 – World Debut Reskinned. Renewed. Chrysler announces it is back in the American car game with its redesigned, flagship the 300. With new 200 unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Chrysler is making its bid to once again take center stage as a design leader. Chrysler executives also hinted that a 100 model is in the works. Stand by.

Ford C-Max PHEV
The Ford-C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Ford C-Max Minivan – North American Debut Ford C-Max Hybrid Electric Vehicle and C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle – World Debut Ford continues to expand the range of vehicles based on its global C-segment platform – the same one that underpins the new Focus. Hugely popular in Europe, the North American version of the C-Max multi-activity vehicle puts Ford back in the people-mover game with seating for seven passengers. In addition to the conventional gas-powered engine, C-Max will also be available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions.

Ford Vertrek concept

Ford Vertrek Concept – World Debut Voted Best Concept of this year’s show by the editorial team at AutoWeek, Vertrek is a look at the next-generation of Ford’s current compact Escape SUV. Sporting a more aerodynamic, swept shape it is powered by a 1.6-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost engine. Like the C-Max and Focus models, it is built on Ford’s C-segment platform which technically makes this a car-based crossover.

GMC HD Concept

GMC Sierra All-Terrain HD Concept – World Debut Just in case you thought the new General Motors was all about thrift and downsizing take a look at this behemoth. Detroit still knows how to make big, brawny pickup trucks. With the recent introduction of the new Ford Super Duty pickups, this might just be the GMC response to the ongoing truck wars.

Honda Civic Concept coupe

Honda Civic Concept – World Debut The Civic is the trademark of this brand. First introduced in the U.S. forty years ago, the current model is in its 8th generation. Honda unveiled a coupe and sedan concepts of the all-new 9th generation scheduled for the 2012 model year. Overall, the look is bolder and more energetic. Honda claims it will have best-in-class interior roominess and you can bet they will also be going for the segment-leading crown when it comes to mpg. There will be 3 powertrains to choose from: a gasoline-powered engine targeting 40 mpg; a natural gas version; and a lithium ion-battery-powered hybrid.

Hyundai Curb Concept

Hyundai Curb Concept (Crossover) – World Debut Hyundai is the one manufacturer that keeps execs at competing companies awake at night. The ascendancy of the brand in the U.S. has been nothing short of astounding. And this Curb concept from their Southern California design studio proves why. It’s fun. It’s innovative. It’s one of only a few really creative concepts in this year’s show and it is a welcome relief. In his opening remarks at the press conference, Hyundai President and CEO, John Krafcik, emphasized the company’s new thinking and its exploration of new possibilities. Well here’s a look at new possibilities in the form of a small crossover vehicle targeting urban adventurers. In fact, they are calling it an urban activity vehicle. Very nice.

Hyundai Veloster

Hyundai Veloster (Sporty Coupe) – World Debut Targeting younger, first-time car buyers is the all-new Veloster. It blurs the lines between a coupe and hatchback. Indeed, there’s one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger. Available this summer and priced in the $17,000 range – that’s less than competing Scion and Mini models.

Jeep Compass

Jeep 2011 Compass – World Debut Jeep took the wraps off its update of the compact Compass SUV. There’s a completely new front end, a power bulge in the hood, new rear fascia, 17-inch aluminum wheels and premium material upgrades on the inside. It expands upon the design language of its flagship full-size sibling launched last year, the Grand Cherokee. Compass will be available with a choice of three powertrains including a small diesel.

Kia KV7

Kia KV7 Crossover Concept – World Debut Kia looks to re-invent the van. Remember the days of the VW Bus or a customized Econoline? Those memories are invoked with the KV7 concept but decidedly updated for the 21st Century. KV7 celebrates the basic box shape of the Kia Soul but on a larger scale … longer wheelbase and wider stance. The gullwing side door lifts to reveal rotating seats, a mini lounge and teakwood floors. Yes, this is a clubroom on wheels with all the modern accommodations including Wi-Fi, tabletop computer and multi-use touchscreen dash.

Mercedes SLS E-Cell

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell Quiet to the ear and loud to the eye. Though you might not hear it coming you surely won’t miss the Day Glo Lime Green, gullwing SLS AMG E-Cell. Mercedes touts this as the most advanced electric sports car in the history of the automobile. A lithium-ion battery powers four electric motors located at the wheels. The drivetrain produces 560 hp and 649 lb-ft of torque and is capable of propelling the vehicle from zero to sixty in 4 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. Mercedes is taking orders beginning in 2013.

Mercedes B Class F Cell

Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell About to undertake a circle-the-globe tour to be completed in 125 days – one day for each year since the invention of the automobile by Carl Benz – the B-Class F-Cell will be a traveling demonstration of the feasibility of long-distance travel via a fuel cell. The aim of the F-Cell World Drive is to demonstrate the efficiency and suitability for everyday use of fuel cell technology, and at the same time campaign for the development of a global hydrogen filling station network. As the name implies, the sole source of power is a fuel cell which generates electrical power on board from a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen.

MINI Paceman crossover

Mini Paceman Crossover Concept – World Debut Mini continues to expand its model line. The Paceman concept is a premium crossover coupe with strong, muscular design cues and a 1.6-liter, twin-turbo engine under the hood.

Porsche 918 RSR

Porsche 918 RSR (Concept Race Car) – World Debut Absent but not idle best sums up Porsche’s return to the Detroit Auto Show. Absent for the last four years, Porsche rolled out the world debut of the stunning mid-engine 918 RSR – a laboratory on wells – and the racing version of the Spyder concept car. An innovative flywheel accumulator located in the front passenger seat area stores power generated during braking. This power is available on-demand to drive electric motors located at the two front wheels. They supplement the V8 engine’s 563 hp output to create a peak drive power of 767 hp.

Toyota Prius C Concept
Above: Prius c Concept; below: Prius v

Toyota Prius V

Toyota Family of Prius Vehicles – World Debuts Welcome to the Prius family of hybrid electric vehicles. It may not be official but with the expansion of the Prius line up Toyota is creating a new brand. Soon to join the third-generation Prius liftback (introduced in 2009), is the plug-in version which will recharge on a standard 110 volt outlet in 3 hours and provide a 13-mile range and reach a speed of 60 mph under all-electric power before the gasoline engine kicks in. The plug-in will be available in the first half of 2012. For those seeking a smaller, more affordable package there’s the Prius-C Concept –“c” is for compact. Expect a model based on this urban friendly design to appear in showrooms in the first half of 2012. Finally, for the family, there’s the Prius-V – “v” is for versatility. It shares a platform with the current Prius but offers 60 percent more cargo space and seating for five.

VW Passat

Volkswagen Passat – World Debut Volkswagen opens a new chapter in its drive to become the world’s leading automotive manufacturer. To reach that goal the company must first boost sales in the U.S. That begins with a new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee built to produce a midsize sedan designed specifically for the U.S market, the all-new midsize Passat. It is both larger and less expensive than its predecessor with a MSRP in the $20,000 range. Power options include a clean diesel (TDI) engine that will deliver 170 hp and 43 mpg and a six-cylinder rated at 280 hp.

Volvo C30 Electric crashed

Volvo Crash Tested C-30 Electric – World Debut Call this the anti-beauty reveal. It’s the result of a 40 mph, severe offset crash test. Volvo pulled the wraps off this twisted and crumpled C-30 Electric to underscore the brand’s signature focus on passenger safety and the vehicle’s ability to isolate the battery power pack from damage as well.

BT Justice photo (above)

Mercedes outdoor ad

For more scenes from the 2011 North American International Auto Show, go to

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