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2009 Detroit Auto Show winners and losers


The 2009 Detroit Auto Show's news days are over, and we've got the low-down on who succeeded and who failed

The 2009 Detroit Auto Show's news days are over, and we've got the low-down on who succeeded and who failed

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In the midst of one of the toughest years the car industry has had to face and government loan programs getting underway, the 2009 Detroit Auto Show was set to be a touchy dance with public sentiment.

In the end the expectations proved true, and the restrained and carefully orchestrated displays focused on real-world practicality, or failing that, on future technology that could lead to practical applications for hybrid and electric vehicles.

So which carmakers succeeded and which failed? Which cars were winners and which losers? We have the straight truth fresh from the show floor.

Winners:
Fisker, for its Karma production sedan and Karma S convertible concept. Stunning design and impressive performance figures put these cars at the head of the pack of the new breed of hybrids. Marrying Ferrari-level styling with similar promise of performance (403hp from twin electric motors) is a feat not even Tesla Motors can claim to have achieved.

Audi, for the production-ready but still seductively styled Sportback Concept, and the R8 V10 that proves the horsepower wars aren't yet over. Competitors had best keep an eye out, and challengers will have their work cut out for them.

General Motors, for its trio of production-ready vehicles and the Converj Concept. Pairing the E-Flex powertrain with one of the most daring and yet attractive applications of the Cadillac design language, the Converj offers both hope for a truly profitable plug-in electric hybrid and a new interpretation of ecological luxury. The Equinox, LaCrosse and SRX likewise offer new hope for the success of the product-led revival at GM.

Toyota, for a new Prius that moves its look somewhat upscale while managing to improve on its already impressive technical capabilities. More powerful, more fuel efficient and more attractive is a package anyone can get behind. Now if only gas prices were in the right range, Toyota would have a hard time keeping them in stock.

Jaguar, for the XKR and XF-R. Keeping up with the Joneses is an especially difficult task if your Joneses are BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Lexus. Doing it on a shoestring budget, under new ownership and during the economic shipwreck that was 2008: truly impressive. The designs of the new cars speak for themselves, and should fare Jaguar well as it works to re-imagine itself and its role in the industry.

Losers:
Lincoln, for the MKT. Put simply, it is both ugly and an answer to a question asked by no one. Beyond the odd proportions and lackluster details of the MKT, however, the Focus-based C Concept is similarly bewildering: where did this come from, and why?

Subaru, for the Legacy Concept. Ugly in a vein that's sadly familiar thanks to the likes of the 2008 Impreza and any number of previous Subaru concepts. Unlike the WRX STI, however, it's unlikely that any degree of mechanical awesomeness will be able to bail out the gasping and flailing Legacy Concept.

Chrysler, for the ENVI trio of electric vehicles that smacks of about as much reality as a unicorn tea-party. While the design of the 200C is undeniably strong and forward-looking, it's also too little, too late, and wrapped around an 'EV' platform, reduces all hope of production to the realm of fantasy.

Lexus, for the HS250h. Outshone by the new Prius in terms of both performance and looks, the new HS could nonetheless prove a hit with smug and superior Hollywood types - itself a factor militating against its success in our eyes.

And finally, Mercedes, for soft-launching the E-Class in Detroit, but off the show floor. If it's too cool to rub shoulders with the best America and Japan have to offer, why not wait for Geneva? And even if it were launched properly in Detroit, its reception would almost certainly have been stronger and more positive nearer to its homeland. Two strikes for strategy, and one for design, Mercedes is out for this inning.

Withholding judgment:
Ford, for its all-new Taurus. A strong new design - though with an odd bit here and there - bodes well for the revival of a modern American classic. On the other hand, only the market will prove if Ford got the mix right when sales figures start to trickle in. On the fence about both design and market position - especially in relation to Lincoln's similarly-sized offerings - we'll withhold judgment until we see how the car fares with the public.
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Comments (10)
  1. Great overview, completely agree with everything you said.

    "a unicorn tea-party" hahahahah :D
     
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  2. I disagree with the nasty shot taken at Chrysler
     
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  3. Look at that!!! Someone writing positive comments about Jaguar....

    I also agree with the Chrysler comments but then again everyone deserves to have a dream!
     
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  4. Jaguar a winner????? LOL! Another how many jobs were cut??? New models??? Yeah a new Ford sedan from 2001 and a Mazda from 199??? Yawn!!! Where's Keith Helfit and Co.?? Since soon Callum's head will be served up by Tata.
     
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  5. Least Chrysler is trying to fix their issues, like exterior design and quality of interior and the engines, the 200C was amazing and if they built it, I would buy one.
     
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  6. Ralph, your review is stupid, you should be reviewing star wars reruns and moldy comic books. Did you used to write for the National inquirer?
     
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  7. agree with the article.... cept for the cut at ford.. the first fusion has saved fords ass and i think you'd better not save judgement on this car. its going to do what everyone hoped the malibu would do.. kick some midsized import ass.

    the cut at chrysler isnt without base.. Id love to see that new design language trickle forward.. its classy and futuristic.. fresh and american. but lets get something straight.. chrysler doesnt have the resources to put out a decent plug in, or EV.. within the next 3 years.. without pulling a ford and having Magna do all the work.

    and on that front.. sit on the fence with ford about the new fusion but what about ford putting GM on notice and saying they'll have a 100 mile EV to market to compete with the volt? that wasnt news?

    i just hope to god that its a hybrid too. a lot of people are going to be afraid of the volt.. let alone a pure EV.
     
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  8. @NoNameDenton,

    No-one is saying that what Chrysler presented isn't "good". If anything, if they would actually build what the showed, preferably within a year, and without f'ing up the designs, then I'd be the first in line to buy it.

    But the reality of the matter is simple as this. They don't have the money nor the technology to offer an effective electric vehicle in any forceable future.

    Now I would love to be proven wrong, I really would. But if you look at all the factors that are playing against them, its as simple as this; there's a 95% chance that they won't deliver any of what they showed at this show, any time within the next 4-5 years.
     
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  9. They do not have money because Daimler screwed them then sold them off to Cerberus. There is a good chance, as I have seen that they have outsold Honda in certain months, so they are getting cash, just sales are lower, like everyone elses.
     
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  10. Jaguar desperately needs the new XJ. Lincoln is heading in the right direction. Ford of America needs a decent Focus. Even my neighbours Argentina and Brazil have the latest version!

    Ralph, I'd put the HS as a winner. But your description made me laugh from reality!
     
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