2009 LA Auto Show: Odds, ends, and final thoughts

Consumer Reports News: December 04, 2009 05:22 PM

A few random tidbits picked up during the LA Auto Show press days...

Coming down the road: In addition to its new coupe and roadster models, a Mini crossover will be released around the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011. Mitsubishi said that it will introduce a new compact crossover SUV, smaller than the Outlander, called the RVR. It will appear first in Japan in Spring 2010 before it comes to North America. Fisker Automotive announced that its Karma plug-in hybrids will begin reaching retailers in the third quarter of 2010.
Geeks in EVs: Mitsubishi is working with Best Buy to lease four Japanese-spec MiEV electric cars for use by the retailer’s Geek Squad tech service fleet. The company also said that it will bring an EV (likely the MiEV) to America for retail sales in 2011. (See the Mitsubishi PX MiEV concept.)
Mitsubishi-MiEVPlug-in Prius fleet testing: Beginning in early 2010, Toyota will begin delivering 150 plug-in Prius hybrid cars, equipped with lithium-ion batteries, to various universities, corporations, car-sharing programs, and city, state, and federal governments. They will be used in California; Boulder, CO; New York City; Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington, DC. The current car can drive about 13 miles on electric power before switching back to its regular hybrid mode.
Doing something right: In its press conference, Hyundai said that in 2009 it became the fourth best-selling automaker in the world. (See the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and Tucson.)
If Lincoln could do it… As part of an effort to reinvent Buick’s image, the 2011 Regal is claimed to have “European ride and handling.” Just take a moment and try to wrap your head around that concept. Lincoln, of course, made a similar move for 2000 with its LS, which introduced the idea of sporty driving to a brand that, at that time, seemed just as discordant with the idea as Buick does now.
Toyota-Sienna-SE Is the world ready for a sporty minivan? The Toyota Sienna has long been one of our top-rated minivans, noted for its refinement and comfort. But it hasn’t been exactly fun to drive. With the 2011 redesign, however, will come a new SE version designed to address that deficiency. The SE will have 19-inch wheels and a lower, sport-tuned suspension, as well as side skirts and other cosmetic changes. This should be interesting.
New materials: Faurecia, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, was showing design innovations intended to make cars lighter and more environmentally friendly.  One, called Lignolight, is a natural-fiber covering for vehicle interiors made of a mixture of 70-percent wood fiber and 30-percent plastic resin. It can be used to create door-panel substrates that are 40-percent less dense—therefore lighter—than conventional ones.
Quotes to consider: In speaking of GM’s strong focus on transitioning to electric cars, Bob Lutz said that, “The auto industry can no longer depend on oil to provide 98 percent of the world’s auto energy.” And the coming transition will be, “Every bit as momentous as the transition from horses to horsepower.”

See our complete 2009 LA Auto Show coverage
Rik Paul

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