November 30, 2006
The fundamental theme of the 2006 annual Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens December 1st at the Convention Center to the general public, is without doubt fuel conservation and cleaner sources of energy.
How fitting that some of the world's most renowned automakers have decided to champion, once again, the still-new concept of 'clean energy' vehicles to Los Angeles. 'Clean energy' vehicles drew most of the attention on media day, even more so than the perennial crowd-pleasers Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. Paving the way this year, hopefully towards 'greener' pastures, is BMW's offering of the 'Hydrogen 7', whose internal combustion engine is capable of running on gasoline or hydrogen. The German automakers introduced the 'Hydrogen 7', based on BMW's 7-series, as the world's first hydrogen-powered luxury performance car.
Other carmakers, such as Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche have stated their intentions to develop hybrid engines. However, only VW's offering is on display this year. Higher gas prices and sensible daily driving requirements have necessitated a new entry into the compact SUV market.
If you desire the amenities of an SUV and are mindful of being able to parallel park in one fell swoop, then the compact SUV is the way to go. With your wishes in mind, Volkwagen held its US premiere of its compact entry the Concept Tiguan', Tiguan being an amalgam of the words 'tiger' and 'iguana'. The Tiguan is powered by a 'Clean TDI- a next generation diesel engine with significantly reduced emissions. The self-proclaimed 'small Touareg', certainly has an appealing form. Under the hood lies a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder used in the GTI with an upgrade to VW's 3.6-liter V6 a possible option.
Struggling domestic automakers have no doubt taken notice of the efforts by their foreign counterparts in the area of hybrids. General Motors' (GM) chief executive, Rick Wagoner, opened the event with a commitment to provide a new class of gasoline-electric hybrids in the near future. GM's current hybrid, Saturn Vue Green Line, will be used in 2008 to launch its new hybrid. Currently on display is GM's Chevrolet Exuino Fuel Cell, an electric vehicle.
The Toyota Prius, which was the world's first commercially mass-produced and marketed hybrid automobile, is no doubt the impetus for all automakers, foreign and domestic, for developing hybrids. The Prius went on sale in Japan in 1997, and worldwide in 2001. By the end of 2003, nearly 160,000 units had been produced for sale in Japan, Europe, and North America.
Not to be outdone, despite not introducing a 'clean energy' vehicle, Audi will present the US premiere of the 2007 TT Roadster, which will offer a choice of two engines for its new TT Roadster. The 3.2-litre V6 power unit generates 250 bhp and is coupled to the quattro drive system as standard. The 2.0T FSI engine, which blends turbocharging with petrol direct injection technology, delivers 200 bhp to the front wheels. Also in attendance, will be the Audi R8.
Not needing a newly-designed car to throw a party was Italian mainstay Maserati, which will be celebrating five progressively strong years in the United States market. In addition to the Quattroporte line, Maserati will display its limited-edition supercar, the MC12.
The standard adult toy offerings from Porsche and Ferrari, as well as others from Japanese automakers, will no doubt catch the wandering eyes of many visitors. While it should behoove visitors to also take a close look at the all new, non 'clean energy' offerings from Nissan such as the 2008 Altima Coupe and the newly redesigned Infiniti G35 Sedan and Coupe, they should not, however, miss the great strides made in the arena of hybrid cars and would do well to give them more than a once over.