Sunday, April 23, 2006

U.S. automakers push more products; Is it enough to survive?

Toyota debuted its 2007 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup in Chicago, while Jeep brought out the first four-door version of its iconic Jeep Wrangler in New York. Ford announced that racing fans will be able to rent a souped-up version of the Ford Mustang - with its fuel-burning V8 - at Hertz this summer.
Design was another area in which brands tried to stand apart. Chrysler, whose recent turnaround has been largely fueled by successful designs including the Chrysler 300 sedan, debuted the Chrysler Imperial, a haughty sedan with the look of a Rolls Royce. Honda unveiled an Element concept redesigned for urban drivers, with larger tires and a carpeted interior. Saab, which is trying to recapture its reputation as a performance brand, showed the Aero X concept, designed to look like a jet fighter.
GM won praise for its updated take on an icon with its Chevrolet Camaro concept as well as its revamped lineup for the Saturn brand, including the Outlook crossover, Aura sedan and Sky coupe. The accolades come at a critical time for the automaker, which is depending on new models to arrest its U.S. sales declines.
"Every time GM gets a new product they sparkle," Sanfilippo said.
But every big automaker has another smaller company nipping at its heels. Hyundai Motor Co. said it will go head-to-head with Toyota and Honda with the redesigned 2007 Elantra sedan, while Mazda Motor Co. added another crossover to its lineup to compete with stodgier versions from other automakers. And in Detroit was likely the biggest threat yet: China's Geely Automobile Co., which showed a small sedan that will go on sale in the United States by 2008.
"The speed at which the markets and products are changing is just remarkable," Sanfilippo said


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