Detroit Auto Show Preview

Over 700 vehicles will be on display at the North American International Auto Show [NAIAS], held in Detroit from January 14-22. The show, a mammoth project for the auto industry and the organizers, draws nearly 7,000 journalists annually, with 31% coming from outside the United States.

As most people draw their attention to the holidays and family this time of year, over 1,500 workers are still busy assembling the auto makers' displays, which comprise an area of more than 1 million square feet. The exhibits alone are valued at over $200 million, excluding the vehicles.

The show, which generates approximately $580 million in revenue to the Michigan economy, will include these previews from International automakers:

Toyota Camry/Camry Hybrid

Toyota will unveil its new Camry and Camry Hybrid at its Jan. 9 press conference. The completely re-styled and re-engineered Camry, the best-selling car in America for seven of the past eight years, will feature significantly improved performance and a new level of comfort and refinement. Toyota makes its exclusive Hybrid Synergy Drive available in the 2007 Camry. Toyota promised the Camry Hybrid will deliver the highest level of Camry performance ever achieved in both fuel efficiency and low emissions and also will achieve impressive power. Both vehicles will be built at Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., assembly plant. Both are 2007 models being introduced in early 2006.

Lexus LS 460

Lexus hinted at the future direction of its flagship LS sedan in Tokyo when it unveiled a concept called the LF-Sh. The concept was shown equipped with all-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain. Lexus will show the production version of the LS at its Jan. 8 press conference. The fourth-generation LS will set impressive new standards in design, styling engineering, safety and performance, the automaker said, though no details about the car were provided.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Concept-CT MIEV

Mitsubishi announced it will not only hold the world debut of its 2007 Eclipse Spyder but also will take the wraps off a new concept called the Concept-CT MIEV. Mitsubishi is launching six new vehicles in less than three years to build its strongest product portfolio in history, the automaker said. "The Eclipse Spyder and the sporty Concept-CT continue the excitement of the brand and demonstrate new design directions and potential breakthrough technologies," said Mitsubishi Motors North America President Rich Gilligan. "We are rebuilding our brand with products that signal our commitment to being driven to thrill." The Eclipse Spyder is the two-plus-two convertible version of the Eclipse coupe already on the market. The Concept-CT MIEV showcases a sporty design study in small B-segment packaging. The intent was to create a "citytechnology" model - a desirable small car optimized for today's needs, the automaker said. Designed by Mitsubishi's California studio, the concept features a hybrid powertrain with Mitsubishi's in-wheel (MIEV) technology whereby the wheels are driven by four inwheel electric motors. Mitsubishi says the concept "provides a glimpse into the future of the next generation electric vehicles."

Mercedes GL

Mercedes is building its third vehicle in the United States, a seven-seat large SUV called the GL-Class, that will make its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The GL will come equipped with a 4.6-liter 32 valve V8 producing 335-horsepower, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC full-time four-wheel drive. The almost 17-foot long vehicle with have four-wheel independent suspension and 18-inch 265/60 tires.

Nissan Versa

Nissan announced the hatchback version of the newest addition to its North American product portfolio, the Versa, will make its worldwide debut at NAIAS. The hatchback goes on sale in early summer 2006 as a 2007 model; a sedan will follow later in the year. Considered a B-segment car, the Versa, expected to start at about $12,000, will be Nissan's new entry-level model, beneath the Sentra. The next-generation Sentra will also make its worldwide debut at the auto show in Detroit. The Versa, so named for its versatile space, is based on the Tiida sold in other markets. It will be assembled at Nissan's Aguascalientes, Mexico facility, which also builds the current Nissan Sentra. It is equipped with a fuel-saving continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at an estimated 120-horsepower and 125-plus lbs.-ft. of torque. Its combined city/highway fuel economy is estimated at 38 miles per gallon.

MINI Traveler

BMW's Mini, meantime, will present the third chapter in its unfolding story of its Traveller concept. The Traveller, a station wagon version of the Mini, was shown as a concept at the Frankfurt show and as a slightly different concept in Tokyo. Both were showstoppers. Yet another version will be unveiled to the world in Detroit, and it, too, is likely to be a show hit. The concepts are intended to reinterpret in various ways the Mini Traveller launched in September 1960.

Honda Fit

Honda will be bringing an all-new model to North America: the Fit. Making its debut at the North American International Auto Show, the Fit is quite similar to the Honda Jazz sold in Europe. Fit is a small 4-door hatchback reminiscent of the Civic Wagon sold in the U.S. in the late 1980s.

Hyundai Santa Fe, HCD9 Talus

Hyundai has announced its next-generation Santa Fe sport utility, to be built in Alabama, will make its worldwide debut in Detroit. Hyundai also has said it will unveil a new segment-busting concept from its California studio, the HCD-9. Hyundai is saying little about its concept, making its world debut in Detroit, except that it was styled by its California studio.

Mazda Kabura

Mazda show the Kabura sports coupe concept vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show, plus a Mazda5 Hydrogen RE Hybrid concept - powered by a Renesis hydrogen rotary dual-fuel-engine that can use hydrogen or gasoline. The Kabura was designed at Mazda's design center in California, and is the third recent concept, following the Sassou [designed at Mazda’s European Design Center] and the Senku [designed at Mazda's Yokohama R&D Center near Tokyo]. The Kabura sports coupe has a rear-drive powertrain and was designed for first new car buyers. "Kabura" is a Japanese term taken from "Kabura-ya", an arrow that makes a sound when fired and was used to signal the start of a battle. Mazda says the "first arrow into battle" depicts the company's spirit of pursuing unique and exciting ventures.

Kia's Soul

Kia will unveil their "Soul" concept car at the Detroit Auto Show, January 9. The Soul is a crossover utility vehicle with a wrap-around windshield and suicide doors. The vehicle features a reconfigurable cargo space, the rear lift gate includes a unique "drawer" for wet or muddy items such as a wetsuit or hiking shoes.

Subaru's B5-TPH

Subaru's B5-TPH concept, unveiled in Tokyo, will be shown for the first time in North America in Detroit. The Outback–based two-door, which is a sport wagon/sport-utility crossover, is equipped with a powertrain that Subaru calls a Turbo Parallel Hybrid. It consists of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is horizontally opposed under the hood and is combined with electric motors and advanced lithium ion batteries, instead of the nickel metal hydride ones typically used in hybrids. The B5-TPH also is all-wheel drive, as all Subaru models are. The concept is being shown in advance of Subaru's introduction in 2007 of its first hybrid vehicle, initially on sale in Japan.

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