LOS ANGELES - The Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, considered a poor cousin to its Detroit counterpart in recent years, will be the site of several dramatic product unveilings this time.
Typically the site of a few minor North American production or concept debuts, this season's L.A. show will have strong representation from both Detroit and the import marques.
The show runs Jan. 2-10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center; media days are Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 29 and 30.
DaimlerChrysler Corp. has scheduled two world debuts: the redesigned 2000-model Dodge/Plymouth Neon and a hybrid-powered Jeep concept.
The Neon has bigger headlights, and the bumpers look more integrated. The interior is roomier and more sophisticated, and the car has more cargo space. Full-frame doors reduce wind noise.
The Jeep Commander concept is basically a Grand Cherokee at heart, but with a hybrid powertrain of fuel cells powering electric motors at the front and rear axles. A lightweight injection-molded plastic body offsets the heavier powertrain.
NEW FROM FORD
Ford Motor Co. will stage the world debut of the Ford Cos-worth Focus, an in-house tuning project that features a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine; larger brakes, wheels and tires; a custom interior with Recaro seats; and a ground effects package.
Lincoln will show the Black-wood, a hybrid that takes the front end of a Lincoln Navigator to the C pillar and combines it with the bed of the F-series pickup truck.
Mercury will have a high-performance Cougar S that features a more powerful V-6, all-wheel drive, tightened suspension and aero ground effects. Unlike other 'slammed' concept cars done solely for show, Mercury wants to produce the Cougar S, a source said.
Mazda North American Operations will display two vehicles that are new to America: The Protege All-Sport Wagon and the Troy Lee Edition B-series pickup truck.
The Protege All-Sport, based on the Japan-market Protege wagon, meshes a passenger-car layout with all-wheel drive. The Troy Lee B-Series shows four doors, custom wheels, fender flares, special paint and a custom interior.
Also joining the pickup category's door wars is Nissan Division, with its four-door Frontier. The doors swing open in the same direction, as opposed to many entries that have the front and rear 'suicide' doors hung from the A and C pillars.
Nissan will roll out midcycle changes to its Pathfinder sport-utility as well. The 19991/2 Pathfinder has a more rugged appearance, with new fascia, trim and more muscular body cladding above the wheel arch. Complaints about the weak powertrain are answered with a more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine.
With its Grand Vitara just launched, American Suzuki will display a modified version bulked up in severe off-road trim, with special suspension, wheels and body panels.
Honda Division will show its S2000 roadster for the first time in North America. It will go on sale next fall. Other North American debuts include the Porsche 911 Carrera 4, BMW M5, Jaguar S-Type and Nissan Hypermini.
In addition, a wide range of new alternative-fuel vehicles will be on display, as will vehicles that Chevrolet, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, Mitsubishi and Pontiac exhibited at last month's Specialty Equipment Market Association show.