If four doors on a pickup are a great idea, then five must be better.
And if you want to check your e-mail, why not read it in your car?
So goes the innovation and one-upmanship at this year's Detroit auto show. The event, like most major auto shows, raises not just the curiosity level of thousands of journalists, but also competing auto executives. In some cases, they can be seen following journalists from one unveiling to the next.
After all, this morning's new idea turns into this afternoon's trend. And every car exec needs to quickly respond to a competitor's innovation. That means copying it if necessary.
Here's an overview of some of the new ideas and innovations unveiled last week.
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Imagine being able to access the Internet right from your car.
You send and receive e-mail, follow stocks on Wall Street, seek the quickest route to that new Italian restaurant via your navigation system - including e-mailing a map and directions to a friend. It's coming to your car.
But there's one big difference between the Internet-access system in Ford's 24.7 concepts unveiled last week and the PC you have at home: You don't have a keyboard. Everything is voice-activated.
J Mays, Ford's head of design, says, 'You don't look at this vehicle as having an instrument panel. You look at it as having a communications portal. You are able to communicate with friends, family, business partners while you are driving.' And keep your hands on the wheel.
'You get people from Wired magazine saying the Apple IMAC is the hot rod of the 1990s and the hot rod of the year 2000,' says Mays. 'That wakes you up and makes you think there's a group of people out there who are waiting on an automobile that is designed around a wholly different set of criteria than gasoline and horsepower.'
Mays said some 2000 Lincoln models will be offered with systems that will be operated with voice-activated commands, including the cell phone. But a fully functional Internet system, completely operated by voice commands, is three to five years away.
The rage just a few years ago was extended-cab pickups with three doors. It didn't last long. One automaker added a fourth door, and soon nearly every automaker had a four-door pickup in its line. Today, nearly everyone is trying to follow Chevrolet's lead with the Avalanche, a sport-utility with a short pickup bed and a fifth door.
The door, which Chevrolet calls its midgate, is located behind the rear passenger seat. With the door open, and the rear seats folded down, the truck has the capability of carrying long loads, such as 4-feet by 8-feet sheets of plywood. The Avalanche goes into production about a year from now.
Other automakers are quick to follow: The Ford Equator concept unveiled last week has a fifth door, as does Subaru's ST-X concept, introduced earlier this month at the Los Angeles show.
Another innovation for short-bed pickups: GMC's Terradyne sport-utility/pickup concept. It has an extension that pulls out over the tailgate, adding about 1.5 feet to the overall length of the bed. Ford and Nissan have similar extensions in mind.
Thirsty? The Pontiac Aztek sport wagon is equipped with an insulated, removable cooler that can handle 12 cans of your favorite beverage.
The Opel Snowtrekker concept offers a sort of a 21st century hot plate: A heating element to keep cups of coffee or cocoa hot.
Tired of reaching deep into the back of your minivan for the kid's football gear? The Aztek offers a large tray on rollers that fits into the cargo area.
The 2001 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan feature an electrically operated liftgate. A button on the key fob raises and lowers the liftgate.
The power-operated sliding doors of the DaimlerChrysler minivans have an optical sensor that automatically reverses the direction of the door if it senses an obstruction.
Too warm in the back seat? Rear passengers in the 2001 Lexus LS 430 can select the temperature setting for the climate control system. But the Chrysler and Dodge minivans may have the ultimate temperature-control system: three, count 'em, three separate temperature zones, for each row of seats.