Pickups, pickups and more pickups will be the rage at this year's Chicago Auto Show. No fewer than six models will be introduced, many with four doors. But the big news at this week's press conferences is expected to come from Buick and Dodge.
Chicago is a big retail market for Buick, and that audience will be the first to see the automaker's new crossover vehicle. The 2002 Buick Rendezvous is a four-door blend of sport-utility and minivan. The Rendezvous, built off General Motors' front-wheel-drive minivan platform, has the look of a sport-utility and the function of a minivan.
Though the Rendezvous has platform and engineering similarities to the Pontiac Aztek, the Buick version has more contemporary styling and is a little larger.
For Dodge, now that the redesigned 2001 Dodge Caravan minivan has been unveiled, the focus turns to the Avenger coupe and Stratus sedan. Both receive a major styling and engineering overhaul for the 2001 model year, and both will share the spotlight at the Dodge exhibit. Sales begin this fall.
Trucks: Call it 'Door Wars.' General Motors and Toyota will unveil new pickups in Chicago, each with four full-sized doors. Chevrolet offers the 2001 S10 Crew Cab; GMC unveils the 2001 Sonoma Crew Cab and 2001 Sierra Crew Cab; and Toyota takes the wraps off the 2001 Tacoma Double Cab pickup.
Ford and Nissan also will try to woo the truck crowd with restyled pickups for the 2001 model year. Details about Ford's restyled 2001 Ranger are not available. However, Nissan's reskin of the 2001 Frontier is more than just a midcycle fascia change. The truck features aggressive new front and rear sheet metal, almost cartoonish wheel arches and a redesigned two-tone interior. Sales begin in July.
Concepts: General Motors and Hyundai will unveil a total of three.
The evolution of Hyundai show cars will be seen with the Crosstour. The sedan is based on the Sonata platform and has an all-wheel-drive variation. Features include a retracting glass roof and a fold-up tailgate that includes two 'party seats.' Inside is a multimedia dream, with mobile Internet access and two flat-panel TV screens.
GM will take the wraps off the Pontiac Piranha and Chevrolet Traverse concepts.
Pontiac calls the fwd Piranha affordable driving excitement. The interior can be customized to reflect the owner's personality of the moment. The interior trim panels are designed so that the fabric can be changed to the owner's choice of material or theme with relative ease. The instrument panel can be reconfigured. Power is provided by an L850 supercharged engine.
According to Chevrolet, the Traverse concept combines the agility and comfort of a sedan with the utility and ruggedness of an all-wheel-drive truck. With the rear seat down, the interior can accommodate a 4 feet by 8 feet sheet of plywood. Power is provided by a 4.5-liter V-6. The four-speed automatic transmission can be activated by push-button electronic shift controls.
Other production vehicles: Saab offers the 9-5 Special Edition wagon. Ford is expected to unveil a performance version of the 2001 Focus. And Chevrolet will introduce a 2001 Monte Carlo that has styling cues first seen on last year's Monte Carlo Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.
Mercedes-Benz is expected to show special edition versions of two lame-duck models, the 2000 model SLK and C class, with special, discount option packages. The C class is due for a redesign for the 2001 model year. The SLK is due for a facelift.
Kia Motors America will unveil the Rio subcompact sedan. While it shares the same platform as the Ford Aspire, which Ford marketed a few years ago, the Rio has different sheet metal and an all-new engine. The Rio will come with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates about 110 hp. The Rio goes on sale this summer with a price around $9,000.
Mazda North American Operations will unwrap a 2000 Miata Special Edition. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, 15-inch alloy wheels, white gauge faces with chrome accents, leather seats and interior appointments and a 200-watt Bose CD system. Sales begin in the spring; 3,000 will be built.
Daewoo Motor America will show the softtop version of the Korando two-door sport-utility. It will go on sale in June, the same time as the hardtop. Pricing has not been set.
Staff Reporters Mark Rechtin and Jim Henry contributed to this report