DaimlerChrysler this week will attempt to direct attention away from its financial ills by taking the wraps off the latest generation of a product that accounts for nearly 400,000 sales a year.
The Chicago Auto Show will be the stage for the unveiling of the automaker's redesigned 2002 Dodge Ram pickup along with a handful of production and concept vehicles from other automakers.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the show, and several vehicles, such as the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, will be spotlighted.
Here's a preview:
The 2002 Ram pickup is a redesign, all new from the frame up. Dodge will unveil the Ram 1500 series in Chicago and is expected to save the 2500 and 3500 models for a different venue months later.
Styling is everything: The current-generation Ram pickup bowed for the 1994 model year and turned Dodge into a serious contender in the segment overnight. Pickup sales jumped from 70,000 to 200,000 in one year and totaled 380,874 in 2000. Why tamper with success? Sources say an evolutionary change in styling will be revealed. The 2002 Ram 1500 pickup goes on sale this fall.
Performance is the buzz this year at the Ford stand. The automaker takes the wraps off the Lightning Rod, a concept vehicle based on the SVT F-150 Lightning, Ford's V-8-powered pickup. A Ford-branded pocket rocket that packs a high horsepower engine and beefed up suspension also is expected to debut.
Hyundai's HCD6, a two-seat, mid-engine, open-top roadster, makes its world debut . Powered by a 2.7-liter V-6 mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the HCD6 features a see-through engine cover, body panels shaped to direct air to the engine compartment, a single roll bar integrated into the center console, floating carbon-fiber bumpers and driving lights that turn with the wheels. Remember the 1948 Tucker?
Mazda unveils the 2002 Miata SE, a special-edition Miata painted British-racing green, the first time in 10 years Mazda has used that paint scheme. The automaker also will show the Premacy, a small minivan it sells in Europe and Japan, to sound out consumer response to the possibility of selling it here.
The German automaker's first AMG convertible for the North American market will debut. The four-seat 2002 CLK55 AMG cabriolet features brake and suspension enhancements and a hand-built 5.5-liter V-8 developing 342 hp. In addition, Mercedes will introduce Silver Arrow editions for the oldest models in the lineup, the SL500 and SL600 two-seat roadster. The redesigned SL is expected to bow in about a year.
The face-lifted 2002 Mitsubishi Galant sedan will bow. Mitsubishi also will unveil the Chill concept, a Montero Sport that has been modified for use in heavy snow.
Another vehicle aimed at those who want a sporty ride and some off-road capability, the Pontiac REV concept features all-wheel drive, an adjustable suspension that raises the REV two inches and a 245-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. One thing missing from the REV is a B-pillar: Without that obstruction, there's a wide-open entry into the rear seat, which is especially helpful because the REV is a small package - about 11 inches shorter than the Grand Am sedan.
America's 'different kind of car company' enters the sport-utility segment this fall with the 2002 Saturn Vue. In Chicago, Saturn will unveil what it calls lifestyle versions of the Vue. If reaction is positive, many of the special features on the two concepts may find their way into the production version.
Subaru continues to unveil models based off its redesigned Impreza. Last month, Subaru took the wraps off its all-new 2002 Impreza WRX at the Los Angeles auto show. In Chicago, Subaru will unveil the 2002 Impreza 2.5 RS sedan, 2002 Impreza 2.5 TS Sport Wagon and the 2002 Outback Sport, which is based on the Impreza Sport Wagon. The three models feature the 165-hp 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine found in the Legacy. The cars go on sale in the spring.
Toyota will unveil the RSC concept, short for Rugged Sport Coupe. Developed by Calty, Toyota's California design center, the RSC joins a cadre of other manufacturers' concept vehicles influenced by the World Rally Championships, such as the Chevrolet Borrego concept that debuted last month at the Los Angeles auto show.