What did the New Beetle inspire? A year later, automakers combine shapes from the past with modern technology, such as the retro Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Ford Thunderbird reborn as a two-seater. The bare-bones Xterra SUV and surprise unveiling of the Z sports car concept begin Nissan's product revival.
2000 Segment benders
Judging from the truck concepts on display in 2000, designers are hellbent on ripping up the old definition of a truck and making up a new one for the new century. From the Chevrolet SSR to the Pontiac Aztek, the new designs have audiences wondering whether they are looking at pickups, SUVs, sedans or something else entirely. Countering that trend, BMW announces it will bring the Mini brand to the United States. On the sports car side, Jaguar unveils the F-Type, beginning a 13-year wait for the car to arrive.
2001 'Angry kitchen appliances'
BMW designer Chris Bangle debuts "flame surfacing" on the X coupe sheet metal. On the truck side, Japanese designers diverge into a new techno direction. The look adorns the Nissan Alpha-T pickup, Isuzu GBX SUV and Honda Model X crossover. Reaction is mixed. A week after the press days, Bob Lutz — between jobs at Chrysler and General Motors — weighs in at the Automotive News World Congress. "There are concepts," he says, "that look like a whole family of angry kitchen appliances: demented toasters, furious bread machines and vengeful trash compactors."
2002 Is it a car? A truck? It's a crossover
The Chrysler Pacifica, Mercedes-Benz Vision GST and VW Magellan concepts knock another chunk out of the fast-eroding wall between cars and trucks. Each blends awd, six-passenger seating and the appearance of a sleek, luxurious station wagon.
2003 Thoroughly modern trucks
Full-sized pickups display an array of mechanical devices meant to dazzle consumers in Detroit's last stronghold. The 2004 remake of Ford's F-150, Chevrolet's Cheyenne concept and Nissan's 2004 Titan offer glimpses of the future: Cab-forward designs permit more spacious cabs; roomy rear seats and wide-opening doors transform pickups into family haulers.