Anibal Ortiz / KPCC
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is introduced at the LA Auto Show. It's the smallest vehicle in the entire GM lineup. It's all-electric. And its shows that GM is at long last taking small cars seriously.
Two concepts that, a decade ago, few would have uttered in the same breath. GM had left the small car market for dead. While it focused on trucks and SUVs and their nice, fat, profit margins, and also dedicated itself to turning Cadillac into a high-performance brand while simultaneously saving Buick, it left low-margin small cars to Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia.
Honda and Toyota got started in the U.S. market with small cars, so they always knew what they were doing. Hyundai and Kia, the South Korean upstarts, simply copied the Japanese playbook.
Then the financial crisis struck. The federal government bailed out GM, then the company went bankrupt. Somewhere amid one of its numerous pre-Chapter 11 restructurings, GM got religion on small cars.
At this week's L.A. Auto Show, Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) pulled the cover off the new F-Type for the first time in the U.S. (it had already debuted in Paris earlier this year) and unveiled the new Land Rover Range Rover, its top-of-the line SUV.
In top trim, the F-Type comes with a supercharged V8 engine that makes almost 500 horsepower and can do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. It costs $92,000. It was also mobbed by photographers at the L.A. Auto Shows media preview days pretty much all day long.
JLR ensconsed its new Land Rover Range Rover in a shallow pool of water filled with stones, perhaps to depict the machines august stream-fording capabilities. The Range Rover is ideal for the aspiring country squire of means — and he'd better have the means, given the $83,500 price tag for the 2013 model.
The Prius Parlee concept...bike! According to manufacturer Parlee Cycles, it's has a "monocoque carbon-fiber frame, built-in smartphone dock, countless wind-tunnel-tested aerodynamic tweaks and its unprecedented mind-powered shifter." Mind-powered! Is this the most conceptual concept at the whole LA Auto Show?
The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show opens to the public on Friday and runs through December 9. If you're planning on swinging by the L.A. Convention Center to check it out, you'll want to do some drive-bys of the concepts cars.
What's a concept car? It's a dream machine, and some crazy experiment in futuristic design. They're an auto show staple, although in recent years the automakers have been exploring a new...concept when it comes to concept cars: concept-to-production. This means that the concept car on the show floor is pretty close to what consumers will be able to buy right off dealer lots.
That said, there are still plenty of out-there rides at the L.A. Auto Show. We've got 12 you can't, can't, CAN'T miss in the slide show above.
Porsche usually gets a room at the L.A. Auto Show. Seriously. Rather than joining the rest of the automotive world in the big exhibition halls, Porsche does its "there is no substitute thing" in a smaller hall. It's the Chamber of Porsche. It's Porscheworld and it has been for a while.
Fiat, on the other hand, is in the process of returning to the U.S. market for the first time in decades. Why? Because Fiat and Chrysler are joined, a consequence of the bailout and bankruptcy of the smallest of the Detroit Big Three automakers in 2009. Fiat is currently selling one car, the stylish 500, an update of an iconic postwar set of Italian wheels. Initial sales were slow, but the car has been doing much better of late.
So why not roll out some new versions? That's exactly what Fiat has done Wednesday at the L.A. Auto Show, with an electric model, the 500e. The company claims it'll deliver 80 miles per charge. That's about where other EVs in the market are, so the 500e can join the tussle with the likes of the Nissan Leaf and the Honda Fit EV.
The Los Angeles Auto Show has in recent years defined itself as the "green" car show. California has the largest auto market in the U.S., as well as the most environmentally preoccupied. But the most dramatic auto debuts during car show season, running through next spring, are traditionally reserved for Detroit, the auto industry's spiritual home. So L.A. has had to kick off car show season with its own attention-getting twist.
The L.A. Auto Show focuses on the dream machines, the future of transportation and, over the past decade, on electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, alternative fuel vehicles — in short, things with wheels that aren't total slaves to gas. But this year, it's different.
The new story is technology. Specifically, how cars will soon become platforms for various consumer electronics, mainly smartphones. In the past, automakers have preferred to design and build their own in-vehicle infotainment systems or partner with tech companies. The most prominent of these has been Ford and its relationship with Microsoft; Ford's CEO, Alan Mullaly, has also made regular pilgrimages to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. General Motors has had a loose association with Google (and Google itself is the the auto game, with its driverless car). No one has yet broken through with Apple.