Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Auto Show: With Chevy Cruze, Sonic, and Spark, GM has cracked the code on small cars

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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.

General Motors.

Small cars.

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.


LA Auto Show: New Jaguar F-Type and Land Rover Range Rover (photos)

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Jaguar F-Type at the LA Auto Show. This beauty will do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, as long as you spend $92,000 to get the supercharged V8 version.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The Land Rover Range Rover sits in a shallow puddle at the LA Auto Show. It can handle a lot more than that.

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. 


LA Auto Show: 9 can't-miss concept cars (and one concept bike)

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The Lexus LF-CC hybrid concept car on display at the LA Auto Show. Unlike some concept cars, this one isn't so out-there that it won't ever see production, in some form.

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Matt DeBord/KPCC

Toyota's FUN-Vii concept car at the 2012 LA Auto Show. It's exterior is literally ever-changing. Like a rolling mood ring, it can display a variety of looks.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

The Mercedes Ener-G Force concept car struck Motor Trend editor Ed Loh as looking like something that rolled straight out of the video game "Halo." Where are the plasma blasters and force-field generators?


Matt DeBord/KPCC

The Lexus LF-LC concept car terrifies the LA Auto Show with its completely grotesque front end. That's A LOT of jutting chrome grille, folks.

Lexus concept car front end

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Ugliest. Concept car. Front end. Ever.

Acura NSX concept car

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The Acura NSX concept car at the LA Auto Show. It proves that Acura can keep pace with Lexus when it comes to aggressive designs that might actually be adapted to cars consumers can buy.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

BMW's brings its i8 Spyder concept car to the LA Auto Show. Plug-in hybrid powered, sleek and shiny, it could wind up turning into an actual production BMW someday.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The BMW I8 concept Spyder draw a crowd. The two-seat hybrid has a top speed of 155 mph.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

There's a tire someplace on that wheel (it the thin rubber strip around the "Tron"-like wheel. It would also be wise to avoid potholes. At all costs.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Honda's electric concept car EV-Ster on display at the LA Auto Show. It's a rear-wheel-drive all-electric convertible roadster. Also, it looks like a kid made it out of Legos.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The interior of Honda's electric concept car EV-Ster. Do you see a steering wheel? I don't.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Nissan's Hi-Cross concept is a smaller crossover SUV that could very easily be seen on actual roadways in the future.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

A single piece of glass spans from the windshield toward the back end of Nissan's Hi-Cross concept car. You'll be able to count every single star in the sky.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

It's called "Hi-Cross" because the vehicle provides drivers and passengers with a high position relative to the road.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

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.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.


LA Auto Show: German performance and Italian style in Porsche Cayman and Fiat 500e

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Fiat unveils its all-electric 500e at the LA Auto Show. The wee two-door will get 80 miles per charge, Fiat claims.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The "L" in the Fiat's 500L is for "large." It was unveiled at the LA Auto Show and will take on the MINI Countryman.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Fiat's topless 500c Abarth, a convertible version of its performance-tuned mini-car, was revealed at the LA Auto Show.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

What's missing from my Fiat 500 Abarth? Could it be...the roof?

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The 2014 Porsche Cayman makes its debut at the LA Auto Show. You could call it the entry-level Porsche, but if you did, you'd need to remember that there really is no such thing as an entry-level Porsches. All Porsches are end unto themselves.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The 2014 Porsche Cayman at the LA Auto Show. With the revamp, it's gotten a bit bigger.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The 2014 Porsche Cayman looks just as good in severe metallic gray as it does in jubilant sunflower yellow.

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.


LA Auto Show: It's a rolling world of consumer electronics!

The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show begins two days of press previews on Wednesday. The DeBord Report is there!

Toyota's Entune system fights distracted driving and keeps drivers connected via their smartphones.

Intel is just one of mant technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, that plan to join the automakers in transforming car into rolling consumer electronics platforms.

Wireless providers are also getting in on the act. Sprint has a booth at the L.A. Auto Show to display what it can do for drivers.

Don't be a dummy and drive while distracted!

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.