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Europeans aim small SUVs and crossovers at North America

Dave Guilford

Automotive News Europe

January 7, 06:01 CET

Next week's Detroit auto show will feature fuel-sipping hybrids, zero-emissions fuel cells and performance cars.

Five Chinese companies also will unveil models that they hope to launch in the US.

Green concepts that will make their debuts in the US include two fuel cell-powered models: a Cadillac crossover and the Chrysler ecoVoyager.

On the hybrid side, General Motors will show a version of the Saturn Vue with its Two Mode hybrid system, and Toyota will unveil the A-BAT pickup concept.

There also will be plenty of powerful models on display in Detroit such as the 620hp Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and the Mazda Furai concept with a 450hp rotary engine.

European carmakers will unveil important new models.

BMW will debut the production X6, Mercedes-Benz will unveil its GLK-class SUV and Volkswagen will show its new Passat Coupe.

Saab will debut a small crossover concept that signals the styling direction for a future vehicle.

Land Rover's LRX study could become the smallest SUV in its lineup.

Audi will show a concept car and a world production premier, which likely will be a high-performance version of the TT premium coupe.


Ford likely will show a prototype for its new small car for the US. The model is based on the Verve concept (shown) that debuted at Frankfurt's IAA last September. The Detroit concept will be for a four-door sedan. The IAA Verve was a three-door hatchback. The Verve previews the next-generation Ford Fiesta, which goes on sale in Europe in late 2008.

The US concept will have the sleek kinetic design developed by Ford of Europe. Ford plans to introduce a Fiesta-sized car in the US by the end of 2010.


BMW will debut its X6 coupe-styled SUV crossover (shown), a 1-series convertible and its first US diesels. Since an X6 concept was shown at the Frankfurt's IAA in September, BMW has changed the front and the rear appearance slightly for the Detroit production version. The X6 will be built at BMW's US plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It launches in North America and Europe in the spring. BMW also will show its diesel models for the US, a 3 series and an X5. Both will have a 3.0-liter twin-turbo, inline six-cylinder diesel and will go on sale this autumn.


Mercedes-Benz's smallest SUV, the GLK class, will debut as a near-production concept. The Vision GLK Freeside (shown) has a more boxy appearance than expected. It resembles the original, rugged-looking G class more than the M class. Based on the C-class station wagon, the GLK class will be built in Mercedes' plant in Bremen, northern Germany. It will compete against BMW's X3 and Audi's forthcoming Q5. The GLK class and Q5 will go on sale in Europe in the autumn. US sales of the GLK class start in January 2009. Face-lifted versions of the SLK-class roadster and its SLK55 AMG high-performance car also will be shown.


Volkswagen will unveil the Passat Coupe, a four-door sedan with a low, sleek, coupe-like roof reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-class sedan. The car will be built on a slightly modified version of the Passat's platform and it will be positioned below the Phaeton in VW’s lineup.

The Passat Coupe will start at about €30,000 in Europe. VW says it plans to sell 40,000 to 50,000 units worldwide. The car goes on sale starting in June and in the US in the autumn.

It will be built in VW's plant in Emden, northern Germany

Land Rover

Land Rover's LRX concept could become the British automaker's smallest SUV. The three-door concept (shown) is based on a shortened version of the Freelander platform. It is the first creation from new Land Rover Design Director Gerry McGovern. It previews new styling cues for the brand. If built, it would compete with a similarly sized SUV planned by Mini and a slightly larger SUV, the X1, from Mini sibling brand BMW. The LRX concept is expected to showcase new lightweight materials and advanced powertrain technologies to achieve low CO2 emissions. Industry insiders expect Land Rover to launch the new SUV starting in late 2010.


A high-performance Chevrolet Corvette that has been rumored for more than three years will be revealed. The Corvette ZR1 (shown) features a 620hp-plus supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. Final horsepower and torque numbers will be announced as the car gets closer to sale this autumn. Production will be limited to about 3,000 units. The front fenders and hood are made of carbon fiber. The hood features a raised, polycarbonate window offering a view of the intercooler below it. The body also features a carbon-fiber roof panel and rocker moldings with clear-coated, carbon fiber weave. GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has said the ZR1 would be priced around $100,000 (about €68,000) in the US.

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$100,000 will be a steal for the ZR1, and they will probably instantly be worth at least half again as much as people who couldn't get their hands on one directly seek to buy them secondhand. Especially if CAFE and whatnot kills the car within the first few years, this will be an ultimate collector's car.

Edited by PurdueGuy

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As Pontiac-Custom-S shared, Mr. Guilford wrote that the Cadillac concept is a crossover - so does it in anyway preview the Cadillac BRX?

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