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Green tech goes high brow

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Green tech goes high brow

Luxury hybrids, high-mileage vehicles to be featured debuts

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Automakers plan to show off the greenest versions of their luxury cars at the New York International Auto Show this week, as the industry prepares to meet higher fuel economy standards in the next few years.

Automakers traditionally roll out some of the fancier offerings in New York, the home of well-heeled Wall Street bankers and traders who can afford the more expensive vehicles.

This year, at least three automakers -- Ford Motor Co., Porsche and Hyundai Motor Co. -- will unveil gasoline-electric hybrid versions of premium models at this show. Toyota Motor Corp unveiled its 2007 Lexus 600h hybrid in New York in 2006.

During the show's two press preview days, Wednesday and Thursday, the Obama administration plans to unveil its finalized fuel economy mandates and tailpipe emissions limits for the 2012-16 model years.

Automakers will need to boost overall fuel efficiency at least 40 percent by 2016. The new requirements are set to cost the auto industry $60 billion, the administration said last year.

Hybrid sales accounted for 2.8 percent of market sales last year; about half were of the Toyota Prius.

Automakers are trying to boost hybrids, said Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst at IHS Global Insight.

"The manufacturers are really trying to expand the appeal of hybrids because they are going to need to need them to meet CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards," she said.

The issue is that many of the luxury hybrids, unlike the distinctive Prius or Honda Insight, "are rebadged versions and many hybrid buyers want instant recognition of their self-sacrifice," Lindland said.

Ford will unveil its Lincoln MKZ Hybrid on Wednesday -- the first luxury hybrid offered by the Dearborn automaker. Ford already sells hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. The hybrid Lincoln MKZ will be built off the same platform.

Porsche will debut its 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid SUV on Wednesday and begin selling it at dealerships in the fall. The hybrid, which is lighter than previous versions, is being promoted as having the performance of a V8 engine with the fuel economy of a V6.

Hyundai will unveil both a hybrid version and a turbo version of the Sonata.

General Motors Co. also is playing up a fuel efficient vehicle, though it is not a hybrid: the "green" version of the Chevrolet Cruze. The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco model, available in the fourth quarter of this year, will get an estimated 40 miles per gallon on the highway with a six-speed transmission.

But GM isn't forgetting fast, fancy cars.

The automaker also is unveiling its Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon.

GM says this vehicle contains the most powerful engine in Cadillac's history, but it gets 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway.

Chrysler Group is following a pattern it set at the Detroit show in January, planning on a low-key appearance at the New York show. The company will feature a webcast of five contestants digging in a giant sandbox to win a Jeep Wrangler Islander.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100330/AUTO04/3300335/1148/AUTO01/Green-tech-goes-high-brow#ixzz0jf7MEx0N

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