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Bigger is Better at Detroit Auto Show

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Big is back at the North American International Auto Show. For years, unveilings at the auto show focused more on small cars as Americans dealt with high gas prices and tighter spending.

But that trend seems to be starting to wane as many of the reveals at this year’s media days were trucks and SUVs. Over the weekend, Chevrolet and Ford announced redesigned and new trucks and the first press conference Monday brought Lexus’ announcement of a “new flagship luxury crossover,” the LF-1 Limitless concept.

“There’s no doubt that luxury crossovers are an increasingly popular choice for luxury customers,” said Lexus general manager Jeff Bracken. “This LF-1 Limitless concept illustrates what could happen if Lexus were to add a flagship crossover to our line-up. It’s a gorgeous execution and we’re anxious to see our customers’ and dealers’ response.”

There’s no guarantee that the LF-1 seen in Detroit will ever hit the streets, but it serves as a starting point for Lexus to develop a new SUV line. The design, Bracken noted, takes cues from “the Japanese tradition of omotenashi, or hospitality, welcoming all with equal enthusiasm.”

For the driver, distractions from buttons, knobs and touchscreens are eliminated by the addition of hand motion commands, while passengers will have more legroom and individual display screens. The concept also features an automated driving mode that takes over steering, braking, accelerating and signals.

“With its innovative technology and captivating styling, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept represents the potential for an amazing experience for future luxury customers,” he said.

Nissan also used its press conference at the Detroit auto show to unveil a concept SUV, the Xmotion (pronounced “cross motion”), that will lead the way for the company’s Move2022 plan.

“It has two main objectives: to achieve sustainable growth while ensuring profitability and to lead the industry in new technologies and business expansion,” said Jose Muñoz, chairman of Nissan North America.

As for the vehicle itself, lead designer Alphonso Albaisa noted its rugged image that is “robust and refined.” Its design was meant to represent a bridge between eastern and western cultures, down to a wooden center console that runs from dashboard to rear seat.

nissan xmotion Detroit auto show

“Xmotion expresses our dream for the SUV and crossover in the next chapter of Nissan’s intelligent mobility,” Albaisa said. “It brings craftsmanship to a high-tech environment. … This is our vision for the future of the crossover and SUV.”

Among the Xmotion’s features are seven digital screens, an infotainment system that can be controlled by hand gestures or eye movement and a “4+2” seat configuration, which has three rows of two seats.

Also at the Detroit auto show, BMW unveiled a new SUV, the X2, and a new plug-in hybrid sports car, the i8 Coupe. The X2 marks the German brand’s first foray into the crossover market, CEO Bernhard Kuhnt said.

“It’s a bold design with sporty, compact dimensions that stands apart from our other X models,” he said. “In the U.S., the X2’s twin-turbo engine finds the balance between sporting dynamics and efficiency. At 228 horsepower, it goes from zero to 60 in just 6.3 seconds.”

bmw i8 Detroit auto show

The i8, meanwhile, is BMW’s latest push into the electric-car market. Last year, Kuhnt noted, the United States was the company’s No. 1 market for hybrids. That number is expected to continue growing as BMW projects that upward of 25% of its global sales will be for all-electric or plug-in hybrids by 2025.

While Volkswagen discussed the successes of its crossover models, namely the Tiguan, most attention was paid to the redesigned Jetta sedan. During the unveiling, Volkswagen chairman Herbert Deiss noted the Jetta has more interior space than nearly any other car in the segment, accommodated by a longer and wider body.

“It’s an evolution in Volkswagen’s clean and timeless design,” he said. “We’re putting the pedal to the metal in the U.S. market. This is the best Jetta of all-time.”

In addition to its automated features like braking, lane-keeping and adaptive – which Diess said reduced accidents in areas where the technology was available – it features a 1.4-liter TSI engine that puts out 147 horsepower. Inside, the sound system features BeatsAudio speakers, heated and ventilated seats and a panoramic sunroof.

The car will start at $18,545. In light of the company’s diesel emission scandal two years ago, Volkswagen will also offer a six-year bumper-to-bumper warranty in an effort to regain some customer trust.

On Sunday night at the Detroit auto show, Mercedes Benz announced a major update to its iconic off-road line, the G-Class, with new Led headlights, driver assistance systems and a redesigned suspension. Introduced in 1979, the G-Class is Mercedes’ longest-running model and the newest version is wider and lower than its predecessor, allowing for more leg room all around, and comes with a drive mode dedicated to off-road traveling.

The SUV will start at around $123,000.

mercedes g-class Detroit auto show

“The new G-Class continues to set the bar higher in all relevant areas in terms of performance both on and off the road as well as with regard to comfort and telematics,” said Ola Lallenius, who heads Mercedes-Benz’s cars development program. “Our longest-serving model series is therefore ideally equipped to continue its success story. In short, the new G is still a G, only better.”

Pictured: Lexus introduced its LF-1 Limitless concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.