Imports rule in motor city
The US car industry’s showcase was dominated by foreign drawcards
THE new look of Australian motoring began to take shape this week at Motown, USA.
As Holden and Toyota wind down their local car-making operations, a Commodore-style Kia and an all-new Camry have emerged in the spotlight at the 2017 Detroit Motor Show.
The Kia Stinger is a radical advance for the South Korean company and there is even a chance that it will be lured into Supercars racing from 2019.
The new Camry is more edgy but a familiar family-sized package for mainstream Australia that will be built in Japan.
The show was loaded as usual with a wide range of preview and production cars, including the Holden Astra sedan and Mercedes-Benz E Class coupe.
But there were almost none of the surprises seen from concept cars at Detroit shows over the decades, with most of the headliners previewed ahead of opening day and imports stealing the show.
The Chevrolet Cruze will become the Holden Astra in Australia. The name change was confirmed at the show by Holden boss Mark Bernhard.
The Astra sedan will roll in alongside the hatch that reintroduced the nameplate to Australia last year, with an even sharper price.
However, it’s missing some of the key safety stuff from the hatch, including autonomous emergency braking.
The sedan will be built in South Korea, the original source of the Cruze for Holden, unlike the Astra hatch which is built in Poland.
Holden promises local tuning for the car.
It’s eventually going to take two SUVs to cover the ground of the unloved Captiva and the Equinox is one of them.
The mid-sized crossover, at least in the US, sits alongside the GMC Acadia that’s also touted for Australia.
The Equinox is available with front and all-wheel drive and a range of engines including a diesel, but the big emphasis is on family-friendly safety systems from all-round camera coverage to auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist and rear traffic alert.
It also has technology called Teen Driver that allows parents to monitor their children’s driving habits.
It’s the Odyssey but not as we’ll know it in Australia.
Honda continues its policy of double-dealing on some key models, which means the allnew Odyssey at Detroit is not the one that will come to Australia.
But there are plenty of hints, from the general styling on things like the grille to the sliding side doors and more.
The biggest difference from the American car to the Australian model is that it rolls on the same mechanical platform as the funky Pilot and is available with a V6 engine.
It’s big and bold, it comes with a twin-turbo V6 engine and it will be priced from about $40,000.
The Stinger sets the direction and accelerates the pace of change at Kia Motors, which is aiming for a sportier image than its sister company — at least until Hyundai launches its performance-focused N division.
The Stinger is a close development of the original GT show car.
“It’s a game changer. There is no doubt about that. It puts the brand into another sphere and now it’s up to us to make sure we take advantage of it,” says Damien Meredith, head of Kia Motors Australia.
“It shows what Kia can do with product. We won’t sell a lot of them this year, but in 2018 if we have a good pricing strategy it might be the car that replaces Commodore as a performance vehicle.”
The size and style of the Stinger is right for a Commodore successor, with a five-adult cabin, a giant hatchback tail and old-school rear-wheel drive.
Pricing will start from $40,000 for a 2.0-litre turbo model and about $50,000 for the twin-turbo V6, and both models will be well equipped with plenty of safety stuff.
NISSAN VMOTION 2.0
Squint a bit and dream a lot and you can see some of the next Maxima in the only genuine surprise arrival in Detroit.
The Vmotion shows the thinking for the next generation of Nissan passenger cars, although none of them is likely to have the giant suicide doors of the show car.
It’s Maxima sized and a fourdoor sedan, so it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the Vmotion is being used to prepare the world for a bolder generation of future Nissan models. It would not look out of place alongside the GT-R, that’s for sure.
Japan becomes the new home room for the Camry when local production ends in the final quarter of 2017, but it’s the United States that has driven development of the eighthgeneration family favourite.
The Camry is America’s top selling car — although the Ford F-Series truck leads overall — and that means the newcomer has slightly bolder styling with more sharp edges, more cabin space, a grille that could have been snitched from a Lexus, and even two-tone paintwork on some models that looks surprisingly good.
The Aurion name dies when the imported Camry arrives but there will still be three drivelines — four-cylinder and V6 petrol power and a hybrid — with front-wheel drive and the familiar walk up through the equipment levels.
Toyota Australia’s head of sales and marketing, Tony Cramb, was in Detroit as company president Akio Toyoda unveiled the Camry and the thundering V8powered NASCAR racer it has spawned, but was tight-lipped
on details. There is no firm timing for local sales and no talk about pricing, although he promises the car has considerable local engineering input and Australian testing.
The 2018 Camry is likely to cost more than the outgoing model, which is being discounted to keep sales ticking along during the run to the local factory closure, and Cramb admits that sales are also likely to drop because Toyota Australia will lose some big government and fleet contracts and is also selling into a medium class that’s losing its support in Australia.
But Toyoda has not given up and says: “We recognise this as an opportunity to re-ignite the mid-sized segment. Why should SUVs get all the glory?”
The Kombi concept in Detroit is the fourth time Volkswagen has looked at bringing the old classic family van back from the dead.
But this time it’s likely to get the go-ahead, as it would be a dead-set winner in the US where VW desperately needs to win back friends and followers after the dieselgate disaster.
The I.D.Buzz, as it’s called, is also part of the green-power move to fully electric cars that’s also intended to distract disgruntled owners and present a brighter future for the brand.
The Buzz looks great and is promised with a range of 600 kilometres from a 111 kiloWatthour lithium battery.
But there are doubts about the Kombi for Australia.
“We’re ready as a company, but when will we be ready as a country for electric cars,” says VW spokesman, Paul Pottinger.
The reigning Carsguide Car of the Year arrived in Detroit with three rows of seats.
It’s coming to Australia early in 2018, which means Skoda will get first crack at a mid-sized seven-seater with its upcoming Kodiaq in July.
No-one at VW Australia will discuss pricing or equipment, but it’s likely to mirror the fiveseater Tiguan perhaps with a 1.4-litre turbo starter engine.
VOLKSWAGEN I.D. BUZZ
NISSAN VMOTION 2.0