Los Angeles Auto Show 2013 - Identity Crisis Averted

Except for a rare few occasions, the Los Angeles Auto Show has had to deal with an identity crisis.  After moving from its January date in 2006 to avoid the annual conflict with the Detroit show, the next few years allowed it to carve out its own niche.  2011 was awesome, and while the feeling was quite different from Detroit (I heard a designer comment that Detroit is about product while LA always seemed to be about the money), it worked.  Then last year the Tokyo Motor Show decided to move its event earlier in the year which ended up right on top of the LA dates.   And this year even China got in on the cluster and scheduled Auto Guangzhou 2013 with a significant overlap.  The result?  Concepts, world reveals and general booth expenditures were all noticeably down.  So, with manufacturer involvement and attention being split between numerous shows around the world, what is a fine upstanding show like LA to do?  Host the Connected Car Expo!

Connected Car Expo

What the Auto Show says:  Where Cars, Technology and Genius converge.

Spec Sheet:  A host of conferences dealing with topics as diverse as Autonomous Cars, Big Data, Distracted Driving and Infotainment.  The event was fully supported by the industry as executives from many of the major OEMs participated as well as Cisco, Google, Nokia, Splunk and Verizon along with personalities like Robert Herjavek of television’s Shark Tank.

Details:  The Connected Car Expo saved what would have otherwise been a disappointing show.  The expert opinions, panel discussions and audience questions exposed the real future of the automobile as a more integrated component in people’s lives.  The audience was treated to some great nuggets of insight from Google: Tarun Bhatnagar, Director of Global Maps & Earth Enterprise, called the car "the fourth screen in people’s lives" and Ron Medford Safety Director for the Self-Driving Car admitted “People shouldn't think there will never be accidents with this technology".  The best part was the collective realization that no matter what new eco-technology is introduced in new vehicles, they will only be a fraction of the vehicles on the road and have a relatively minor impact.  The real benefit will be when (and not if) technology allows people driving existing cars in a more efficient manner.  So the next great app on your phone may access big data to not just reduce your commute time, but save a few gallons of gas in the process.

Production:  Free EV Charger

What the Auto Show says:  Free*

Spec Sheet:  In additional to Federal tax incentives, rebates are available for installing a charger at your home or business.

Details:  On the heels of a successful pilot program, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) offers residents and commercial enterprises a $750 rebate for installing a Level 2 charger in their home and a $0.025 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) discount for those recharging their EV during off-peak hours and installing a time of use meter. 

Concept:  Ford Edge

What Ford says:  Joe Hinrichs, Executive Vice President and President of The Americas, Ford Motor Company. “The next-generation Edge – previewed in the Ford Edge Concept – will build on these cornerstones to create a global vehicle with technology to make life easier, and design and craftsmanship to appeal to customers around the globe.”

Spec Sheet:  Length 4,689mm, Width 2,119mm 5 passenger Utility Vehicle

Details:  The Ford Edge Concept previewed 3 technologies that are expected to join the Eco-Boost® engine on the next production version; Start-Stop technology, Active Grille Shutters and Air Curtains.  The benefits of Stop-Start are well known in Europe, but the benefits cannot be properly advertised in the US because the standard fuel economy test does minimizes the benefit that can be advertised.  In addition, Active Grille Shutters and ducted Air Curtains are used to enhance the aerodynamics.  The shutters automatically reduce airflow through the engine at times when it is not needed.  The Air Curtains are positioned under the front fascia and guide the air through the front wheel wells.

Concept:  HONDA FCEV

What Honda says:  "The Honda FCEV Concept hints at Honda's future direction for fuel-cell vehicles," said Tetsuo Iwamura, President and CEO of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "While this car is a concept, it points toward a very real future."

Spec Sheet:  The Fuel Cell stack size has been reduced by 33% over the FCX Clarity resulting in a power density of 3kW/L and an increase of 100kWh.  This gives the FCEV an anticipated driving range of more than 300 miles, not bad for a package that seats 5.

Details:  Not many details were provided, other than the claim that this a 3-minute refuel time means will take no longer to refuel than a gas powered car.  The fact that the fuel cell is smaller means it can be completely packaged under the hood while allows for more flexibility in the design.  While the “cheeks” might remind you of the Predator movies, this is actually a pretty attractive car in the flesh.  The covered rear wheels are a nice departure and scream that this concept is different.  The car has nice proportions, but at certain angles the sculpting makes it appear much smaller than it really is.  The 2015 model year production car will be introduced in Japan before making it to this side of the Pacific.  Here’s hoping the production version keeps much of the bravado of the concept.

Production:  2015 HYUNDAI Tuscon Fuel Cell

What the Hyundai says:  "Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology, so we're thrilled to be a leader in offering the mass-produced, federally certified Tucson Fuel Cell to retail customers," said John Krafcik, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hyundai Motor America.

Spec Sheet:  221 lb-ft of torque from the electric motor, refueling in under 10 minutes and Zero greenhouse-gas emissions, emits only water vapor

Details:  Hyundai claims “mass produced” but the Tuscon Fuel Cell will only be available at 4 dealers in the Southern California area, most likely because there are very few hydrogen refueling stations in the US.  Not a lot of technical details were revealed but the business case for consumers is compelling - $499/month lease with free, unlimited refueling and a valet to take care of all your service needs.  That’s right, they will come and pick up your Tuscon Fuel Cell and leave you a loaner should you need anything.

Production:  LEXUS CT 200h

What Lexus says:  Nothing, as there was no press conference for Lexus in Los Angeles

Spec Sheet:  The specs are the same, only exterior and interior enhancements which means a 1.8 litre 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine paired with an electrical motor and a CVT

Details:  It is a sign of the date issue with the Los Angeles show that the CT 200h was not introduced here, but at the Guangzhou show in China the previous day.  The CT 200h now sports the same Lexus spindle grille as the rest of the lineup, along with new LED headlamps and new wheels across the entire range.  There is now also a F Sport package option with a mesh grille and rear spoiler.

Production:  VIA VTrux

What VIA says:  Nothing, as there was no press conference for VIA in Los Angeles

Spec Sheet:  E-REV powertrain has a 150kW generator and 300kW drive motor.  Coupled to the 24 kWh battery pack it gives the trucks 40 miles of electric-only range and 400 miles of total range.

Details:  After two years of teasing, it looks like production is finally going to start on VIA’s range of VTrux electric hybrids.  When the concept was first introduced, the idea of a hybrid pickup truck made sense.  Then last year an inverter was added to make the truck a mobile generator in times of need.  Fleet sales were the priority but slow in coming, until Hurricane Sandy wiped out the infrastructure in parts of the Northeast.  Companies like Verizon realized the additional cost of the trucks were nothing compared to the loss of revenue due to out-of-service cell towers and the orders started rolling in.  This year VIA upped the game once again by developing a solar bed cover that provides recharging no matter the location.

Frank Schwartz is the main voice behind thesupplierblog (where you can find a full review of the non-green cars at this year's NAIAS), the spiritual successor to the chromtecblog. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank has spent years working hand in hand with the automotive industry on products as varied as cruisecontrols, fuel injection systems, exterior lighting, trim components and wheels.Thesupplierblog isintended to be a real-world resource for automotive manufacturers and dealers where open discussion of industry issues is encouraged.

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