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NAIAS Addendum

Editor’s note: Although we did provide a bit of coverage of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in the last issue of the magazine (Viewing the North American International Auto Show: Sheet Metal for Today & Tomorrow ), actually there was a whole lot more that slipped through the proverbial crack.

Editor’s note: Although we did provide a bit of coverage of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in the last issue of the magazine (Viewing the North American International Auto Show: Sheet Metal for Today & Tomorrow ), actually there was a whole lot more that slipped through the proverbial crack. Near as we can tell, the crack that it fell through is analogous to that of the Mariana Trench (1,580 miles long, 43 miles wide, and 36,201 feet deep). But hey, we all make mustakes mistakes, right?

 

Toyota FT-HS Concept

William Chergosky, project chief designer, Calty Design Research, lined the turntable for Toyota’s sports car concept perfectly with that of the Lexus LF-A not fifty feet away. “They’re not the same car at all,” he said crisply. Indeed they are not. The hybrid-powered FT-HS (it uses a derivative of the Lexus GS 450h’s powertrain) is a surprisingly compact design spanning just under 170.3-in. on a 104.3-in. wheelbase. A four-seater with the top up, the FT-HS becomes a two-passenger sports car when the Zagato-like double-bubble roof section lowers over the rear window and pivots flat. Calty designer Alex Shen lead the exterior team—Chergosky designed the interior—which established the outer boundaries of the shape before carving them back to reduce visual mass. This results in an almost exoskeletal roof/sill/fender structure from which the rest of the vehicle appears suspended. At the very least, Toyota engineers would find the shape a challenge to produce in steel, though the driver-oriented instrument panel beams would be much simpler though made of less expensive materials than the titanium and carbon fiber used. Asked if the FT-HS had a production counterpart lurking inside Toyota, Chergosky smiled and said: “No. However, we don’t do things like this without a reason at Toyota.”—CAS

 

Mercedes-Benz Concept Ocean Drive

This four-door convertible looks more like a Maybach than a Mercedes, although the folks at the three-pointed star brand swear it was always meant to wear their badge. Still, the Ocean Drive does build on some Mercedes cues, including the large and upright radiator grille and boat-tail rear end. Peter Pfeiffer, head of Mercedes car design, is particularly keen on the taut lines and cleanliness of the design, adding the Ocean Drive is more than just a flight of fancy: “We can never stand still but must keep thinking further and further ahead.” Guess that means Mercedes will take on more Maybach cues…which means what for Maybach?—KMK

 

Chrylser Nassau Concept

Displaying a potential future design direction for Chrysler’s rear-drive sedans, the Nassau is a resurrection of the shooting brake body style once popular in the U.K. The latest interpretation of Chrysler’s eggcrate grille flows into the long hood, while the arced roof and rising belt line are accentuated by a raked hatch with a back light that sweeps around the C-pillars. “In order to attain a more compact appearance the Nassau has deliberately concise front and rear overhangs,” says Alan Barrington, principal Nassau exterior designer. It also would make the car more popular in Europe where the current 300C is available with the Dodge Magnum’s wagon body.—KMK

 

Acura Advanced Sports Car Concept

The V10-powered Advanced Sports Car Concept mixes sharp edges and flowing elements into a front-engine, rear-drive package set to replace the mid-engined V6 NSX. “The side of the car and the dramatic hood surfaces feature a sheer, machined surfacing to convey a feeling of technical exactness. The free-flowing directional lines, like the one on the car’s flank, appear and disappear into the body to mimic the random patterns found throughout nature, adding an element of tension and suspense,” says Jon Ikeda, principal designer-Acura Design Center in California, who summed the overall theme as “Keen-Edge Dynamic”.—KMK

 

2008 Chevy Malibu

After seeing the 2008 model in the flesh, it’s easy to wish the marketing folks at Chevy used a new name for the car. Sharing the Epsilon platform with the Saturn Aura, the new Malibu offers either a 2.4-liter Ecotec four or 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic, and literally puts a new face on Chevrolet styling. Interior choices include a two-tone option that raises this car above the monochrome mediocrity of its predecessors.—CAS

 

Ford Interceptor Concept

Got a sense of déjà vu? That’s because the Interceptor adapts the face from last year’s Super Chief truck concept onto a stretched and smoothed body similar to Ford’s 427 Concept, and places it on a modified Mustang platform. Unfortunately, the interior takes the “squircle” (“squared circle”) idea to extremes, giving it a steering wheel worthy of an early 1960s Chrysler Imperial. And while Freeman Thomas, director-North American Strategic Design, refers to the late actor Steve McQueen when describing the car (Note to Ford: He’s been dead for nearly 27 years!), it has a modern four-point seatbelt system and inflatable belts in the rear to increase occupant safety.—CAS

 

Accord Coupe Concept

The Accord Coupe Concept provides a strong indication of the design direction for the 8th generation Accord that debuts this fall. The long hood, sculpted lower body and fastback roofline give the Accord more personality than before, and performance gets a boost thanks to a more powerful V6 engine, complete with Honda’s next-generation Variable Cylinder Management. Though other automakers declare the coupe dead, Honda sees the two-door variant as vital, growing as much as 34% by 2011.—KMK

 

Ford Airstream Concept

Under the shiny skin of this vehicle is a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel-cell drivetrain called “HySeries Drive” that provides electric power to drive the wheels and returns an estimated equivalent of 41 mpg in combined city/highway driving. And while the interior is a combination of a Star Trek set and 1970s bachelor pad, you get the idea that its original exterior shape would make a minivan/crossover combination the market just might warm to.—CAS

 

Lutz on Malibu, Camry, and Costs

“The cost difference between a Toyota Camry produced here and a Malibu is about $50 to $100 in raw costs. That is, if you take every part and cost it out and take the labor hours—we are within minutes of the best of the Japanese—our costs are almost equal in terms of raw materials and labor,” says GM’s vice chairman. After discussing the issues of legacy costs and currency manipulation, Lutz went to the heart of the matter: “The real difference comes in that the transaction price for the Camry is traditionally $4,000 over that for the Malibu. That is where we lose it. If we could achieve similar transaction prices, we could absorb our legacy costs and still be decently profitable.”—CAS

 

Mazda Ryuga Concept

When Laurens van den Acker took over design duties at Mazda, he asked his team to think about the ways Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” brand message could be translated through design. The Ryuga, which follows in the footsteps of the Nagare concept (L.A.: Cars, Crossovers & Concepts), is one answer. “We have the courage to forge leadership in dynamic performance and striking design to give our products the soul of a sports car,” claims van den Acker. And yet the Ryuga’s side surfacing is said to be inspired by the decidedly un-sporty Japanese dry gardens, while the headlamps resemble “the flow of morning dew dropping from bamboo leaves.” About the only parts of this concept that will transfer into production are the front and rear fascias—and that’s not all bad.—KMK

 

2008 Cadillac CTS

Completely redesigned from the inside-out, CTS carries styling cues from Cadillac’s Sixteen concept car, including its grille and headlamp treatment. The tail lamps have been designed to illuminate in a tailfin pattern, harkening back to Cadillac’s of the 1950s. “We used light pipes to create a contemporary Cadillac theme. It’s not exactly tailfins but a vertical design element that screams ‘Cadillac,’” says Hoon Kim, CTS exterior designer. Interior design focuses on material quality and craftsmanship, with hand cut, sewn and wrapped surface treatments—said to be influenced by Coach handbags and Prada shoes—marking a radical change from the plastic-laden cockpit of its predecessor. “We strived for a symmetrical organic flow from the instrument panel to the console,” says Pete Lawlis, CTS design director. The suspension has been retuned with a bias toward a more responsive, sporting demeanor. Under the hood is GM’s 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 producing 300 hp.—KMK

 

Lincoln MKR Concept

Lincoln’s “new” brand cues—of which all seven are found on the MKR—look a lot like modifications of work done under Gerry McGovern’s reign ( Inner Space ), but without the self-conscious retro overtones. Built on a stretched Mustang chassis and fitted with that car’s shelved independent rear suspension, the MKR is powered by a 400-hp direct injected, twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that promises power and economy. It’s enough to make you believe Lincoln has a future.—CAS

 

Jeep Trailhawk Concept

This body-on-frame four-door is characterized by a long dash-to-front-axle proportion, complete with tight front and rear overhangs accentuated by exaggerated trapezoidal wheel arches. The body tapers toward the front, exposing more of the wheel flares, while the lower body kicks outward along the door bottoms. Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille fills the front fascia, while the headlamp design show a menacing character: “In the front view, the left and right lamps evoke the hooded eyes of a bird of prey,” says Nick Vardis, principal exterior designer-Trailhawk.—KMK