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Way Off Broadway: The 2008 New York Auto Show

Although I always enjoy the annual Buffalo auto show, once you’ve been to a real auto show (Detroit, New York, Frankfort…), the local show pales in comparison. Heck, it pales even if you’ve never been to another show.

Ford Fiesta concept

This year’s New York show (which I did not attend due to “budget constraints”) once again was the host to some important debuts. Important not only to the buying public, but to the future of the business as we know it.

Regular readers will no doubt recall my carping about how Ford has this really cool Focus which it markets in Europe, while we get a really dull, North American-only version. Maybe the boys in Dearborn have been listening, as in New York they showed the new Verve, a smaller-than-Focus car which will go on sale in Europe later this year, and appear in North America next year as a 2010 model. This time they’re not watering down our version, although it will still differ in the fact that Europe will get hatchbacks while we get another sedan.

The Verve is a North America-only name, as elsewhere it’s known as the Fiesta, a small car which Ford actually imported to the US from Germany back in the late 1970s. It’s been one of their all-time best sellers worldwide, but didn’t quite catch on here. It was quietly dropped when the Escort (another world car) debuted here in 1980. For more photos and info, go to:

Ford Verve

Ford really needs a successful small car in the US, as rising gas prices have cut into sales of its up-to-now profitable gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

Another important ground-breaker in New York was on the Cadillac stand. The Provoq compact SUV is not only groundbreaking in its size (for Cadillac, anyway), but its powertrain. Under that handsome hood (and you’re spot-on if you’re thinking “Hey, that’s very similar to the new Saturn Vue!”) lies a hydrogen fuel cell, General Motors’ fifth generation of the experimental powertrain. This one is reported to provide a continuous output of 80 kilowatts, powered by hydrogen which is stored in two 10,000-psi tanks. It also has a plug-in feature that will pre-charge the lithium ion batteries so you’ll be at full-power right from each startup. Seeing that this is much more complicated than I have room to explain here (as if I could explain it anyway!), go to:

Cadillac Provoc compact SUV concept

for the full story. Will the Provoq ever see the inside of a showroom? Perhaps, but I expect it to be with a more conventional powertrain, as the hydrogen version seems to be still in the early stages of development... not to mention how many hydrogen filling stations can you remember driving by today?

This last model debuted not at New York, but at the recently held Chicago Auto Show. It answers a question I asked myself last summer while vacationing in Ireland: why don’t any manufacturers import to the US a small, commercial van? They’re all over the place in Europe, what with gas prices being what they are. And now that also goes for us. Not every plumber, florist, or telephone repairman needs a full-size Chevy or Ford van, or even a Dodge Caravan minivan. Small commercial trucks in Europe are car-sized, such as the VW Caddy and Ford Transit Connect. The good news is that Ford has decided to import the Transit to North America. I expect this to be the first of many smaller commercial vehicles which will soon be here to stay (along with high gas prices).

VW Caddy

For more info and photos on the Transit Connect go to:

To see the VW Caddy go to:

Perhaps we’ll even see one here someday.

‘Til next time...

-jim corbran

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