2008 LA Auto Show overview: Green theme dominates; GM and Chrysler play hookey general news la auto show
2010 Nissan Cube. Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Greg Wilson

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Los Angeles, California – When even Lamborghini announces that they’ve reduced the CO2 emissions of their new 560-hp Gallardo Spyder LP 560-4 by 18 per cent, you know that the environment is becoming a big deal for the automotive industry. Production and concept vehicles unveiled this week at the Los Angeles International Auto Show included a pot pourri of diesels, hybrids, electric cars, fuel cell vehicles, and new green technology. World “green” debuts included the new electric Mini E , Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid, Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI, Kia Borrego FCEV fuel cell vehicle and Honda FC Sport fuel cell concept car, while North American premieres included the Honda Insight hybrid, Audi Q5 TDI, Saab 9-X Air Bio-Hybrid convertible, Hyundai HED-5 concept, and BMW 7-Series Active Hybrid. Hyundai also announced a new hybrid version of the Sonata will be arriving in 2009.

2008 LA Auto Show overview: Green theme dominates; GM and Chrysler play hookey general news la auto show
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI – Green Car of the Year. Click image to enlarge

As well, the Green Car Journal announced the winner of its annual Green Car of the Year is the new 2009 VW Jetta TDI.

Notably absent from the splashy new vehicle unveilings were General Motors and Chrysler who are currently more worried about their own survival than the planet’s. Saturn’s brand new Vue 2-Mode Hybrid looked rather lonely on the showroom floor – its timetable for public introduction has been delayed a few months. Ford however, acted as though everything was business as usual with the world premieres of the restyled Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and the refreshed Mustang, as well as the new Lincoln MKZ.

2008 LA Auto Show overview: Green theme dominates; GM and Chrysler play hookey general news la auto show
Honda Insight Concept. Click image to enlarge

Honda showed its Insight five-passenger hybrid concept and announced that it will be the most affordable hybrid on the market when it goes on sale next Spring. Hyundai announced it will offer a Sonata Hybrid next year and claims it has developed a new lithium polymer battery for its hybrids that has twice the energy density of today’s lithium ion batteries. Lexus unveiled its redesigned RX450h hybrid SUV while BMW showed the new 7-Series Active Hybrid and an X6 Active Hybrid concept. Lexus hinted at a new HS250 hybrid sedan next year.

On the diesel front, Audi showed its new Q5 TDI mid-sized SUV, Volkswagen unveiled its Jetta TDI, Touareg V6 TDI, and the outrageous Red Bull Toureg TDI Baja 1000 race vehicle, and BMW showed its new diesel-powered 335d sedan and X5 xDrive 35d diesel SUV.

The world debut of the new Mini E electric car created quite a stir amongst the assembled media, even though it lacks the practicality of the regular Mini Cooper because the entire back seat is taken up by the battery.

2008 LA Auto Show overview: Green theme dominates; GM and Chrysler play hookey general news la auto show
Mini E Click image to enlarge

500 of these Mini Es are currently being road-tested in Los Angeles and New York for evaluation purposes. I had a brief test drive around downtown Los Angeles and will be filing a First Drive report in the near future. Other electric vehicles at the show include the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV, Dodge EV, and a four-door GEM neighbourhood electric vehicle.

The most exciting new fuel cell vehicle at the show is the Honda FC Sport, a three-passenger sports car where the driver sits in the middle. At the other end of the spectrum is the large Kia Borrego FCEV fuel cell SUV and the Hyundai HED-5 fuel cell vehicle. VW announced that a Passat fuel cell car being developed in Shanghai, China is well on its way towards production; but not to be outdone, Hyundai announced it will be the first to introduce a mass-produced fuel cell vehicle in 2012 in its home market of Korea.

2008 LA Auto Show overview: Green theme dominates; GM and Chrysler play hookey general news la auto show
2009 Nissan 370Z. Click image to enlarge

Nissan laid claim to the cutest new vehicle on the showroom floor: the Cube, which offers funky styling, and excellent packaging in a small, fuel-efficient vehicle. Almost as cute is Kia’s production version of the Soul, expected to go on sale next Spring in the U.S. Smart announced a new Brabus performance version of the tiny Fortwo will be coming to North America next year. In the luxury market, the all-new Lexus RX 350 offers more power and better handling.

On the performance front, Nissan showed its new 370Z sports car with a shorter wheelbase, more power and unusually-shaped headlights and taillights. Infiniti also rolled out the new G37 convertible, which goes on sale next Spring, and Hyundai showed its handsome Genesis Coupe. Porsche also displayed the restyled Boxster and Cayman with more power and better fuel economy.

2008 LA Auto Show overview: Green theme dominates; GM and Chrysler play hookey general news la auto show
2010 Mazda3. Click image to enlarge

Ferrari unveiled it gorgeous California convertible model, the first Ferrari with a front mid-mounted V8 engine.

For Canadians, perhaps the most important vehicle introduction at the LA show is the redesigned Mazda3 sedan. The Mazda3 is consistently one of the best-selling cars in Canada. The new 2010 Mazda3 sedan has bolder styling, a larger optional four-cylinder engine, new wraparound interior, and more trunk space. It’s expected to go on sale early next year at the same time as the redesigned Mazda3 Sport hatchback. Check out my First Drive report of the 2010 Mazda3 sedan on Autos this Monday.

For more information on the L.A. auto show, go to LAAutoShow.com.

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