The highs and lows from the New York International Auto Show
20 March 2008

Revealed: Kia KoupFord Transit goes to AmericaMore pics: Super Saleen revealedRevealed: Suzuki Kizashi 3New York show blogMuch of the New York show passed in relative silence, with very little in the way of the razzmatazz that usually marks North American auto shows.Then again, New York has just seen a major bank collapse in a matter of days, wiping out over $3bn of share value in a few hours. The sense of unease over the events a short distance away in Wall Street was palpable.Perhaps the only company feeling really bullish was Mercedes. It staged a fake US-style presidential rally, backed up by balloons and placards bearing the legend “Vote BlueTEC”, to launch its new range of ultra-clean diesel engines and a series of 2009-model year light make-overs for the M-Class, R-Class, CLS and GL.Amazingly, back in the 1980s 85 per cent of all Mercedes sold in the US were fitted with diesel engines. The US government then tightened up emissions regulations to the extent that only the new BlueTEC technology can meet the stringent Bin 5 requirements.The BlueTEC technology works by adding AdBlue (a liquid urea solution) to the exhaust, which breaks down the NOx produced by the engine into harmless nitrogen and water. NOx is one of the main causes of smog and is widely believed to irritate our lungs.But the British won't be voting BlueTEC anytime soon. A date for launching the technology in right-hand-drive vehicles has not been set and certainly won't happen before 2010.A Mercedes source said that while there were some issues with component location, it was the UK's legislative obsession with CO2, rather than air pollution, that was the main hurdle for introduction.BlueTEC slightly increases fuel consumption and the UK's narrowly drawn CO2 tax bands will make the purchase of these super-clean diesels less attractive to corporate buyers. Ironically, 80 to 90 per cent of UK Mercedes sales are currently diesel. Fuel-saving technology such as stop-start systems will be rolled out soon, but Mercedes will be charging a premium for it.Nissan unveiled an electrically powered version of the Cube MPV and promised that it would have a fleet of electric vehicles running in the US and Japan by 2010. It wants EVs on sale at Nissan dealers by 2012.Nissan's US arm also revealed that the next-generation Cube will go on sale in the US next year, opening the way for it to appear in Europe.BMW unveiled the M3 cabriolet and also promised “clean diesel”, but hasn't yet talked about how it will reduce NOx emissions. The company was keener to point out that the 335 twin-turbo diesel has the same torque output as the 6.0-litre V12 found in the 7-series. It has higher hopes for hybrids, revealing at New York that the X6 hybrid will be launched in the US next year.Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover made probably their last public appearance together as part of Ford's ill-fated PAG group. Volvo has decided to revive the R-brand, though only in terms of styling. An R-design V70 will join the R-design C30 and XC90.Jaguar sources said that there had been 5000 advance orders for the XF saloon in the US and that the buyers were not the old “pipe-smoking XJ buyers”.GM unveiled its US market version of the Vauxhall VXR8/Holden VE Commodore as the 402bhp, 6.2-litre V8 Pontiac G8 GXP. Rapper 50 Cent unveiled the saloon and an as-yet-unnamed 361bhp pick-up version of the G8. GM also showed a targa-roofed coupe version of the Solstice roadster, which had a remarkable resemblance to a TVR Sagaris from some angles.

Hilton Holloway

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