Full New York motor show report and picture gallery
Steve Cropley Autocar
5 April 2012

It's springtime in the Big Apple, and the sun is shining, so eccentricity can probably be excused. But it will probably still sound a little strange if I tell you that the star of this year's New York motor show was a car that wasn't even there - the new small Jaguar sports car, formerly known as the C-X16 but now revealed officially as the Jaguar F-type.

Jaguar Land Rover boss Dr Ralf Speth revealed that production versions will be with us before the end of the year, one big reason for excitement, but another was the general feeling of wonderment that JLR bosses could have got the name so simply right, given the amount of brain-strain it is bound to have needed.

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Under such circumstances, it's always amazing when a big company does the simplest, best and most obvious thing. Mind you, choice of F-type really nails the new car's colours to the mast - the E-type, 50 years old, is Jaguar's icon of icons, and here comes today's management placing its new model on the same level. Fascinating times are coming.

Though it is fully 112 years old, as banners reminded us, the NY Show isn't usually as large or significant as a Frankfurt or a Shanghai, but this year the manufacturers were taking it very seriously indeed.

Nissan-Renault chief Carlos Ghosn made the opening address over breakfast, taking the opportunity to reiterate his controversial claim that 10 percent of new cars will be battery-powered by 2020, that "the stars were lining up" in favour of electric cars, and what the rest of the world needed was his alliance's "wide-angle view of the world".

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The other show stars we significant but hardly block-busting. There was an all-new, even more powerful (640bhp) and slightly lighter Chrysler (not Dodge) SRT Viper that looked very compact and professionally styled against the original that died in 2010. For all the double-bubble roof and mile-long bonnet it looked tamer, somehow, though the excitable presenters that accompany the myriads of American video crews at events like this were driven half-wild by it. There was an all-new Dodge Ram pick-up, too, an out-of-favour sort of car yet probably the most profitable of the lot, and profitability matters a lot at Fiat-Chrysler right now.

With the élan and rising confidence that typify Korean launches these days, Hyundai pitched up with a sharp-looking new Hyundai Santa Fe in two wheelbases, and five- and seven-seater. Only the short one will come to the UK, very late in the year. It looked great, and is a dead cert to achieve Hyundai-Kia's general aim of moving upmarket, especially since the tipped £25k entry price (up £5k) still looks excellent value. The model is starting to acquire true gravitas, something it's creators want most.

Versatile Carlos Ghosn popped up again after lunch, is time in the role of car salesman as he flogged us the new, fifth generation Nissan Altima, second-best selling saloon on the US market, and "one of the company's most profitable models". The car has moved upmarket and now bristles with goodies like radar cruise and lane departure warning, even though the simplest versions cost a mere £15,000 of our money.

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Ghosn says Nissan is the biggest Asian car seller "in most markets", a helluva claim with Toyota in the game. It has a 6.5 percent share of the global market at present, and wants eight percent by 2016.

That's another thing about the NY Show: car bosses moved into the front foot again. Even GM was talking big about its 10th generation Chevy Impala, a car it has made continuously since 1958 as a stalwart of hire fleets. This new car would lift Impala into a new realm, we were confidently told, and it sounded almost convincing.

For once, the elephant in the room was there by common consent - latest US car sales figures are terrific. Last month they amounted to 1.4 million units, the best performance since 2008. That indicated a total market, most experts said, around 14.5 million units though a few were prepared to predict low 15s.

The situation was remarkable, all agreed, considering that at their worst, a very short time ago, they were not far above 10 million. There were once halcyon years of nearly 20, it must be remembered, but nevertheless this week, for the car industry, New York was indeed "a wonderful town".

Steve Cropley

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