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  • 23 Apr 2014

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New models make NW debut at auto show

Date shift allows more gawking of Mustangs to Maseratis


by: COURTESY OF JOHN VINCENT - Smaller trucks are getting hard to find, but Chevy thinks theres a market for the redesigned 2014 Colorado, shown here at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. The region’s biggest consumer show of the year, the 2014 Portland International Auto Show, arrives at the Oregon Convention Center a bit later than usual this year. Instead of late January, the show runs Feb. 6 through Feb. 9, with a charity preview party Feb. 5.

Why the change? A big reason is that the Super Bowl falls on the show’s traditional weekend this year, and that’s a tough show to compete with.

The extra week also means that a number of just-introduced models will have time to make it from the stage at the massive North American International Auto Show in Detroit for their Northwest debuts in Portland. The leadership of the Metro Portland New Car Dealers Association, producers of the show, have done an excellent job over the last few years of making sure Portland is on every manufacturer’s must-attend list.

Scheduled to headline the show is the super-sleek 2015 Ford Mustang. Its silhouette is unmistakably Mustang, but with a sophisticated new front-end design. It’s also the first Mustang ever to be offered with one of Ford’s efficient EcoBoost turbocharged engines.

Ford is set to make an even bigger splash with the arrival of the 2015 F-150 pickup. Based off of last year’s Atlas concept, the best-selling vehicle in America looks to stretch its lead with segment-first aluminum body construction, and an economical 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 joining the engine family.

Also expected is Chrysler’s new 200 sedan. With a refined, modern look and an amazing number of features available, the new 200 is set to disrupt the midsize market. Available in two models, the 200 looks to be a technological powerhouse for the brand.

Fresh from its Detroit debut, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI is set for display in Portland. With the broad stance and aggressive appearance expected of the brand’s hottest model, the STI should set new performance benchmarks.

The raspy exhaust note will let everyone will let know you’ve arrived when you pull up in the new Maserati Ghibli sedan. But no one needs to know that you don’t have to be part of the 1 percent to own this Maserati. With a base price of slightly more than $65,000, it’s by far the least costly way to buy a Ferrari-powered luxury tourer. At the Portland Auto Show, not only will you be able to see the new Ghibli, they might even let you touch it.

Cadillac is bringing sexy to the green car market with the new ELR extended-range electric coupe. Under its sharp lines lies an electric motor, advanced battery pack, and a small gasoline-powered range extender. The ELR can operate on electricity alone for about 35 miles, before employing the gasoline power plant that will provide the energy to propel the ELR to its maximum range of about 300 miles.

Oregon has always been a good market for small pickups, but the segment has been neglected as of late. Sure there a couple of models there, but they’re pretty long in the tooth. GM aims to rejuvenate the segment with the 2015 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. The Colorado is expected to make its Northwest debut in Portland.

And Land Rover is coming back to the show with two new vehicles. One is the Land Rover Range Rover Long-Wheelbase Autobiography, which is almost as long as its name. There’s 7.3 inches added to the frame in front of the rear wheels, and all of the extra space goes to rear-seat legroom. The other is the 2014 LR4, which receives a face-lift and a new power plant under the hood. The 5.0-liter V-8 is gone, replaced with a supercharged V-6 and an 8-speed automatic transmission. It retains impressive off-road credentials, although the necessary two-speed transfer case is an option.

Of course, due to unforeseen events, some of the scheduled vehicles might not make it. What’s great about Portland’s show, though, is that there are always a few surprises that show up at the last minute.


2014 Portland International Auto Show

When: Sneak Peak Charity Preview Party, Wednesday, Feb. 5. Public admission, Thursday, Feb. 6 through Sunday, Feb. 9

• Where: Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

• Presenter: Portland New Car Dealers Association

• Tickets and more: www.portlandautoshow.com


Made in America? That answer is not always clear

The 2014 Portland International Auto Show will draw thousands of potential car buyers to the Oregon Convention Center next week.

When car shopping, many think they need to buy American cars for patriotism, Asian for quality or European for luxury.

But today, all cars are international cars. The manufacturer’s home has little to do with where its cars are built. Initial quality studies show a variety of countries of origin as top performers, and automakers from around the world are poised to knock Europe off its luxury perch.

Of the top 10 cars sold in the United States in 2013, six carried foreign nameplates — seven if you count Chrysler’s Ram division, now owned by Italy’s Fiat. The majority of each of those models was assembled in the U.S. by American workers, with the exception of the award-winning Ram pickup, of which many are imported from Mexico.

Even Ford and GM’s top sellers carry an increasing amount of foreign-made content, since many of the expensive entertainment, electronic and advanced safety systems are sourced from foreign suppliers. As many as two-thirds of the Ford Fusions sold in America (the top-selling domestic sedan on the sales list at 11th), are imported from Mexico. The percentage of U.S. versus foreign parts content is now displayed on vehicle window stickers.

The flow goes both ways. GM, for example, sold four times as many Buicks (more than 800,000) in China during 2013 than it did in the U.S.

If you’re looking at economic impact, several factors are as important as the automaker’s home country. Where the vehicle is assembled, the parts are sourced, and the vehicle is sold and serviced all carry as much or more economic weight.

Oregon’s contribution to parts and assembly is small, but the industry still employs more than 11,700 workers with an annual payroll of $575 million at dealerships across the state, according to 2012 data from the National Automobile Dealers Association. Oregon’s $7.1 billion in auto sales represented 13.1 percent of the total retail sales in the state, according to the NADA study.

The results of the 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study shows six U.S. brands ranked above average, including GMC at No. 2 on the list. There are five Japanese, three German, two Korean and one British brand rated above average. (Technically, Jaguar no longer is a British brand, since it was sold to India’s Tata Motors in 2008.)

Although IQS rankings vary from year to year, it’s apparent that the Japanese marques no longer have the monopoly on quality. It’s not that they’ve drifted lower, it’s that everyone else’s scores have improved.

European nameplates have long been regarded as the pinnacle of luxury, but several competitors are nipping at their heels. Cadillac’s ATS and the Lexus IS are solid competitors to the BMW 3-Series. The Hyundai Equus and Kia K900 look to be a bargain in the luxury sedan class, where they battle feature for feature with the venerable Mercedes S-Class. The Germans also are facing pressure from the Italians, with the new Maserati Ghibli starting at around $60,000.

One final note: Remember that the Heartbeat of America — the Chevy Camaro — is a Canadian.