Auto show season in the U.S. begins with the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, wrapping up with the New York Auto Show in April 2016. The L.A. event will feature about 50 introductions, including global launches from Buick, Mazda, Honda, Fiat, Scion, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz , Ford, Lincoln, Subaru, Volvo and Honda. North American introductions are planned from Alfa Romeo, Cadillac, Jaguar, and BMW. Alternative powertrain vehicles will be introduced, but largely hybrid and EV powertrains have evolved into the landscape thoroughly enough that they do not dominate auto show unveilings today.
So, who will stand out this year?
In the ongoing efforts to satisfy the appetite of U.S. buyers for SUVs and crossovers, Land Rover is introducing the convertible Evoque. Land Rover has released plenty of photos of the vehicle already, and it is far more handsome than the first convertible crossover, the ill-fated Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. It isn’t likely to sell in high volumes, but it’s interesting when automakers pull the roof off anything other than a sedan or convertible. Often, however, interesting does not translate to a commercial success. It is not clear that the appetite for SUVs includes having the open-air experience, though the Evoque is promising.
FCA’s Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands will have two of the most interesting stories unfolding at the L.A. show. In volume terms, neither car will have a significant impact on the U.S. market, but the introductions from the two Italian brands need to have impact on American perceptions of the brands. Fiat will reveal its modern 124 Spider; and the Alfa Romeo Giulia also gets its U.S. introduction. FCA is keeping the details of the 124 largely under wraps until the show, but we do know that the Mazda Miata-based convertible is expected to use Fiat powertrains.
With a sales forecast from IHS Automotive of about 6,000 units per year, the Spider’s job at Fiat will be to help elevate the brand image of Fiat in the US, where the brand has struggled to grow volume. The Giulia is designed to compete in the compact premium segment along with the BMW 3-Series. The platform under the Giulia is expected to eventually see wider use in the FCA stables, increasing its importance to the company’s overall strategy. Alfa Romeo needs a home run with that vehicle, as much from an image perspective as volume. I had the chance to check out the Giulia at the Frankfurt auto show in September, and it succeeds in delivering an emotional, beautiful car.
The Cadillac XT5, which took a bow at the Dubai International Motor Show last week, makes its next stop at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The XT5 will replace the SRX, which has been a strong seller for Cadillac, and needs to support the brand’s continued efforts to top-tier luxury status. The new SUV is longer and wider, and will bring in advanced technology being rolled out on the CT6 sedan. XT5 is larger than the outgoing SRX, but Cadillac has applied light-weighting technology and structures to lower the vehicle’s weight, all in the name of improving fuel efficiency. Along with Cadillac, Jaguar and Infiniti will make the L.A. show home to US introductions of its upcoming SUVs, the F-Pace and QX30, respectively; both vehicles took global introductions at international auto shows. This will be Jaguar’s first SUV, begging the question as to whether it is competing with its corporate sibling, Land Rover, and its full range of SUVs. The QX30 gives Infiniti an entry into the luxury subcompact SUV segment, and shares a platform with Mercedes-Benz products.