Has Car Industry Gone Bipolar, Or Maybe It Can't Make Up Its Mind
|   Monday, December 03, 2012
Now that the LA Auto Show is history – actually it seemed more like history before it opened up shop in Los Angeles last week because there wasn't a single car really worth yelling about and the promoters knew it.

This year, they came into town quietly and left the same way.

So, what did they do? They turned around and kept it so low-key you would have been hard pressed to find out if there was any key at all for the vaunted show. Traditionally, LA has been where the industry has showed off its crown jewels.
Now, maybe they are waiting for the North American in Detroit, but the silence around the industry has been deafening.

Here's what we learned from LA. First and foremost, there's really nothing that will take your breath away.

Maybe the new Porsche with it mixture of standard Porsche front end with Boxster rear end will be the hit of the show. Or maybe the new Fiat Abarth which, though it's still a mini-car, has been tweaked a bit. The lines are the same – maybe it's just the fact that it's a really boring model to begin with.

Now, we're not saying we're jaundiced about the show, but wheres this years "big hit?" A couple of years ago, Hyundai stunned the world with its Higashi, but there was nothing from that quarter this year.

And, while it could have really been a diamond-in-the-rough, Volvo has produced a one-off Polestar version of its S-60. Now, everyone but, perhaps four geese and a gopher in east Bung Hole, AR know that Jay Leno is one of the world's biggest auto connoisseurs and he's reportedly put up about half-a-million for the LA show's unique Polestar S60 and it's roughly 600-horsepower (the old gag applies here, it passes everything but a gas station) powerplant. Meantime, for mere mortals we get about 25 horsepower. It is not bad, but it's hardly mind-blowing or breathtaking.

Jaguar seems to be all over the place with topless models that are vaguely reminiscent of the classic E-Type, brought 50 years up to date. It's F-type, right now, shows that the Indian owners of this marque can't seem to agree on anything. And there's the XFR media special.

Meantime, Mercedes-Benz has taken its weary old Werwagen (WG) series and has released a shell that would perform better if it had any innards. Right now, it's just a design exercise.

Ford, for its part, has upped the ante on its Mazda2 - inspired Focus ST with EcoBoost and about 170-horsepower, huge amounts of torque and still returning a respectable 34 mpg. Baby sibling, the Fiesta ST, is more nimble and has better mileage and handling. It's a nice machine, albeit tiny.

Speaking of tiny, Fiat still insists the world is after iss 500, whether it's the tweaked Abarth or sedan. Their sales are respectable, but aren't setting the world on fire. Maybe the commercial that shows despondent leap off a cliff into the Mediterranean. We would too, if we were told to sell this. They do the bottom, though, and end up here (not possible but who asked) and start from 0.

Mazda did some nice work on its 173-horsepower turbodiesel. The Mazda6, linked to the boost and 300 pounds-feet of torque will haul just anything anywhere even in first.

On the alternative front, the Chevy Spark – something that looks like what you might design if you were looking for an all-electric urbocar, which the Evo evidentally is. Specs and pundits put its range at over 160 miles then you need a new plug in. Funny thing is, it works for us.
PHOTO GALLERY
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