Two of 2016’s most controversial cars made their debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show - but even the heated debate over the Range Rover Evoque Convertible and the Fiat 124 Spider was tempered by an even more relaxed atmosphere than usual at what is traditionally one of the year’s more laid-back showcases.
We’d seen both of the trouble-makers in advance, of course – though only by a matter of hours, in the case of the Fiat, which leaked out overnight. Most agreed that the truth in the metal was considerably more appealing than the Photoshopped official pictures suggested – though the Evoque probably drew a few more grudging nods of approval than the Fiat, which tore social media asunder with its more restrained looks compared with those of its sister car, the Mazda MX-5.
Both should sell well in the US – and particularly in California. It does not take an enormous leap of faith to picture drop-top Evoques littering Rodeo Drive – or 124s cruising up Mulholland Drive. Despite its mixed reception, the Fiat looks well-judged for a market where 75% of all previous 124s were sold; in particular, engineers have added a little more boot space over the MX-5, a potentially crucial trick in a country where people rarely pack light.
The VW Group stayed on safer ground, predictably, with the Beetle Dune – a very modest extension of the retro model that’s popular in California – and another string of apologies from boss Michael Horn over dieselgate. Audi showed nothing new at all – although the Q6 e-tron’s first appearance on US soil was a clear attempt to rattle Tesla’s cage.
That left Porsche as the standout VW Group brand; at what it considers a crucial show it gave debuts to the 911 Targa 4 and the considerably more focused Cayman GT4 Clubsport, which looks every inch the Weissach-developed track-day special that will have us drooling.
This felt a quieter show than Tokyo, not least because the local brands’ content was aimed squarely at local customers. Ford’s effort was particularly understated, with no big speech and a comedy video to introduce the latest model-year Escape. But Cadillac had a new SUV, the XT5, and Chevrolet and Lincoln both showed new versions of existing saloons (Cruze and MKZ).
Two foreign brands trying to muscle in on American SUV sales showed contrasting vehicles; Mazda brought the seven-seat CX-9, enormous but undeniably impressive, and Infiniti gave a debut to the much more compact QX30, which looks small by US standards but could give the brand a much-needed blip in Europe.
There was also the feeling that while Japan’s domestic brands had gone to town for their local event, and introduced technology that will have a global impact, the US makers – and, one presumes, their customers – are still stuck in the rut of large petrol SUVs and pick-up trucks that Europe and Asia largely ignore.
Perhaps it was a reflection of the fact that biennial Tokyo was only a couple of weeks ago, but this LA Show felt more specific to North America than many could remember. Given how this allowed them to dominate the international coverage, it’s unlikely that Land Rover and Fiat will complain.
Los Angeles Auto Show – live report in full
Live blog by Jim Holder, Matt Burt and Darren Moss
01:23 That wraps up our live reporting from the opening day of the Los Angeles motor show . Little doubt about the outright headline grabber, with the Fiat 124 Spider dominating interest but also splitting enthusiasts’ opinion right down the middle with its bold looks. Head back to autocar.co.uk tomorrow to read our round-up of the show and all the latest gossip from our team at the LA Convention Centre.
01:00 Mitsubishi unveiled the new Outlander Sport and Mirage at LA, as well as the updated Lancer.
00:59 ‘Momentum’ was the theme of Mitsubishi’s press conference, most notably the brand’s improving sales performance on that side of the Atlantic. Don Swearingen of Mitsubishi Motors North America said: “For the first half of our fiscal year, the US became the top-selling market for the global Mitsubishi brand. That’s why our parent company in Japan has committed more and more resources to the US market”.
00:44 The Mitsubishi press conference kicks off with an impressive statistic – in the year to date, sales are 25% higher than in 2014. Much of that success is being put down to the Outlander SUV – and there’s a new Outlander Sport model hiding under a cloth in the centre of the stage.
00:43 Kia has unveiled its LA motor show star, the new Sportage that has already been shown in Europe at the Frankfurt show. Orth Hedrick, product planning boss for Kia North America, said: “The Sportage delivers a new sense of style inside and out. It is loaded with technology and has more room than the significantly larger BMW X5 ”.
00:25 Autocar’s digital editor John McIlroy has unearthed another snippet of information about the show-stopping Fiat 124 Spider. The new model does not use the six-speed manual gearbox found in the Mazda MX-5 sister car because the ’box can’t cope with the extra torque of the turbocharged engine. The Fiat uses an ‘off the shelf’ unit instead.
00:18 Our deputy editor Mark Tisshaw has another snippet from his chat with Mercedes-Benz design chief Gorden Wagener, who believes he has “completed a big clean up” of the Mercedes range with the unveiling of a heavily revised SL and GLS at the LA motor show. Wagener, in the job for seven years, says it takes around five years to get a new design through, and with the unveiling of the two latest models the firm had now shifted from “traditional luxury to modern luxury” with its designs.
00:16 Mercedes-Benz design chief Gorden Wagener said there “are no plans” for the firm to make a model smaller than today’s A-class family. “We’ve evaluated the B-segment, but it gets hard when you go down there,” he said.
0013 Honk Technologies has one of the most distinctive company names at the LA motor show, and also brought along a new version of its useful app for Android smartphones which enables US motorists to find, order and pay for towing and roadside assistance on the go. The app centres on a GPS-enabled map that allows drivers to view their own location and also the status of break down trucks once assistance has been ordered. Honk boasts 24/7 coverage across the whole of the USA. There are no membership fees and customers pay electronically via the app, so don’t need to part with any cash. Prices for assistance start at $49 and the average time of arrival at the motorist’s vehicle is between 15-30 minutes.
23:55 Back at Volkswagen, American boss Michael Horn confirmed that the Beetle Dune will be joined early next year by a production version of the convertible Beetle Denim , first shown at the New York motor show. VW’s US boss Michael Horn said these new models would make sure the third generation of the Beetle would stay “fresh”.
23:50 A quite astonishing forecast from Audi’s US boss Scott Keogh – the company expects that its electric e-tron models will account for 25% of its total sales by the year 2025. Keogh said: “the electric driving revolution isn’t just possible, it isn’t just likely – it is inevitable.”
23:47 The forthcoming Audi Q6 e-tron has been “conceived with the US in mind” says Audi US boss Scott Keogh. The concept, which we saw earlier this year and is believed to closely resemble an imminent production version, is fitted with a battery system that’s expected to last the life of the car – equivalent to 15 years of usage or 186,000 miles.
23:43 Audi’s US boss Scott Keogh says the company is putting considerable weight behind development of electric cars such as the A3 e-tron: “We intend to introduce many more people to the fun, freedom and affordability of electric driving. The era of electric driving has come to a defining moment.” Keogh adds that battery costs have dropped to a tenth of what they were in 2007.
23:41 With Volkswagen’s press conference at an end, attention turns to Audi’s address. With the company also caught up in the emissions scandal, Audi’s US boss Scott Keogh delivers a sombre message to open the firm’s press conference in LA: “It was devastating to us and to the trust that we have worked so hard to cultivate. This is a challenge we intend to meet. Trust is what connects us to our dealers and our customers, and we are working day and night to restore that trust.”
23.33 VW of America boss Michael Horn said that as of this morning more than 120,000 customers had signed up to the offers, which represented roughly 25% of those with affected 2.0 TDI engines in their cars. “As well as showing our gratitude, this presents us with the opportunity to collect all customer names and addresses so we can work towards a 100 per cent completion rate for the remedies to the cars,” he said.
23:28 In America Volkswagen is offering customers with cars fitted with the offending TDI engines the opportunity to receive three things, said Horn: a $500 pre-paid Visa loyalty card, a $500 dealership card and 24-hour roadside assistance for three years.
23:25 Here is the meat of Volkswagen of American boss Michael Horn’s comments on the ongoing emissions scandal: “Volkswagen continues to work very hard on approved remedies for the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder TDI engine affected by emissions scandal that arose exactly two months ago. Furthermore also we have now to address the recent issues to the 3.0-litre six-cylinder TDI engines. As CEO of Volkswagen in America, nothing is important to me than the satisfaction of customers and to making things right with all those who have put their faith and trust in Volkswagen over the years.
“I understand the impact that these recent revelations have had on our customers, our dealers and the US public at large. There is frustration, and sometimes anger, but also support from lots of our Volkswagen customers. All these reactions are fully understandable, as everybody at Volkswagen of America is living through the same emotions.
“My primary task is to push for things to be made right and I can assure you that we have been working tirelessly towards that singular goal. We have been working closely with the regulators and will continue to do so in the most open and transparent way possible. I’m hopeful that we will be able to announce something soon about the remedies we have identified and which we are discussing with the regulators in the upcoming days. This continues to be an immediate priority.
“We’ve apologised and we can’t stop apologising, because we need a remedy. But we understand that apologies are not enough.”
23:14 Switching back to Subaru for a moment, here are the latest updates on the new Impreza concept unveiled today.
23:08 Horn, remember, was the first executive to face the public after the scandal blew up in September .
23:06 Volkswagen US boss Michael Horn has just taken to the stage to introduce the manufacturer’s new cars. He’s starting by updating the audience on the emissions scandal.
23:05 Thomas Doll, COO of Subaru America, has offered some insight into the new platform which will underpin all future Subaru models, starting with the 2016 Impreza. The manufacturer is also investing $500m in its USA production facilities, with the aim of doubling its 200,000 unit capacity and creating 1200 new jobs. The 2016 Impreza will also be the first generation of the iconic car to be built in the USA.
22:55 Subaru has just unveiled the new Impreza saloon concept , the sister car to the five-door concept shown at the recent Tokyo motor show. The two cars preview the next Impreza production car. More information on the saloon to follow.
22:48 Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, boss of Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, says the manufacturer is on course for record annual sales of around 953,000 units this year, driven by strong demand in North America.
22:42 All the news about the Mazda CX-9, revealed earlier, is compiled here . We think it is quite a bold looking creation, but despite the growing appetite for SUVs and crossovers in Europe, there are currently no plans to sell the new Mazda CX-9 here.
22:40 We’ve just added another collection of show car pictures above this story.
22:16 Andrew Gilleland, boss of Scion, has been talking up the Toyota-owned brand’s progress in the USA. Sales are expected to hit 100,000 by 2017, but equally as important is the customer demographic. “75% of our customers are new to Toyota and half are under 35 years old,” explained Gilleland. “35 years old is our sweet spot”. Scion has unveiled the new CH-R concept car, seen badged as the Toyota CH-R at the recent Tokyo motor show.
22:03 Over at Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, digital editor John McIlroy is quite taken by the revamped SL : “They’ve tidied it up. I really like it,” he says.
22:01 Autocar’s John McIlroy agrees with Nakamura on one thing: the new Infiniti QX30‘s cab-rearward stance is quite ‘rear-drive’, in line with the rest of Infiniti’s range. Our man reckons there are worse-looking small crossovers out there, but Infiniti is still struggling for brand awareness in the UK. “The QX30 could be a decent seller in the US, though,” says McIlroy. “It is possibly one of the more important reveals for local buyers at this show.”
22:00 Infiniti’s Shiro Nakamura described the new Infiniti QX30, revealed at LA today, as a “crossover crossover”, adding, “If something like a Qashqai is already a crossover, this is a crossover of that.” Quite.
21:55 Our digital editor John McIlroy enjoyed a interesting chat with Infiniti design guru Shiro Nakamura just now and reports that he is brutally honest about how new models such as the Q30 and QX30 need to perform in Europe. “These two cars need to bring in younger customers who are more open, like US buyers. We either have conquest sales or nothing,” said Nakamura.
21:50 Mazda chief Masamichi Kogai also spoke about the big impact the range of SkyActiv engines have had on the rebuilding of the company. “SkyActiv engines will account for 85% of sales by the end of 2016 fiscal year and we expect further volume growth as well as improved profitability,” he said.
21:48 Masamichi Kogai, president and CEO of Mazda, has just introduced the Japanese company’s bold new CX-9 crossover. “The biggest market for CX-9 is North America,” explained Kogai-san. “As such our US team took the lead in planning and designing the model to ensure it meets the needs of consumers here. It has a more premium look with the design, a superb ride and sporty handling.” Mazda is targeting 50,000 global sales for the CX-9 and expects to see about 80% of those in North America.
21:33 Mini is celebrating a milestone at the Los Angeles motor show, showing off the 500,000th Mini Countryman it has built. The strong-selling crossover first went on sale back in 2010.
21:29 Quanergy Systems might not be the first name on the lips of LA motor show visitors, but the company has made an important technology announcement. Next year it will introduce a solid state LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor for self-driving cars for less than $1000 per car. Quanergy’s sensor for autonomous vehicles contains an integrated circuit that scans in every direction without any moving parts, creating a live 3D view around a car, and detecting, classifying, and tracking objects. “It is significantly more compact and more affordable than any other unit on the market today,” said Louay Eldada, Quanergy CEO. “This technology will make LiDAR usage ubiquitous for autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assist systems.” The company has partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai-Kia and Renault-Nissan.
21:19 Hyundai has also unveiled the new Elantra for the US market at the Los Angeles motor show. The midsize car is a rival to models such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
21:15 Hyundai has shown off its bold N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo Concept in North America for the first time. The car is designed to draw attention to the Korean manufacturer’s new N Performance division, and you can read more about it here .
21:12 Another very important statement from Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo North America president and CEO regarding self-driving cars: “Volvo will accept full liability in autonomous mode”. That brings some clarity to the oft-asked question about what happens if a self-driving car is involved in an accident.
21:08 Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo North America president and CEO said autonomous driving is a key part of the manufacturer’s plan to ensure no-one will be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo by the year 2020. “Autonomous driving addresses all the key challenges we face: improved traffic safety, limiting the environmental footprint and solving traffic congestion,” he said. “We will have 100 autonomous vehicles in the hands of consumers by the end of 2017.”
21:06 Volvo has also put thought into how the self-driving system in the Volvo would be engaged by the human driver. Tisha Johnson: “To engage autonomous mode, you hold the steering wheel pedals. You re-engage with the controls by selecting the Drive mode again. Then the countdown begins for you to retake the controls at the end of the journey. This allows you to plan your time on the journey. There are configurations for the seat, tablet and screens, allowing you to do a range of activities. The car communicates with the driver as to what it is doing – such as overtaking a car – and allows you to take back controls. This is an important part of building trust.”
21:04 Tisha Johnson, Volvo’s chief designer of interiors, has been explaining the thinking behind Concept 26: “We researched what people would want to do in a car, and reconfigured the interior to allow you to do different things behind the wheel,” she said. “It has three configurations: Drive, Create and Relax. You choose your route based on the amount of time you want to spend in autonomous driving mode.”
21:01 Volvo has revealed a proposed cabin for a self-driving car. Concept 26, a design showcase that shows how the interior of one of the Swedish brand’s luxury models could look in the future, is also expected to influence interior of new S90. The name refers to the length of the average daily commute to work. Read all about the concept here.
20:57 Which car is soaking up the most attention here on autocar.co.uk? No surprise to report that it is the Fiat 124 Spider, but not everyone is a fan of its styling. Some readers think it is ‘tasty’, while others say it is ‘hugely disappointing’. Have your say here.
20:55 Autocar’s deputy editor Mark Tisshaw also believes that Volkswagen should have considered delaying the launch of the opinion-splitting Beetle Dune. He reckons that in the wake of the emissions crisis that has engulfed the company, it shouldn’t be unveiling frivolous models. Do you agree. Read his thoughts here.
20:51 Mark Tisshaw has visited the Mini stand to see what’s on offer. “Mini’s new corporate look has made it North America,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the cleaner, more grown up style, but to me it’s somewhat undermined by merchandise on display designed to the same theme. Mini gear used to be cheesy, now it’s just naff. Still, who buys this stuff anyway? I’ll just stick to the three-door Cooper thanks.”
20:44 Earlier today, we also saw the production version of Volkswagen’s Beetle Dune . The original Beetle Dune concept was one of the stars of last year’s Detroit motor show, and the production version has changed very little.
20:38 In the midst of all these show unveilings it might be easy to overlook Jaguar’s XE, which is being made available with all-wheel drive in the UK from next year. We know the addition of AWD to the F-type sports car made it an even better sports car, so we expect great things from an AWD XE. Get the full story here.
20:34 Tisshaw is taking in some classic Chevrolet designs. “ Still a huge fan of the Corvette Stingray,” he says “There’s a lovely black and yellow one on display at the LA show. Has there been a better looking, more resolved US car design in recent years? Not for me.”
20:27 Mark Tisshaw is on the Chevrolet stand at the moment. He says: “ The message here is connectivity. 4G, On Star – everywhere you look, the message is one of infotainment. Live services are something I think US car makers are taking more seriously, and there is much wider use of it here. Every cab driver has the ‘Waze’ live traffic app on the go to help beat the LA traffic, and if you’re stuck for a ride you open the ‘Uber’ cab app and get home that way.”
20:20 We’ve got our first show pictures of the facelifted Mercedes-Benz GLS. The luxury SUV is actually a facelifted GL-Class, but the added ‘S’ is designed to link the SUV more closely to the S-Class.
20:15 “ A car alarm keeps going off on the Mercedes-Benz stand,” says Tisshaw “I know LA has a crime problem, burglaries and break-ins in particular, but come on people, a little decorum inside the show please…”
20:10 More from Mark Tisshaw now, who says: “The p rize for the most cars ever squeezed onto a motor show stand goes to Toyota. It’s staggering how many are on there, and indeed just how similar they all look… I’m struggling to tell one saloon from another.”
20:05 As you can see in the gallery above, Fiat also has the original 124 Spider on display alongside the new model in LA. Here’s Hilton Holloway’s blog on why Fiat is reviving this motoring icon.
20:00 One of Lamborghini Boss Stephan Wikelmann’s revelations earlier was that the Huracan sports car won’t receive the option of a manual transmission in the future. Read John McIlroy’s blog on why that’s a bad thing here.
19:54 Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralf Speth was speaking to Mark Tisshaw last night ahead of the LA show. He said JLR won’t chase large sales to boost its growth, and that one of the brand’s biggest assets is its ’boutique’ image. Find out more here.
19:50 GM’s Buick brand has unveiled a new look for the front of its cars at the LA show. The US market LaCrosse saloon is the first model to wear the new face, which incorporates a new grille design with a larger opening and the return of Buick’s three-colour ‘tri-shield’ insignia. The car has a more sporting look than it’s predecessor. “It’s a sleeker design that looks confident and purposeful,” said Holt Ware, exterior design director. “Stretching the wheelbase, lowering the roofline and making it slightly wider creates a dramatic effect.” Sales of the Buick LaCrosse have exceeded 900,000 globally since it went on sale in 2009.
19:45 Some more information on the Star Wars-inspired Fiat 500 that we remarked upon back at 17:29. The car is actually the electric 500e, and is the work of Lapo Elkann’s Garage Italia Customs in Milan. The show car was commissioned by Fiat to support the promotional campaign for the imminent Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie.
To help the bodywork resemble a Stormtrooper from the First Order Legion, the windscreen and side windows are wrapped with a 100% tinted film. The upholstery combines perforated black leather for the seat backs with white leather for the sides of the seats. Hand-embroidered First Order insignias replace the Fiat badges on the seat head rests and steering wheel. The dashboard is painted white and the Star Wars logo features on the passenger side. All plastic is varnished black and white with a special lacquered effect pillars are covered in white Alcantara.
19:38 More from Honda now – the company says its fuel cell stack in the new hydrogen-fuelled FCV Clarity is smaller by one-third compared to the stack in the manufacturer’s previous FCX Clarity offering. However, power density has increased by 60%. The fuel cell stack is now roughly the same size as a modern V6 engine, which allows more conventional mechanical packaging and opens up more passenger space inside.
19:34 Another contender for the star car position has to be Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque Convertible, and, as Mark Tisshaw pointed out earlier, LA seems to be the perfect city to launch it in.
19:27 Stars of the LA motor show are already starting to emerge, and one serious contender is the new rear-wheel drive Lamborghini Huracan. Find out more in our full story here.
19:20 An amazing revelation from John McIlroy, who is on the Porsche stand. He says development of the GT4 Clubsport was under way before the Cayman GT4 was revealed, and contains around 200 bespoke parts.
19:15 Away from the LA motor show, we’ve had our latest look at the development journey Ford’s Focus RS has taken to get to the showroom. Take a look at the latest video below.
19:13 As you’ve likely guessed, the QX30 is the sister car to the Infiniti Q30 hatchback. The QX30 is as much as 45mm higher than the Q30 and also features wider wheel arches. It’ll go on sale in the UK next summer.
19:08 The styling of Infiniti’s QX30 has been dividing opinions online – do you think Infiniti has done enough to challenge compact SUVs from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz?
19:04 Porsche’s Cayman GT4 Clubsport has just been unveiled in LA. The track-focussed GT4 Clubsport uses the same 3.8-litre flat six engine as the regular Cayman GT4, but gets a paddle-controlled PDK transmission and new aerodynamic tweaks.
19:00 Back to Honda now, where Matt Burt has been listening to Ryan Harty, Honda’s US Environmental Business Development boss. Harty says that previous scepticism over the viability of fuel cell vehicles was misplaced, although he conceded that it would take time for hydrogen-fuelled cars to reach widespread acceptance.
“In the long term, we expect that mass production of fuel cell vehicles will result in vehicle costs that are similar to what consumers are accustomed to today,” said Harty. “Clearly this is a long term and not a short-term effort, and I understand people’s scepticism. This kind of paradigm shift is not going to happen overnight. Creating a widespread hydrogen refueling network is difficult and takes time. Roads, sewers, water, railways, the electric grid, all took decades, with massive investments, but they were worth the costs.”
18:57 “ The Infiniti QX30 resembles a posh Rover Streetwise”, says Mark Tisshaw, “Can’t help but think a proper little SUV rather than a halfway house like that would have been a better option. Just can’t see Infiniti ever getting traction in Europe if it keeps missing the mark with models.”
18:53 More from Tisshaw: “ We always look for themes from a motor show. Early days here, but might LA’s be cars that challenge design conventions? Evoque Convertible, Fiat 124 Spider, VW Beetle Dune… None of these are what you’d call safe. Neither are the likes of the Mercedes GLS, Mazda CX9 or Infiniti QX30.”
18:45 Mark Tisshaw is wandering the show halls in LA, and says: “d esign language is a phrase that makes me chuckle, a byphrase for every manufacturer saying its cars should look the same. At shows like LA, we get to see the largest of the large SUVs that don’t make it to Europe, complete with awkward styling to make them look like smaller models in the range. I give you the Lexus LX and Infiniti QX80 as evidence for the design language prosecution.”
18:41 In LA, Honda has shown off the production version of the sleek Civic Coupé, previously seen as a concept back in New York earlier this year. The coupé has a lower roofline, shorter rear overhang and taillight design compared with the saloon. “We took the philosophy of the saloon, and we cranked up the volume. Everything had to get a little louder,” said Guy Melville Brown, Honda’s US exterior design leader.
18:37 Honda is also making a big push with its fuel cell vehicles, such as the Clarity Fuel Cell that was shown at the recent Tokyo motor show and is the first car in an entire new generation of advanced technology vehicles. American Honda Motor Company spokesman Sage Marie said: “While it is too early to provide specific details of these future products, this new generation of advanced, electrified Honda vehicles, the Clarity Fuel Cell and plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles, will work together to create a new volume sales pillar.”
18:34 Editor Matt Burt has been looking at Honda’s sales records in the US. The Japanese manufacturer leads the sales charts with the Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey in those cars’ respective segments. The CR-V is on course to be the USA’s biggest selling SUV for the fourth consecutive year.
18:31 As the Fiat 124 Spider is swarmed by the LA crowds, John McIlroy has been watching Fiat’s latest advert for the car. It’s quite racy, he says, but that’s exactly the sort of thing that’s worked so far. A limited run of the car will also receive special blue paintwork. There will also be 124 units of the launch edition cars, but there’s no word on whether the UK will receive any of those cars.
18:25 It’s revealed that the Fiat 124 Spider will get 158bhp and 184lb ft of torque from its 1.4-litre MultiAir engine in the US – but there’s no confirmation the UK (or Europe) spec will get that power unit in time. Launch details for the car over here can be found by following this link.
18:24 An outstanding stat from the Fiat stand. As the Fiat 124 Spider takes its bow in LA, Fiat US boss Olivier Francois says: “For the US the 124 Spider is more iconic than the 500 itself.” There are still 8000 of the original cars on the roads here.
18:21 Francois says that 74% of the brand’s sales are in the southern US – so the brand is now pushing the 500X’s off-road credentials to attract more sales in the north. It’s interesting to hear Fiat pushing the 500 and 500X so hard moments before unveiling the 124 Spider. Apparently, US sales of the 500X are up by 91% month-on-month. It’s very clear that the Spider is here to act as a halo model, and draw people to buy the rest of the range (where profits will be higher) as well.
18:19 More from Fiat’s Francois, who says the brand has been “seeding a positive message” in North America – and that its clever, quite racy marketing campaigns have helped. The latest advert for the 500X tells the story of a pensioner on a promise who loses his viagra pill, which ends up in the fuel tank of a 500. Sure enough, the tiny hatchback then transforms into a 500X. Quite. Anyway, Francois is saying that the advert has had over 30 million views. Even in 2015, sex sells it seems.
18:15 Live from the Fiat press conference, where Fiat’s head of brand Olivier Francois has taken the stage ahead of the Fiat 124 unveiling. He says the brand needs to “extend Fiat’s reach in North America.” It’s also nearly five years to the day since the reintroduction of the brand to the US market, which was announced at the LA motor show in 2010. Francois is recalling that, a t the time, Fiat had no network and no dealers in North America, as well as no customers. Today, it has sold over 200,000 units in the country and has over 200 dealers. Francois adds: “The last thing the US market needed in 2010 was just another brand, another nameplate. There were 290 in the market. No brand can succeed without a purpose. But Fiat is the furthest thing away from ‘just another brand’.”
18:09 Mark Tisshaw, meanwhile, notes a flurry of activity over at the Alfa Romeo stand. It seems they forgot to send the Alfa Giulia in time, and it has just been wheeled on stage. It’s still the top-spec model, as revealed at the Frankfurt motor show. UK sales are now scheduled for autumn 2016. After all the excitement, that’s a hugely long wait for excited Alfa fans.
18:04 John McIlroy has got his (almost) front row seat at the Fiat press conference, and is a bit disgruntled to find he’s sharing his space with a dog. Yes, really. He reports: “ It’s a strange show, Los Angeles, with a mix of international hacks and curious locals. I’m in situ waiting for the Fiat reveal, and the woman sitting beside me is a salesperson from the dealership around the corner. And the lady behind her has brought her pet dog.” The spoilsport isn’t brave enough to get us a picture…
18:00 Not everyone is distracted by the Fiat 124 Spider, though. Mark Tisshaw reports from the Mercedes stand: “The first cappuccinos of the day (or should that be skinny vegan frappuwhhinos, or whatever the likes of photographer Stan Papior and his LA chums drink) are still warm on the Mercedes stand, and already rival manufacturers have been spied with the rulers and digital cameras sizing up the cars. Three chaps from Audi in fetching polo shirts were running the rule over the CLA. I’m not sure why, mind; that’s been out a few years…”
17:54 Is something happening on the Fiat stand?
17:50 Mark Tisshaw spoke to Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth last night, and has just bumped in to him again. No scoops this time, though, and here’s why: “The life of a car company CEO… Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralf Speth got to Los Angeles last night, hosted a dinner for US journalists where he ate a different course on four different tables, has come to the show today to deliver the press conference, and will fly home tonight. Or not home, to Germany actually, where he has meetings tomorrow, followed by a 400km drive before a flight back to London. I’ll never complain about jetlag again…”
17:42 There are few more charismatic designers than Jaguar‘s Wayne Burgess, who mixes making Jaguar’s look elegant and sporty with a nice sideline in hitting the stage with his guitar-loving band, Scattering Ashes. Look him up on Twitter at @wayneburgess if you want to know more. Anyway, Mark Tisshaw rode in the same cab as him to the show, and reports back: “ Wayne’s work discussions about non Jaguar cars only really extend to competitor products, so it was interesting to hear who he thinks is doing a good job design-wise in the mainstream, outside of his immediate sphere. His verdict? GM Europe’s cars have caught his eye, as has the Seat range, with its sharply creased steel bodywork.”
17:38 We’re minutes rather than hours from the Fiat 124 Spider launch now, and John reports that its star billing is having a knock-on effect for other manufacturers. John’s duitifully preparing to cover the Nissan press conference which is next up, but reports that while there are empty seats where he is, the Fiat seating is already close to full despite there being almost half an hour before the show begins. Reaction to the press pictures of the Fiat have been mixed so far, so we’re ordering John to fight through the inevitable scrum come what may.
17:33 Back to more serious matters, and John McIlroy makes the point that the motivation behind reviving the Fiat 124 Spider name is to garner much-needed buzz around the Fiat brand, especially in the States. It’s a halo car in every way – eye-catching, but unlikley to sell in huge numbers. Instead, John notes, it must get people talking about Fiat again, and in to dealerships. No wonder the Fiat stand in LA is surrounded by a collection of Fiat 500s (yes, including the Star Wars one), ready to bask in the 124 Spider’s glow.
17:29 A quick diversion from the serious business of the opening day of a motor show to enjoy Fiat‘s attempts to cash in on the hype around the new Star Wars movie. Turns out that a Fiat 500 can be made to look much like a Storm Trooper. Nice Fiat badge, too…
17:25 More from Mark Tisshaw, this time from the Mercedes stand. He’s been taking a look at the new Mercedes GLS, and says: “Not convinced on the front-end of the Mercedes-Benz GLS. A car so big and luxurious should look more statesmanlike to my eyes, much like the S-class. But the bolder, rounder front-end just doesn’t match the rest of the car’s stiffer, more formal lines. Still, the size it is, it will remain a rare sight on UK roads.”
17:17 We saw (and drove) it ahead of the Tokyo motor show last month, but John McIlroy observes that the Honda FCV Clarity is being pushed hard again in LA. It’s pretty clear that there’s a momentum building behind hydrogen power, with Honda , Toyota and Hyundai leading the charge. Read John’s review of the FCV Clarity here.
17:14 As momentum builds ahead of the reveals (they’re still digesting breakfast in LA, although given the city’s health-obsessed locals it may be no more than a small bowl of museli) let’s point you at the place to fine all of our LA Auto Show news as it happens. To find out the latest, click here.
17:07 Mark has also been over to the Land Rover stand to take a look at a car that’s huge news but is likely to sell in limited numbers. Much like the VW Beetle Dune, it’s also a fairly polarising vehicle. We refer to the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, of course. Mark’s been taking a closer look, and says this: “Early look at the Range Rover Evoque convertible with the covers off. Has a car ever been more suited to a city it’s been launched in? Unlike previous SUV convertibles, the Evoque doesn’t merely look like the roof has been chopped off; a thorough design and engineering job has gone on here. Expect the Evoque success story to continue.” Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below this story.
17:03 Some observations from Mark Tisshaw, following his traffic-logged journey to the Convention Centre: “ En route to the show on the streets of Los Angeles at rush hour, every second car appeared to be a Tesla Model S. Hardly surprising: last month Tesla announced quarter sales of 11,580 units, a 49% growth year-on-year despite a one week factory shutdown to prepare for the Model X’s start of production. What odds on every third car in the LA rush hour being a Tesla Model X by this time next year?”
16:59 Speth is in town to reveal the upgraded Jaguar XE , which gets an improved infotainment system and – on selected models – four-wheel drive for the first time. There’s a temptation to under-estimate the influence of four-wheel drive sales, but it’s a critical addition for anyone wanting to sell cars in the US snow belt states, and (as BMW has already proved) a useful thing to offer in other global car markets, including the UK.
16:55 Talking of car sales, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth has made some interesting comments to our deputy editor, Mark Tisshaw, who is out at the show, regarding how he plans to grow sales of his respective brands. Despite tripling sales in recent years, he remains acutely aware that rivals such as BMW sell more cars in three months than his companies sell in a year. As a result, he says Jaguar and Land Rover must maintain a specialist, boutique feel. Read the full story here.
16:51 Lest we be accused of only seeing one side of the story, let’s just add to that last comment: even at 43% growth the ‘electric’ market still only accounted for 280,000 cars worldwide, equivalent to just 0.38% of the 72m cars sold last year. But, JATO’s conclusion is clear: the electric market is on a hugely upward curve.
16:47 Meanwhile, JATO, a data provider for the car industry, has released some insight into the emerging market for pure electric and plug-in hybrid. The report is called ‘From fiction to reality: the evolution of electric vehicles 2013-2015’, which gives an idea of its positive findings. During the specified period the global car market grew 4%, but sales of pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles grew by 43%.
16:45 Earlier we touched on California’s love of the eco car. As we await the opening onslaught of commentary, it’s worth a quick evaluation of the US car market as a whole. Sales there have grown year-on-year for each of the past seven years, but more pessimistic analysts are suggesting this year’s predicted 17.7 million sales may be a peak for some time. A more natural level for the market is said to be around 17m sales, and the predictions are that reduced discounting and a greater focus on profit margins will lead to a gentle retraction of overall sales for the foreseable future.
16:38 Time to ramp up the debate: what do you think of the VW Beetle Dune. It has divided office opinion, with the vast majority recoiling in slight horror, but a small minority being rather charmed by its exaggerated looks. Better to be loved by 10% of people than cause no reaction at all among 100% of them? As ever, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
16:32 Off the freeway and in to the show halls, John McIlroy has headed straight to the Fiat stand, hoping to get an early peek at the 124 Spider in the metal. Seems Fiat saw him coming, however… he’s been told he needs to wait a couple of hours yet.
16:25 Mind you, perhaps we should all hope the Prius sells well, to offset the emissions on another car that is likely to make its presence felt in and around the famous Hollywood hills. We drove the Bentley Bentayga and liked what we found – and expectations are that customers will be lining up on the LA Auto Show stand to put down deposits this week.
16:21 As the crowded freeways take a toll on our team, we start to understand why today was the day that the first driving impressions of the new Toyota Prius went public, as well as the spectacular mooted emissions figure of 70g/km of CO2. California in particular drives green car development, through its mixture of stringent laws and eco-conscious buyers. The verdict from editor Matt Burt (who drove the car in Japan, but wasn’t allowed to say so until today) is that they will like what they find.
16:14: Winkelmann’s revelation to John that there’s no scope for a manual has set our man thinking overnight, and he’s written a blog on what the decision means for the Huracan in particular and Lamborghini’s future models in general. Let us know your thoughts below – but it’s news that is currently sticking in the craw of car enthusiasts around the internet, as they pick up on the story.
16:09 It’s not all about the Fiat, however. There’s plenty more of interest, and already digital editor John McIlroy has had a chat with Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann. It goes without saying the new rear-drive Lamborghini Huracan was the focus of their chat, but there are some (disappointing) revelations about the liklihood of a manual model making production too. The full details are here.
16:05 And while we wait for our team to negotiate the freeways of LA (yes, they are stuck in traffic…), we’ll take a first chance to look back at the heritage of the Fiat 124 Spider. There’s a fuller history of the car at the end of Hilton’s blog, but here’s a taster of what you’ll find…
16:03 Already, our Hilton Holloway has been pondering the importance of the Fiat 124 Spider, offering up his theory as to why the car’s launch is so important to Fiat, and most particularly why it is so important to Fiat’s ambitions in the USA. Read his insights in this blog.
15:59 This year, we have several important launches, but none more so than the Fiat 124 Spider, which burst on to the internet in the early hours of this morning. We’ll be getting a closer look at the car later today, but all we know so far is in this Fiat 124 Spider new round-up.
15:53 The show’s relevance has long been through peaks and troughs. During the dark days of the recession, when the Detroit motor show was struggling along with its home car makers, it shone like an optimistic light for the American car scene. But in subsequent years its fortunes have varied according to level of support it has had from car makers (usually foreign ones) looking to make a splash. Variously BMW, Jaguar, Honda, Land Rover, Mazda and Mercedes have used it as a springboard to garner attention.
15:51 The first debate around the show is what to call it – Los Angeles motor show? Los Angeles auto show? LA one or the other? Does it really matter? Probably not, but for the pedants among us the people that run the event call it the Los Angeles Auto Show, or LA Auto Show for short.
15:49 The 2015 Los Angeles motor show doors are open, and Autocar is there to bring you the very latest news, pictures and analysis.
LA motor show star cars – what we expect to see
Bentley Bentayga First Edition – Exclusive limited edition of Bentley’s luxury SUV features bespoke trim inside and out.
Cadillac XT5 – Cadillac’s Audi Q5 rival could be coming to the UK as the US brand makes new roads into Europe.
Fiat 124 Spider – Fiat’s long-awaited sister car to the new Mazda MX-5 will also spawn a hotter Abarth version with around 170bhp.
Infiniti QX30 – first shown in thinly disguised concept form at the Geneva motor show in March, the QX30 crossover is the sister car to Infiniti’s new Q30 hatchback.
Jaguar XE AWD – Jaguar’s BMW 3 Series rival will receive the option of all-wheel drive from next year.
Lamborghini Huracan RWD – Lamborghini’s rear-wheel drive Huracan gets a 571bhp V10 engine and has a top speed of 199mph.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible – the open-top version of the popular Evoque will go on sale next spring and will come with a soft-top folding roof.
Mazda CX-9 – An all-new version of Mazda’s largest SUV will make its debut in LA, but it isn’t coming to the UK.
Mercedes-Benz GLS – The facelifted GL-Class, which now takes the GLS name, will go on sale in the UK early next year.
Mercedes-Benz SL facelift – The updated version of Merc’s SL sports car will reach the UK towards the middle of next year, and receives updates inside and out.
Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport – Porsche confirmed last month that it would launch a racing version of the Cayman GT4, which keeps the road car’s 380bhp 3.8-litre flat six engine.
Subaru Impreza saloon – A concept version of the new Impreza saloon has been previewed ahead of its LA debut, with the car due to arrive at the end of next year.
Volvo ‘Time Machine’ – Little is known about Volvo’s cryptic concept, but Volvo’s statement that the car will give “significant time” back to drivers has prompted speculation that the model is autonomous.
Volkswagen Beetle Dune – The production version of last year’s Dune concept car will go on sale in the UK early next year.
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