DETROIT - In the auto industry's hour of darkness, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will introduce - at the North American International Auto Show next month in Detroit - promising new models vital to their survival.
A stylish, European-bred new Ford Taurus aims to repeat the original 1986 Taurus' feat of saving the company and raising the bar for midsize-sedan style and handling.
Chevrolet's roomy Cruze compact promises 40-plus miles-per-gallon highway fuel economy in a small car that is infinitely more refined and attractive than any previous small car from what was America's best-selling brand in 2007.
Those two potential best-sellers will be complemented by other automakers' crossovers, luxury models, performance cars, hybrids and concept vehicles. Show organizers expect a total of about 50 vehicle debuts.
Expectations have been high for the 2010 Taurus since Ford chief executive officer Alan Mulally told dealers that the next model to bear the iconic name would live up to the original trailblazing Taurus, which redefined the American sedan and was the country's best-selling car for years.
The new Taurus builds on the dramatic styling of Ford's European lineup and reportedly features a spacious and well-appointed interior. The 2010 Taurus is expected to go on sale next fall. Ford will build it in Chicago.
Ford will also pull the wraps off the 2010 Mustang GT 500 performance model and a stylish three-row luxury crossover for its Lincoln luxury brand. The new Lincoln, which will go on sale midyear, borrows from the styling of the excellent MKT concept vehicle. Ford designers call the MKT the fullest expression yet of Lincoln's new look.
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze won wide praise in its worldwide premiere in October at the Paris auto show. Chevrolet promises that the slick compact will provide more room and higher fuel economy than competitors such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla when it goes on sale in the first half of 2010.
An all-new version of Chevrolet's popular Equinox compact crossover also is expected to debut at the show.
GM will introduce the all-new architecture that will underpin vital future cars, such as the replacements for the Chevrolet Malibu, when the stylish Buick LaCrosse debuts.
The LaCrosse is the first U.S. vehicle to benefit from Buick's high sales volume in China, allowing it to offer a more luxurious interior and sophisticated features lacking in the brand's previous midsize cars. The LaCrosse's looks draw heavily on the Buick Invicta concept car, which was styled collaboratively by designers at GM's studios in Warren, Mich., and Shanghai.
Chrysler L.L.C. is expected to show several concept vehicles that demonstrate the potential of the hybrid and electric power trains it is developing.
The production version of the Honda Insight hybrid that debuts at the show and goes on sale in the spring promises to be nearly identical to the concept hatchback already seen. Among other features, the Insight has a system that combines electronic controls and driver feedback to help maximize miles per gallon. Expect fuel economy to be higher and pricing lower than Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s $23,550 Civic hybrid, which rates 40 m.p.g. in the city and 45 m.p.g. on the highway in EPA tests.
An all-new Toyota Prius and as-yet-unnamed Lexus hybrid car are among the most eagerly anticipated vehicles coming to the show. The new Prius keeps the current car's wedgy profile, but the front styling resembles mainstream Toyota models such as the Yaris and Matrix.
Toyota Motor Corp., which has not said when the new Prius will go on sale, has pushed back plans to build it in the United States until 2011 at the earliest, but the new model promises to build on the Prius' reputation as the leader among compact hybrids.
The Lexus hybrid car is expected to be larger than the Prius and equipped with BMW iDrive-type controls for some of its features.
Audi continues its product offensive with a concept version of its forthcoming A7 luxury car. Insiders who have seen the four-door model's swooping lines say it may be the finest work yet by designer Walter de'Silva, who honed his art creating a succession of gorgeous Alfa Romeos before joining the Volkswagen Group.
Audi will also debut a gasoline-powered V10 version of its R8 sports car and more news for its lineup of fuel-efficient diesel vehicles.