The first news out of the Detroit Auto Show was to downplay expectations: Major firms weren’t coming; the new cars weren’t exceptional; it was a very tough year. And then things got quite green all of a sudden with the media crowing over electric cars (really hybrids with gas engines doing the battery recharging).
The idea of high-end electric cars (and most of them will be quite expensive) seems to have charmed the pants off everyone. And the sports cars generated the most comment.
The notion of driving a sophisticated batt-mobile with real performance has turned on a lot of people. Perhaps they want a quick escape from the bad financial news at the office.
Tesla, of course, has gotten terrific reviews and presold about 1,200 roadsters at $109,000 per. But it’s got money troubles and is reported to be suing competitor Fisker, whose new 4-door Karma was one of the hits of the show (a roadster is coming). The smart money seems to be on Fisker, which is getting some funding from Qatar and making an international push with their cars. Tesla developed its car jointly with Lotus of England, which is in bed with more than one carmaker.
To me, however, the really interesting electrics are still concept cars, some of which, like Cadillac’s Converj, I hope will get built. It is designed around the same power package that the Chevrolet Volt will be using: The first 40 miles are on the batteries, then the gas engine recharges them to permit “several hundred” more driving miles in hybrid mode.
Like the Volt, it has a plug-in, overnight recharger. Unlike the Volt, it’s a beautiful exercise in design, executed by Simon Cox in England. As they used to tell us in the car biz, styling sells cars. If they can do this one for less than $100K, they’ll have a winner.
Maybe Chrysler will too, but who knows when? Its Dodge Circuit EV, a true electric, promises 150-200 miles between charges, zero emissions, and 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds. Though the name Charger was apparently taken, the Circuit’s origins are in the earlier Dodge EV roadster and the Lotus Europa, to which it owes big styling and engineering debts. Chrysler is being very coy about price and production. I think they may be using the Circuit to “get someone to dance” with them, as Sen. Corker put it in the bailout hearings.
To reinforce the incestuous nature of this business, Lotus is working, possibly with Toyota, on its own EV car, as yet unnamed but perhaps to be styled like the Evora on display in Detroit. Likely competition will be the Tesla roadster and . . . the Dodge EV.
I do hope these folks don’t trip themselves up over all their “alliances.”
OK, let’s vote: Which of these cars would you like to have?