Los Angeles Auto Show – December 2012

Of the major Auto Shows that are held around the world that I manage to attend, the Los Angeles event is among my favourite. Not as dauntingly big as venues like Frankfurt, there is enough to keep you entertained for the best part of a day, and there are always a few world and US premieres at the event even though it is only a few weeks before the more important Detroit event. That a visit to the LA Show means some Southern Californian sunshine just when a European most needs an antidote to the dark days of winter is just a bonus (though my arrival coincided with several days of rain this year, but the sun did come eventually!). With the exception of 2005, I’ve been to this Show every year since 2004, and whilst the 2012 event will not be recorded as a particularly notable Show, there was lots of interest to me. Here are the highlights:


Although this is not a separate brand in America, I have pulled the cars out here, because otherwise the report would start with Acura and the visual offence of their cars might frighten people from reading any further. The 2012 allocation of Abarths sold out within weeks, so the plan is to offer a few more cars in 2013, and the range expands with the 500C. No sign of the 595 models that we get in Europe, but then these are Mexican built cars, with different engines, slightly different front ends and bumpers and lots  of different details in the cabin.

Needless to say, the Abarthisti polo shirt that I was wearing went down well and led to several conversations with staff and prospects on the stand!


Deflecting attention away from the production cars was this, a potential NSX replacement concept. The much-missed NSX of the 1990s was badged Acura in America.

Of the production cars, newcomer was the RLX, a replacement for the RL (Legend). Finished in black as were most of the other cars, it was notable in that it is less offensively ugly than the models that Acura released a few years ago.

There were plenty of those, too, although rumour has it that this is the last model year for the worst culprit, the ZDX. It was joined by TL, TSX (Euro Accord in disguise), MDX, RDX and the Civic based ILX.


Highlight here was the new Vanquish.

It was joined by examples of the rest of the range, though with so many different models now on offer, not everything could be fitted on what was still quite a large stand.


A recreation of the famous James Bond DB5 occupied one corner of the stand.


Slightly surprisingly, there were no examples of the R8 on the stand. There were representatives of all other models sold in the US, though, with an emphasis on the S cars. S4, S5, S6, S7 and S8 all featured along with the regular cars

Audi are expanding the number of TDi cars that they sell in the US, and there were diesel versions of the A6, A7 and A8 on show to join the established and top selling Q5.


A three car stand, featuring the latest Continental GT Speed, and a Mulsanne



Although BMWs are popular in the US, they attract nothing like the interest that they do in Europe, so this stand was far from the busiest. Centre piece was a display with the i3 Coupe Concept and i8 Concept. Production versions of these cars are now months rather than years away, I believe.

The new 3 is becoming a regular sighting on US roads, and the ActiveHybrid 3 was the one attracting more of the interest and attention.

The M cars were tucked away at the back of the stand, with M5 and M6 alongside each other.

A pair of 7 series showed the difference between a 760Li and an Alpina B7.

There were examples of the rest of BMW’s US range.



Two newcomers here: the Encore, which is an Americanised version of the Vauxhall Mokka and the 2013 facelifted Enclave which sports a new front end and other detailed changes.

The Verano has been on sale for several months, but it was only the day after the show that I finally saw one on the road.


More familiar are the LaCrosse and Regal models.


Big news here was the ATS, a car that the press reckon does not quite beat the 3 series but gets awfully close.

The larger XTS is now in production, and manages to look just a bit awkward at the back end. Will it appeal to those who used to buy the traditional old DTS? Only time will tell.


The CTS was tucked away in the dark part of the stand and the hosts told everyone that a new model will premiere at New York next Spring.

The SRX and Escalade continue unchanged.


Chevrolet have at least 2 major launches scheduled for Detroit, so that meant a rather lower key presence here. The little Spark has just gone on sale, aimed at the same sort of customer who might want a Fiat 500, and just like Fiat, the news at this event was of an electric version, the Spark EV.

Commercially likely to be far more significant was the 2014 Impala first shown earlier in the year. Its swoopy styling is quite different for the familiar large saloon, doyen of the rental fleet.

There were plenty of familiar models on show, too, ranging from the recently released (and not terribly well received) Malibu through the Cruze, the Equinox, the refreshed Traverse, the Suburban,  and the Volt.


The Camaros were generating lots of attention, with the launch of a Hot Wheels Edition being the latest addition to the range.

This will probably be last show for the C6 model Corvette as the C7 model is one of those cars expected at Detroit.

The Code 130R and Tru 140S concept cars that first appeared earlier in the year were making another appearance. These cars are intended to interest the younger buyer, and with the BMW 1 Series styling cues on the Code 130R they could just do that.


Nothing new here, but a chance to catch up with the 200 Sedan and Cabrio, the 300 and the Town and Country


This was my first opportunity to inspect a Dart in the metal, and I have to say that I really rather liked it. The styling looks better than in the pictures and the bright red paint certainly suits the car. The interior is to a quality that has never yet been seen on a Dodge, and is orders of magnitude more cohesive than the mess in the Ford Focus.

One of the coolest cars on show was a Charger with a Viper V10 engine in it. Only a concept for now…………

There were plenty of other Chargers, along with the other familiar models in the range.


The 500L was making its US debut, and when it goes on sale it will expand the range of cars that Fiat have to sell from effectively the one model that is all they currently offer. Although it was premiered in Europe early in 2012, this was the first time I had seen one in the metal, and it looks better than the pictures. It is still far from pretty, but it could carve out a niche as a practical small car.

Among the 500s, the new 500EV electric version was making its debut, as was the Fiat 500 Turbo which sports a 135 bhp turbo engine in the non-Abarth body


After years of peering at this elegant car from outside the stand, now it is in production, you could get up close, and even inside the three Karmas on show. Not all the publicity around this car has been good, but it does look good, so I do hope that  they can sort out the software gremlins.


The new Fusion has just gone on sale, but this was my first chance to have a look, and to see what the eventual new Mondeo will look like. Outside it is a smart looking design, and a welcome improvement on the current Mondeo which never quite looked right. The interior is less awful than all other recent Fords (not hard!). I am sure it will be in the rental fleets soon and I look forward to trying one on the road. It certainly has lots of promise.

The Escape is already in the rental fleets. Clearly a Ford, from its styling, and also from the appalling mess that represents what Ford think of as an “upscale” interior. It is a combination of overstylised, fussy and plain poor design/quality. Not good.

I’m afraid that I see the latest Focus in the much same way. The latest design is messy and the interior is worse.


The facelifted Fiesta was making its US debut, with a variety of models, including several ST. They were all marked as “pre-production” and bore a sign that said because of this they were locked “for your safety”!

That was also true for the Transit Connect, a vehicle which appears to have grown in recognition of the fact that it is now sold in the US and the original model was deemed to small.

The C-Max recently went on sale in the US. It is only offered as a Hybrid model, and so will compete head to head with the Prius.

Ford were making much of their plans for Electric cars, with the Focus, C-Max and Fusion all in line for this form of motive power in the coming months.

A separate display area contained 6 Mustangs, with a mix of Coupe and Convertible and including the Shelby GT500  as well as the tamer V6 and V8 models.

The rest of the range were also on show, with Taurus, Edge, Explorer and Flex joined by a number of the F150 trucks.


Star of this stand was the refreshed 2013 model Acadia.

It was joined by the smaller Terrain and the larger Yukon and Sierra trucks.


Stung by trenchant criticism of last year’s new Civic, Honda rushed through an emergency update and the upgraded car was on show, but no real publicity was being given to it. There was only one saloon there, though having the old model in CNG form on the stand did make it easy to make comparisons. The styling looks slightly less bland, and the interior is better, but it is not a huge leap.

Bland is also a word that I would use to describe the even more important new Accord. The interior is quite nicely done, but outside it really is dull. There was a special display to demonstrate the blind spot monitoring system, which seemed awfully complicated compared to Ford’s solution to put a second mirror in the door mirrors with a different angle on it! There was a prototype Hybrid car as well. You lost almost all the boot space for the batteries.

The rest of the range were represented with one example of each of Fit,  Insight, CrossTour, CR-V, CRX and Pilot.

More enticing was this concept car. Build this, please, Mr Honda.


Lots to see here, with pride of place going to the new Santa Fe. Available as a 5 seater (called Sport) and 7 seater (replacing the Veracruz), it looks quite smart and is bound to build on the sales success of the old model.

Elantra has now expanded to a three model range with the European i30 added to the range and badged GT, as well as a 2 door Coupe and the regular 4 door sedan.

Sonata is an important model for Hyundai, and there were both petrol and hybrid models on show.

Other production cars ranged from the Accent through to the Tucson, Azera, Genesis and Equus.

This Veloster based concept was one of the zanier designs at the show.


Star here was the LE concept.

There was one example of each of the production models ranging from the G sedan, coupe and convertible, through the M to the EX, FX and QX SUVs and the newly available JX crossover.

In honour of the link with Sebastian Vettel, there was a red Bull Formula 1 car on the stand as well.


This was the stand that I really wanted to see. There were two examples of the gorgeous new F Type on show, though I have to say that grey does not suit it, and sadly the lighting on the orange one means that the pictures do not do it justice. In reality, it is a fantastic looking as all the pictures would suggest. This for me was the Car of the Show, and I want one!

The XFR-S sat alongside the F Type and it too would be a very desirable car indeed to own.

There were examples of the “regular” models at the back of the stand.


No new models on show here, so it was simply a case of generating interest in the familiar Wrangler, Compass, Patriot and Grand Cherokee.


Most important new Kia on show was the latest Forte. Styled very much like its smaller Rio sibling, this is a good looking mid-sized car, and with a posh new interior, could do very well in the market.

Also new, though to look at it you might not guess, was the 2014 Sorento. Visually little altered, it is largely new under the skin. A good looking SUV for sure.

Kia had a large stand, with lots of examples of the rest of the range on show, from Rio through Soul, the current Forte Koup, Sportage and the Optima.

First US showing for the new Range Rover, which goes on sale in America before the end of the year. A cut away model was joined by two complete cars, one of which was standing in water (!).

The rest of the range were all represented, too, from LR2 (Freelander) and LR4 (Discvery) to the Range-Rover Sport and Evoque.


Star billing here went to the production (if you can use that word for such a low volume car) LF-A and two concepts the LF-CC and LF-LC Blue.


Aside from that, there were a sea of Lexus models, some of which apparently were new. These include the latest ES model, the latest LS, the recently launched GS and a number of SUVs. I found it hard to be terribly interested in any of them, and they are all very hard to tell apart.


Star of the Lincoln stand was the new MKZ. Unlike the old car which was very clearly based on the Fusion, this one hides its origins far better. The person I spoke to told me that the car is “beautiful, isn’t it”, with which I struggled to agree, but it is certainly distinctive. The interior is quite nicely done.


The rest of the range were also on show: MKS, the odd looking MKT, the MKX and the gargantuan Navigator.


Lotus only sell the Evora in the US, as the current Elise and Exige that we get in Europe have not been adapted to meet US market regulations. There were three of the cars on display.


US unveiling for the new 6. After receiving a different model for the second generation 6, the third generation model will be the same as is seen in the rest of the world, and it is without question the best looking car in its class. The interior is not as flash as that in the new Fusion, which will probably deter those who think these things as important, but it is well put together and a league ahead of previous Mazdas.

The CX9 has received a new front end to bring it in line with the family look. This was my favourite large Crossover when I sampled one a few years ago.

I also really like the smaller CX5, which looks far more cohesive than the new Escape, CR-V or RAV4. For 2013 a more powerful engine is available, which should address the biggest criticism the model received.

There were plenty of familiar models on show, too, from the little 2, through the 3, the 5 and the MX5.


Highlight for most people were the pairing of SLS models mounted up high in a turntable, with the Black Series car joining the regular model.

Dominating everything as this, the Ener-G-Force, a vast behemoth of a concept machine.

The new GL model looked quite modestly sized by comparison, even though it is actually pretty big.

The B Class Fuel Cell prototype was making another showing here.

Production cars on show ranged from the recently refreshed SL through the CLS to the E Class.


There was one example of each different model in the ever growing MINI range, including the ClubVan and the newly launched Paceman.


It must be hard to be a Mitsubishi salesman these days, and having seen Suzuki US pull out of the market, they must be fearing that they will be next. With Galant, Eclipse and Endeavor now out of production, the range is thin to say the least. Only ray of hope is the new Outlander, shown here. This looks smart enough, but I wonder what its USP will be to get people to buy it.

Until it goes on sale, the only cars offered are the tiny i-MIEV, the ageing Lancer and the decent enough Outlander Sport.


A large stand for Morgan, with examples of the Three Wheeler, the regular Plus 8 and the AeroSport. It always surprises me, but America is an important market for the brand, and I was told that 33 of the 100 AeroSport cars were made for America.



Concept star here was the Hi-Cross, a vehicle that we are told presages the look of the next X-Trail. As America never got that model, but the XTerra instead, I wonder if that means that the two will converge in the future.

Nissan are promising a new model every 6 weeks, and there was lots of relatively new metal on show. Most recent car was the 2013 Sentra, shown in regular SE and sporty SER guises.

The new Altima went on sale in the summer and it looks very smart. I rather liked the old model, finding it among the class leaders, so will be interested to try this one.

Also new for 2013 is the latest Pathfinder, which has abandoned its old body on frame construction in common with all of its market competitors.

There was no sign of the idiotic Murano CrossCabrio, but there were plenty of other more established cars on show, ranging from the 370Z and GT-R to the Maxima and Rogue.


One of the few brand new models getting its global premiere was the new Cayman, and there were 4 cars in the hall that Porsche occupy all by themselves. I really am not convinced that the slightly more bulbous styling is an improvement, but doubtless what is under the skin is, and I have no doubt that this will be a fantastic car to drive.

Porsche had a couple of the latest Boxster on show, too, and the same comments apply.

On display as you entered the hall was one of the most beautiful Porsche ever made, the 904 Carrera GTS. Just lovely.

Lovely is not the word that comes to mind when describing the aesthetics of either the Cayenne or the Panamera, but commercially they are very significant as they keep Porsche in profit.

The 991 based 911 model range continues to grow and there were three examples of this latest iteration of Porsche’s long running icon on show.


Now set up as a separate brand, this is where the Chrysler Group commercial vehicles were to be found.


Occupying a large stand that used to be the preserve of Rolls-Royce, local firm Saleen had a mixture of their adaptations of the current three domestic Muscle Cars, Mustang, Camaro and Challenger along with a couple of examples of their own handiwork.



There are now 5 cars in the Scion range, but it was no surprise that there was more interest in one of them than all the other 4 put together. That car is the FRS, the US market version of the Toyota GT86.


There was some interest in the little iQ, a car that you do see on the roads occasionally, but the general consensus is that this simply “too small” for America.


More familiar offerings included the xB, xD and tC models.


Also in the performance car hall were Shelby, who had a recent “barn find” 350 GT along with the latest Shelby GT350 and GT500 and a Daytona replica on display.


What can I say? This “Smart for Jeremy” provided the greatest LOL moment of the day. To everyone. How can anyone take this seriously?

I guess it was an attention grabber, though with Smart tucked away at one end of the South Hall it would be easy to miss their stand. There were plenty of regular production cars on it, but nothing else was new.


Yet another branding from Chrysler, this one is for the sporting models and none are more sporting than the latest Viper.


First showing outside Japan for the new Forester. A cautious evolution of the current car, though not exactly a thing of beauty, but it will score highly on practicality.

Whereas Subaru sales in all parts of Europe apart from Switzerland have tanked to negligible, the brand is doing well in America where the rather gawky styling is not seen as an impediment. The whole range was on show, with the old Impreza in WRX and STi guises along side the new one, the XV Crossover sitting next to the Legacy and Outback and the centre of attention, the BRZ.


I was expecting a big splash around the new RAV4, but instead, all I could see was one model, marked “prototype”, mounted on a plinth far enough away that no-one could have a closer look. First impressions are that the latest Toyota snout is not good, and overall I give this one the thumbs down, and that’s before driving it, which if is like any other Toyota will be a soul-less experience marked by unacceptably vague steering.

The new Avalon, yet to go on sale, was there in quantity though. Very different from the outgoing car, this one adopts the same sort of swoopy styling as Chevrolet have used in their new Impala, which is probably one of its closest rivals. The stand staff told me that reaction from many had been that they would now consider an Avalon based on the new look, and that even the traditional clientele had expressed approval.

Prius has grown from a single offering to a whole family of products from the smaller Prius C through the regular models now offered as a Plug-In Hybrid to the larger Prius V.


There were examples of the other models in the range from the little Yaris through the top selling Camry to the SUVs such as the Highlander.

This Tundra is the very one which was used to haul the Space Shuttle Endeavor from LAX to its final resting place at the Californian Museum of Space.

In more imaginative mode were this pair of Toyotas.


Dominant here was the new Beetle Convertible, a car which will surely sell well in the Sunshine states. If you liked New Beetle, I am sure you will approve of this one.

There were a couple of the hatchback models (marketed as a Coupe in the US), too.

The rest of the VW range was well represented, with everything from the Golf R through the Jetta and US Passat to the CC and the Tiguan and Touareg.


Centrepiece was the S60 Polestar, officially still a concept, but looking ready for Volvo to press the production button if all the signs are right.

Its impact was slightly lost by the presence of another bright blue car a few feet behind it, a C30. As this car has recently ceased production, I am not sure quite why it was on show.

There were examples of the rest of the US range, from S60 to XC60 and XC90. The US is denied the new V40, much to their chagrin.


A separate hall, located under the South Hall is always good for a giggle and a cry. Here are to be found the after market tuners as well as accessory stands and a random other collection of things.

Sadly, I have to report that there were numerous example of the customiser’s art applied to the Abarth 500, with horrific consequences.

Words fail me at many of these creations, but I guess someone must like them.

The only tasteful display in the Hall was one with a couple of old California Highway Patrol police cars.

As ever, I really enjoyed my day at the show. I went on a weekday, and it was never busy, so getting a good look at the cars was easy and even the photographer did not get too frustrated or need too much patience. Weekday opening is not til 11am, but the show stays open til 10pm, and whilst I did not quite last til the bitter end, there were plenty of people still there, many of whom I guessed had decided to come after work and dinner. You would not get a detailed look ay everything, but it would be possible to see the highlights as this is a nicely compact show. That said, I was tired and my legs knew I had been roaming the halls for 10 hours. Roll on the 2013 Show!

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