Ford vehicles star at Detroit auto show

DETROIT --- Ford Motor Co. executives are riding high from the company's North American car and truck of the year awards at the Detroit auto show this week and the positive response to the newly unveiled 2012 Ford Focus, but they're not taking much time to celebrate.


"The last thing I want to do is convey a sense of complacency, because there's no complacency here," Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. told reporters at the North American International Auto Show.

Ford's Fusion Hybrid midsize sedan took North American Car of the Year honors, and Ford's versatile Transit Connect compact van snagged Truck of the Year at the show.

The awards were selected by 49 auto journalists and have been given annually since 1994. Finalists for the car award also were the Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Golf GTI and TDI diesel. The Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Outback were the other finalists for the truck award.

Ford used the show to unveil the 2012 Focus, a small sedan and hatchback that is the company's first truly global car.

The totally new Focus, due in European and North American showrooms early next year, was designed and engineered to be sold worldwide using almost all the same parts, unlike past versions. It also will be sold in Asia.

The four- and five-door Focuses are equipped with a new 2-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The company wouldn't reveal gas mileage but said it will be significantly better than the current Focus, which gets up to 35 mpg on the highway. An electric version of the Focus will go into production in 2012.

In other news from the auto show:

- General Motors Co. said will build a pure-electric vehicle by expanding the Chevrolet Volt's battery pack and removing its internal combustion engine. The gas-electric Volt debuts this fall for $40,000.

- Chevrolet showed its value-priced Aveo for 2011, with a bolder design and more powerful engine as competition heats up among subcompact cars. The Aveo RS show car hinted European-inspired styling of the 2011 model.

- Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the automaker will start hiring production workers again if it sells enough cars and trucks. He said Chrysler Group LLC is revamping its models and will need more engineering and development workers.

- GM's GMC brand unveiled the short, wide Granite, a concept truck to battle the hip urban Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. It's a cross between a panel truck and a minivan. The sides open like French doors, and its rear seats flip or fold to the side, creating enough space for a mountain bike, with the tailgate closed.

- Toyota unveiled the FT-CH compact hybrid concept car, smaller than the Prius and geared toward younger buyers. It also confirmed plans to expand the Prius brand from a single vehicle to a family of hybrids.

- Honda Motor Co. showed off the 2011 CR-Z, a sporty two-seater hybrid that will go on sale in summer. The hatchback is Honda's attempt to bring a bit of flair to the hybrid segment. The CR-Z will get 36 city mpg and 38 highway mpg.

- Ford Motor Co.'s 2011 Lincoln MKX crossover has a new split-wing grille, 3.7-liter V-6 engine with better horsepower and fuel economy, and capless refueling among its new features, but the most noticeable feature is a touch screen that replaces the climate controls, music volume and phone. The system, MyLincoln Touch, will be standard on MKX and will appear on 80 percent of Ford products.

- Chevrolet said its Spark minicar, already on sale in Europe, is coming to the U.S. in 2012. Chevy showed off the five-door, the smallest car in Chevrolet's lineup, which GM will make in China.

- Cadillac unveiled its large XTS Platinum concept sedan, which can run on a rechargeable battery-powered electric motor or a 350-horsepower V-6 engine. Cadillac also introduced the 2011 CTS-V Coupe, which will go into production in the summer.

- GM announced that the final decision on whether the Saab brand will live or die is likely to come this month or in February. GM has been trying to sell Saab for more than a year.

COMING SUNDAY IN THE PRINT EDITION Today's automotive shoppers consider the level of high-tech safety, comfort and convenience features along with such traditional attractions as horsepower and style



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