Even after spectacular previews at the North American International and Los Angeles auto shows, the automakers still had plenty of new cars to show off in Chicago.
Corp. pulls the cover back on a rendering of its upcoming Sebring JX convertible at the Chicago Auto Show. Bowing later this year as a '96 model, the new car is based on the Cirrus platform, not the Diamond-Star Motors Corp.- built Sebring coupe. It will replace the LeBaron convertible in Chrysler's lineup.
TheGalant-based Sebring hardtop, which calls "the cure for the common coupe," is part of the automaker's plan to broaden the appeal of the Chrysler brand and expand its audience. The company started doing that with the Cirrus. There were 20,000 Cirruses sold this model year through January, 40% more than company officials say they expected. More than 70% of Cirrus buyers are under age 55.
Sebring designers wanted to offer customers style, function and affordability. One interesting design touch is a back seat that is several inches higher than the front seat so rear passengers have a better view.
Base price is $15,969 including destination charges, for the LX, and $19,564 for the LXi. The LX is equipped with a twincam 16-valve version of Chrysler's 2L (Neon) 4-cyl. and a 5-speed manual transaxle. The LXi comes with a2.5L 24-valve single-overheadcam V-6 and 4-speed automatic. Volumes are projected at 35,000 to 50,000 annually.
Although the Sebring convertible shares the coupe's name, styling cues are closer to the Cirrus sedan. Production begins this fall at Chrysler's Toluca, Mexico, facility with annual volumes around 45,000.
Meanwhile, both Chrysler and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) officials deny reports they are planning to end their Diamond-Star Motors relationship. Chrysler buys vehicles from DSM, wholly owned by MMC. That contract expires in 1998.
Motor Co. will spend more than $650 million to retool plants in Chicago and Atlanta to produce the all-new Taurus/Sable sedans and wagons for '96.
About $285 million will be put into the Chicago assembly No. 3 plant, where 200 jobs will be added to employment rolls already totaling 2,800. The investment includes a 200,000-sq.-ft. expansion to create a one-piece bodyside assembly process and add new welding robots.
AmericanMotor Co. Inc. shows off its Acura Vigor replacement, dubbed TL. The '96 TL will be available in two renditions, the luxury-oriented version (3.2 TL) with a 3.2L 200-hp V-6 and the sportier model (2.5 TL) with 2.5L 176-hp 5-cy). The TL will be made in Sayama, Japan.
With the TL, Acura adopts a new alphanumeric nomenclature that it will feature on all of its cars as new models debut. The plan to switch to an alphanumeric system was 18 months in the making, says Rich Thomas, Acura executive vice president. Marketing strategists believe dropping well-known names such as Legend will bring the focus back to the Acura brand name.
The TL goes on sale in the U.S. in April and annual sales are projected at 30,000 to 40,000. Pricing will be in the $28,000 to $35,000 range, Mr. Thomas says.
Meanwhile, the near-luxury sport car, codenamed CL-X, will debut in the spring of 1996. It will be built at the company's East Liberty, OH, plant. Mr. Thomas says the company has no plans to discontinue the Integra, which the CL-X was rumored to replace.
A new Integra (whose alpha-numeric name hasn't been determined yet) is due out in 1997 as a '98 model, a company spokesman says, while a Legend replacement will bow next spring.
Motor Co. Ltd.'s Infiniti Div. matched Acura stroke-for-stroke with the release of the new 130. Positioned between the J30 and G20, the 130 4-door sedan goes on sale in May as a '96 model. Initial sales are expected to be 20,000 annually. Final pricing will be set closer to the on-sale date, but the car will be in the $30,000 range, says Tom Eastwood, vice president and general manager of Infiniti. No special incentives will be offered, he says, although about 60% of 130 sales will be leases.
Power comes from a 3.OL twin-cam 190-hp V-6 that gets the car from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.
Meanwhile, Infiniti plans to introduce a new Q model in 1996, followed by a luxury sport/ utility at the end of next year.