LOS ANGELES – It's a small world after all.
In the shadow of Disneyland's Magic Kingdom, it is easy to imagine the catchy tune of the same name while strolling through the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show.
Big names staged world debuts of grandly proportioned vehicles with prodigious outputs here this week. Witness the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S with its twin-turbocharged 520-hp 4.5L V-8.
Its unveiling here coincides with its on-sale date in North America, where it starts at $111,600.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
GMC Yukon XL
Not to be outdone, Bugatti showed – for the first time in North America – its 987-hp Veyron supercar. Price tag: $1.2 million.
But, perhaps chastened by the oppressive volatility of gasoline prices, there was an undercurrent of restraint. And everyone was making small talk.
Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. started the conversation in earnest with the debut of its '07 Yaris small car for North America.
“In Europe, sales of the Yaris have increased every year it has been on the market,” says Jim Lentz, Toyota group vice president and general manager. “But perhaps more importantly, Yaris has single-handedly transformed Toyota's image in that market, especially in southern European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal where design is such a critical factor.”
The auto maker hopes the Yaris will boost the image of small cars here when it rolls out an anticipated 50,000 units this year and 70,000 in 2007. Indeed, Lentz says the car will prop up Toyota's Corolla and Matrix lines as “premium” subcompacts. (See related story: Toyota Takes Shot at Frugal Chic)
Arriving in dealerships by spring, the Yaris Liftback will start at $10,950. A sedan version will sell for $11,825 and a sporty 'S' sedan will sticker for $13,325.
Corp. highlighted its redesigned '07 Chevrolet Aveo, which arrives in showrooms this year by the third quarter. It features a new exterior and interior to capture the attention of Americans who are “increasingly discovering the virtues of small cars,” the auto maker says.
But Mark LaNeve, GM vice president-sales and marketing, tempers any notion of hysteria – especially since the auto maker also unveils its new '07 Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL fullsize SUVs.
“Americans love choices,” LaNeve says. “We make (small) cars available. You'll get some level of interest in them.”
But there also is considerable interest in large, rear-wheel-drive cars, he adds. “We see a lot of interest in fullsize SUVs, crossovers, alternative-fuel concepts. Z06 (Corvette) is sold out. Solstice is. Americans love choices. They love different kinds of products. They want to have a great price. And they want their cars to be as efficient and clean as possible. That's what we're intending to do.”
of America Inc. stretches the boundaries of small-car possibilities with the North American debut of the '07 Eos, which features a folding hardtop.
Meanwhile, Audi of America Inc. andNorth America Operations share the cross/utility vehicle spotlight with debuts of the '06 Q7 and '07 CX-7, respectively.
The Q7, which shares a platform with the Cayenne and's Touareg, first was unveiled last year in Frankfurt. But the CX-7 makes its world debut here.
Motor Co. has a quiet show, with its only unveiling tied to niche player Saleen Inc., which pulls the sheet off the Saleen Sport Truck, based on the F-150 pickup.
But Mark Fields, president of's North American operations, promises the auto maker is well aware of the market potential of small cars.
“As some Asian and European brands have shown, buyers are looking for more than just the small, fuel-efficient vehicles patterned after the ubiquitous econoboxes of the 1970s and '80s,” Fields says in a keynote address to journalists.
“But no company today is putting an American stamp on the small-car segment. That means there's a huge growth opportunity if only someone is willing to seize it.”