Wrap-up: 2009 L.A. Auto Show

With so many cars having been introduced this year at the L.A. Auto Show, A good synopsis of what’s been going on this week is called for, rather than a lot of details that won’t make a huge difference in your buying decisions in the next 12 months.  That said, we’ve reported on some of the cars below (you can click on their name to read Road Reality’s report), but here’s a list of cars I think are going to make a splash when they go on sale, in alphabetical order, followed by a description for each car:

2011 Chevrolet Volt
2011 Ford Fiesta
2011 Hyundai Sonata
2011 Mazda Mazda2

2011 Toyota Sienna
2010 Volvo S60

2011 Chevrolet Volt

GM has released new information on their plug-in hybrid, the Volt, for years.  GM was on top of the electric vehicle with their EV1 in the early 2000s, but scuttled the program after just a couple of years.  Since last year, when gas price spikes drove the cost of fuel to $4.00/gallon, it seems as though every automaker has gotten on the hybrid or electric vehicle bandwagon.  Slated to go on sale sometime in 2010 as a 2011 model, the Chevrolet Volt is a game-changer for GM.  It will also be their first purpose-built hybrid vehicle, even though it shares its platform with the upcoming Chevrolet Cruze.  The Volt will be powered only by its electric motor, with a “range extending” gasoline engine to charge the batteries that power the electric motor.

Why it matters: GM needs a big win, and they’re putting their money on the Volt.  There are rumors that even at $40,000, GM will lose money for each Volt they sell, but if volume gets high enough, they will recoup the large sums they’ve put into creating the drivetrain from scratch.

2011 Ford Fiesta

Click here to read the Road Reality report on the Fiesta.

Why it matters: Ford needs a good, small car to take on the competition from Honda and Toyota, among others.  The Fiesta appears to be just that.

2011 Hyundai Sonata

The big news is twofold for the new Sonata.  First, it’s lighter than it was before, a rarity in the car world.  Second, it will only be available with three different 4-cylinder engines, as opposed to the 4-cylinder and V6 models currently offered.  The surprise here is that Hyundai will be offering a hybrid Sonata, their first in the US.  Reports suggest that the hybrid Sonata will feature lithium polymer batteries, a relatively new battery technology that hasn’t seen any use yet in hybrid vehicles.

Why it matters: It shows that Hyundai is still determined to build its market share in the United States, by continuously updating their offerings and providing good value for the money its buyers spend.

2011 Mazda Mazda2

The Mazda2 has been on sale in Europe, Japan and Australia since 2007, and will come to our shores next year as a 2011 model.  Like I’ve reported before, the Mazda2 shares some of its DNA with the Ford Fiesta, also coming to the United States in 2010, but look for more performance and handling than the Fiesta.

Why it matters: The Mazda2 will be a niche player, just like the rest of Mazda’s lineup, but will provide a new entry point for buyers.  It will also provide performance-oriented shoppers of the Ford Fiesta a viable option, and might generate a cult following like its convertible brother, the Mazda’s MX-5 (aka Miata).

2011 Toyota Sienna

The Toyota Sienna has long stood as the top-selling minivan in the US.  The 2011 version adds new rear seat entertainment, a host of tech gadgets, and of course more room for cargo and passengers.

Why it matters: If Toyota wants people to forget about their current recall, this is how!  Toyota is also hoping to keep its sales up in the declining minivan segment of the automotive market.

2010 Volvo S60

The new S60 looks like Volvo used the Volkswagen Passat CC as a base for the exterior design, and the results are stunning.  It’s an evolution of current Volvo design, but shows Volvo’s new design ethic, and it’s a good one at that.  The swooping lines that adorn the outside of the car continue on the inside, as Volvo shows a more modern design which is far more attractive than its current designs.

Why it matters: Yet another reason for Ford to keep Volvo under its corporate umbrella.

Conclusions:

The 2009 L.A. Auto Show had a lot of cars, and the ones posted here are the ones I think will make the biggest differences in the coming year.  Look forward to a fun shopping experience as the new cars pack more and more safety, technology and driving pleasure into everyday cars.

by John Suit

Sources: Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, L.A. Auto Show, Mazda, Toyota, Volvo

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