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Sneak Peek at the New York Auto Show

Friday, 14 April 2006 12:00 AM

As the Big Apple finally begins to thaw out from one of the coldest winters on record, one sure sign of spring has arrived, the annual New York International Auto Show.

Over the next nine days, the NYIAS expects to draw over 1 million visitors.

It is the largest of all U.S. auto exhibitions, and unlike others such as the Detroit Auto Show, which is manufacturer driven, the NY exhibition is run by the auto dealers in the New York metropolitan region.

This year's show gets underway just as the price of gasoline has again begun to spike upwards, with some analysts saying that $4.00 a gallon is a real possibility by midsummer.

You wouldn't believe that rising oil prices have had much of an impact on the auto manufacturers at this year's show.

One theme that permeates the cavernous Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is "bigger is better."

Whether your tastes run from an economy car to a super luxury model, almost all the cars on exhibit have grown, both in size and in price.

DaimlerChrysler's plan to possibly resurrect the old Imperial line of luxury cars has drawn mixed reviews.

The Imperial "concept" car is Detroit's attempt to build on the popularity of Chrysler's popular 300. Unlike the 300, the Imperial has been panned as too big and too gawky. Whether that will deter the German-American car maker is yet to be seen.

Another Daimler/Chrysler offering is the new 4-door Jeep Wrangler/Rubicon. The old mainstay of Willy's Jeep fame, dating back to WW II, has now been updated.

The 2007 Jeep 4-door Wrangler can now seat a family of four comfortably and with its removable cloth roof, provides a perfect summertime convertible car for use at beach side or camping.

One could experience the driving the new Wrangler at a unique indoor course called Camp Jeep.

Hybrids, cars that run on a combination of gas and electric battery, have also grown for 2006-2007.

Companies, like Toyota, are offering full size cars in a hybrid configuration. In fact, Toyota is planning a super-size hybrid called the F3R, though a decision to enter commercial production is yet to be made.

Traditional muscle cars are making a comeback at this year's auto show.

Ford is trumpeting the return of the Mustang, which it claims sold more than 24,000 units in 2005.

Not to be undone, GM unveiled its redesigned Chevy Camaro:

And Dodge showed off its new Challenger:

Neither company would comment on whether the Camaro or Challenger might soon enter the marker to take on Ford's Mustang.

Meanwhile, Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai, which markets under the Hyundai and Kia nameplates, has expanded its presence in NY this year and is now pushing into the low-end luxury car market. Its Kia Amante, which lists near $30,000 is a direct challenge to Toyota's Avalon and Honda's Acura line.

Meanwhile, the super luxury car presence has also grown at this year's auto show.

The old dowagers of continental driving pleasure, such as Rolls Royce and Bentley, are again "offering" their wares to a "select few."

However, they have been challenged by a new division of Mercedes-Benz, called Maybach, created only five years ago.

The cars are custom made, but have a turn around production period of only four months from purchase to delivery, according to Maybach executives.

But, the Maybachs are not for those running on low income. The Maybach 62 has a suggested retail price of $400,000.

The company says it sells more than 1200 a year in the U.S. alone.

Other exotic nameplates such as Ferrari, Maseratti and Spyker are also making their presence felt at the auto show. But with price tags between $300,000 - $1,000,000 most will have lookers and shutterbugs, not buyers.

For those who can buy, $4 a gallon gas is just a drop in the bucket.

The auto show will run in NYC till April 23.

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As the Big Apple finally begins to thaw out from one of the coldest winters on record, one sure sign of spring has arrived, the annual New York International Auto Show. Over the next nine days, the NYIAS expects to draw over 1 million visitors. It is the...
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Friday, 14 April 2006 12:00 AM
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