Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: The Hills of North Georgia,USA
Rumble in Detroit: Revved-up competition roars into the New Year
By THE EDITORS OF AUTOWEEK
We bumped into Chris Theodore, Ford’s North American product planning chief, at the Mini stand a little after the three-day press preview for the Detroit show finished.
Given the economic hard times, we told him, we were surprised by the show’s quality—and quantity—of new products and concepts. Especially with the uncertainty of war, we thought the car companies might have dialed back a little.
“There already is a war,” Theodore replied. “It’s right here on the floor. Everybody came out with guns blazing.”
There was intensity in his eyes and a demeanor we’d also seen in other faces, including those of GM’s Bob Lutz and Chrysler’s Dieter Zetsche.
The battle cry was heard in the roar of engines: Ford had the Mustang and 427, and was playing back the recorded sound of the GT on its stand. Chrysler woke up everyone with its Viper-engined Tomahawk motorcycle, while GM smoothly expressed its might with a Cadillac V16. And while luxury and performance cars stood guard center stage, the floor was filled with a fresh infantry of mainstream vehicles that will slug it out for sales supremacy this coming year.
A modest sales decline in 2002 and a more serious tightening of profit margins have manufacturers cutting costs in all but product development—the wise course, though not always the one Detroit followed in such circumstances. Resting on laurels isn’t an option, though: Add up each company’s sales expectations, as claimed in the press conferences, and America would have to absorb something like 25 million new cars and trucks this year. With real-world projections considerably less (16.2 to 16.5 million in ’03), the expression “rumble in Detroit” describes not only the sound of all the big engines—it also suggests a knife fight in the alley.
As Mustang Sally pumped from the speakers and fireworks exploded overhead, young Bill Ford Jr. got his wish at the Detroit show: a red convertible with a throaty V8 and a great sound system. But that was a drop-top concept that had premiered a few days earlier in Los Angeles. Detroit's real showstopper was the stunning silver Mustang GT coupe concept, a thinly disguised preview of the next-generation 'Stang we'll drive by 2004. In this two-seat concept of the iconic American pony car, we get design cues from the best Mustangs of the '60s, combined with the best automotive technology of the 21st century. The Mustang GT coupe rides on the same rear-wheel-drive platform that underpins the Lincoln LS, Ford Thunderbird and Jaguar S-Type, and gets motivation from a supercharged 4.6-liter V8 producing 400 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, linked to a six-speed manual transmission. The production model will retain the traditional 2+2 seating, but most of what the concept reveals will be available in some form in production. Mustang has integrated itself with the fabric of society-it's not just a car-guy thing, but an American one. Remaking an icon is never easy, so we think it's Most Significant that, with the company's centennial underway and the model's 40th anniversary in sight, Ford has finally got Mustang so very right again.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....