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detroit auto show

Monday's developments from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit:


LF-FC: the FC is for fuel cell

While the LC 500 was Lexus’s big reveal at this year’s North American International Auto Show, Toyota boss Akio Toyoda provided a little amuse-bouche for the standing-room only crowd before taking the wraps off his new top-end coupe.

Toyoda rolled out the Lexus LF-FC hydrogen fuel-cell concept Lexus for its North American debut after being shown at the Tokyo Motor Show last October, and he promised Lexus would have a fuel-cell car in its lineup around 2020.

The LF-FC is a sporty four-door coupe that looks much like something you might find on a showroom floor today. It features a high-output fuel cell (no power figures given) in an all-wheel-drive configuration. The car is geared towards good handling, which Toyoda favours as he tries to breathe life into Lexus’s reputation for solid but staid luxury vehicles.

The concept vehicle also showcases what Lexus says is an advanced human-machine interface that allows the car’s occupants to operate auxiliary controls such as the stereo and HVAC without touch them. It uses a holographic image on the centre console to guide you to where the system can interpret your gestures. It also features automated driving technologies.

– Steve Mertl, Globe Drive


Sounds like Honda's happy

Honda is boasting about its second-generation Ridgeline pickup truck’s 540-watt sound system, which is installed in the bed of the truck.

Honda executive vice-president John Mendel says you can’t see the audio system because six “exciters” inside the bed’s walls replace conventional speakers – so nothing gets “bashed or scraped when you’re hauling mulch or lumber.”

He placed a microphone in the bed and gave a sonic sampling to those attending the introduction of the truck. “You can definitely hear it,” he said.

It was hard for an Associated Press reporter standing far from the truck to gauge the quality of the sound system since he heard it through the larger sound system in place at the display.

The Ridgeline features a 3.5-litre, V-6 engine and will be available for the first time in front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations.

– Jeff Karoub, The Associated Press


Infiniti Q60 key to growth

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says the company’s luxury arm Infiniti has the potential to fuel the Japanese auto maker’s growth after Infiniti’s record-high sales in 2015.

Ghosn on Monday unveiled the 2017 version of the Infiniti Q60 sports coupe. It goes on sale this summer.

The Q60 offers powerful performance with a 3.0-litre, V-6 twin-turbo engine that’s available in 300 or 400 horsepower variations. A four-cylinder 2.0-litre gasoline engine that’s turbocharged to produce 208 hp also is available.

Inside, the base model features aluminum trim. A black wood option is available. Higher-end models are available with carbon-fibre highlights. White or red leather seating also is available.

The Associated Press


Ford's app for the future

Ford wants relationships with customers that go beyond car purchases as it anticipates industry changes like car-sharing.

So it’s creating FordPass. For now, it’s an app that can help drivers reserve a parking space and pay for it ahead of time, or contact specially trained guides to get them through traffic or find a restaurant. Members can also redeem rewards at places like McDonald’s.

In the future, the program could expand to facilitate car-sharing or ride-hailing services, or autonomously summon a parked Ford.

The company is also opening stores in several major cities, including New York and Shanghai, where people can learn about Ford technology and configure a car.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford says Ford needs to experiment and not just watch from the sidelines as new ideas about transportation transform the industry. “We’re in a very fluid world now.”

– Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press


Volvo steps up the safety

Volvo says its new semi-autonomous S90 sedan can accelerate, decelerate, come to a complete stop and steer in certain road conditions.

Hakan Samuelsson, the Swedish automaker’s CEO, says the technology is a step toward self-driving vehicles, but improvements such as the ability to detect and react to ever-changing obstacles are needed.

Volvo is trying to boost vehicle safety. Its Vision 2020 plan states that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020.

– David Runk, The Associated Press

AFP/Getty Images

Bolt, speed to burn

General Motors has played up the Chevrolet Bolt’s 320-kilometre-plus range and its communication technology. Now the auto maker is touting the electric car’s speed.

GM product development chief Mark Reuss tells a crowd at the Chevy exhibit that the Bolt EV “performs more like a sports sedan.”

GM also says that a 30-minute recharge for the five-passenger Bolt gets customers 90 miles of range.

The Bolt competes with upstart Tesla Motors on price. It costs $37,500, excluding a $7,500 federal tax credit.

GM says the Bolt’s higher driving range should draw buyers even with low gas prices.

– Tom Krisher, The Associated Press


Audi is out of this world

Not content with cars, Audi AG is also helping build a lunar rover. The German auto maker enlisted American astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon, to show it off.

Cernan jokes that the rover might not have an easy ride. He says the moon is “full of potholes” and its gravity, weaker than Earth’s, often leaves rovers on three wheels. Cernan and Harrison Schmidt explored the lunar surface during the “Apollo 17” mission in 1972.

On a more serious note, Cernan says space exploration is key to the future of the United States and inspires young people.

Audi is assisting the Berlin-based engineering group “Part-Time Scientists” in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a space travel competition.

– David Runk, The Associated Press


All the dirt on the diesel scandal

The chairman of Audi AG says the German auto maker is committed to fixing diesel engines that cheat on emissions tests as quickly as possible.

Rupert Stadler says the scandal “is a unique opportunity for change and for innovation.”

Audi parent Volkswagen and U.S. regulators are at an apparent impasse over how to proceed with the expected recall of nearly 600,000 “clean diesel” vehicles.

They were sold with secret software designed to make their engines pass federal emissions standards while undergoing laboratory testing. The vehicles then switch off those measures in real-world driving conditions, spewing harmful nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times what is allowed under federal environmental standards.

Some Audi-brand vehicles are involved.

– David Runk, The Associated Press


Chrysler making minivans cool again?

A cool-looking minivan? Fiat Chrysler car chief Tim Kuniskis lauds the styling of Chrysler’s new one. “This may be the first minivan that you drive that the kids will let you pick them up at the front of the movie theatre,” Kuniskis says of the Pacifica, Chrysler’s first new minivan in eight years.

It goes on sale this spring and comes in both a gas and industry-first plug-in hybrid version, which has a 50-kilometre all-electric range.

– Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press

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