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Detroit roundup: Mercedes, Hyundai, Acura

MERCEDES-BENZ says its upcoming light-commercial ute, based on the Nissan Navara platform, will host the same qualities as its renowned passenger-car lineup.

Speaking at the 2016 Detroit motor show, Mercedes-Benz marketing chief Ola Kallenius said authenticity is core to the brand.

Mercedes-Benz’ fast growing catalogue isn’t a problem, as long as every car is worthy of the three-pointed star: “One thing that’s extremely important is that you have an authentic offering in every class. If you stick true to that principle you don’t run the risk of watering the brand down.”

Kallenius says the pickup truck will cater to both work and play.

Mercedes will build just one version of the ute, which will be based off the same underpinnings as the Nissan Navara, rather than having various body style combinations.

It is expected to feature moderate driver aids while falling short of semi-autonomous driving features available in cars such as the 2016 E-class.

He added that while there is room for more models in the Mercedes-Benz stable, no car would undercut the entry-level trio comprised of the A-class, CLA-class and GLA-class.

“The natural entry point into the brand is the A-Class.”

Mercedes-Benz says the new ute will initially be targeted at markets in Latin America, South Africa, Australasia, and Europe.

Korea’s Hyundai, meanwhile is on the brink of giving its pint-sized pickup-truck concept the green light for production.

cruz

Dave Zuchowski, president and chief executive of Hyundai North America, told media at the 2016 Detroit motor show that the Tucson-based Santa Cruz, which was revealed in concept form 12 months ago, is all but confirmed.

“It hasn’t been officially announced yet. Our timing is not crossing our fingers and waiting for approval, it’s trying to figure out when we’re going to announce it.”

The Santa Cruz concept took media by surprise when it was launched at the Detroit show this time last year – not because it was a ute, but because it was a smaller, more urban-focused vehicle than the traditional one-tonne pickups that are so popular in South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Based on the ix35 SUV (a production version would pick up the platform of the latest Tucson), the diminutive ute concept features a small tray and was designed with style, rather than substance in mind.

Hyundai designer Chris Chapman concedes that his team did not measure the tray with a view to carrying objects such as bicycles.

“If I’m going to be completely honest with you, I’m going to say that we did it to our eye,” he says. “‘How long is a bike?’, or ‘how long is a kayak?’ or ‘how long is a motorcycle?’ wasn’t a priority over the styling, the image of the thing.

“We wanted to make sure that the car looked compact enough.”

Hyundai says the Santa Cruz is a compact truck for “urban adventurers”: “Modern urbanisation is impacting the market in a broad way, and this trend is especially strong with young adults, who face tighter parking on streets and parking garages, and increasing congestion overall. These trends are not confined to one specific region; they’re happening in urban hubs everywhere. These urban adventurers have a different mindset.”

Over at Acura, the Honda-owned luxury brand, revealed its Precision Concept car.

Although this is not a model that will go on sale to the public, many elements of its design will be used for upcoming redesigns of Acura models, including the models assembled in Ohio. No timetable was given.

acura1

“The feel that you get when you look at this vehicle is the direction we want to take Acura’s styling,” said Jon Ikeda, general manager of the Honda brand, speaking after the unveiling.

The new grille “projects a dynamic, performance image,” said Dave Marek, creative director for Acura. “We call this the ‘diamond pentagon,’ the biggest and boldest expression of the Acura marque we’ve ever had. It’s a sign of our confidence in the brand and is creating a road map for where Acura design is heading.”

The grille is replacing a shield-like silver design that some critics have found unattractive.

Niche US company VLF unveiled a 700-horsepower sports car with a carbon-fibre body at Detroit.

The Force 1 V10 supercar is an aggressive-looking two-seater based on a Dodge Viper.

The new company’s principals include Bob Lutz, the former head of global product development at Chrysler and later, vice chairman of global product development at General Motors; designer Henrik Fisker, who worked on significant vehicles at BMW, Ford and Aston Martin; entrepreneur Gilbert Villarreal; and race-car driver Ben Keating.

The Force 1 is the subject of a lawsuit between Fisker and Aston Martin, which contends the new sports car looks too much like an Aston.

vlf

Aston Martin went as far as firing off a letter warning for Fisker telling him not to unveil Force 1 in Detroit, claiming that the car looked too similar to the DB10 and that Fisker should change the design in order to avoid conflict with Aston Martin’s copyrights.

Wearing a blustery, swooping carbon-fibre body, 21-inch wheels and configured – like the Viper – with a long hood and extremely short trunk, the car will be aimed at wealthy enthusiasts looking for something unique.

Under the bonnet is a 745-horsepower version of the Viper’s 8.4-litre V10, capable of hitting 100 kmh in about 3 seconds and has a top speed of 350 kmh, VLF said.

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