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March/April 2004

Back to the Future
A Look at Glass Technology at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show

by Dale Malcolm

Right after I return from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit everyone asks what I liked the best. However, it is difficult to single out any one production or concept vehicle. Personally, I always wonder what trend or new idea will dominate the show each year. 

The Era of Glass
One trend whose time has come is the glass roof. 

Every car show over the last dozen or so years has had at least one vehicle with a glass roof. Last year, the Ultra-Luxury Maybach 62 went from hood to trunk with four pieces of glass. 

That feature has spread to several other production vehicles and numerous concept vehicles this year, including the Mercedes-Benz 2005 E320 CDi Sedan and Scion’s tC Sport coupe from the new division of Toyota. These are just two glass-roofed production vehicles from luxury that are priced well under $20,000.

This hot new trend of glass roofs will offer new challenges for even the seasoned auto glass installer. If you slip with the cut-out tool now, it might mean you just cracked the roof glass while doing a simple windshield replacement. 

Pontiac introduced a new sport sedan called the G6 and it has a four-panel sunroof that is state-of-the-art. There were quite a few concept vehicles with extensive use of glass in the roofs, such as: the Kia KVC III, Mercedes-Benz Vision Grand Sports Tourer, Honda Sports Utility Truck and the Lincoln Mark X.

A New Class of Hybrids
One of the most important trends has been the development of hybrid vehicles by almost all of the major vehicle manufacturers. 

Lexus introduced a hybrid version of its popular RX330 Sport Utility, which will get approximately 30 miles per gallon and can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than eight seconds. 

Honda also announced that it will introduce a hybrid version of its popular Accord model.

In addition to these production vehicles, many of the show’s concept vehicles shown have been designed around hybrid technology. Jeep showed off its Treo Concept vehicle, which seats three and is powered by fuel cell technology. Several manufacturers are working on bio-diesel engines that basically run on cooking oil; this is a renewable resource and reduces dependence on foreign oil. However, the exhaust has been reported to smell like French fries cooking. 

Blasts from the Past
Quite a few vehicles were sporting some styling cues that have not been seen for some time. Perhaps it was the lighting or the exaggerated look of the concept vehicles, but air scoops and chrome are back in a big way. From the 2005 40th-anniversary Mustang to the dazzling Chrysler ME Four-Twelve Concept Super car, side scoops are cool again. Replacing many of the all-painted, britework-free vehicles of the 1980s and 1990s are vehicles such as the Lincoln Mark X coupe and the Toyota FTX Concept truck with brilliant chrome grilles and trim.

Travelin’ Down Backroads
The Japanese carmakers also introduced several new trucks this year, such as the Honda SUT, Mitsubishi Sport Truck Concept, Toyota FTX Concept, redesigned 2005 Nissan Frontier and new 2005 Nissan Titan Crew Cab. 
The American carmakers, however, focused on rebuilding their car lines. Chrysler is introducing a new rear-wheel drive sedan, the 300c. Dodge is following suit with the crisp, new Magnum sedan. Ford is replacing the popular Taurus/Sable line with the new Ford Five-Hundred Sedan. 

Compact Market
General Motors premiered a pair of two-seaters with the Saturn Curve Concept and the under-$20,000 Pontiac Solstice convertible. Refusing to be outdone in the two-seater market, though, Dodge showed off its 3-cylinder Sling Shot Concept convertible.

Some other two-seaters unveiled at the show were the Lincoln Mark X, Chrysler Crossfire convertible, Volkswagen Concept T off-road sports coupe, Subaru B9SC roadster, Ford Shelby Cobra Concept and the new sixth-generation 2005 Chevrolet Corvette. Chevrolet also showed off its third Nomad Concept car since 1954. The second was shown at the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, followed in 2003 with the current-version Nomad Concept, based on the 1954 version, which was based on the Corvette originally. 

From concept cars to super cars, high-ground clearance vehicles to Hybrid power plants, it was a fascinating exposition and look into the not-too-distant future. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was what was up with that Buick golf cart.






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