Green continues to be a dominant shade of innovation in the automotive sector as 2013 looks to be a banner year for vehicle efficiency. According to AutoTrader.com, total shopper interest for alternative fuel and highly fuel-efficient models is up 54 percent so far in 2012. This year's LA Auto Show((R)) reflects this trend and will host significant debuts in electric, hybrid, clean-diesel and 40-plus mpg advanced gasoline-powered engines. There will be two dozen all-electric or plug-in electric models at the Show, at least a dozen clean-diesel vehicles and nearly 20 vehicles achieving 40-plus mpg with highly advanced four-cylinder gasoline engines.
Automakers are incorporating multiple approaches-even within a single model line-to reach new benchmarks, and all categories of vehicles are well represented. Everything from luxury performance models, such as the BMW i8 Spyder plug-in hybrid to the Chevrolet Spark micro car are trending green.
"The green technology innovations demonstrated by automakers around the world continue to attract the attention of the car-buying public," said Andy Fuzesi, general manager of the LA Auto Show. "We're excited to be able to provide one of the world's best stages for manufacturers to display their very latest achievements that match virtually every budget."
Hybrids and Electric Vehicles
The race for the lowest-emission automobile is hottest in the electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid categories. During the first six months of 2012, U.S. hybrid car sales increased 63.5 percent, while the overall automobile market increased 14.9 percent.
This year's Show will feature three electric vehicle debuts, including the all new Fiat 500e. However, it is the number of electric and plug-in vehicles available to the consumer that has grown most dramatically in the last few years. New releases at the Show from Ford alone include the 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Energi plug-in and the Focus Electric. Honda will have its new Accord plug-in hybrid, which joins the ranks of existing electrics and plug-ins from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Coda, Fisker, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Smart.
Once shunned as a polluting underperformer, diesel is back in a big way. During the first six months of 2012, clean-diesel automobile sales in the United States increased 27.5 percent, outpacing the overall auto market by 12 percent. As clean-diesel technology continues to accelerate, bringing an increasing number of vehicles to market particularly with European brands, clean-diesel will give hybrids a run for the money. Audi is a case in point. The company has expanded its focus on TDI vehicles and will make some specific news on that front at this year's LA Auto Show.
Volkswagen shows equal enthusiasm for modern diesel technology, offering six turbocharged clean-diesel vehicles, which thanks to advanced engineering and "greener" fuels, routinely deliver EPA-rated mileage estimates of over 40 mpg on the highway. Volkswagen's latest diesel entry slated to debut at the LA Show includes the 2013 Beetle Cabriolet, which will be available in both diesel and gasoline engine configurations. Volkswagen is even testing renewable diesel from fuel maker Solazyme in some of its TDI products.
Mercedes-Benz continues to expand its clean-diesel offerings in the U.S. with a plan to bring a total of eight clean-diesel models to the states by 2014, including the GLK250 BlueTEC, which will be on display at the Show and in showrooms by Spring 2013. Mercedes-Benz has also invested heavily in start-stop technology to further improve efficiency. Nearly 40 percent of its vehicles will have the fuel conserving feature, which is a 12 percent gain over last year.
Four-cylinder gasoline-powered models are also breaking stereotypes. A new generation of vehicles pairing performance and up-market styling with fuel-sipping EPA numbers near or over 40 mpg are becoming more prevalent. Four-cylinder cars once seen as under-powered and underwhelming in design, certainly do not fit that mold today. New nameplates such as the new Dodge Dart Aero, which delivers aggressive styling with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission, returns 41 mpg on the highway. Ford's new Fiesta, making its debut at the Show, also delivers sporty styling combined with excellent fuel economy. In fact, Ford is offering eight vehicles that deliver 40 mpg or better by year's end, double the number in 2011. The automaker's fuel-efficient EcoBoost powertrains have become a company mainstay and make appearances in vehicles such as the 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium.
More performance-oriented small cars that still deliver impressive fuel economy are on the rise including the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabriolet making its debut at the Show. Featuring aggressive rally styling and a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine producing 170 lb.-ft. of torque, the vehicle still manages an EPA rating of 34 mpg highway. Also, Mini will unveil its new Paceman also boasting both performance and excellent fuel economy.
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