The Los Angeles Auto Show opens this week in the nation's most-populous state -- which accounts for more than one of every 10 new vehicles sold -- as consumers are feeling better about the overall economy in the year ahead.
Close to 1 million consumers are expected to check out 49 vehicle premieres -- 24 are global debuts -- with thousands more shiny vehicles on display, said show spokesman Brendan Flynn. That is a level not seen since before the financial crisis.
Last year, the L.A. show attracted 920,000 people, a 22% increase over two years.
"Our attendance reflects auto sales," Flynn said.
Given that 11% of new U.S. auto sales are in California, higher attendance should translate into more sales for all automakers, not just the Japanese brands that dominate the West Coast market. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have an array of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, including world debuts, at a show that highlights green technology.
It shows how far the Detroit Three have come since 2009 when a plea for government aid was met with criticism that they lagged the competition in advances to improve fuel economy.
California accounts for a third of all electric vehicles and a quarter of all hybrids sold in the U.S., according to Edmunds.com.
Edmunds projects at least 43 new vehicles with electric motors, diesels or fuel cells will be introduced in the U.S. through the 2015 model year.
Many will be in L.A. The show promises a dozen electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles and more that run on diesel.
But L.A. also is the show for luxury and performance. This year's show has some of the sexiest cars imaginable from Lamborghini, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
"This year's vehicles show you don't have to sacrifice style and performance for fuel economy anymore," Flynn said.
L.A. marks the start of the North American auto show season amid a gradual rise in consumer optimism.
The number of debuts is the same as last year, but the exhibits and events associated with the show have grown, Flynn said.
Flynn said data shows half the attendees intend to buy a new car in the next year and 72% have added a specific vehicle to their consideration list.
Among the world debuts is the latest Toyota RAV4, and Toyota CEO Jim Lentz will open the show. Other world firsts include the redesigned Honda Civic, an Accord plug-in hybrid, Acura RLX, Kia Forte, Hyundai Santa Fe, VW Beetle convertible, Subaru Forester and the more exotic Jaguar XFR-S, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series, Porsche Cayman and Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 roadster.
Electrified vehicles include the BMW i8 Spyder and another BMW concept, Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e.
There are diesel versions of the Audi A6, A7, A8 and Q5 to be sold in the U.S. next year as well as offerings from Mercedes and Volkswagen.
A first-time Advanced Technology Showcase with exhibits by Sprint, Qualcomm, Livio, Intel and Scout will be in place during media days with the help of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers trade group. A recent AAM poll showed that 66% of consumers are interested in driver assistance and other technologies in their new vehicles. Auto shows have evolved over the years from emphasizing horsepower to spotlighting styling to the current accent on safety and fuel efficiency, said Steven Hacker, president of the International Association of Exhibits and Events in Dallas.
More Details: Los Angeles Auto Show
Media days: Wednesday-Thursday
Public days: Friday-Dec. 9
24 world debuts including Honda Civic, Acura RLX, Fiat 500e and 500L, Chevrolet Spark EV, Hyundai Santa Fe, VW Beetle convertible and Porsche Cayman.
25 North American premieres including Ford Fiesta, Mazda6, Range Rover, Jaguar F-Type.
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